Tag Archives: Beyond War

Outside the Margins – Beyond War


Students from the University of New Mexico have collaborated for the past two years on a project about the refugee crisis that has culminated in a new book — Outside the Margins.

Although you can purchase the book to support the good work of local groups working with refugees, the students are very clear that they want the contents and ideas of the book to get out into the world as far as possible, and so there’s no copyright restrictions. The book can be downloaded for free from the website http://unmibsg.com/otm/

Outside the Margins

I attended the book’s launch at UNM on February 22, 2018.  This is a book unlike any other I’ve seen, on this topic or any other topic. Why?

Every page is a new way of communicating about the complexity of the refugee crisis in a way that attempts to be accessible to everyone, anyone.

Other define

As the students described their project and what they had learned, I thought about the lessons I first learned in Beyond War so many years ago in California.

Beyond War

The concepts in the book are difficult and simple — difficult because the world today is only beginning to understand or acknowledge these truths, and simple because these concepts are the foundation of the truth that future generations will take for granted. This book is a bridge between today and tomorrow, just as Beyond War was a bridge in the 1980s in California.




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Filed under Peaceful, Uncategorized, Video

I’m not pro-Palestinian

“I’m not pro-Palestinian.”

I uttered those words a few nights ago in response to a very good friend from Gaza who was sharing his thoughts about the characteristics of the activists who are “pro-Palestinian.”

I realized right away how provocative my words sounded, and how they might be misunderstood.  I also knew why my friend from Gaza labeled me “pro-Palestinian.” He’s like a son to me.  If I could shield him from the atrocities he and his family have experienced at the hands of the Israelis, and particularly the Israeli military, I would.

But my love, concern and compassion for my Palestinian friend, and many other Palestinians, doesn’t make me “pro-Palestinian.”  The label doesn’t fit me because being “pro” anything often implies one is also against something, in this case Israel and Israelis.  The world is not black/white, good/evil, wrong/right.  It’s so much more complex than that.

Being “pro-Palestinian” might imply I’ve selected a tribe to cheer for — the Palestinians — and rejected the other tribe.  In fact, I reject tribal allegiances altogether.

Being “pro-Palestinian” often raises issues of “loyalty” and “deference” and “submission” to the Palestinians and to whatever framing of the “conflict” they’ve chosen.  I’ve learned this by watching and listening to self-identified “pro-Palestinian” activists over the years.  My loyalty is not to Palestinians or to any of their many factions. I will learn from them, but I won’t defer or submit to their framing of the “conflict.”

On the other side ….

Friends, family and colleagues who self-identify themselves as Zionists or “pro-Israel” are hurt and angry that I’m not in their camp. I don’t accept their framing of the “conflict” and I reject their tribal loyalties. If I’m not with them, I must be against them, is the subtle message they often share with me.

One Jewish “pro-Israel” American rationalizes my odd opinions about Israel-Palestine by telling me — “You’re not Jewish, you’re not Palestinian, so of course you can’t understand what’s really going on over there.” — That compartmentalizing might comfort her unease but it only demonstrates how people need to understand the world by putting people in boxes.  I refuse to do that.

Instead, I seek to understand the complexities and the gray shadows cast in the region.  I try to shine a light on the things I learn, and on the things that the mainstream media callously and deliberately ignores.

I try to understand the “other” — both Israelis and Palestinians. I try to learn empathy.

This 28 minute NPR broadcast (March 22, 2016) “What happens when you empathize with the enemy?” is powerful. My Palestinian friends who reject “normalization” may reject the ideas shared by the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian professor regarding empathy but for everyone else, I think there is alot of wisdom here for open minds on both sides.


This week on Hidden Brain we ask, what happens when you empathize with your enemy? Why does reaching out to another tribe make our tribe so angry? We talk to Avner Gvaryahu, a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, who angered his fellow Israelis for talking about his work as a soldier. And we talk with Mohammed Dajani, a Palestinian professor who now lives in the United States out of fear for his life. His crime? He led a group of Palestinian students to Auschwitz to try to help them understand the Holocaust. We also share an excerpt of a one-man play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Aaron Davidman.


