Category Archives: Politics

Two climate gatherings in Glasgow, Scotland

On the journey from Albuquerque, NM (USA) to Glasgow, Scotland (UK) to attend COP26 as a delegate for the League of Women Voters US, I became acutely aware that there were two climate gatherings happening side by side. The formal COP26 which anyone might watch virtually.  And the COP26 Coalition People’s Summit including youth-led actions and marches demanding action. Before I even arrived for the second week of COP26, Greta Thunberg had declared it a failure. “Just more blah, blah, blah.”

Greta has very good reasons to be skeptical. Since the first COP meeting in 1995 in Germany, there have been many reports warning us about the future, and many promises made to reduce our CO2 emissions to keep the Earth’s warming no higher than the critical 1.5 Celsius.  Clearly, many of the promises made in the 2015 Paris Agreement have not been kept. Greta and her generation are coming of age on a planet where a stable future is in doubt (assured) without serious action right away to change course.

Cognitive dissonance

I’ve been conflicted since learning about this opportunity to join the LWVUS delegation. Flying to a climate conference?! Aviation’s climate impact accounts for 3.5% of total anthropogenic warming. Passenger air travel is producing the highest and fastest growth of individual emissions, despite a significant improvement in efficiency of aircraft and flight operations over the last 60 years. By 2050, commercial aircraft emissions could triple given the projected growth of passenger air travel and freight. But I concluded that someone else would join the delegation in my absence, so I hopped on Amtrak to Chicago, and then a direct flight to London, and finally a bus to Glasgow.

Cognitive dissonance describes the discomfort from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. “This inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimize feelings of discomfort. People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information.” I suspect humans everywhere are experiencing a profound cognitive dissonance in this Anthropocene era. My personal COP26 goal is to learn how governments, the private sector, and individuals are negotiating this cognitive dissonance.  Are we acknowledging the disconnect and taking the necessary actions to restore the planet’s health?

The people in the halls of power don’t give me much hope. President Biden has the power to stop Line 3, a large oil sands pipeline project which has recently completed construction in northern Minnesota. “Line 3 will carry enough oil to produce about 170 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to about 50 coal power plants, or 38 million vehicles.” Although he could have withdrawn Enbridge’s permit for Line 3 without any action from Congress, President Biden has decided to support Line 3.  My own U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham have both spoken publicly about the dangers of climate change and their desire to be allies in the struggle to reduce CO2 emissions, while on the other hand they’re both cheerleaders for development of Blue Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. The biggest cheerleaders for blue hydrogen are the fossil fuel industry lobbyists because, just as with plastics, their future depends on not keeping fossil fuels in the ground. However, a report published in August 2021 has them scrambling. Cornell and Stanford University researchers believe blue hydrogen may harm the climate more than burning fossil fuel. The carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat, according to new research published in Energy Science & Engineering.  “Political forces may not have caught up with the science yet,” Howarth said. “Even progressive politicians may not understand for what they’re voting. Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not.”

When words and actions don’t align themselves, there’s serious cognitive dissonance. I’ve passed my daily COVID-19 test and I’m headed to the large venue where I hope to see ACTION and not merely words.

Day #1

The League found a flat just a mile away from the COP26 venue for delegates to share. I’m expecting that the entire COP26 experience will be improved by sharing and debriefing with colleagues from the US. We walked in the rain to the venue the first morning and arrived looking like soaked rats. There were very long lines for the early folks but by the time my pal and I arrived, there were very few lines. Covid-19 precautions are in full display, and along with the typical security measures, I certainly feel safe in this large venue with thousands of people around. Everyone is wearing a face mask, without exception, and everyone has proof of vaccination. I wonder about the millions around the world who either don’t have access to the vaccine or don’t trust the science and refuse to take the vaccine. They are not part of this global event, by choice or not. Another of my personal COP26 goals is to learn how to communicate effectively about climate change and the work of COP26 with people who are not yet engaged in the issue. I’m convinced that the world “leaders” will not lead unless they are pushed from a groundswell of youth and others who make demands. Engaging with and motivating the grassroots is probably the best use of my time.

Everything about the day’s activities and events were spelled out on the COP26 online platform which I found very confusing. Navigating the app was bewildering but I’m encouraged when I heard others were having difficulty too. It’s not just my old age. There are sessions & agendas, as well as events & schedules.  There’s a blue zone (which hosts the negotiations) and the green zone (where the youth groups, civil society, academia, etc. host events and exhibitions). My first day was spent wandering in the green zone without a plan of action. Learning the layout and the schedule of activities is mindboggling, but I soon realized that COP26 is a marketing extravaganza for countries, institutions and businesses. Each wants to draw you in to learn more about their achievements. I saw a Co-Creative Reflection & Dialogue Space #reflectCOP26 with a small group sitting in a circle. The agenda looked interesting – spiritual and religious perspectives on the climate emergency; breaking the silos for planetary health; artistic expression as non-verbal channel to our experience at COP26; and climate change and collective trauma. Climate Change and its Threats to Takistan was well attended. The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization had items displayed and elaborate posters. I was alarmed when I passed the Nuclear for Climate exhibit — “Nuclear is a proven low carbon source of energy.” #NetZeroNeedsNuclear   Qatar was presenting to a full house about “filling the enforcement gaps”. And there was a good crowd listening to the presentation by the representative of the Republic of Congo. China may not be attending COP26 but that country didn’t miss an opportunity to market itself in the China Corporate Pavilion – “Facing the Future, Daring to Initiate.” Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE and many others have elaborate displays and presentations for anyone they might lure into their spots.

I stood awhile and watched the panel discussion at the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, as well as the presenter in the Multilevel Action Pavilion – the home for subnationals (cities, towns and regions). After walking for hours, I was beat. I found a place to sit and watched Obama online speaking to an audience in the building next door. I was pleased that one of my League colleagues actually got into the room to see Obama. Her perseverance paid off.  What I heard from Obama was the closest to an apology that I was hoping to witness at COP26. I encourage you to watch Obama’s speech if you haven’t heard it yet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69EMd4csZRY He spoke about the urgency of the climate crisis, and then spoke directly to the youth, which I found relevant and very important.  “Vote” and get the leaders into positions that know and understand the climate urgency, he said.  I left the venue shortly after Obama’s speech. The first day was discouraging because I couldn’t find the events that I wanted to see. I was hoping to connect with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) formal event and press conference. https://www.wecaninternational.org/ Both the LWVUS and the Progressive Democrats of America signed onto WECAN’s Call to Action last month at my request. I passed activists outside drumming and shouting urging action, not Blah, Blah, Blah, and walked back to the flat. Everyone at COP26 seems either engaged with their laptops or with each other. But I have no clue whether the decision-makers and high-level negotiators are making any progress or whether they’re even listening to the youth who are making very clear demands.

