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Buon anno 2017 con noi via Auguri dal blogger Maurizio Benazzi — Quaccheri cristiani ecumenici per fare il bene

via Auguri dal blogger Maurizio Benazzi — A.N.P.I. Medio Olona

It’s Top Ten List season, and how can I refuse? Yet out of more than 130 blog posts, how can I choose? One way is to do it by the numbers: And the clear #1 on that score went up on February 12. It called out the slighting comments made by Congressman & civil rights…

via Bernie, Garrison, LittleHands & the Rainbow Toilet: My Top Blog Posts for 2016 — A Friendly Letter

30.12.2016 TRANSCEND Media Service

China and Europe–Comparisons and Futures
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By Johan Galtung

To understand something we often compare it with something else.

A recent Harvard study found 26.7% of world car production in China and 13.3% in USA; US economy bigger but China leading in export with 8 of the 12 biggest harbors; USA end 2016 fighting 7 wars with bases all over and China with no wars or bases, investing, building the New Silk Road-Lane, the Economic Belt. How successfully, it is to be seen.

But these are global power relations. That the West is going down, the Rest is coming up, the USA is a major part of the West and China of the Rest, are decades-old truths.  And the EU is also part of the West.

What does domestic China remind us of, historically, structurally? Not USA, a state since 1776, 1812. Let us compare China with present border and context to Europe from the Atlantic to–whatever the border.

One conclusion can be foretold: only recently are both of them becoming cohesive, as super-states and as super-nations.  Why, and how?

Europe is a collection of states, many of them nation-states, with a history of much warfare. Bilaterally particularly in the Top Pentagon England-France-Germany-Spain-Italy. Multilaterally as alliances pitted against each other in the catastrophic 30-year war 1618-48 and the two “world” (meaning European) wars 1914-18, 1939-45. A dark continent.

The region we call “China” is one dynasty after the other, with belligerence, as was also the case between co-existing dynasties.

The Qin 221-206 BC, Han 206 BC-220 AD and Manchurian Qing 1644-1912 dynasties claimed glorious central authority, not over “China” as that idea was missing, but for the world.  So did France and Germany, seeing themselves as central in Europe and through Europe for the whole world.

However, with centrality comes resistance from the periphery; a status no self-respecting state or nation would like to assume.

“Republic of China”–Zhuka Minkoku–as name of a state dates from the nationalist revolution around 1911-12 that ended the Qing dynasty.

The 1949 Mao revolution added ren min, people, for the “People’s Republic of China”, and Taiwan kept the “Republic of China”.

Only in the past few years did President Xi Jinping define all inhabitants as members of the same nation, as “Chinese”; like the Jacobin did in France, Citizenship = Nation.  Whether Xi will succeed remains to be seen; France is right now loosening up, decentralizing.

“Europe”–parts of Europe and Europe as a whole–has also been exposed to centripetal and centrifugal forces.  The small villages, counties, duchies have co-existed with the big, the Roman Empire(s), the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, sometimes small prevailed, sometimes big. Then came the nation-states with wars and alliances. The unity and centrality of the European Community-Union, however, is as recent as 1958 (Treaty of Rome) with a French-German beginning in 1950.

Even more recent are efforts to call the inhabitants “Europeans”; now exposed to strong centrifugal nation-state forces.  As the duchies once asserted themselves and then were assembled into a Reich or two, and in turn were disassembled into Länder.  European reality is neither centripetal nor centrifugal, but the dialectic between the two.

Take Norway: schools teach that King Harald Hårfagre assembled one Norway in 872 but not about the 50 kingdoms that were brutally crushed. Much later (1837) came very high levels of municipal and provincial, kommune and fylke autonomy, now subjected to centralization reducing the provinces from 19 to 10 and the municipalities from 400 to 100. There will be decentralization after that.  The oscillation has no end.

The same may apply to “China”. The capital or center changed many times; key names being Xi’an, Nanjing, Beijing, Chungking. There is talk about close to 2,000 nations speaking their variety of “Chinese” however “unified” in the written language.  Yet, some may feel a geographical attachment strong enough to claim autonomy.

The USA as well–there are several and strong voices for autonomy.