Thanks to Libby and Len Traubman from Palo Alto, California for alerting me to this NPR broadcast.



Filed under Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized, Video

#GoingtoGaza – March 2015

My previous posts in this series are Sept. 2014, Oct. 2014, Nov. 2014, Dec. 2014, Jan. 2015, and Feb. 2015.

Day #181 – Karen Armstrong writes that war is a psychosis caused by the inability to see relationships. Seems to me that Israel is trying its best to keep its citizens blind to what’s going on the occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a separation wall. Forbidding Israeli citizens from visiting the oPT.  Deleting the history of the Palestinians from Israeli textbooks. Is it official Zionist policy to nurture this psychosis?



Karen Armstrong

Day #182 – Never before have I had any interest in Israeli elections. That’s changed. With the election about 3 weeks off, I’m pleased to see that Netanyahu’s polling numbers are dropping. A 4th term would be appalling. Netanyahu prides himself as the guardian of Israel’s security. He needs another assault on Gaza to help his polling.


Day #183 – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees with Obama’s negotiations with Iran. So Netanyahu will try to persuade Congress tomorrow. So imagine President Obama stopping by the Knesset tomorrow and sharing his two cents about the illegal settlements.  No disrespect intended.


Day #184 – Watched Netanyahu’s campaign speech to Congress this morning. My thoughts:

1) too bad members of Congress can’t vote in Israel – I lost count of the # of standing ovations.

2) Bibi must think Obama, Kerry, and most Americans are stupid. He recycled his previous scare threats from 2002 onward about the evil monsters devouring Israel. Looked like members of Congress proved Bibi right — they ARE gullible.

3) The lightbulb turned on for me when Bibi mentioned Moses and other religious passages. We have 2 leaders in the Middle East threatening an apocalyptic vision.  One has nukes and the other has global recruits. #Bibi #Isis

4) Pleased to see that the Editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post and others have panned Bibi’s speech.



Day #185 – Watching members of Congress yesterday genuflect . . . er give standing ovations . . . to the Israeli Emperor . . . er Prime Minister, I was struck with how WHITE, MALE, and OLD our leaders in DC are. They were fawning all over the old, white, male lecturing them from the podium. Heaven help us!


Day #186 – After reviewing these graphs and charts about exports/imports and the movement of people and goods into / out of Gaza, how can the Editors at The New York Times claim with a straight face that “Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza”? If they are that myopic about Israel/Palestine, in what other ways is the NYT warping reality for its readers?


Day #187 – Thinking about the women in my life and that I’m a very lucky gal.  So many have had such a profound impact on the path I’ve journeyed. Especially thinking about Kay who turns 80 next week. She came into my life about 30 years ago and opened the entire spiritual universe to me through Beyond War. The key that unlocked the door.

Thinking about Luria who died in December. She came into my life about 20 years ago and shared with me her gift of listening without judgment, the first time I’ve experienced that. I hope I can model that with my friends and family. Thinking about Pam. She came into my life last year. She has shown me how the spark of an idea coupled with a ton of good will can make a big difference.  I’m looking forward to learning more from Pam.


Day #188 – News posted today that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open for two days in both directions. And an American friend reported that the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza is now open, at least for people trying to exit Gaza. Are things improving?



Middle East

Day #189 – Feeling the weight and burden of all of the mistakes I’ve made and — having reached 61 years — there are many, many mistakes to remember. I wonder if the State of Israel was a sentient being, would she be feeling the burden of her mistakes? 66 years old — she has made many. She acts like a teenager telling the world she knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone. Hopefully, I’m a bit wiser and have learned from my mistakes.


Day #190 – I really, really, REALLY want to meet Raja Shehadeh from Ramallah. Palestinian Walks – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?