I can learn more about the substance of COP26 from reading Interfaith Power & Light’s summary online or the daily Glasgow Dispatch from EESI or the COP26 Coalition’s reports.

Day #2

I attended three sessions today which gave me a clue about how disparate the topics, people and attitudes about COP26 might be, unlike national conferences that I’ve attended in the U.S. during my career. The first was a discussion with a panel of indigenous people from Nepal, Chad, Peru and elsewhere, organized by https://aippnet.org/ and https://iwgia.org/en/  In response to a question “Will market mechanisms kill the 1.5 C goal?” the Nepali representative noted (paraphrasing) that ‘carbon capture’ and the other tools that the governments are counting on don’t exist. Carbon markets have many limitations. It will depend on how these mechanisms are implemented in the future. The recent Forest Action (Nov. 2) where 130 countries pledged to protect forests and indigenous lands with $1.7 Billion — these pledges are not enough. There needs to be meaningful participation by Indigenous peoples at the table, not mere lip service. Don’t prepare a plan and then bring it to the Indigenous people for their blessing. They also need to be part of the implementation.”  The African delegate said “we’re seeing lots of promises but little action. We should keep our expectations down.”  A question from the audience resonated with me. “Do the people negotiating at COP26 see the planet as a living being or a machine?” The answer touched me deeply. She said “We need to raise our voices louder so they reach the heart, not just the head.” The climate activist from Chad said “the government keeps trying to silence our voices; governments are not doing what the people need.” The discussion ended with an unanswered question: “How can nomads around the world be included in these negotiations?”

I followed my colleague to another session on the topic of data and transparency. Given the concern about COVID-19, each session is being tightly monitored for space limitations, keeping everyone spread out in the room, and turning people away at the door when the room is at capacity. My colleague and I were the last admitted to this session, and stood along the wall in the back. A few minutes into the panel discussion, a young woman sitting at the table turned around to me and offered her spot to me. The audience here looked very different from the audience in the previous session — young people multi-tasking with their laptops while listening to the panelists who talked about using data for better action. I’ll confess that the topic didn’t interest me much until I realized that without good data, what evidence do we have to demand action? Action is driven by data which must be accurate, complete, and transparent. Obtaining the data is only the first step, but then ensuring it is robust and high quality is important. Climate disasters have been responsible for the loss of massive amounts of data. Data for Better Climate Campaign launched this Spring with the hashtag #Data4BetterClimateAction.  One speaker noted “It’s not just about more data – or more accessible data – but also making it understandable to more people.”  “Having data gives you more ‘ammunition’ to demand more action to narrow the gap.”  They talked about the challenges in gathering the data, and noted that countries learn best from each other. The organizations represented on this panel are helping the countries network with each other. The final speaker focused on the need for experienced users.  It’s not just data, but the users who need to be knowledgeable to provide the explanation of the data.

I accidently walked into the tail end of a session where the moderator asked the panelists: “What would you say to your soon-to-be born grandchild about the future?” Since my second grandchild is expected in the Spring 2022, my head snapped to attention. “It’s going to be a wonderful world, beyond what our imagination can contemplate today. New technology always underperforms in the early years and exponentially grows in later years. Imagination leads to engineering. We need to have an exponential mindset…with our head in the clouds and our feet on the ground.”

As a retired lawyer, I’m really pleased I made it to the Law Session at the end of the day. This 90-minute session was divided into three segments – the judiciary, the movement lawyers, and the business/corporate sector. The discussions were uniformly strong, so I’m going to look for the recording of this session and post it later. It was very encouraging to hear the short video clips with appellate judges from around the world talking about their work on climate. (See Race to Zero https://racetozero.unfccc.int/ where all of the videos, including the judges, should be posted later.) The judges just woke up to climate in the past few years and are forming a network of climate judges around the world. The Brazilian judge noted that her colleagues need to learn much more about climate and climate cases from other nations. In 2015, she issued a decision in a coal case without mentioning the word climate once. She thinks today that perhaps she made the wrong decision, but that’s when she woke up to the importance of climate law.

I learned about the Canary case from Pakistan and the Lamu case from Kenya, and the Shell case and plan to read more about each. I was surprised when Cesar Rodriquez Garavito (NYU School of Law) said that the law can change more rapidly than other areas of our society. He sounded very hopeful that climate litigation and the judiciary will be leading the way to protecting nature. Lawyers need to listen and understand the concern about the urgency of the climate reality. “Listen to the young people who are bold and creative.” Match these challenges with legal tools (Lora adds — such as the Green Amendment many states are considering in the US.) Advocates in the Amazonian case have been fighting for the past 30 years and making arguments about nature’s rights. Now we have laws to support their arguments. Movement lawyering is growing, check out Net Zero Lawyers Alliance. The session ended with a discussion about how businesses need to have a social contract, as well finance from the north to the south needs to be in the form of grants, not debt-building loans. A young man (22 yrs old) was beamed in from Australia to conclude with a hopeful message. As a university student, he asked the pension fund what their plans and investment criteria are regarding climate, and the fund couldn’t provide any answers. He was stubborn and took them to court and won. Now investment firms and pension funds in Australia have changed their modus operandi regarding climate factors. The youth around the world are doing the same — going to court about our failure to deal with the climate realities.

These three sessions have given me a lot to chew on — more than I can summarize here.  But the overarching take-away message is that there are very different people, cultures and traditions all focused on climate from their own vantage point (ie. Indigenous peoples, technology nerds, and lawyers) — and the intersection of all of them could be very powerful to make significant changes for a livable future. I have more confidence in these people, professions, and cultures than I do in the governments that represent them at the negotiating table.

Day #3

Wednesday is the “hump day” (the toughest day in the week) but honestly it was a very easy day for me at COP26.  The night before I learned from a native woman from Minnesota who is part of the Indigenous delegation in Glasgow that there was an action planned in front of Barclays Bank. Barclays Bank is the largest financier of fossil fuel projects in the world, and I’ve participated in similar protests in Minnesota and New Mexico, demanding that the bank divest from fossil fuels. Instead of going to the center where all of the activities are occurring, I walked to the large Barclays bank situated in a prominent spot near the river, but didn’t find anyone. I googled the locations of other Barclay Banks and walked to the one located nearer the center of Glasgow. (Google has been my best friend in Glasgow.) Thankfully, I found them.  For the next hour+ I watched the speakers and captured many of the signs and protesters with my camera. The Scottish police were filming protesters too. I noticed some media but I don’t know if the action was covered in the mainstream press. Lots of citizen journalists were hopefully sharing their photos on social media. There were indigenous peoples from around the world speaking with interpreters. The messages were clear and direct. “No net zero, no false solutions”. “Leave it in the ground.” “We (meaning indigenous peoples) are not the problem, we are the solution.” An estimated 200+ attended this action.

