1. World Peace

In Riverdale, Palestinians and Jews gather to banish hatred

Posted on March 1, 2009. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1, 1. World Peace, 3. Peace in Middle East |

Despite the overwhelming barrage of negative news, of more conflicts and cycle of hatred and violence in the world, there are ever present efforts to build bridges and close chasms between different groups in conflict, that tend to be under-reported.

The actions and efforts to build peace and re-conciliation, though under-reported in the traditional media,  are found in different places and carried out in creative ways. Such is the story of the Palestinians and Jews in Riverdale, who gather and break bread together to help banish hatred, and build understanding, tolerance and Peace. They are a part of a Peace movement called –  “World Peace, One Falafel at a Time.” that aims to break down walls and build peace in the World.

Peace with a side of Tahini By Kate Pastor

February 19, 2009 Edition

Palestinian-born Abed Isa Ibraham picked up a piece of pita bread in his hands, dipped it in hummus and brought it to his mouth. “We use our own fork. Personal fork. Nobody use it except me,” he quipped. Sitting across from him at the table, an American of Greek-Israeli descent gave him a knowing look. “My uncle does it the same way,” said George Nachum.

The exchange may sound like little more than breakfast banter. But subtle moments like these are powerful, and exactly why Khalid Isa, coowner with his wife of Sqweez Juice Bar & Grill on West 238th Street between Waldo and Greystone avenues, pushed the small tables in their storefront restaurant together on Sunday morning, to host members of “World Peace, One Falafel at a Time.”

Mr. Isa’s father, Mr. Ibraham, was born in Palestine and forced to leave what is now Israel, in 1948. “People left shoeless,” he said, “they left their homes still thinking they were going back.” When Mr. Isa started serving falafels in Riverdale two years ago, he didn’t even realize he was opening up shop in what he now calls “Little Israel.” But as he got to know his Jewish customers and became close with some of them, he was struck by how much (including falafel) they had in common.

A social movement The observation turned into a social movement in December, as the group’s founding members began holding monthly breakfasts in an effort to bring Jews and Arabs together over food. As they congregated around plates piled high with Middle Eastern breakfast — eggs with tomato, falafel balls, humus with tahini, pita covered with oregano, olive oil and sesame seeds, as well as strained yogurt called “lebneh” — each of the eight founding members got up to explain what had brought them together.

“When Khali approached me about this we kept taking about, we’re Semites,” said Steven Balicer, a Jewish Riverdalian, adding, “the border was only a border of geographical demarcation.” As the son of Holocaust survivors, he said his parents always encouraged him to speak out against injustice, and so he became active in the civil rights movement and other social and political causes throughout his life. For him, the peace-loving group probably wasn’t much of a leap. For others, sitting around the table was a step toward unlearning hatred they had been taught throughout their lives.

Growing up with hate (name taken out at request of person) was born in Pakistan. “I grew up with that typical understanding of this is us, and this is them. Kind of that dual mindset,” she told the group. “I had a lot of anger inside me and it really bothered me.” She said she knew people in Pakistan who hated both Jews and Hindus, but had never met a person from either background. And it was only when she started dating an Israeli man during her senior year at college that her mind began to change. “Getting to know them as people, slowly, slowly and slowly it started to melt away,” she said, making it impossible to “hate collectively.” When she first heard of the group, she said, “I literally started to cry…” She traveled from Queens to Riverdale for the meeting on Sunday.

David Osterczy, one of the founding members, told a similar tale. “I was raised a Jew and like S…,  I was raised that Arabs were a different kind of people,” he said. But focusing on commonalities helped cure Northern Ireland of its sectarian violence, he said, and the same idea could be applied to the Middle East. Though Riverdale is far away from the rockets and bombs that rattle what some participants apolitically called “the holy land,” family ties and spiritual connections seem to dwarf the distance.

Sahar Ferber grew up in Israel and only moved here about two years ago. He recounted a saying he used to hear when he was young. “By the time you get older the army will not be necessary,” he said. Still, he grew up to serve in an elite unit of the Israeli Army and it was only after he moved to the United States to go to college that, “All of a sudden I realized that not all Muslims are the same. I acquired three best friends that are Muslim,” he said.

Tearful discoveries

As participants spoke, some of them newcomers, Mr. Isa and Mr. Balister stood with their arms around each other, each story resonating deeply, and tears after appearing in Mr. Isa’s eyes. The nearly 20 attendees included founding member Leo Alkhatib, who considers himself a Palestinian-American, but was born in Jordan and has lived in this country for 28 years; Tony Schultz, a Riverdalian and a secular Jew who wanted to challenge notions in the media about Jews being a “monolithic entity”; and Joe Cutugno, a founding member and supersenior at Manhattan College, who, believes that his Italian-American ethnicity makes him an objective asset to the group.