Palestinian Walks

Day #191 – A felony, charge these 47 Senators with treason.  We clearly have at least 47 members of Congress who are aligning themselves with the extremists in both Iran and Israel — they are threatening the security of the U.S. Their letter to Iran is a violation of the Logan Act. How should Obama respond?

1) ignore them and hope that the public’s condemnation will bring them to their senses.

2) publicly rebuke them and hope that is enough to bring them to their senses.

3) direct Attorney General Holder to investigate and bring charges if he deems appropriate.

I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American.

#GoingtoGaza   #GettingthefuckoutoftheUSA

Day #192 – A friend shared a thought-provoking article that points out the danger that many social activists on the left succumb to – a sense of self-righteousness! I’m going to keep it and mull over it because there are valuable tidbits to digest.

I’ve been surprised and shocked by the attitude of some activists working on peace & justice issues in the Middle East. Never thought of it in terms of “self-righteousness” but it fits. Now I’m worried if I exhibit some of the same behavior and attitudes.


Day #193 – There are international travelers getting across the Rafah border into Gaza. I wish I knew how they did it. I can’t think of another international border that is as difficult to cross. The border between Mongolia & China requires the train car be lifted by a crane and different gauge wheels be installed. But the government bureaucracy is a piece of cake compared to the two crossings into Gaza.


Day #194 – #AskHamas is Hamas’ attempt to use social media to answer questions from the civilized world. Uncivil Zionists are spewing venom and hatred on Twitter, exposing their deep ignorance about Hamas, Palestinians and the Occupation. People don’t realize the power their own words have in creating their reality.  I feel great pity and sadness for those Zionists.


Day #195 – Walked only 4 miles today. Planned to walk 8 miles but forgot to bring water and it was a hot 82 F. Also need to remember to wear sunglasses because the sun is bright. Maybe tomorrow.


Day #196 — About to board a plane. Leaving California with mixed feelings. The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, yet most fulfilling. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I learned in Gaza. #Samud thank you!


Day #197 – I’m a Pilgrim in my hometown and it feels a bit strange. Good friends have taken me in and I accomplished some important tasks today. Felt very honored when one friend asked me if I was interested in putting my name in the hat to fill the vacancy left by Senator Griego’s resignation. The only vacancy I’m interested in filling is the one in my heart left when I departed Gaza in May 2013.


Day #198 – Election Day in Israel and I’m watching it closely this year. The exit polls say it’s very close. Commentators on public radio say it may be weeks before we know who the next Prime Minister is. But Netanyahu has already declared victory. Just like his delusional rants about the Hamas “terrorists” … he believes if he says it often enough, it will be the truth. On another note, a Hamas official has provided answers to questions about the #AskHamas Twitter campaign that Hamas launched 5 days ago.


Day #199 – Netanyahu has won either by the skin of his teeth or by fraud. Was anyone monitoring this election?

1) Bibi drove the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution

2) A single, bi-national state is the future for the Holy Land.

3) The only question remains: by violence or peaceful means? Given Bibi’s leadership—I predict the former.


Day #199 (again) – Couldn’t sleep last night because my mind won’t turn away from the Israeli elections. WAR CRIMES and WAR CRIMINALS get elected.  The institutions that I once had faith in bringing peace & justice to the Middle East (UN, ICC, EU, U.S. Congress) are incapable or uninterested.



Day #200 – I must be back-tracking just like Netanyahu. The day before the election he said unequivocally that there will be no State of Palestine while he is Prime Minister. Two days after his election, he says he still supports the 2-state solution.

Likewise, before the election, I said it would be unbelievably horrible if Netanyahu won reelection. Two days after the election, I’m convinced his re-election was the best thing that could have happened for the prospects of long-term peace & justice in the region. Netanyahu has been unmasked. Alhamdulillah!