I was struck by how far apart the communication is between “inside” and “outside” of COP26.  Inside the halls where the negotiations are occurring, “Net Zero” is a given and I hear no debate about that term. Much of the public advertising around Glasgow includes “Net Zero” as a given. The Indigenous peoples, the youth and many of the activists on the outside are demanding “No Net Zero” because they say it’s simply a false solution, a mechanism to allow the extraction and development of fossil fuels to continue.  My heart and head tells me the activists outside are correct, but communicating that concept of “No Net Zero” is difficult. I tried in Glasgow, unsuccessfully.

Day #4 – Hydrogen, Networking and Indigenous Voices

One of the major conundrums for anyone attending COP26 is whether to attend meetings, events, actions at the center after taking a daily Covid-19 test, passing through two layers of security, and wandering the maze of corridors to find the spot you want. Or just sip a cup of tea in the apartment while watching the meeting online. On this particular morning, my colleague and I decided to take the second option and watched a presentation about hydrogen organized by industry and NGO folks who were clearly promoting the opportunities for investment in the future hydrogen market. The Hydrogen Council (see https://hydrogencouncil.com/en/) recently released two reports that I want to look up online. Hydrogen for Net Zero and the Hydrogen Policy Toolbox. The speakers never clarified whether they were talking about Green Hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen, or Gray Hydrogen . . . only referencing “low carbon hydrogen” once which refers to Blue hydrogen (made from fossil fuels). The take-away message is that we need to transition quickly to a hydrogen economy which will require 3 building blocks. (1) Political vision and ambition. (2) Supportive regulatory framework. (3) Investment for both research and innovation (development). There was a lot of talk about Fit for 55 which I need to explore further.  “Fit for 55 refers to the at least 55% emission reduction target which the EU has set for 2030. The proposed package aims to bring the EU’s climate and energy legislation in line with the 2030 goal.”  I learned that hydrogen (hopefully of the Green variety) can be a good alternative fuel for shipping and transportation. But an audience member from Africa asked (paraphrased) “The new hydrogen economy might work for Western countries but how can we be sure it will work for Africa?”  I didn’t hear a clear response.

A friend from New Mexico told me that one of the highlights for her from an earlier COP was the networking experience. Lunch on the 4th day of COP26 proved her correct. I met a woman in the lunch line who invited me to share her table. She was a delegate with the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) with which the League of Women Voters US (my group) has collaborated with at COP26. An American woman about my age teaching philosophy and military ethics in Idaho, born in Edinburgh, raised in Toronto, and lived in Africa for some time. We could have sat another hour talking but we exchanged contact information and agreed to explore an opportunity to write a paper / book together. I was certainly jazzed when I left the table.

I headed over to the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum – a small venue with a seating capacity of only 20-25 people – where I listened to an Ecuadorian discuss the added-value of bringing Indigenous Peoples’ voices to the negotiating table. A Peruvian young woman explained that the Indigenous movements in the Andes and Amazon have come together in recent years and are working collectively. The young people feel “closely connected to our ancestors’ roots” and come to COP26 to “demand our representatives respect nature and nature’s rights in these negotiations.” An older woman said that without the forests, “we have nothing, no food, no shelter.” When her grandmother traveled to the forest, she would dress up for the special occasion and speak to the forest. Women are the stewards of the forest – the ones conveying the knowledge. After 40 years educating the young people, she is pleased to see so many young people engaged today, and respecting nature. “We should create an Indigenous University.”

My last stop for the day was a presentation by the Land and Water Protectors which began with a #StopLine3 video. Since I had traveled to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in June and visited with the Water Protectors there, I was pleased to see people and places I recognized from my visit. GGM Mary Lyons (White Earth Nation elder) joined the conversation from zoom and said “our young people have to be at the table of justice.” Three younger women spoke about their experience as water and land protectors. “Sovereignty is not something we sign on the dotted line for; and we don’t fight for sovereignty. It’s something in our blood – something we need to remember.”  Fighting the colonizers within their system won’t work. “We will be here long after the colonizers are gone.”

Day #5 – Final Day for me at COP26

The constituencies planned to protest from inside COP today and I was excited as we walked over to the center. There are a number of different constituencies at this COP, including BINGO (business and industry NGOs), ENGO (environmental NGOs), Farmers (farmers and agricultural NGOs), IPO (Indigenous Peoples organizations), LGMA (Local Government and Municipal Authorities), RINGO (Research and Independent NGOs), TUNGO (Trade Union NGOs), WGC (Women and Gender Constituency) and YOUNGO (Youth NGOs).  The delegates from the LWVUS aligned with the WGC. My colleagues and I walked together to the COP center and sat in the back of the large plenary hall with perhaps 200 – 300 people safely distanced from one another. The youth began by summarizing the facts from the IPCC report and the urgency that the science demands. “Governments would be well-advised not to break their social contract with the people.” “The science has delivered, now it’s your turn!” The TUNGO representative (and many others) talked about how the constituencies were invited to COP26 but excluded from any meaningful discussions. “What happens here is shaped by capitalism and colonialism.” Organized workers want a safe future which requires that “we undo the wrongs of colonialism.” “A fair future needs jobs, jobs, jobs, and a just transition in every workplace.”  “We need to build power by working together.”  The WGC and YOUNGO showed powerful videos.  (I’m going to try to find them online and post.)  The RINGO representative said that her group does not advocate for any particular positions at COP and she’s usually sitting in the back of the room observing. But RINGO decided to speak up about the deficiencies in the COP26 process. “Most observers have not had access to negotiations.” “This is a treaty process and observers must be part of the process. It hasn’t been this bad since COP in Copenhagen in 2009.”  77% more people @ COP26 than COP25. 232% increase in the number of media organizations over COP25. 90% more parties participating and 60% more NGOs. RINGO says you can’t be inclusive by just inviting more people. Contrary to their advertisement, COP26 was not the most inclusive COP.  Nearly every speaker confirmed their disappointment in the lack of opportunities to participate and be heard in the work of COP26.

Following these great presentations, the Indigenous Peoples led us outside the sprawling COP26 center holding on to a very long red ribbon. Later I learned that the red ribbon represented the red line that must not be crossed in these climate negotiations. The LWVUS members joined the march outside, with the media and security personnel following us on the other side of the red ribbon.  Outside we met up with activists and protesters with a lot of energy and strong speeches. I was lucky enough to find myself front and center next to the speakers, and tried to capture much of it. In the middle of it all, a single lone woman took the microphone and began yelling messages in favor of oil and gas. Everyone was confused and thought she was part of the program until it became clear that she was spewing nonsense. The police took her away and the activists continued with their speeches. We were shoulder-to-shoulder yelling and protesting the COP26 failures. The thought crossed my mind that this might have been a COVID-19 super-spreader event, but most people were wearing masks, and hopefully most were vaccinated.