Similar pasts for “China” and Europe with oscillating cohesiveness and shifting centers–in Europe now Brussels-Luxembourg-Strasbourg–prompt a question, “Could they also have similar futures”?  How about the unsettled Northern border of China and Eastern border of Europe?

Long ago, but mainly Ming built an answer: a 6,259-Km Great Wall along the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, now a big Chinese province.

East and West of Mongolia are “Outer Northwest China” and “Outer Manchuria” that the Russian Empire forced the Qing dynasty to cede, by “unequal treaties” from 1851 (Kulja) to 1896 (Lobana); now increasingly settled and cultivated by Chinese farmers.  Reminiscent of USA-Mexico.

The Europeans used rivers south-north or north-south but settled on the Ural Mountains from the Arctic to the Caspian as Eastern border. Peaks, but mainly hills, and today with the same Russia on either side.  The historical border is from the +395 division of the Roman Empire in Catholic and Orthodox parts, still there, dividing Ukraine and Belarus.

And the prognosis, foreknowledge?  China will continue pushing Chinese north, not any border.  This happens within the SCO–Shanghai Cooperation Organization–in principle as cooperation. The push is not to the Arctic but limited to the historically contested areas.

Europe will continue pushing east, but how?  After the Bratislava EU-27 summit NATO and USA can no longer do any pushing.  With Ukraine at the border and Russia without border, the eastern border of a Europe from the Atlantic Ocean will move through Russia to the Pacific Ocean, waiting for Ukraine-Belarus to join. The absence of borders in Russia makes prescient Gorbachev’s vision of a “European House” inevitable.

And this happens within pan-European organizations: the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. Slowly but surely this will be their agendas.

Can moving China and Europe co-exist?  Better than with no moves. Russia and China, and Europe and Russia, have to come to grips with old traumas. And one key lies in China and Europe inspiring each other

Spring 2007; or maybe tomorrow Sara Rahman was my best friend then. “BFFs, Amber,” she often said to me. And some of the best times we had were while walking home from school. We joked and laughed about everything – stuff in school, books she was reading, her dorky big brother Ahmed, even some of…

via Another Story for an Era’s End: “I Hate Dill Pickles” — A Friendly Letter

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Marginal Mennonite Society

Happy birthday, Rachel Foster Avery (Dec. 30, 1858 – Oct. 26, 1919)! #Quaker. #Pacifist. #Suffragist. Staff member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Close associate of Susan B. Anthony. The Avery family home in northeast Philadelphia was a gathering and planning place for suffragists in the 1890s. The house and grounds now comprise the Cranaleith Spiritual Center, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Rachel was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cremated

Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

On this date in 1563 (Dec. 29th), Sebastian Castellio died. (He was born sometime in 1515.) Preacher. Theologian. Advocate for religious tolerance and freedom of thought. Advocate for separation of church and state. On October 27, 1553, Castellio was in Geneva where he witnessed the burning at the stake of Michael Servetus for denying the doctrine of the Trinity. Castellio was outraged by this event, and accused reformer John Calvin of having Servetus murdered. In 1554 Castellio wrote (under a pseudonym) a pamphlet entitled “Should Heretics Be Persecuted?” He died in Basel and was buried in the tomb of a noble family. Later, however, his enemies dug up his corpse, burned it, and scattered the ashes.
~29The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

24.12.2016 Democracy Now!

This post is also available in: Italian

Obama Dismantles Idled Muslim Registry Ahead of Trump Inauguration
(Image by Democracy Now!)

The Obama administration has moved to formally end the national registry program for immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, known as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS. The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday submitted a rule change in an effort to dismantle the legal framework for the registry, apparently in order to prevent Donald Trump from reviving it.

The move comes only one day after Trump appeared to reiterate his pledge to reinstate the registry. The registry was created after the September 11 attacks. The Department of Homeland Security idled the program in 2011 under massive pressure from civil rights groups.