Talking over food in Riverdale is at the group’s heart, but is not its ultimate goal. Founders hope to bring local imams and rabbis and eventually, Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, together over little fried balls of chickpeas at other tables.

For now, they have a growing contingent of participants at their monthly meetings, and a Facebook group boasting 116 members at press time, with a discussion question “What do you want for your grandkids?” No matter where people are from, “the answers,” said Mr. Osterczy, “are always the same.”

This is part of the February 19, 2009 online edition of The Riverdale Press.

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Peace – What does it really mean? by Michele Misiewicz

Posted on February 6, 2009. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace |

Today we feature an article that raises the question of what Peace really means written by Michele Misiewicz !! (more…)

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Gandhi Foundation’s 2008 Peace Award given to two contributors to the Success of Peace in Northern Ireland

Posted on January 2, 2009. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace | Tags: , , , |

We have previously blogged about the inspiring Success of Peace in Northern Ireland on this  “Break Down the Walls & Build Bridges of Understanding, Love and Peace” blog.

 The Gandhi Foundation’s 2008 Peace Award was awarded to , the Reverend Harold Good and Father Alex Reid, two key participants to the Peace process in Northern Ireland.  We are glad that the Gandhi Foundation chose to give the 2008 Award to people who helped establish this historic reconciliation and Peace.

The Success of Peace in Northern Ireland is one that should inspire people all over the world about the possibilities of overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles to end conflicts, and establish Peace in their region of the world.  Here after some four hundred years of conflict, the two camps in the conflict were able to build bridges to Peace!!

[We have included an excerpt  from the announcement of this award from the Gandhi Foundation’s webpage.]

2008 Peace Award & Annual Lecture – Harold Good & Alec Reid
Posted on Oct 30, 2008 by gandhifriends

Father Alec Reid,  and Rev Harold Good given the Gandhi Peace Award 2008 – Citation
by Dr. Omar Hayat

Something extraordinary has taken place and is taking place in Northern Ireland. Something very powerful indeed. After decades of troubles the wholly unexpected coalition of the two extremes in the province, the Sinn Fein and the DUP has taken place (originally with the Reverend Paisley as First Minister (now replaced by Peter Robinson) and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister).
However, it would always have been all too easy to despair of any resolution of the tribal politics of the province and Northern Ireland also has of course many similarities to the communal divide of India and the peacemakers of Northern Ireland all along faced in the Protestant/Catholic divide just the same sort of challenge as Mohandas Gandhi did in his prolonged struggle against the force of Hindu/Muslim communalism; which periodically grips India. Northern Ireland was always a Gandhian challenge and sometimes we forget how much of Gandhi’s struggle was one against terrorism. It was a struggle that did cost him his life. Clearly the Gandhi Foundation wanted to celebrate, indeed rejoice, in the triumph of non-violence over violence.


Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh
Of course, key to the recent political truce was the decommissioning process. Here there was a critical barrier to be overcome. No member of the IRA could afford to be photographed handing in their weapons – this according to their military code is a treasonable offence and so another solution had to be found. That was through the witness statements to the handing in of weapons to trusted representatives of the two communities. The men asked to take on this role were the Reverend Harold Good and Father Alex Reid who acted as clerical witnesses during General John de Chastelain’s disarmament process. This act of being representatives of the two communities and overseeing the disarmament requires a great deal of Trust, a very uncommon trust in today’s world which strives towards transparency, which in some circumstances is a very good thing but also implies a lack of trust. So literally these two men have been trusted by the rest of the world and especially the sectarian parties of Northern Ireland, just on their say so, to have told the truth. Otherwise the whole process would not have progressed. A heavy responsibility indeed.

Congratulations to Reverend Harold Good and Father Alex Reid for receiving the Gandhi Foundation’s 2008 Peace Award for their key contributions to the disarmament process, a process that helped to ‘cement’ the Peace process in Northern Ireland.

[You can read the rest of the article on the link above, or Click Here]

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John Lennon’s Music for Peace

Posted on December 30, 2008. Filed under: 1. World Peace | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

John Lennon has made a lasting impact in the world through his strong stand for Peace. This month countless people all over the world remembered the 28th anniversary of his death on December 8th, 1980, when his young life was ended by the violent act of an assasin’s bullet.  

His songs and music such as “Give Peace a Chance” have become anthems for World Peace.

Let’s remember John Lennon by listening to one of the songs that he used to spread his stand for Peace.  This song  is “Give Peace a Chance” where he sang “.. all we are saying, is give peace a chance”.  