After the protest I headed to the Green Zone with no particular agenda in mind but to see how that venue was organized. On this last full day of COP26 there were families and many people who didn’t appear to be associated with COP26 walking through the exhibits which surprised me. After getting a cup of potato and leek soup for lunch, I walked through the exhibits and then found a hall with a large TV screen where many were sitting and watching the plenary discussion happening in the Blue Zone.  I sat and watched one country after another be recognized by the COP26 President to “make an intervention” and speak about their disappointments about the process and the substantive provisions that were under consideration. “We need to handle finance inside COP, not outside.”  “We need a more balanced approach to Article 6.”  The delegate from Switzerland said “We won’t meet our 1.5 C goal without phase out of all subsidies for fossil fuels.” The Bangladesh delegate declared a “panic emergency” – the science is clear and our ambition must not end with COP26. (paraphrased) “We must think about the impacts of moving from 1.1 C to 1.5 C. We are not trying to just agree on text, but want to ensure these words are actually delivered.” “We are negotiating about our future, our existence.”

The representative from China spoke through an interpreter about the “common but differentiated responsibilities” from the Paris Agreement and said China wants to let the parties (countries) decide their own timetables.  The Philippines delegate mentioned this “unfortunate turn of events” with Article 6. He talked about risk management and that developing countries like the Philippines can’t do it on their own. They want to leapfrog and not repeat the mistakes that developed countries have made but the developing countries need $$ to do that. South Africa delegate said they need money not only to meet their NDCs but also for sustainable development. Brazil said “we don’t want small climate clubs but a large collective community” addressing these challenges. Perhaps the most compelling words came from the representative of Tuvalu (a country in the South Pacific I honestly had never heard of until COP26). “We’re not seeing the level of optimism that started the COP26 negotiations translated into this agreement.” “Tuvalu is sinking.” “We need to ensure a financial mechanism and modality of delivery is provided to be able to get the money to the countries that need it now.” Tuvalu wants strong language on loss and damage. (I’m going to look for a video of his words to post later.) The representative from Mexico said the current draft “doesn’t meet our expectations. We should know how to bring our NDCs in line with the 1.5 C goal.” The man from Panama said he couldn’t square the circle where developed countries declare “we understand the impacts of climate change on the global south” but “we don’t pay developing countries.” “All we ask is that you own your responsibilities.” “Get us to real zero.” “Keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

I stood up and decided to explore the Green Zone a bit more. I walked past a young man who stopped me to note the button I am wearing everywhere in COP26 “Free Palestine”. He is from Indonesia and is currently studying in the UK but has plans to return to his country when he completes his education to help his nation. We took each other’s photos and shared them on WhatsApp. Perhaps I’ve made a new friend in Indonesia.  Then I walked upstairs to check out the COP26 Cinema and walked into the middle of a film about the YMCA working with youth in six countries engaged in climate change projects. The YMCA in the US had financed the film with $250k and announced today that they were adding another $150k to continue the work of these youth groups. The goal is to raise $1 million by next year. Four young people in the film were on stage to discuss their work and their expectations. Rodrigo from Peru gave a shout out to a youth from Palestine who was not able to travel to Glasgow. I went up to him afterwards and learned that the Palestinian had waited and waited for his appointment to travel to the embassy for his Visa application but the appointment was only given to him TODAY. I found these four young people very inspiring and had tears in my eyes as I was taking notes. The young woman from Zambia said she wished we had more leaders like John Kerry whom they met earlier. She found Kerry to be “a humble person.”  And she was disappointed that the leaders from Zambia at this COP26 were not accessible to her or others from her country. She wants the leaders to be uncomfortable.  Check here https://www.ymca.int/cop26/ to meet the YMCA delegation to COP26, including Atallah Danoon from Palestine.

Many are beginning to leave Glasgow now but the discussions at the plenary continue. I will catch a train to Edinburgh in the morning but stay glued to the proceedings online.

My take-away from COP26 in Glasgow

I’m not going to summarize the final COP26 agreement or its many deficiencies, nor regurgitate what the media coverage is sharing.  If you check out the Irish Times, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, and many more, it’s clear that COP26 didn’t live up to expectations. I also recommend opinion pieces from Christiana Figueres who was head of the UN climate change convention that achieved the Paris agreement in 2015, and George Monbiot calling for civil disobedience. While in Glasgow at COP26, I was following several groups who provided excellent coverage of COP26, including regular reports from Architecture 2030, Interfaith Power & Light, and EESI. There’s a lot of information for anyone who wants to get into the COP26 weeds.

Sitting in a youth hostel in Edinburgh after COP26 finished, I met a man from Normandy (33 years) visiting on a lark for the weekend because he found a roundtrip air ticket for €10. He works in international shipping, scheduling exports and imports. He understands the urgency of climate change but doesn’t believe we can repair the damage already done. “It’s only going to get worse, and leaders aren’t going to do anything fast enough because of their love of power and money.” He gave me concrete examples.

I passed a group of young girls (teens?) sitting in the park in Edinburgh and asked to take their photo. I told them I had just come from the climate meeting in Glasgow. It wasn’t the right time and place to engage with them on climate change; they were more excited about being seen and recognized on my Instagram account.

Communication is my take away from COP26. You and I know the science, and the urgency with which a profound transformation must occur if we’re going to leave a planet that our children and grandchildren can safely call home with confidence of a bright future. My new grandchild (expected in Spring 2022) will be my age in 2090; this is very personal for me. We have only a decade, or perhaps two, to avoid the catastrophic consequences of fossil fuels.

We must meet people where they’re at and arm them with the information which spurs them to act. We must engage in every venue where we believe we can make a difference. Some of us will engage with the politicians in Congress, state Capitals, and city halls pressing leaders to act consistent with the climate reality. Others will engage with students and audiences in different venues. Some will write. Others will protest and engage in civil disobedience. Perhaps the most important communication will occur one-on-one with our neighbors and family. None of these will be sufficient on their own, but each will lead us to the critical threshold where public engagement will tip the scales.

I didn’t see any strong presence of the fossil fuel industry at COP26 but they had the largest delegation there, and likely had better access to decision-makers than many others. Listening to many different voices (online and in person at COP26) about what we must do, I was particularly sensitive to the cacophony of ideas often not connecting with each other. (At one point I actually broke down in tears because of the cognitive dissonance.) 

People ask me if I’m an optimist or pessimist about the future. I’m neither. I consider myself a “possibilitarian.” The path we’re currently on is bleak, but I believe we can take another path towards a much better outcome, a future that looks very bright. This possibilitarian understands that switching to that new path could happen very quickly, but it will require (1) more people aware of the dangers of the current path and deciding to change course; (2) new and more effective ways to communicate about the dangers and possibilities; and (3) new leadership. The most encouraging part of COP26 was observing the youth inside and out pushing the status quo, making the leaders “uncomfortable.” I believe the old farts have to step aside or be removed, and the youth need to take the reins of power. They will certainly make mistakes, but don’t we all?  I witnessed their true leadership at COP26.