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Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

Happy birthday, Arthur Eddington (Dec. 28, 1882 – Nov. 22, 1944)! #Quaker. #Pacifist. Conscientious objector during World War I. Astronomer. Astrophysicist. Early interpreter and popularizer of the theory of relativity. Quotable quote: “I think it may be said that Quakerism in dispensing with creeds holds out a hand to the scientist. The spirit of seeking which animates us refuses to regard any kind of creed as its goal. … If our so-called facts are changing shadows, they are shadows cast by the light of constant truth.” Born in Kendal, United Kingdom. Died in Cambridge, U.K. His cremated remains were buried in the grave of his mother in the Ascension Parish Burial Ground, Cambridge.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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25.12.2016 IDN InDepthNews

Kazakhstan Offers Astana As Venue Of Syrian Peace Talks
Doctors and medical staff treating injured rebel fighters and civilians in Aleppo. (Image by Wikimedia Commons)

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK- IDN  In a major move ahead of joining the UN Security Council as its non-permanent member on January 1, 2017 for two years, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has offered the Kazakh capital of Astana as the venue for peace talks between the conflicting parties in the Syrian conflict.

According to official sources, the offer follows “a significant agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who had agreed to push Syria’s warring factions towards new negotiations”.

“The latest reports of the successful evacuation of many civilians in Aleppo are, of course, welcome,” said The Astana Times in an editorial on December 21. “However, it would be wrong to see this as a sign that the conflict in Syria is coming to an end,” it added, stressing the need for peace talks.

Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, confirmed in the press briefing at the UN Headquarters on December 21 that Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for the Syria crisis, had mentioned February 8, 2017 as the date for the talks to resume in Geneva.

Asked “What does the UN think of Kazakhstan’s suggestion of hosting the talks in Astana?” Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, told media representatives on December 20: “Obviously, I think it is something we’re looking into, and we’ll get back to the Kazakh authorities.”

Kazakh official sources are of the view that Astana is “a natural home” for peace negotiations on Syria, particularly in view of the role that Kazakhstan has already played in mediation attempts.

In May 2015, Kazakhstan hosted the first round of talks involving representatives of the Syrian opposition committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

In October 2015, the second round of these talks took place. According to The Astana Times, a number of important agreements were reached during these discussions, including on humanitarian issues. Apparently, a consensus was established to create corridors to support the safe passage for the millions of refugees leaving the country.

Apart from referring to practical experience of hosting highly important peace negotiations, the editorial said: Kazakhstan has remained a neutral mediator throughout the Syrian crisis, which has ensured its government is trusted by all sides involved in the conflict.

“A trust built on the reputation the country has developed as an honest broker in international diplomacy across such issues as the Iran nuclear talks and Ukraine crisis.”

The editorial quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov stating recently, “Astana has already hosted meetings between representatives of Syria’s opposition; Kazakhstan has certain experience.” He concluded: “Astana may play a good role in this process.”

The Astana Times said: “All sides must now urge the Syrian government and recognised Syrian opposition groups to accept this important proposal (by Kazakh President).”

The newspaper added: Early indications are that the murder of Russian Ambassador in Turkey Andrey Karlov on December 19 would not derail the agreement reached between Moscow and Ankara “nor would deter them in their determination to seek the quickest end to hostilities in Syria”.

It’s not the first time that Kazakhstan has pressed the need to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, arguing that military options would only exacerbate the situation.

Back in 2012, President Nazarbayev urged the parties to the Syrian conflict to sit down at the negotiating table, saying: “Kazakhstan has repeatedly voiced its support for the efforts aimed at a peaceful settlement of the crisis situations in Syria.”

Explaining Kazakh approach, the Editorial said, the most urgent task must be to end all military activity in Syria and resume negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition. It is important to act to bring all sides together, it said.

Besides, Kazakhstan is committed to doing that, offering the world a neutral and experienced base in which to begin these vital talks. “These negotiations have the potential to bring hope for a better future to millions across the world. The international community must now set aside their differences and work together to ensure this opportunity is not lost.”

