Turkey Can Teach Israel How To Make Peace

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Our headlines have been filled with an overwhelming amount of violence and conflict lately – Ukraine, Gaza, Syria, Central America. Fortunately, this week, Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol has published a New York Times Op-Ed about how we can build peace.

The article is titled Turkey Can Teach Israel How To End Terror. To me, that headline exemplifies our cultural focus on war and violence at the expense of focusing on the outcome we want – peace. Terror gets more clicks than peace.

But regardless, Akyol makes several salient points. Continue reading

Support. Don’t Punish.

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A global advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs.

If you’ve been following along, you already know that I stand against the War on Drugs. Fortunately, the failures of meeting economic activity with a militarized law enforcement response are becoming more recognized, and several movements for drug policy reform are growing. Support. Don’t Punish is one of them.

From their website, the Support. Don’t Punish campaign aims to:

  • Change laws and policies which impede access to harm reduction interventions for people who use drugs.
  • Raise awareness about the need to stop criminalising (‘punishing’) people for using drugs.
  • Raise awareness about the need for greater funding and attention for essential health services and other ‘support’ for people who use drugs.
  • Promote respect for the human rights of people who use drugs.
  • Engender public support for drug reform.

This Thursday afternoon, Support. Don’t Punish is hosting a global day of action for drug policy reform.

June 26 is the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and also the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On this day, governments around the world celebrate their contributions to the global war on drugs, in some cases even commemorating this day by holding public executions or beatings of drug offenders.

NYC is helping to reclaim this day by becoming involved in the 2nd annual Global Day of Action, along with over 80 other cities around the world.”

Join us at the United Nations Headquarters (Corner of 1st Ave & E 47th St) at 2pm for a rally for smarter, more effective drug policy. Find more information on the event Facebook page.

Violence in the Arab Spring: A Look at Revolutions and Peace

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I’m teaching a class tomorrow night at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU – a course called Structures of Peace – and we’re going to talk about revolution and protest from a peacebuilding perspective.

The preeminent measurement of peace in the world’s countries – the Global Peace Index – accounts for revolution in a way that worsens a country’s peacefulness score. And indeed, all successful protests are disruptive (that’s the point), and many revolutions are bloody. But if we see peace from the perspective of everyone having their needs met without systemic deprivation (i.e., positive peace), there’s no doubt that some revolutions need to happen. In addition, not all revolutions happen the same way – statistically, nonviolent civil resistance is twice as effective as violent civil resistance. Continue reading

Legality and justice: Hate speech, property defacement, or freedom of expression?

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So, this controversial video is going around the internet, in which a woman is arrested for spraying pink paint over an NYC subway ad that reads “In a war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

While Mona is spraying the ad, another woman, Pamela, attempts to physically prevent her from painting over it and at one point uses her camera equipment to try and shove her away from the ad.

I originally read of the incident on Political Fail Blog, via a Facebook post. Today, I read over a long Facebook comment thread between my classmates that inspired me to write about the incident. A lot came up in this thread, but I’d like to explore an issue that I think of often: does legality equal justice? How about legitimacy? This ad was legally sanctioned by a NYC judge; defacing a subway ad is illegal. But many people find the ad offensive, and onlookers as well as internet commentators applaud Mona’s action. So who’s right, and what does the whole incident mean for social justice?

Two Facebook posters noted that breaking the law, and doing so with graffiti, are historically accepted and even successful means of activism. Mona contends that her action is “freedom of expression, just as [the ad] is freedom of expression.” But nonetheless, one is legal and the other isn’t. I contend that legality is as fallible as the humans who created it, and therefore does not automatically equal justice or legitimacy. Now, in the interest of a peaceful and orderly coexistence, I am not suggesting we all treat the entire governing structure as illegitimate whenever we don’t like it and just do whatever the hell we please. But I will assert that it is our responsibility as citizens to think critically about the law, to discuss when it does and does not appropriately protect our freedoms, and, when we determine it is unjust, to use our full range of means to have it changed. In this case, our freedom to express religious and cultural opinions is juxtaposed with our desire to live free from hate speech. Mona implied they were both rights, and exercised her right to the later.

When legality sides with injustice there are a number of historically accepted and successful tactics available to activists, including the similar but distinct civil disobedience, noncooperation, and nonviolent direct action (NVDA).

Civil disobedience involves directly breaking a law that the activists finds to be unjust. Ex: Entering a public space, such as a school, that your are legally excluded from based on your race, gender, sexual identity, etc.

Noncooperation involves not cooperating with a law or norm in order to draw attention to a cause and/or express opposition to injustice. Ex: Staging a sit-in that disrupts normal activity. While a demonstration may be illegal, it is often directed at a different legal or normal injustice, such as marriage inequality.

NVDA includes a wide range of tactics that are often noncooperative and civilly disobedient, and also intended to put direct pressure on actors who uphold unjust laws or norms. Ex: Blocking the entrance to the NY Stock Exchange to prevent the ringing of the opening bell. While possibly illegal and definitely noncooperative, this action also directly disrupts and pressures actors at the major corporations on Wall Street to change their actions or experience further disruptions.

I would label this NVDA, in that Mona was taking direct action against a practice she finds unjust. It could also be said that she was engaging in civil disobedience by breaking a law she felt is unjust: the law that says one can buy hate speech in the NYC subway for $6k. (Also at issue: $ = speech?) And for those who have said that, no matter how offensive the ad, she shouldn’t have defaced it: that’s the point. Mona, like many activists before her, refused to cooperate with the social norm and the legality that says this hate speech is acceptable while her pink spray paint is not. All of these tactics are indeed accepted and historically successful means for bringing about social change. In fact, statistically, nonviolent tactics are twice as successful. (An interesting discussion is whether or not property defacement constitutes violence, especially public property.) What’s my point here? If Pam can rightfully buy that add for $6k why can’t Mona rightfully spray paint over it?

Grito de la Independencia (Cry of Independence)

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On September 16, 1810, four months before the planned start of Mexico’s war of independence but in response to discovery by local authorities, Father Manual Hidalgo y Costilla cried

la muera el mal gobierno (the death of bad government) from a church in the town of Dolores. Today, this moment is celebrated as the start of Mexican Independce and the gritois repeated throughout the country. But in many ways, it seems this nation is still fighting for its independence 200 years later.

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México ahora: “A widespread youth movement similar to what happened in the Arab countries.”

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Angela Meléndez shared this video on Twitter. Professor John M. Ackerman from Universida Autonoma de México speaks about the protests in reaction to México’s July 1 elections:

Peña Nieto protesters take over Mexico City

Worth taking a look. Angela correctly noted that “this is how BBC and CNN should have reported.”

Do you think we, as a global community, should respond to the protestor’s sign “United Nations Help Us!” If so, how?

Visionistas: Building Peaceful Economies in the Americas

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Visionistas is dedicated to building peaceful economies in the Americas by identifying what economic structures and business models build peace and working to implement them.

Visionistas is the organization I’m working to build, and the above is our mission statement. As I embark on the first Visionistas research project this summer and fall – my masters thesis, on economic opportunity in México – I want to introduce the organization this work will serve to create.

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