The 33-year-old from Normandy needs hope; the teenagers need to experience life free of fear; and the fossilized leaders in many countries need to feel the heel of our boots. Communication is the key.

Thank you for joining me on this COP26 journey. 

Lora Lucero

LoraLucero3@gmail.com

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Twitter: @LoraLucero

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Palestine: Law and Accountability in Bringing the Occupation to an End

Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur to Palestine, was featured in a special webinar on February 20, 2021 sponsored by the Canadian Voices for Palestinian Rights. This hour-long discussion is wide-ranging on many topics pertaining to Israel – Palestine, and I recommend it to anyone who especially wants to understand Canada’s role (past and present) on the occupation.

Beginning at about 48:00, in response to a question about what comes next, Professor Lynk says there are only 4 possible options. (1) Two-states, (2) One-state, (3) One-apartheid state or what Trump proposed, and (4) the status quo where nothing changes. He says there are no other options. I wonder what he would think of the concept of a confederation as Sam Bahour and Bernard Avishai spoke about today? I think I’ll ask him.

His last piece of advice at the very end of the program should be heeded by everyone who cares about making a difference in Palestine.

Professor Lynk’s strong understanding of international law and appreciation of the facts on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories make him a voice without equal for justice and dignity for Palestinians.

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Filed under Occupation, People, Politics, Settlers, Uncategorized, Video

Finkelstein dissects the ICC ruling about Palestine

Finkelstein and Lora in NYC (August 2017)

I first met Professor Norman Finkelstein in Albuquerque in 2012 when he spoke to a friendly audience about his book “This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion” about Operation Cast Lead. Several years later, I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time, and attended a course he taught over several weeks at the New York City public library dissecting John Stuart Mill’s classic ON LIBERTY. Finkelstein is a controversial figure in the best sense of the word. He thoroughly reads and researches before he expounds on a topic, and then he speaks his mind clearly and without reservation for the political correctness or sensibilities of his audience.

Norman  Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

On February 14, 2021, Finkelstein was asked his opinion about the recent ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC concluded it had jurisdiction over the Palestinian occupied territories to investigate potential war crimes from Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 as well as the 2018 Gaza border protests where Israeli sharpshooters maimed or killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protestors. Many of us have been waiting for the court’s decision for years.

The mainstream media (including the United Nations) has framed the ICC’s recent ruling as “good news” for the Palestinians. I must admit that I’ve been on cloud 9 since reading this news, thinking that perhaps there would finally be a measure of justice for the Palestinians, as well as elevating the credibility of international law and of the ICC itself.

Unfortunately, I failed to read the opinion (or even digest the entire announcement made by the ICC on February 5, 2021). Although the ICC concluded it does have jurisdiction in Palestine, it went on to say:

In addition, the Chamber found, by majority, that the arguments regarding the Oslo Agreements, and its clauses limiting the scope of Palestinian jurisdiction, are not pertinent to the resolution of the issue of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. Such matters and other further questions on jurisdiction may be examined when and if the Prosecutor submits an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons to appear.

In this interview, Professor Finkelstein dissects the ICC’s opinion better than many who are well-versed in the intricacies of international law in the context of Israel-Palestine. Every Palestine solidarity activist would be wise to spend the next hour listening to his explanation. Without giving the punch-line away, I’ll just say that the Palestine Authority shot itself in the foot when it responded to the ICC’s query regarding the Oslo Accords.

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#FreeRamiAman

A Palestinian man has been arrested and held in detention in Gaza for the crime of participating in “normalization” activities with Israelis. His name is Rami Aman. For the past six months, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been charged or given an opportunity to respond in court.

To be clear, this is nothing new for either Hamas in Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the occupied territories, or the civil Israeli government in Israel. All four threaten to punish civilians who collaborate with the “enemy.” Israel forbids its citizens from visiting with Palestinians. The IDF routinely arrests Palestinian children and hauls them off to military detention. Some remain in detention for many months.

Rami Aman certainly knew what the risks were when he joined that Zoom call with Israelis, but he had nothing to hide. Unlike the “collaborators” who sneak around and work with the enemy to undermine the Palestinian military objectives, Rami wants Israelis to know Palestinians; and vice versa. He understands that the future depends on both sides understanding the other.

A former research consultant with Amnesty International in Gaza saw the zoom meeting and tagged Hamas officials to bring to their attention this forbidden “normalization” activity.

“So what’s wrong with talking? What’s normalization?”

Mike Merryman-Lotze with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) answers both questions in this excellent piece he wrote in 2018. My personal understanding of the subject was greatly improved after reading Mike’s story this Spring and his words of caution; I highly recommend it.

Mike ends with the following points:

“First, we should recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are getting together and cooperating but on their own terms. One of the key problems with many past people-to-people programs is that they were initiated and led by outside actors who imposed their own goals and terms on interactions. The normalization framework pushed forward by Palestinians is a reassertion of ownership of the terms of interaction by those most impacted by the systematic injustice of Israel’s occupation and inequality. Normalization principles transform interactions, moving them from coexistence-focused dialogue sessions to action-based interaction with the goal of transformation through co-resistance against injustice. If you are thinking about supporting dialogue or people-to-people programs, it is important to consider who “owns” the process and how it resists structures of injustice.

Second, we should understand that dialogue is not an end in and of itself and that dialogue can be harmful. Particularly in situations of ongoing injustice, attempts to bring people together can’t simply focus on building understanding if there is no corresponding effort by all involved to end the injustice and inequality that stands between people. While dialogue and exchange can be important parts of transformation, they can also be tools used to block change; reinforce existing imbalances of power; and erase legal, institutional, and structural injustices. Whether we are setting up panel discussions or working to pull people together, we always need to understand issues of power. Dialogue is not a neutral process, and we must carefully consider how dialogue pushes toward action for change.

Third, it is important to understand that the normalization discussion is largely not about us. Normalization concerns do not place blocks on Quakers listening to, interacting with, or dialoguing with any party. Challenging normalization initiatives is not aimed at silencing select viewpoints or limiting who is able to speak. Indeed, listening to and engaging with those with whom we disagree is an important part of building understanding as we push for change. The normalization discussion is about addressing power imbalances and injustice in relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, not shutting off all dialogue or ending conversations that build understanding.

Finally, the normalization conversation points to the fact that dialogue and listening are not enough. To achieve peace and justice there must be political change that ends the system of inequality and oppression that exists between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. complicity in that injustice. To address this, Quakers must then move beyond positions that express concern for both parties and that encourage dialogue and listening but that don’t lead to direct action. Quakers should support direct action to end injustice, such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and AFSC-led No Way to Treat a Child Campaign. We can support discussions, but we must back up our support for talk with support for action.”