Day #201 – A good Arab-American friend and I were talking this morning about the Israeli election. Although she is very curious about my travel to Gaza and learning more about the occupation and the plight of the Palestinians, she admits she is not particularly political. But she says she now feels it’s time to go into the streets and protest. Bibi’s racist comment about “those Arabs coming by droves to vote” was the RED LINE for my friend.


Day #202 – Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to open one’s heart and mind to the injustices in Palestine? Are some pro-Palestine activists more worthy than others?  I’ve observed Palestinians condemning international activists. I’ve heard American activists criticizing their fellow activists and newbies. Seems to me, we need to treat each other the way we wish to be treated, and recognize that everyone has compassion in their hearts even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them.

#Respect #GoingtoGaza

Day #203 – Friends today suggested I take a job teaching in Cairo so that I could be closer to lobby the Egyptian authorities for permission to enter Gaza. They also suggested I try to join an NGO like Doctors Without Borders who might be traveling to Gaza. Have you ever heard of anywhere else on the planet where visitors had to make such convoluted plans just to enter?


Day #204 – Smoking was considered acceptable in public at one time not so long ago. I recall sitting in the back row of an airplane with 3 middle seats for me and my two young children. On either side of us were men smoking! It was perfectly acceptable to smoke on planes and I couldn’t ask them to stop.  Same with Zionism I hope.

Today it is perfectly acceptable for people to proudly announce they are Zionists, and the community accepts it (even applauds them in some circles).  I hope in the not-too-distant future, Zionism will be a stigma and no one will make a public announcement even if they continue to believe such things privately at home.



Days #205-206: As a wandering nomad / pilgrim, my friends and family may find it challenging to keep track of me. We want to tie people to a place — and that is one reason “place” is so important.  Today, Bernalillo County Commissioners will consider a proposal which I believe will irretrievably ruin this place in central New Mexico.  I hope they deny Santolina Master Plan.


Day #207 – Feeling very frustrated. ABQ-Bernalillo County screwed up and commingled “planning” and “zoning” many years ago. We’re all paying the price today. This #Santolina master planning process is so screwed up. And those who should know better (the public planners) are clueless because they grew up with this dysfunctional system. Years ago, I tried to educate key players. Now, I just want to throw up my hands.

Thankful I’m #GoingtoGaza

Day #208 – The colonoscopy went well. Same doctor who performed it 10 years ago was my doc today. He told me he’s grown older. I told him I have too. Lolol Glad I’m in good health for my pilgrimage to Gaza.


Day #209 – Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I tell people how difficult it is to get into Gaza. Then I think about Palestinians in Gaza who have been unable to leave, and I feel ashamed for my own troubles.  Middle East Children’s Alliance is arranging a U.S. speaking tour for Dr. Mona, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but she may not be allowed to leave Gaza. This situation is so diabolical. I want to scream.


Day #210 – I must be very, very careful (and probably a lot more circumspect) about jumping to conclusions when I read the “news” from Palestine/Israel.

Case in point: several different sources are reporting that an aide to President Abbas announced that Arab countries should attack Gaza. The “aide to Abbas” is a Muslim cleric using his bully pulpit to rouse antipathy towards Hamas. Yikes!

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I remember hearing about the political sermons coming from the Mosques every Friday. Since nearly every male goes to listen to these Friday sermons, I wonder how much influence/power/authority these clerics have over the population.


Day #211 – When I decided to become a pilgrim months ago, I thought my travels required that I leave behind many of my passions and interests. I realized this week that that’s not true. I don’t have to physically be in ABQ to remain actively engaged in some of the issues I’m concerned about, like the Santolina master plan. It’s much easier to be a pilgrim in the 21st century than it must have been in the 18th or 19th centuries.  Al-hamdulillah!


Day #212 – I’m hearing reports that a third flotilla will be sailing to Gaza during the first half of 2015.  I wonder if I could join it.



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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

Compassion in Action

I lived in Gaza for 9 months (September 2012 through May 2013) and I’m on a journey to return for an indefinite stay. Frankly, I want to move to Gaza. At the age of 61, friends and family understandably ask me WHY?!?