The United Nations estimates that since the Syrian Civil War grew out of the unrest of the 2011 Arab Spring and escalated to armed conflict, 400,000 people have been killed, including around 16,000 children. [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 December 2016]

Photo: Doctors and medical staff treating injured rebel fighters and civilians in Aleppo. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

17.12.2016 – Berlin, Germany Johanna Heuveling

This post is also available in: German

50 years of occupation of Palestine: “Liberal Jews must voice their objection”

Interview with Daniel Bar Tal, with the support of Ina Darmstädter

Daniel Bar Tal is a social-psychologist and until his retirement was professor for child development and education at the Tel Aviv University. For his research and struggle regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he received numerous awards. In November this year he was touring European countries for his project Save Israel Stop the Occupation (SISO) to win supporters among the Jewish communities for calling for the ending of the occupation of Palestine: “The continuation of the occupation is a gross violation of the norms of humanity, morality, and democratic values,” he says. “This occupation has lasted 50 years. In my opinion it’s a sin.” Together with Ina Darmstädter who is very active in the Israel-Palestine Womens Movement, we talked with Bar Tal in Berlin, Germany about the government narrative of the conflict and the consequences for democracy.

In 2017 it will be 50 years of occupation since 1967 when, after the Six-Day War, Israel occupied Gaza, Sinai, East Jerusalem and The Golan Heights, and despite UN Resolution 242 to return the territories, except for Sinai, Israel has kept control until today. Daniel Bar Tal says: “It is not only the responsibility of Israelis but of the international community, of our democratic values, our moral values, our universal values, that they should bring an end to oppression.”

The epistemic foundation for the continuation of the occupation

But Bar Tal tells us that 72% of the Israeli population would not know what he is talking about when he uses the terms “occupation” or “oppression”, because they don’t consider it an occupation. “The government of Israel with institutions and other organs have constructed a narrative that serves as an epistemic foundation for the continuation of the occupation.”  The Israelis were indoctrinated into believing that “Palestinians do not want peace” and “Palestinians want to annihilate the Jewish population”. “They do not regard Palestinians as human beings, but as terrorists, who don’t care about human life and are inherently violent. This is a picture held not only by ordinary people but also by leaders, even many opposition leaders.”

The narrative justifying the occupation has two parts, Bar Tal explains. One is: “Many Israelis believe the whole land between the river and the sea belongs to them exclusively, that it is their homeland. Palestinian land, in fact, is the heart of the homeland: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron, which is the old state of Judea.” The other part is the existential threat against the Jewish people, as many Israelis perceive it. “Jewish people after the Holocaust feel that they have the right to defend themselves and they see themselves as the exclusive victim of the conflict. They do not see that the Arabs are victims of the conflict.”

Daniel Bar Tal is very pessimistic concerning change coming from within Israeli society at the moment. And he explains his pessimism with his research experiences: “There is a great correspondence between the government’s narrative and what people believe. Usually for change, there is open disparaty. Large portions of the people would not believe in the government’s story. But in Israel only 15 to 20% of the people have an alternative narrative. Spokesmen for civil rights NGOs are considered as traitors, when they talk about alternatives like the possibility of peace with the Palestinians or that Palestinians are human beings and are also victims, or that we also commit immoral acts. The government uses the educational system and the media in order to propagate the governmental narrative.” Two generations of people are now born under occupation. In 1972, Bar Tal says, the Green Line was erased from the Israeli maps. “About 75% of the maps in the Israeli text books do not show the Green Line. So an Israeli child looking in geography in the book, believes that this is the land of Israel. Children accept the narrative as truth.”

The repeated mantra of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu was: “This is the truth and the only truth.” And interestingly, although generally he was perceived as a liar and as a corrupted person, Bar Tal says, but when it comes to the conflict and security issues he is considered as an epistemic authority and thus is very influential and considered as the only leader who can lead Israeli Jews in times of crises. “Israelis trust him on the aspect of security.”

Occupation or Liberation?

Ina Darmstädter mentions that the narrative has even sharpened within the last decade. There was the notion of “liberation of the heart of the homeland” instead of occupation. Bar Tal agrees, but adds that a majority of the Jews talked about liberation even in 1967 when the war ended. “The story is that Palestinians in this land came after the Jews began to return at the end of the 19th century. In their view it was the Zionistic movement that started to change the desert into blossoming fields, then the Arabs came and settled there and with time developed some kind of identity. But they were not a real nation, nothing compared to the Jews who had a well shaped national identity.” The consequence of this narrative has been that the Palestinians are considered as aliens in the home country of the Jews. The narrative legitimizes the Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

The use of language, in this context is very interesting to study, Bar Tal says. During a short period during the Oslo negotiations the terminology changed. Rabin used words like “Palestinians”, and described them as “victims of the conflict”. “In the last 15 years the language has moved back to how it was in the seventies. Regression and re-escalation of conflicts usually come with the sharpening of the language, the sharpening of the narrative and with these characteristics comes escalation of the conflict. In principle leaders can be sharpeners or moderators of conflicts. Netanyahu is a sharpener.”