I agree with Mike’s observations and words of caution, with the exception of his conclusion. He writes: “It is political change and an end to injustice that will lead to dialogue and understanding, and it is political action that is needed to bring change.” Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? I believe dialogue and understanding are the precursors to a political change and an end to injustice. But the dialogue must occur with Mike’s caveats in mind.

Rami Aman – Gaza Strip

On September 9, 2020, a group of NGOS submitted a 24 page petition at the UN on behalf of Rami Aman. Check it out here.

The group that filed the petition — UN Watch — is an apologist for Israel’s crimes and human rights abuses in the occupation, and regularly calls out anyone or any country that stands up in support of Palestine in the United Nations. Sadly, Hamas’ actions in Rami Aman’s detention have given the UN Watch and the State of Israel fodder for their campaign.

Anyone familiar with the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians will find the following words from the petition hypocritical in the extreme coming from the UN Watch, but no less true.

The Applicant is a Palestinian peace activist who resides in Gaza. He was arrested by Hamas security forces on 9 April 2020, three days after his peace group, the Gaza Youth Committee, held a two-hour video call with Israeli peace activists via Zoom. He is accused of holding a “normalization” activity with Israelis. Normalization refers to cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, including peace dialogue. According to both the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and Hamas, normalization is a crime which is tantamount to treason. The criminalization of peace dialogue is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association pursuant to Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Likewise, detention on that basis is a violation of ICCPR Article 19.

The Applicant has now been in Hamas detention for more than four months. His due process rights are being egregiously violated. He has not yet been charged and has never had an opportunity to challenge his detention in court. Moreover, he is a civilian who will be subjected
to trial in a Hamas Military Court in violation of ICCPR Article 14.

Then the petition begins its propaganda campaign against Hamas by equating “collaboration” with “normalization” which I will not recite here. These are two very different activities but even many Palestinians can’t tell the difference!

Consistent with the above, the PA and Hamas reject any “normalization” with Israel. Normalization includes joint economic activities, joint sports activities and meetings to promote peace. As detailed below, Hamas considers “normalization” to be a form of treason and uses various provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 to prosecute that crime.

Mr. Aman was held incommunicado for at least one week. According to a statement published by Amnesty International on 6 May 2020, Mr. Aman was permitted to speak with his family for the first time by telephone on 26 April 2020—more than two weeks after the arrest. According to information provided to us, he has had one visit with his family since then. Also, Mr. Aman has had three visits with his lawyer, the first on 16 April 2020—one week after the arrest. The Amnesty International statement added that Mr. Aman was likely to be charged under Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, which refers to “propaganda aimed at weakening the revolution” and that he was likely to be tried in a military court. In addition, Mr. Aman has not yet been charged or brought before a court.

I’d like to know why Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, the National Lawyers Guild, and other groups that often stand up for Palestinians have not voiced their objections to Rami’s arrest and detention. Clearly, Rami has become a political football in the international arena now. Dialogue and understanding of the “other” will likely be the victim.

Coalition of NGOs that signed the petition.

University College Dublin (Ireland)

Global Human Rights Defence (Netherlands)

African Agency for Integrated Development (Uganda)

Global Vision India Foundation (India)

Help People Foundation (Italy)

Sisters of Charity Federation (United States)

Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (France)

Geneva International Model United Nations (Switzerland)

Forum Méditerranéen pour la Promotion des Droits du Citoyen (Morocco)

Women’s Voices Now (United States)

Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech (Japan)

African Heritage Foundation (Nigeria)

Romanian Independent Society of Human Right (Romania)

ONG Association Internationale Des Droits De L’Homme (France)

Vision GRAM International (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda)

Structural Analysis of Cultural Systems (Germany)

Public Organization “Public Advocacy” (Ukraine)

Association un Enfant Un Cartable du Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)

International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization (United States)

Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia Wira Tata Buana (Indonesia)

Godwin Osung International Foundation Inc. (Nigeria)

Centre for Youth and Literacy Development (Ghana)

Hape Development and Welfare Association (Pakistan)

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)

Women Educators Association of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Chia Funkuin Foundation (Cameroon)

Save the Climate (DRC)

Association pour le Développement Culturel (Chad)

Business Innovation Research Development (France)

World Organization of Building (Canada)

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone (Benin)

Observatorio Nacional De Seguranca Viaria (Brazil)

Organization Earth (Greece)

GreenPlanet (India)

Foundation of International Servant Leadership Exchange Association (South Korea)

European Union for Jewish Students (Belgium)

Association of Christian Counselors of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Fudnação Antonio Meneghetti (Brazil)

Shola Mese Foundation (Nigeria)

Ideal World Foundation President (Ghana)

Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (Canada)

Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation Inc. USA (United States)

Future Hope International (Ghana)

Les œuvres sociales pour les actions de développement (DRC)

Festival de Théâtre pour la Santé (Togo)

Ingénieurs du Monde (France)

Association de Solidarite d’Aide et Action Mali (Mali)

International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (United States)

Somali Help-Age Association (Somalia)

Kuchlak Welfare society Balochistan (Pakistan)

Kathak Academy (Bangladesh)

Moorish Holy Temple of Science (United States)

Safe Society (India)

Conglomeration of Bengal’s Hotel Owners (India)

World Kabaddi Federation (India)

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (Rwanda)

Amis des Étrangers au Togo (Togo)

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. (United States)

Association pour la Défense des droits, de développement durable et du Bien-Etre Familial (Rwanda)

Project 1948 (Bosnia)

United Nations Watch (Switzerland)

Les Amis du Projet Imagine (France)

Earthquake and Megacities Initiative (EMI) (Philippines)

Coupe de Pouce (DRC)

ONG Credo Action (Togo)

Noahide Institute (United States)

Ekta Welfare Society (India)

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (Nigeria)

Association Build Africa (Cameroon)

Update: ALLMEP joins PCHR, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch in a renewed call for their immediate release from nearly six months in detention. #FreeRamiAman Read more: English – https://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=15059Arabic – https://www.pchrgaza.org/ar/?p=19615

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Dem Party Platform Disappoints

climate march 1

What’s there to say about the 80-page draft Democratic Party Platform? There’s something in it for everyone, maybe that’s why it’s so long. It’s full of lofty goals and language that promises the moon.  As a life-long Democrat, I found myself agreeing with 90+% of it, and taking notes to tweak it here and there.

The light-bulb went on about half way through my review when I realized that my “tweaks” actually pointed to a much bigger problem.