My blog Why Gaza? is my simple but inadequate attempt to provide an answer.

The following three questions, posed by a Professor of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, reveal a kernel of truth behind my desire to return to Gaza. Maybe if I can answer them, my friends and family will understand my “obsession,” as some have called it.

How has knowing Palestine and struggling for peace and justice in Palestine made me a better person?

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

What does Palestine inspire in me?

Yes!  I am a better person. I instinctively knew it upon my return to the States in May 2013. Not a “holier than thou” better person; not a smug “I know more than you” about the Holy Land better person; and certainly not a wiser “I have all of the answers to the conflict” better person. I’m a newcomer to the Israel-Palestine tragedy, more motivated than ever to read, listen and learn.

I’m a better person because I witnessed compassion in action, and I believe I’m a more compassionate person as a result.

The Golden Rule has been my guidepost most of my adult life (even though I admit to being an imperfect role model) but I never truly understood or appreciated its significance until my visit to Gaza.

Compassion and concern for others appeared to be infused in nearly every act of kindness I witnessed between family members, neighbors, professional colleagues, store clerks, farmers and even the taxi drivers. The Golden Rule came to life for me amidst the death and destruction following Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Under the most challenging of circumstances (the decades-long Occupation, 8+ years siege, and multiple Israeli bombardments) I thought it was astounding that everywhere I turned in Gaza (1.8 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip) I found people struggling together but with open hearts and hands to help others. What was in the water they were drinking?

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

Palestinian whose house was destroyed by Israel the day before offers tea to his neighbors sitting amid the ruins.

As best as I could tell, their compassion is not motivated by personal reward or expectation of gratitude. Instead, it seems to be in their DNA. I wanted some of what they were drinking.

Karen Armstrong’s Charter of Compassion is what I’m talking about. She’s calling for nations and communities all over the world to adopt a global compassion.

Surely, the Palestinians in Gaza are fallible human beings struggling with their own internal demons, as we all are, but I witnessed something there that I haven’t seen anywhere else. “Empathy for the other” is the only way I can describe it. Israelis could have the very best neighbors if the Zionists would only acknowledge the impacts of the Nakhba and end the brutal and illegal Occupation.

My friends and family will surely roll their eyes upon reading this. I can hear them saying: “Those Hamas terrorists certainly aren’t compassionate. The militants firing rockets into Israel don’t concern themselves with the innocent lives they put in danger!”

Setting aside the argument of who is and isn’t a terrorist, certainly violence in the name of resistance is just as counter-productive as violence in the name of self-defense. And more to the point, violence directed at innocent civilians by either side is a violation of international law — definitely not a sign of compassion.

This, I am sure — Israelis and Palestinians need to connect in deep and meaningful ways to be able to express the Golden Rule and share their compassion with each other and with humanity. Keeping one group locked up behind gates and walls and military checkpoints, and the other group immobilized by their fear and ignorance of the other, is not a path on which the Golden Rule will flourish.

How has the Palestinian cause made me aware of other struggles in my own community?

Connecting the dots started over thirty years ago for me when I became actively engaged in building a world beyond war. Check out Beyond War: A New Way of Thinking. Since then I’ve worked both professionally and personally on climate justice issues, social and economic justice campaigns, and joined the Occupy Movement in September 2011. I wanted to learn more about the Palestinian struggle for justice after I visited Gaza the first time in 2004. My opportunity finally came in 2012.

My understanding and appreciation of the Palestinian struggle came as a result of my earlier intellectual and spiritual growth, not the other way around. Although young New Mexican activists have opened my eyes to the common  struggles engaged in by the indigenous Peoples in New Mexico and the indigenous Peoples in the Holy Land, I have known for many, many years that “We Are One.”


What does Palestine inspire in me?

Consistent with my belief that “we are one”, I know that the future of the planet and the Holy Land belongs to everyone: Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and those who follow no religion. I don’t believe anyone has superior rights, but everyone has basic human rights to life, liberty and justice.