These are powerful words that echo and their message reverberates more than 30 years since they were sung.

As we approach the 2009 New Year and make our resolutions for the coming year, let’s think of these powerful words and add it to our resolutions to take a stand to “Give Peace a Chance”

Happy New Year to you all! May Peace Blossom in the 2009 New Year!

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What does Senator Barack Obama’s election mean for Peace in the World?

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace | Tags: , , , , , , |

The election of Senator Barack Obama as the President Elect of the United States of America has generated great excitement, and joy. It has raised hopes around the world. People have rejoiced, danced in the streets and spoken openly of a new day of hope.

This hope and joy expressed in the different corners of this planet that we inhabit, is in and of itself a good thing. It draws people in the different parts, who would typically belong in different camps divided by virtual and real walls that keep them apart. It is good because it brings people closer and even if it is fleeting and temporary, to some extent lowers the walls that keep them divided.

The big question however, is what will be the long term impact on World Peace, of Senator Barack Obama being elected to be the next President of the United States?

Share your thoughts, ideas and comments on this issue, and help generate a discussion on this question that relates to peace.

Peace to the World
Let’s Imagine What Will Open Up to All of Us, to Our Children and Grandchildren When We Have PEACE!!

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Poems for Peace – a poetry exchange between youth worldwide

Posted on December 2, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace |

We would like to spotlight one of the efforts for Peace that promotes the importance of Peace in our lives. The website “Poems for Peace”  is at http://www.PoemsForPeace.org. We invite you to visit it, and have included an excerpt from the home page.Please leave suggestions of Peace websites to highlight.
Excerpt from www.PoemsForPeace.org follows  (more…)

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The Jewish-Arab Peace Song (w/ English subtitles)

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace, 3. Peace in Middle East | Tags: , , , |

The Jewish-Arab Peace Song (w/ English subtitles)

Great song and video of people from two warring camps reaching out for Peace from a point of Love for all human beings.

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Ending the UN´s peacekeeping mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia is an abrogation of its mission

Posted on September 2, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace, 4. Peace in East Africa |

The Security Council’s decision to end the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia is an abrogation of the United Nation’s mission.

 UN’s main reason for existence is to promote peace and abate violent conflicts. In this capacity, for the last eight years, it has nudged the two bellicose governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea to agree to binding arbitration to resolve their border conflict. It deployed 4200 UN force, known as the UN Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE), to monitor the cessation of hostilities between the two countries.

 However, the two governments have dug in their heels and refused to abide by the peaceful resolutions to which they had committed themselves. Their noncompliance has frustrated the international peace effort. Their actions are drawing the whole region into fratricidal wars. The UN council’s decision to disband UNMEE came in response to restrictions imposed by Eritrea on its operation and Ethiopia’s refusal to recognize a binding verdict by an international boundary panel that granted the flashpoint border town of Badme to Eritrea. The UN Security Council, instead of putting more pressure on the two regimes to accept a peaceful resolution to their conflict, has sadly decided to terminate its mission. This decision is not only an abandonment of the UN’s mandate but also a negation of its essence.

At this time, over 200,000 soldiers are amassed on both sides of the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In spite of the fact that both regimes have declared that they have no intention to resume war, they are exercising their war maneuvers within shooting range of each other.  Border skirmishes have flared up, raising the specter of another tragic war.  With these soldiers already in trenches and ready for assault, full-scale conflict can be triggered at anytime.

Eight years ago, Ethiopia and Eritrea waged a savage war, which lasted for two years. This war over a barren piece of land cost the lives of over 70,000 people and resulted in hundreds of thousands wounded and millions of dislocated civilians. People who were already ravaged by drought and famine were made to suffer the consequence of a heinous war. Even the architects of the war—President Isaias Afewerki and Prime Minster Meles Zenawi—characterized it as senseless. Yet the pointlessness of the debacle did not stop these two leaders from using innocent people as canon fodder and unleashing their full forces to destroy each other’s rudimentary infrastructure.

            For the last eight years, the two countries have wasted billions of dollars and millions of man-years of labor on their stalemated war effort. This is particularly outrageous when taking into considerations that these states are two of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries on the face of the earth. Every year, millions of their citizens suffer from famine. Year after year they make it through only with the help of international aid. All these resources, which were wasted on a futile war effort, could have made significant impact on alleviating the deplorable lot of their respective citizens.