Even if the Democratic Party could make good on its intentions — and we all know it will require the Democrats to regain control of the Senate, build a stronger majority in the House, and win the Presidency in 2020! — this draft platform reads like a well-worn, dusty paperback from the 1990’s with ideas that might have galvanized my parents’ generation.

Sadly it’s not a platform for the 21st Century, for the young adults and children who are going to inherit the mess that the Democrats and Republicans (MY GENERATION) have bequeathed to them.

As a political statement, it’s understandable that the Democratic Party wants to distinguish itself from the ghastly failures of the Trump Administration. Nearly every paragraph begins with a description of the evil that has befallen our nation in the past four years, followed by how the Democrats are going to do things much differently, and so much better. Certainly, a breath of fresh air. I suspect most Democrats (maybe even some Republicans) will read this draft Platform and cheer the drafters.

we are oneTHIS PLATFORM IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENT NOR BETTER THAN THE DEMOCRATIC PLATFORMS OF A BYGONE ERA.  It’s simply better than Trump, and setting the bar as low as that is not how the Democratic Party should be measuring itself. Instead, the Democratic Party needs to measure itself by the challenges facing future generations of Americans.

#1 Climate chaos is an existential threat.  The draft platform includes all of the talking points that any good Democrat wants to hear about climate change (with the exception of the inclusion of nuclear energy) but it falls flat in elevating climate decision-making to the central focus it must have in every aspect of our lives, and in our government.

#2 Global relationships and struggles are confirming the undeniable fact that we are truly one.  Yet, the Democratic Party leaders (as the draft Platform reveals) still believe in the 20th century paradigm of us versus them; with a top-down, hierarchical worldview that belies reality, and the next generation of leaders around the world knows it.

#3 The economy of the 21st century will not look like the economy of the 20th.  Yet, the Democratic Party doesn’t acknowledge how the future is evolving so rapidly and profoundly different from our recent past.  The global pandemic is opening up opportunities to recreate our lives and hasten towards a more just future for everyone (Americans as well as the global south), but the Democratic Party clearly doesn’t see it and can’t articulate that future, much less set us on a path towards it.

 

Lora and friendI wasn’t surprised when I came to the very last page of the draft Democratic Party Platform and found how the draft addresses Israel and Palestine.  It captures the fossilized thinking that permeates the Democratic Party leadership, and the inability of the Party to recognize and understand the new reality on the ground.

Democrats believe a strong, secure, and democratic Israel is vital to the interests of the United States. Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.

Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.

Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side—including annexation—that undermine prospects for two states. Democrats will continue to stand against incitement and terror. We oppose settlement expansion. We believe that while Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Democrats will restore U.S.-Palestinian diplomatic ties and critical assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with U.S. law. We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.

Women in Black Stop the OccupationI won’t dignify these last three paragraphs of the Democratic Party Platform with a critique because I honestly don’t believe the Party leaders are capable of hearing, much less understanding, a thoughtful response.

I’m going to work as hard as I can to get fresh new thinking into the halls of Congress and into the White House. The next Democratic Party Platform needs to be drafted by 20- and 30-somethings who will have a stake in the future of our country. Clearly, the old fogies don’t have a clue.

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Calling Americans to act NOW!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 —- Action needed before 2 pm EST

ACTION ALERT 🚨 🚨

Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania has filed an amendment to the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) portion of H.R. 7608 to prohibit funding to UNRWA.

H.R. 7608 includes funding for critical humanitarian and development efforts for Palestinians, including funding for UNRWA, and Perry’s amendment wants to strip all funding to UNRWA.

Flood Congress using UNRWA’s online advocacy tool and urge your reps to OPPOSE the Perry amendment before the House Rules Committee takes testimony on H.R. 7608 at 2 pm EST on Wednesday:

Please use the link below to urge your Representative to oppose Perry’s amendment and support humanitarian funding for Palestine refugees: unrwausa.org/contact-congress

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The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian

ICRC building on the hill

International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva

There’s a saying in Gaza (at least among some) that the Palestinians are living under THREE occupations.

The first, of course, is the Israeli military occupation. The United Nations and nearly the entire international community recognize this occupation. It’s been going on for so many decades that at least one scholar prefers to call it colonization, not an occupation. It’s perhaps the best documented occupation in world history.

The second is the internal political occupation.  Palestinians in Gaza are living under Hamas, and Palestinians in the West Bank are living under the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Living under” is the correct terminology in both cases because there haven’t been elections in more than a decade (no concept of “term limits” in the Arab world as far as I can tell) and both Hamas and the PA rule with an iron fist.

I learned about the third type of occupation when I was in Gaza in 2012-2013 and met with local city officials to discuss planning issues in the community. They told me bluntly, “What plans? It’s whatever the NGOs are willing to fund. Their plans get implemented, ours stay on the shelf.” So I call this the NGO occupation. Donors’ good intentions can actually backfire because they disempower the local communities they’re meant to serve. US-AID projects are a good example.

Amid the turmoil and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new challenges and opportunities for both nation-states and the private sector attempting to address the serious needs of the most vulnerable. Things are changing rapidly.

ICRC Museum

ICRC Museum Entrance — Geneva

Focusing on humanitarian action, as it has since its beginning in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked the following question in this new COVID-19 world we’re entering:

How then should aid organizations anticipate and prepare for this new reality, still opaque in many ways, and balance it against the expected overwhelming needs? Better yet, rather than adapting and anticipating to this new reality, how can aid organizations lean in and embrace the present crisis as a conduit for radical change, proactively reshaping and repositioning an aid sector that is fit for purpose to protect and address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized?

The question is important, the answers that follow may profoundly change the way NGOs address the needs of the most vulnerable.

This 18 minute audio of a blog posted by Raphael Gorgeu provides a good explanation of how the NGO landscape may be changing. The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian.  Have a listen.

A public health crisis to begin with, the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly metastasized to nearly all fronts of society. Considered one of the biggest crises in modern history, the pandemic’s effects will deeply impact the lives of billions of people, shake the foundations of our solidarity models and redesign parts of the international humanitarian sector. The way aid actors move forward now will shape the future of the humanitarian landscape: pre-existing trends are speeding up as new ones are brought into play, all while the overall balance is placed under scrutiny. In a myriad of ways, many still unforeseeable, the intensity of the present period is accelerating change.

 

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Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

The Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster, catastrophe).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) was (is?) the world’s beacon of hope, an aspiration for a better life for every person.

 

Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).

How does the unbearable status quo change?

In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.

In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.

In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.

In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.

There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?

Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.

Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:

We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.

In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo.  (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.

In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.

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Filed under Israel, Nakba, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

One Democratic State

About ten or twelve years ago I had an interesting conversation with an American Jew in Albuquerque, New Mexico about the future of Israel and Palestine. He expressed the view shared by many Americans at the time that the Palestinians were getting the short end of the stick but Israelis really had no choice but to maintain the occupation in order to protect themselves.

