I just heard someone say, “One war crime does not justify another.” My reflex as a peace advocate is to agree with that statement, but something gives me pause. It starts with a grammatical issue but it doesn’t end there. The only beings on earth that perform the act of
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field, I'll meet you there."
Thank you Charles for this and your recent essays. Vengeance, hate, dehumanization, and justifying violence are bad. Groundbreaking and courageous insights. :)
So are you calling for "peace" or would that be "taking a side?" Is calling for a "cease-fire now," as so many Jews and others around the world are doing, "taking a side?"
Most of your recent reflections seem to repeatedly be obsessed with not stating a position or "side." Perhaps your whole concept of the "sides" is part of the problem. We have been fed a narrative about what the "sides" are, who is on them, what they believe and demand and justify and are guilty of. It looks to me like in your noble effort to avoid taking "sides," you have actually affirmed and adopted a false narrative about what the "sides" are and what they entail.
The Israeli people that you mention in this essay that you are "in awe" of are indeed courageous and wise examples for us, but they are not doing something complicated. They are clearly taking a "side" and a "position" against the current slaughter and genocide of the Palestinian people and children.
I am proud to be on that "side" with them.
The absence of good people standing and speaking clearly with moral courage is part of what allows this outrageous genocide to continue. Can you join a "side" that is solely against bombing and killing 5,000 children with nothing else attached? Could you do it if the number reaches 10,000? How about 100,000? Is there any point, where you would clearly and unequivocally call for it to stop?
Remind Robert, when he announced in Boston said " we have to stop seeing the world in terms of the good guys vs the bad guys". He spoke of a non dual approach to problem solving. That is how we heal the divide.
Hi Charles. What you share is beautiful, and brings hope. I would also like to add that, taking a side on an unjust situation does not have to translate to the path of hate. One can keep the heart open to each individual on both sides, meet them in their humanity, in the one shared heart of humanity, and also from the same heart that knows justice and stands for it, say a clear NO to a colonial-settler war machine that works to cut people from the heart, from the mother land, from the ancestral wisdom... in this case for some people that NO translates to being a pro-Palestinian.
When it is said that the CIA and Mossad created Hamas because Arafat and Rabin had come to an agreement for peace , it is so obvious the problem is above the people. The obvious unprotected border points to that even more. The plan seems to be to create so much more chaos between regular people so that there is little room to build consensus for resolution for any of our many problems. This is just one more devisive element. The powers at the top are the problem.
I believe it's time to change everything, almost. The idea that Israel is the "holy land" of the Jews is bs. It is only a crazy idea that would appeal to some Jews (Zionists). The anti-semites who gave Israel to the Jews placed them in a terrible situation, floated this concept (I know it had been around for some time before) that they hoped would catch on and become a reality because putting all the Jews in one place surrounded by Arab enemies was perhaps gleeful to rabid anti-semites. Unfortunately, the Jews fell for it and the result was exactly what the anti-semites had hoped for.
Now, it's time to see how ludicrous this idea is and get rid of it. The whole planet is the "holy land" and it is for all humans to enjoy and revere. Israel should or could be converted from a land for the Jews to a land for all persecuted and non-persecuted people. An example of how humans can live together in peace no matter what their beliefs may be. Where they need to agree is on principles like kindness towards all, respect and consideration for all, personal integrity, humility, non-violence, in a word to embody the concept of Love, that is, to care, to care for all of life which we all are.
We share the same spirit of life that animates all life with every living entity. We happen to be in the form of human with its particular kind of consciousness which gives us the possibility to escape the "might makes right" paradigm that rules the animal kingdom and live in an ethical manner. So far, we haven't done this. Now is the time for humanity to "wake up" and assume full responsibility as embodied love in the form of humans.
I have begun to question whether "peace advocacy" is always truly peaceful. One of the problems with speaking up for peace is that it is often in opposition to someone else who doesn't want it yet. In other words, speaking up for peace in today's media landscape can actually seem like taking a side, against those who believe that a particular retributive action is justified. It may be that silence, or listening, is the best path forward in many cases for people like me who don't have a say in the direction of the battle. Sometimes people need to grieve and rage before they are ready for peace. Maybe I need to let them do that instead of calling for peace prematurely. I know if I were a general, or in command of one, if I believed peace were the answer, I could easily order a ceasefire or lay down my own weapons. But at my desk, at a dinner party, or on social media, I can't, so my words that say what should be happening are not necessarily helpful. In this day of powerful and potentially untrustworthy media narratives, and algorithmically driven social media rage, peace may be just another side to take. If I'm sitting outside the battlefield, with no control over what goes on there, perhaps it's better to allow the battlefield to do what it's doing, and then to be peaceful where I can - in my own mind, and in my own community. That's increasingly becoming my approach. Thanks Charles for your thought provoking words as always.
