Before the peace process, during the peace process, and after the peace process appears to have collapsed, the conflict between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians has persisted. Try as the principals may to imagine a solution, often with considerable agreement about its basic contours, as was envisioned in the Geneva Accord, there seems to be no way to get from here to there, no alternative to the injustice of the way things are, no exit.
It is within this maze that we respond to the latest news: the surprising results of an election, in which the ruling party has been humbled, and once again a centrist party has emerged from nowhere, followed by Obama giving a moving speech on his first official visit to Israel, also once again, one of his best. The more things change, the more they stay the same?
It does indeed seem that nothing changes. I, thus, especially appreciate how Deliberately Considered contributors, Michael Weinman, Hilla Dayan and Nahed Habiballah have pushed themselves to provide independent critical perspective (see here , here, and here). Though they hold different positions, I am struck more by their common sensibility, their pursuit of the normal as a realistic though perhaps utopian project. Their differences are marked, but of less significance. I think that perhaps it is their common sensibility that might be the basis for common political thinking and acting against despair.
Weinman observed the most positive side of the election. He doesn’t approve of “the winner,” Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid (“there is a future”) Party, but he thinks there was hope in the election results, a suggestion of a possible future:
“Let me be clear: I am no fan of Lapid, I wouldn’t have voted for him in January had I had the chance, and I haven’t liked him on Facebook, either. But I do recognize . . .
Read more: No Exit? Israel – Palestine
To skip this introduction and go directly to read Zachary Metz’s In-Depth Analysis, “Peace Writ Small: Reflections on “Peacebuilding” in Iraq, Burma, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, the Balkans and Beyond,” click here.
In today’s “in-depth post,” Zachary Metz, a veteran conflict resolution practitioner, reflects on his vast experience exploring the potential of “peacebuilding.” He notes that, in recent years, the concern among practitioners has turned away from the simple cessation of violence, toward “positive peace,” a term advocated by Johan Galtung, working for “peace writ large,” in which peace includes a focus on long term, large scale, social change. Metz appreciates this move and has applied it, but he also recognizes its limits. Conflict is embedded in everyday social practices, he notes, in the small interactions that lead toward or away from violence, which promote conflicts or understandings. He thus focuses this piece on what he calls “peace writ small.” After explaining how his close focus on interaction responds to problems of the day and problems among conflict resolution practitioners, and after he draws on relevant theoretical developments, Metz illuminates how his approach looks like in practice. He describes and analyzes a moving example of “peace writ small” in a group he led in Iraq in 2005. In Iraq in 2005!
I am first impressed by the bravery involved, but even more significant is that Metz clearly illuminates the type of work that needs to happen for the Iraqis to have any chance in the aftermath of this tragic war. In miniature, I think I see in Zach’s account the only way for an alternative to the again escalating strife in that long-suffering country. In the ten year anniversary post mortem of the war, reflections have all been writ large, too often repeating thread worn partisan positions. Metz shows how we see and can do much more when we pay attention to everyday experience and concerns, and respond accordingly.
P.S. As the author of The Politics of Small Things, from which Metz draws insight, I find . . .
Read more: Peace Writ Small: Introduction
I have long been intrigued by the distance between principle and practice, how people respond to the distance, and what the consequences are, of the distance and the response. This was my major concern in The Cynical Society. It is central to “the civil society as if” strategy of the democratic opposition that developed around the old Soviet bloc, which I explored in Beyond Glasnost and After the Fall. And it is also central to how I think about the politics of small things and reinventing political culture, including many of my own public engagements: from my support of Barack Obama, to my understanding of my place of work, The New School for Social Research and my understanding of this experiment in publication, Deliberately Considered. I will explain in a series of posts. Today a bit more about Obama and his Nobel Lecture, and the alternative to cynicism.
I think principle is every bit as real as practice. Therefore, in my last post, I interpreted Obama’s lecture as I did. But I fear my position may not be fully understood. A friend on Facebook objected to the fact that I took the lecture seriously. “The Nobel Address marked the Great Turn Downward, back to Cold War policies a la Arthur Schlesinger Jr. et al. A big depressing moment for many of us.”
He sees many of the problems I see in Obama’s foreign policy, I assume, though he wasn’t specific. He is probably quite critical of the way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued, critical of the drone policy, disappointed by the fact that Guantanamo prison is still open, and by Obama’s record on transparency and the way he has allowed concern for national security take priority over human and civil rights, at home and abroad. The clear line between Bush’s foreign policy and Obama’s, which both my friend and I sought, has not been forthcoming. And . . .