He knew I’d visited Gaza for a week or two in 2004, and had traveled through the West Bank and Jerusalem as a tourist.  So he asked me what I thought the future held in store for both peoples, intimating that his vision of two states with a permanent occupation of one was inevitable.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied “one country between the river and the sea where every person is treated equally”. I’m not sure where I got that idea, whether reading or talking with someone more knowledgeable than me.  But even then I knew that a big part of the problem was a failure of imagination.  My Jewish American friend thought I was nuts; we haven’t talked since.

Now, thankfully, there are many so-called nuts traveling around the world promoting the idea of a one democratic state in Israel – Palestine.  Last week I listened in to a Zoom meeting with some of the leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign. Check out their website in Arabic and English. I learned that this one state idea is not new. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the Nakba of 1948 and after, had promoted this vision in the PLO’s National Charter, abandoning it for the two-state solution only in 1988.Loss of Land

The proponents of the One Democratic State (ODS) campaign believe that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a good strategy but the Palestinians lack an end goal. To paraphrase what I heard on the Zoom call: “If you don’t have a political goal, all of the strategies in the world won’t accomplish anything.” The One Democratic State campaign provides the goal.

“The only way forward to a genuine and viable political settlement is to dismantle the colonial apartheid regime that has been imposed over historic Palestine, replacing it with a new political system based on full civil equality, implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and the building of a system that addresses the historic wrongs committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist movement.”

The One Democratic State campaign has ten key points:

  1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as one country belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, stand for office and contribute to the country’s governance.
  2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from where they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property of the refugees and/or compensate them. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those choosing to immigrate to the country.
  3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among its citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
  4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
  5. Moving from Decolonization to Post-Colonialism. The genuine liberation of Palestinians and Israelis requires a process of thorough decolonization through which we may reach collective justice, peace security and reconciliation. A new national narrative must be constructed that “writes the native Palestinians back in.” Israeli Jews must acknowledge both the national rights of the Palestinian people and past colonial crimes. In return, and based on an egalitarian democracy, Palestinians will accept them as legitimate citizens and neighbors, thereby ending Zionist settler colonialism and entering into a new postcolonial relationship of accommodation, normalization and reconciliation.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in a Middle East that respects its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies, yet strives for equality, freedom of thought and innovation. Achieving a just political settlement in Palestine, followed by a thorough process of decolonization, will contribute measurably to these efforts.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.

I personally know some Israeli Jews and many Palestinians who reject this notion of One Democratic State. In a nutshell, the Israeli Jews (the ones I know) believe it’s a security issue and (the hard core Zionists) believe their right to the land supersedes the Palestinians’ rights. On the other hand, the Palestinians (the ones I know) believe the past and present injustices are so horrendous that the occupation must be dismantled before they will even talk or entertain a One Democratic State.

Of course, I know many Israeli Jews and Palestinians who would gladly embrace the One Democratic State, but I don’t know if there’s a critical mass on either side to move this program forward.

I hope no one closes the door on the One Democratic State campaign until they’ve read the Ten Points mentioned above, and talked about the future they want to leave their children.

I suspect it will take a lot of friends from the international community to help, but InshAllah it will happen.

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To Dream the Impossible Dream: One Democratic State

Iris Keltz is a member and cofounder of Jewish Voice for Peace in Albuquerque, NM and the author of Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine & Israel, an award winning book available in print and Ebook.  Iris extends an invitation (see below) to a zoom chat on May 7th about the proposal for a One Democratic State in Israel.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to listen to Andy Williams (1971), watch the zoom chat on May 7, and read two books (Iris’s and Deb Reich’s No More Enemies and here.)

Iris Keltz explains the zoom meeting:

Jeff Halper and Awad Abdelfattah, two leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign in Israel will be speaking on May 7th at 2:00 pm Eastern time.  Here’s the link to connect to the Zoom meeting.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85769809039?pwd=cGhnOXl0djhhMkMrVytpVENBcC9Ydz09.

Awad Abdelfattah is former General Secretary of the National Democratic Assembly party (Balad in Hebrew), one of three parties in the Israeli Knesset that represents Israel’s Palestinian 1.4 million minority population.

Dr. Jeff Halper is head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (2015).

Are these men tilting at windmills, dreaming an impossible dream? Both Abdelfattah and Halper believe that for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians a single democratic state is the best way forward, albeit something that might not happen in our life time. They agree that in order to dismantle the current settler-colonial regime, a detailed political plan is necessary. Halper, who once reluctantly accepted the idea of two-states, pointed out that “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) is a strategy— not an endgame.

In spite of the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel (aka ’48 Palestinians) are second class citizens, their significance and influence has long been underestimated and undervalued. They are a rising force in the Knesset and in emerging grassroots initiatives related to the containment of COVID-19. Abdelfattah proudly pointed out that 17% of doctors in Israel are Palestinians who are caring for people during this frightening pandemic regardless of ethnicity or religion.

The strong Palestinian middle class in Israel can be attributed to the value they place on education. Since 1948, they have suffered the loss of ancestral lands, homes and villages. Most families have relatives in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Nakba has continued for them as well as for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They expose the internal nature of Israeli apartheid. However, Abdelfattah remains open to working with Progressive Jewish-Israelis. He expressed great regret for the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and credits this Jewish-American as having started a powerful social justice movement supported by a majority of Muslim-Americans.

In order to promote the dream of a single democratic state, a critical mass of Palestinians and Israelis is essential. At least 1,000 Palestinians are needed to sign on to this agreement, a seemingly modest number. Once embraced by the PLO, this idea is typically rejected by Israel because of “security concerns” where control of the military is the most important question for the one-state.

According to Halper, the Israeli psyche has become more Fascist and more right wing. It was profoundly disappointing to hear that even among progressive Israelis the idea of one democratic state is not strong. Palestinian-Israelis remain divided. Abdelfattah emphasized the importance of unifying ’48 Palestinians with West Bank Palestinians who are further oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, and with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. Arguably both movements are essential and can be worked on simultaneously.

Being an idealistic pragmatist, Halper pointed out that different models are available for the greater Middle East. “Consider bio-regionalism, bi-national, a confederation, etc. The possibilities are limited to our imagination.” Both leaders agree that the idea must be framed in a way that is acceptable to both people. Words like “secular” or “religious” should be avoided. “One person, one vote” is a more neutral description. Unfortunately human rights and international law have no teeth and the impossible dream seems to be slipping further into the future.

“We don’t even have a name for this new country,” said Halper, leaving me to ponder about the significance of names. To name someone or something is to recognize their humanity. And that’s just what is needed.

Recommended read— “The Wall & the Gate” by Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney who represents various Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace organizations, movements and activists.

 

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Filed under Book Review, COVID-19, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video