Change must come through pressure from outside

Israel activists diverge in their opinion how to bring change, says Bar Tal. Some believe change must come from inside Israeli society. Not so Bar Tal: “Israeli society is extremely difficult to change. I don’t think it is possible because not only do the great majority of Israeli Jews hold the same views about the conflict and Palestinians as the government but also the government controls most of the formal institutions (for example the educational system) and much of the mass media and through these organs propagates and reinforces the hegemonic narrative that supports the continuation of conflict. The solution may come from outside. Pressure must be put. Fresh air can come from liberal Jews outside Israel.” Therefore he founded the movement Save Israel Stop Occupation (SISO) which wants to unite liberal Jews across the world. The 50 years anniversary provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the occupation, Bar Tal says, with many events and loud activities and with bringing people into action who usually remain silent.

SISO’s point of view is not a moral one. “We come to our activism from the point of view of saving Israel. Our basic assumption is that the occupation is a cancer that causes many negative consequences. It has extremely negative impacts on Israeli society, most of all, the deterioration of democracy. One of the basic principles of democracy is freedom of expression. But the government tries to keep its hegemony, to keep the formal narrative that it disseminates, and makes every effort to prevent an exposure and dissemination of an alternative narrative. Therefore freedom of expression is harmed.” He says it’s no wonder that Israel is ranked 101 for freedom of press by Reporters without Borders.

Tension between loyality and critical thinking

His plan is to meet with Jewish liberal communities. “They must become active and voice their opposition.” He observes that there are different groups: “Some believe in the hegemonic narrative of Netanyahu. Others see what is going on, but most of them are not ready to voice their objection because of various reasons: They don’t want to polarize the Jewish community, or they do not want to criticize Israel because they assume that they may harm it. They think “the Jews are under threat and I don’t want to give ammunition to anti-Semitism”, they are afraid to be labeled anti-Israeli or Self-hating Jew. Only a very small minority of Jews have the courage to voice their critical opinion.”

In Germany as in other Jewish communities around the world, Daniel Bar Tal assumes, there is a silent majority who detect the deterioration of Israel but are silent. In a discussion with Ina Darmstädter about whom to meet in Berlin, it becomes obvious that his task is a delicate one. The Jewish voices in Germany that are heard in the media the loudest are pro-Israel without any critical glasses, there are even liberal Jews who are afraid to meet him. Daniel Bar Tal says that he likes very much to talk exactly with those people who see clearly what is going on but are afraid to express their reservations about the process. He thinks that the way to broach the issue is to talk about the tension between loyality and critical thinking. I say: “It’s clear that loyalty is important for the survival of every group but critical thinking is no less necessary for every society. A society can only survive if it allows critical thinking.” I remind them of the story of Émile Zola and Dreyfuss [Dreyfuss was a French Jewish general of the army who was falsely accused of treason accompanied by a wide ranging campaign against him, and Émile Zola, was one of the few people who were courageous enough to voice their doubts; comment by the author] and I ask them: If I see human right violations, what should I do? I keep silent? I speak up? What do you think is the best for our Israeli society to do?”

It is a responsibility of everyone to speak up

What does Daniel Bar Tal say about the role of Germany and the common dilemma Germans usually face because of our history?  Are we allowed to criticize Israeli politics or should we stay quiet? He answers: “I feel very strongly about this question and I believe that it’s a sin to keep watching when you see that your friend is harming himself. It is a responsibility of everyone to speak up.”

On the question of how he developed the values underlying his activities, Bar Tal says that he did not undergo any big transformation like others. His mother, he says, was the most influential person in his life. “She was a very intellectual, liberal person, open minded, very knowledgeable. She was a humanist and gave me humanist values.” During his academic life he always gave his time to political activism, he says, but he considered that he could not have two careers although with his expertise he somehow combined both. “My main direction was academic but once I retired I decided that I would compensate and I became a 24 hours activist.”

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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