The situation has spiraled downward, dragging the whole region into an abyss of conflict, disorder and tragedy. Ethiopia and Eritrea are fighting a proxy war in Somalia. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in support of the defunct Transitional Somali Government. To counter Ethiopia’s move, Eritrea, according to many observers, has supported the radical Islamist group known as the Union of Islamic Courts that aims to oust the transitional Somali government.  The end result: a quagmire of war and the “worst humanitarian crisis in Africa,” according to UN reports. 

Moreover, this conflict is evolving into a perfect storm where clan, ethnic, and national conflicts are being supplanted by an ominous religious conflict between Christians and Moslems that threatens the whole region. This is what the leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts had in mind when they declared Jihad on Ethiopia. The United State’s involvement in this war, which it sees as an extension of its global effort against El-Qaeda, is escalating the conflict into the mother of all Jihads. The strong alliance between Ethiopia and the United States has alienated Eritrea. This has made Eritrea ally itself with the Union of Islamic Courts. The Bush administration has threatened to declare Eritrea a sponsor of terrorism.

            The Eritrean and Ethiopian regimes are also fomenting armed conflicts by supporting and arming opposition groups in each other’s countries. Eritrea is supporting the Ogaden Liberation Movement, Oromo Liberation Forces, and so on, while Ethiopia is arming anti-Isaias groups. These subversive acts, fostered by the two regimes for mere tactical gains, are steering the whole region into strategic chaos. Moreover, the venomous crude propaganda drummed up by the media of both countries is poisoning the relationship between these fraternal peoples who, for centuries, had lived and cooperated with each other in good times and bad.

            What is the root cause of this conflict and why has it been burning unabated for so long? Can so much human agony, destruction of hundreds of thousands lives and squandering of resources be justified by the conquest of a piece of barren land?  No. The truth is, this conflict is a diversion. The two regimes are whipping up this conflict because they have failed to answer the social, political and economic needs of their people. As long as these countries are locked in endless quarrels, the rulers are not held accountable for the shortcomings of their domestic policies. Instead, the ramshackle economy and social misery can be blamed on the state of permanent war. Deprivation of human rights and political freedom can be justified as necessary to national security. Therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the present rulers of the two states have little vested interest in bringing peace to this hapless region.           

            For the masses of Ethiopia and Eritrea, this war is simply an act against humanity. Those who have returned back to their villages after the previous war have barely put their broken lives back together, and now they live their daily lives under the threat of another devastating war.  They lack the rudimentary political rights and venues to express their indignation as their sons and daughters are forcefully conscripted to fight and die, as their villages are turned into theaters of war, and as millions of the old and the young are again forced into refugee camps for shelter.

             Under the Algiers Accords, both countries agreed that the demarcations of Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission would be final and binding and that their forces would stay out of the temporary security zone. But when the Boundary Commission on April 2002 accorded the dusty town of Bademe to Eritrea, Ethiopia reneged on its agreement.  Eritrea showed its unhappiness with the UN’s failure to force Ethiopia to abide by its agreement by putting roadblocks on the UNMEE’s activities. UNMEE force dwindled from 4200 strong to barely a few hundred.  Its mobility was virtually halted when Eritrea refused to supply it with fuel.  This led to the Security Council ‘s decision to end UNMEE when its mandate expires on July 31.

            However, this resolution negates what the UN stands for in this situation and other conflicts around the globe. If the UN backs off every time it is faced with resistance, how can it accomplish its goals? How can it be relevant in the real world? Even the Secretary-General’s assessment of the situation underlines the risk of a resumption of hostilities ”by accident or design, following the withdrawal of UNMEE, remains a reality.”  Is the UN waiting for another horrific war to break out, tens and thousands of people to die and millions of people to suffer needlessly?  In Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s situation, the issue is clear: It is a crisis between two member states with legally binding accords. The UN has economic, political and moral instruments at its disposal to strongly persuade both parties to comply.

            The international community has a tendency to wait passively until disaster strikes.  It is harder to undo harm once it has been done. There is an opportunity to act proactively. If the world community can be more forceful in exposing and condemning the belligerent acts of these regimes, if it can impose military and economic sanctions judiciously, peace can be achieved at minimal cost to the peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea and to the international community at large. The time is still ripe to take decisive action.


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Issues of Social Justice, Change and Non-violence/Peaceful Struggles

Posted on August 5, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace | Tags: , , , , , |

Issues of Social Justice, Change and Non-violence: “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”  Mahatma Gandhi

When we call for, and take a stand for World Peace, we are inevitably faced with questions of social justice without which conflicts within nations and between different nations flare up and intensify.

In turn, when looking at issues of Social Justice, one of the most important areas of focus is that of democratic involvement of citizens in choosing leaders, and influencing and directing decisions on how they are governed.