Then why, just a few nights ago, did you encourage your Team Kennedy to buck it up and ignore your candidate's pro-Israel position?
If Noi Katsman, Ziv Stahl, Yotam Kipnis, Maoz Inon, and Yonatan Ziegen could state that revenge for the October 7th Hamas massacre would only create more suffering and solve nothing, and speak so courageously to the enraged mob seeking revenge, why didn’t Bobby Kennedy do the same? From all that I know of him, I expected he would do so. There is no way to argue this away. He’s taken a side. His silence is consent.
“ People do indeed use one war crime to justify another.”
This needs correcting to
“Some people do indeed use one war crime to justify another”
And I would also state further that any human who unnecessarily harms other humans is guilty of violating the natural laws of the Universe and therefore I don’t consider them a ‘human in good standing’. Humans that aren’t in good standing don’t represent humanity’s values and therefore need to be stripped of any decision making power that was granted to them by humans in good standing
Wow, Charles. This is one of your most powerful posts ever, IMO. THANK YOU, and God bless all those who have let go of justification and are simply living and working for and being the peace that they seek. I feel so inspired by this and all of the real-life examples you named.
Charles, your use of the words is not to my standards on not taking sides, you take sides: Some of your own words and my notes:
“I would say it is wrong to kidnap and murder innocent festival-goers and children in a kibbutz.”
FYI: Israel’s IDF caused all the destruction at Be'eri Kibbutz, so no more propaganda please. Read this:
Murdered versus Killed: So the Israelis kill in Gaza, but the Palestinians murder …
Hamas’s violence versus Hamas resistance to the occupation army.
With respect to all humans.
RFK jr has chosen a side and has been silent while the people in Gaza are being slaughtered. It appears that he approves of genocide. Will he be silent when Israel annexes Gaza after they have cleared it of all human life? How is RKF jr a peace candidate and how is war in Ukraine wrong but right in Israel/Gaza from his point of view? Seems like that is the good guy, bad guy trope.
No, the status quo can't hold anymore. Either the Zionist Nazis of Israel will complete their genocide or Israel will fall, the Palestinians have had enough of their multi-generational concentration camp.
While I am on the peace side, I can't shake a certain unease as the discourse around peace deepens.
It appears to me that there are potentially five perspectives: those in favor of Hamas, those supporting Israel, those justifying war (on either side), advocates for peace, and individuals who remain neutral.
As a commentator in this space, I find myself somewhat compelled to align with the fifth perspective.
However, I can't help but question the impact of our words and protests. Can we genuinely believe that our expressions will bring about change? How can we discern what is right or wrong without access to the universe's long-term master plan? Throughout history, what appeared dreadful to our sensitive and sometimes manipulated hearts often turned out to be a mere ripple in an infinite ocean, or at times, a necessity for a better overall outcome. By fixating on these issues, we may also unintentionally magnify them, as our despair at being unable to act fuels a conflict of opinions.
There might be a sixth option, one that I would consider the stance of a truly wise individual—not me, as I express these thoughts. It's not a position, but a personal attitude: to remain silent and genuinely disengage from it all.
I watched the zoom the other night, called to address the distress of RFK Jr's supporters at his failure to call for a ceasefire. I had hopes that something of substance would come of the discussion. One pair of questions received attention: What is up with Bobby's support for Ackman's call to curtail free speech on campus, and Bobby's long silence on the extermination--which is very close to completed--in Gaza.
We can want peace and well-being for all "sides," and we must. I have been to prayer vigils in St. Louis where people with kin and acquaintances in Israel and Palestine joined together in communal grief--and hope against hope for the survivors. Everyone had in their hearts and on their lips an unambiguous prayer for a cessation of the assault--for the good of everyone.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Netanyahu, who--on Fox News--proclaimed that the bombing in Gaza was for the protection of Israel--and EVEN for GAZA! For the good of everyone, he claimed. It was the most obscene distortion of altruism I've ever witnessed.
The first step must be the cessation of violence, on all "sides."
If this doesn't happen soon, the blowback to Israel will bring even more horror.
Following the zoom, I was even more aggrieved than before it. I felt that I had just sat through an vague spiritual bypass that seemed to claim to rise above all judgement, asking us to "hold space"...for what, exactly, I don't know.
This isn't a time for platitudes. We must pressure the Biden administration to stop fueling the antagonism of the entire Middle East, before no one is left to talk about taking sides.
Please listen to Dennis Kucinich in this interview by Mike Adams. It is one of the most humane conversations I've ever heard. We must not be afraid to speak in the way that Dennis does here, and always has.