Read more: Between Principle and Practice (Part I): Obama and Cynical Reasoning
These Jo Freeman photos of the Rally and March Against Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington D.C. on Sunday demonstrate “what is to be done” by the left in Obama’s second term.
It is far from clear what Obama’s decision on the pipeline will be. A decision to go ahead would unarguably produce jobs, though for how long is in dispute. It would also likely lessen U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela. It would certainly strengthen our relations with our major ally and neighbor, Canada. So the preemptive protest against Obama possible decision to support Keystone is well timed.
The attractive faces in the crowd with their creative signs, some witty, some mass produced, make clear that we face a profound problem, potentially critical of a possible decision, but amplifying the most surprising but also sensible points Obama made in his State of the Union Address:
“We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”
The President strengthened the significance and attention paid to this protest possible against himself. He certainly knew this would happen. But the interaction between decision and protest increases the likelihood that the U.S. will take its head out of the sand. We will debate the relative merits of Keystone, whether “carbon free, nuclear free” is possible or even desirable. But Obama will push forward at the very least with executive decisions, using an emerging consensus that . . .
Read more: Climate Change and the Art of Protest
On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama stunned even the most optimistic of a generation of young immigrants with his words, “it makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans.” Just about this time, a near audible cacophony of “Si, Se Puede!”s echoed from east to west coast.
Much reaction to this announcement of a two-year reprieve of deportation proceedings for children of undocumented parents has–perhaps cynically–centered on the political strategizing behind the president’s decision. But the back story is about the DREAMers. The name derives from the proposed legislation, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has been introduced in Congress for more than a decade, but never passed. How were these young activists able to move a campaign over a single issue (the right for those who were brought into the country without official papers as children to regularize their status) to become the linchpin of a larger debate, that of immigration reform, in a presidential election year?
When I ran across these activists while conducting research with immigrant women over the past several years, they were not yet on the radar of national media or politics, but were already taking dramatic actions on behalf of their cause: marching, picketing, petitioning, video-documenting their stories. If the late sociologist Charles Tilly were still with us, he would most certainly recognize strategies that he had documented across effective social movements. For example, such movements use credible displays of worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment. How much more worthy than the image of an activist in a graduation mortar board? Than petition signatures from hundreds of respected professors? Than endorsement by leaders of conservative religious denominations? Than echoes of our own American rhetoric: “dreaming”? And how much more commitment than hunger strikes and coming-out parties, at the risk of deportation? Across the past two years, these activists gradually became bolder, staging acts of civic disobedience and public events nationwide.
Immediately after the president’s announcement, their dream went global. As I was sitting in . . .
Read more: Teaching Us To Be Americans Again: The DREAMers On Their Long March To Immigration Reform
Obama’s deeds don’t always match his words. Thus, he is a hypocrite and worse: a corporate stooge, the commander and chief of the prison industrial complex, and a war criminal. This is the sort of judgment one hears from the left. It seems this was the ground of Cornel West’s recent expression of self-righteous anger. And this, I believe, is all the result of a lack of understanding about the relationship between politics as a vocation and the art of protest.
In my last post, I expressed my indignation, my criticism of West and this sort of criticism (not for the first time, and certainly not the last). It is with the same concern that I have regretted the lost opportunities of Occupy Wall Street, which had real prospects to expand its influence, but fled instead, for the most part, into utopian fantasies and irrelevance. In Weber’s terms OWS activists chose completely the ethics of ultimate ends and fled responsibility, the articulation of the dreams over consequential actions. For me personally, the saddest manifestation of this was in the events of Occupy New School and its aftermath. Students and colleagues posturing to express themselves, to reveal their sober judgment of the realistic or their credentials as true radicals had little or nothing to do with the important ideas and actions of OWS, centered on the concerns of the 99% and the call for equality and a decent life for the 99%.
But my hope springs eternal. Perhaps with Obama’s new inauguration the protesters will get it.
A friend on my Facebook page summed up the problem. “It’s really difficult to be on the left of the current White House in the US nowadays.” Apparently hard, I think, because both easy full-throated opposition and full-throated support don’t make sense. Binary opposition is off the table. Struggles for public visibility of political concerns and consequential action are the order of the day. It’s difficult but far from impossible. Politicians will do their jobs, well or poorly, but so will social . . .
Read more: Guns and the Art of Protest: Thinking about What is to be Done on the Left