In the last few years the struggles for democracy and democratic governments have created flash points and conflicts over different parts of the globe, such as in Myanmar (Burma), Tibet and Pakistan in Asia, different countries in Latin America, and in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zimbabwe in Africa.

These struggles for democracy have many times resulted in violence and brutal repression of opposition forces and the deaths of many people sometimes on both sides of the conflicts. The end-results have been – intensified conflicts and deeper chasms between Governments and oppositions groups.

How should issues of social justice, for democratic rights and governance be handled? How should opposition parties fight for democracy, and how should governments respond? How can each side impact the resolution of these issues so that conflicts are not intensified and positions hardened? These are some of the questions that need to be looked at when attempting to peacefully resolve issues of Social Justice and democracy.

The answers to these questions are by their nature complex and multi-faceted. There is no simple answer or remedy that addresses them all. However, a guiding principle that needs to be adhered to is that articulated by the great leader Mahatma Gandhi that “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”

Governments that use violence to suppress opposition movements for democracy and change will only radicalize and make the opposition movements more extreme, and invite more violence on themselves and their supporters.

On the other hand opposition movements that use violence to achieve what they feel is legitimately theirs will also push the governments in power to harden their positions and intensify their violent suppression on them and their supporters.

Violence will only result in a cycle of hurt and vengeance that creates needless suffering, wastes human lives and the meager resources the county has. A victory achieved by using violence will bear the seeds of more conflict as the ‘losers’ now have new scores to settle and perceived or real hurts to avenge.

Lessons of the non-violent methods of working for change used by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, and by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States, need to be studied and adapted as models for opposition movements. They hold the best promises for a change that will result in positive movement and change. They stand in strong contrast to the results from the use of violence to achieve change. The results from the use of violence to achieve chage include the creation of new wounds and hatreds and the intensifying of old ones, laying the ground for the new governments using violence to suppress the new opposition movements and groups.

The path of non-violence to achieve change is a difficult one, that is not glamorous, it requires a lot of sacrifice but in the end offers the best prospects for meaningful and lasting change. It offers the best prospects for minimizing the creation of new conflicts, and resolving the ones that already exist.

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The challenge of peaceful transition from dictatorship to an elected government

Posted on May 15, 2008. Filed under: 0. Peace, 1. World Peace, 4. Peace in East Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There is a growing and strong tendency to wards government elected by and answerable to the people. Because such governments tend to meet peoples’ aspirations for freedom and justice, such governments tend to work to promote the interest of the people. Since there are less conflicts and conflicts are peacefully and legally resolved, less energy and resource is wasted on ‘law’ and ‘order’ maintenance.


All form of dictatorial governments i.e. military, one party rule or personal dictatorship what ever their path to power tend to be alienated from the people and as the time progress they relay more and more on the coercive power of the state to stay in power. This breeds civil and violent resistance. The realities of many of these states in Latin America, Asia and Africa manifest extreme economic hardship and social injustice.


What are the forces of change?

  • The inability of the ruling elite to meet the people need for economic welfare and demand for justice
  • The increasing disaffection of the population and their determination to express their opposition in peaceful and none peaceful ways
  • Growing dissent and rivalry within the ruling elite
  • International pressure and condemnation by international community against atrocities of such dictatorial regimes


What are the obstacles for peaceful change?

  • Die hard mentality of the few to hang on power by violent means.
  • Leaders’ unwillingness to guide people to deal with ethnic differences, and letting problems grow and exploiting them to stay in power.
  • Lack of strong opposition party who can articulate on political agenda; organize and lead people in peaceful civil obedience and be able to negotiate change(s).
  • The opposition resorting to destructive and violent ways
  • Focusing in differences instead of working together in many areas that unites citizens
  • Inability to accept defeat
  • Internal and external forces which includes countries who have interest  in the instability of other nation(s) in order to exploit resources and countries who have benefits in the conflict in order to sell arms


How can the peaceful change be facilitated?

  • Renounce violence as means of holding or ascending to power.
  • Assure those in power that they will not be subject to retribution for their act while in power (unless extreme act against humanity) they can peacefully pursue their life and occupation like any other citizen. They can even organize political party and compete peacefully.
  • The opposition should refrain from demonizing those in power but honestly express their difference. Assure the population they will subject themselves to democratic rule of governance.
  • Wherever possible form a transitional national unity government made up of all the political parties. This creates confidence and ground for fair election and strengthens democratic transition.
  • Work together in all possible means to the best interest of the country and its citizens
  • Learn from leaders who relinquished their power as did Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Julius Nerere of Tanzania and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire)


Please join us in discussing this pertinent topic by posting your opinion on all or any part of the above thesis.

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