I’m drawn to the Palestinian struggle because the Israeli Occupation is so patently unjust and illegal. My spiritual heart and my legal mind want to help correct the injustices I see occurring every day in Gaza. Until the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are allowed to live and flourish in dignity and with justice, all of us will be poorer human beings on this small planet.

The Challenge:

Now I’m going to challenge my friend Pam Bailey to ponder these three little questions and share her answers … and to follow with a challenge to another person to do the same.

Lora Lucero

April 24, 2015


Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

Obama in his own words

I’m trying to get inside President Obama’s head to understand why he’s pressing so hard for an airstrike against Syria.

On September 4, a Swedish reporter asked Obama how he reconciles being a Nobel Peace Laureate (’09) with his current plans to attack Syria. Noticeably, he didn’t mention strategic ‘balance of power’ issues or a direct U.S. national security interest. Here’s his answer.

Obama is speaking emotionally — like a father — about the 400 dead children killed by gas, and he posits the issue as one for political leaders and all citizens to ask.

“At what point do we confront actions that are violating our common humanity?”

Framing the issue that way is profoundly shocking, at least to me, and it gives me hope.  I agree with Obama, that is exactly how we should be looking at Syria. We should be looking through that lens at every atrocity, not simply when chemical weapons are deployed against defenseless civilians.

Obama’s framing of the issue demands that we consider:

  • How do we define what constitutes “our common humanity”?
  • What actions are appropriate to respond to such violations?

The President is really challenging Americans to have that discussion, and I suspect he is wrestling with the answers himself.

In 2007, I visited city hall in Oslo, Norway where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year.  I think it’s the most magnificent city hall in the world.

Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall

Two years later Obama donned the mantle of Nobel Peace Laureate in that very same room.

Today I watched his 37-minute Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to see what I might gleam about his thinking in the current situation in Syria. Of course, he never once mentioned Syria or chemical weapons, but much of his 2009 speech is poignantly prescient to the situation in Syria today.

Obama’s speech begins as a university history lecture talking about “just war theory” and he notes that  the old architecture of peace-keeping is buckling. He mentions the new types of war (sectarian civil wars as an example) and acknowledges that he does not have the answers about how to meet these new challenges in the 21st century, but he knows it will require us to “think in new ways”.

I’m going to watch it again.

Mr. President: You are grappling with finding a new way of thinking while holding onto the tools of the old way of thinking (a military response). Perhaps the two are incompatible.

You are one of the brightest Presidents America has had — at least in my lifetime — and if anyone can find a new way of thinking and responding to this crisis facing our common humanity, you can!


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Filed under Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Video

Beyond War – The Anniversary of the Iraq War

Unmanned aerial drone

Unmanned aerial drone

The anniversary of anything seems to be a time for remembering — good times (birthdays, weddings), sad times (grandmother’s funeral), momentous times (graduation).   On the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, many people are writing about the lessons we supposedly learned or failed to learn.

The Iraq War.  I was going to write about the facts and figures — about the “Shock and Awe” — about the pain and suffering — about the lies and deception — about the stupidity of it all.  But from my vantage point in Gaza, the war hasn’t ended and remembering the anniversary of its beginning seems like a useless exercise that only those who sleep soundly at night might engage in.

The rest of us sleep under the watchful buzz of drones, wondering when the next round of hostilities may start.

If you want to remember the Iraq War, the best piece to read is Iraq War Among World’s Worst Events: Ever More Shocked, Never Yet Awed by David Swanson.

But if you want to move beyond war, then I recommend No More Enemies by Deb Reich (2011) .  I spent the day, sick in bed, reading many commentaries about the Iraq War, but none of them posited a way to move forward, until I found No More Enemies.  I’m going to write a book review and add it my blog resource list.   The best way to remember the tragedy in Iraq is to do everything in our power to transform ourselves and the world around us to a world beyond war.


Filed under Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Video