The guidance of Maitreya
by the Master , through Benjamin Creme
However much they may try, politicians and other leaders
find it more and more difficult to control events and to
keep their ‘ship of state’ on an even keel. They find that,
despite their expertise, it careers helplessly on its own as
if under the guidance of some unseen hand. That unseen hand,
of course, is the logic of change. They fail to understand
that the rules and methods by which they work belong to the
past and have little relevance to the problems and needs of
today. They meet and discuss these problems, but invariably
retreat from actions that alone would solve them. Meanwhile,
in varying degrees, the people suffer, and wait for reason
and insight to alleviate their distress. They know in their
hearts that deliverance is possible and should be theirs,
but lack, as yet, the structures and power to make it so.
Not for ever will the people wait. Already, the signs of
dissent and impatience are appearing across the world,
urging the leaders to engage with their needs and
afflictions. The leaders, men without vision, look to
promises and palliatives to halt the mounting demands for
fairness and justice. They do so in vain. The peoples of the
world have caught the vision of freedom, of justice, and
peace, and will not let it go. They, rather than their
leaders, will outline the future and shape it to their
needs. Thus will it be. This new force in the world — the
voice of the people — is rapidly gaining strength and
cohesion and will play a major role in world affairs from
Maitreya awaits His opportunity to augment the power and
influence of the people’s voice and to steer its course.
Many are the strands which form it and disparate their aim.
Wise must be the guidance, therefore, lest it lose its way
and dissipate its strength.
Single and simple, therefore, must be the demands of the
people. Many and varied are their problems but universal are
their needs: peace through justice and freedom are the needs
of all men. Sharing, Maitreya will advise, is the key to the
creation of trust without which naught is possible. Share
and make blessed trust, He will tell the world, and know the
blessings of justice and peace. No other way, He will
solemnly remind the nations, will bring them the peace for
which in their hearts they yearn. Thus will it be, and thus
will the people call for sharing and therefore peace. A new
and potent world opinion will demonstrate its power and
render obsolete the manoeuvres and stratagems of the men of
power today. Then will Maitreya declare Himself to all the
peoples, and dedicate Himself to their service throughout
this coming time.
(Read more articles by the Master)
Q. (1) Were the terrorists in the recent London
attacks suicide ¬bombers? (2) Were they part of a larger
group with foreign connections? (3) Had they planned more
explosions than actually succeeded?
A. (1) My information is that one was: the one who destroyed
the Number 30 bus. (2) Yes. (3) No.
Q. How can the government and the police forces in any
country make their cities and public places safe from
A. It is not possible except by changing the economic
balance in the world. The economic imbalance between the G8
nations and the poorest is the chief cause of terrorism. It
is the result of a spiritual problem focused through the
Q. Would attacks be more likely to occur in countries
which supported the US-UK attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq?
A. Yes. I think that is obvious although denied by the
British government officials and others.
Q. What can local communities do to bridge the
potential divide between ethnic groups?
A. Make every effort to work with all ethnic groups in
common endeavour. Combat prejudice and separation.
Q. What role could moderate Muslims play around the
A. They could be more pro-active in advocating right
relations between different groups. I think their leaders
could be more active in building tolerance, as, of
course, could the leaders of all faiths and societies.
Q. What do you and your Master think of the present
situation in Afghanistan which seems to be getting worse
A. The Taliban were extremely fanatical and narrow in their
approach to religion and social behaviour but they were not,
on the whole, terrorists. Since the US attack in
Afghanistan, the Taliban are regrouping and many are now
joining terrorist groups. To them it seems the only door
open to them. You cannot win a war against terrorism —
especially by means of terror. You can only change the
conditions in which terrorism becomes the only way to fight
injust¬ice and poverty.
Q. Did Maitreya or any other Masters appear and speak
to ¬people at (1) the Live8 concerts around the world? (2)
at the recent demonstration in Edinburgh before the
A. (1) Yes. (2) Yes.
Q. Did the widespread public support for the aims of
the Live8 concerts and the Edinburgh demonstration create
more of a ‘margin of good karma’ which will allow Maitreya
more easily to take another step forward into the public
A. Yes. It is not so much making a ‘margin of good karma’ as
taking the right action/direction ourselves.
Q. The people are saying and calling for the right
things, but our leaders don’t quite seem to ‘get it’. Is
that a fair way of describing the political scene? Or are
some leaders really beginning to see what needs to be done?
A. No. Some of the people are calling for the right
things, but so far not enough. Their ranks must grow into an
unstoppable force to which the leaders of the old and the
past must give way. A few politicians are beginning to wake
up to the inevitable. The others are really only reacting to
events as they occur.
Q. What do you think of the outcome of the G8 summit?
A. A few gains, forced out of reluctant hands: cancellation
of debts for 18 poorest countries and promises (!) of
increased aid over the next five years. On the environment,
nothing from the US, as was to be expected. The other
signatories to the Kyoto Protocol should press forward
themselves to implement their resolve.
Q. What is your opinion on the uncommitted response on
the part of the G8 meeting to the dire problem of climate
change and ecological destruction?
A. It is abysmal, short sighted and weak.
Q. Is the Make Poverty History campaign inspired by
A. No. It is an expression of humanity’s growing realization
of the reality of poverty and its causes.
Q. (1) Does Maitreya see the terrorist attacks as an
obstacle to His coming forward? (2) Will recent events slow
down His emergence?
A. (1) No, they hasten His feet. (2) No, on the contrary.
Q. (1) Was there a blessing given to the demonstrators
(en masse) gathered in Edinburgh? (2) If so, did the people
A. (1) Yes. (2) On the whole, yes.
Q. What do you think of the UK government’s efforts to
introduce identity cards in Britain?
A. If the aim is to make it more difficult for terrorists to
live among us, then I think it would be useless. False
passports and identity cards are (at a price) available
worldwide. Any professional terrorist would have no
difficulty in getting them. If the aim is to have a greater
control over the lives of ordinary people, then I think it
is a backward step in government thinking.
Q. In the present world climate is it necessary to
sacrifice personal freedoms to national security?
A. I do not think it is a choice of one over the other.
Common sense teaches that national security must be sought
with the least intrusion on personal freedoms. I am talking
about those countries which at least aspire to a free
Q. What can African or world leaders do to change the
situation with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe?
A. It is really up to Africa’s own leaders to break ranks of
support and say in public what they think and say in
Q. In your book
Approach you are asked whether the Master Who was the
Prophet Mohammed is now responsible for the Islamic faith.
You answered “No.” But I recall you said that Mohammed would
do the same for Islam (ie shake loose the man-made dogmas,
etc) as Jesus would do for Christianity.
A. The Prophet Mohammed has responsibility for Islam but is
not one of those Masters Who will externalize Themselves in
this coming time. The work of purification of Islam (in line
with the purification of Christianity performed by the
Master Jesus) will therefore be carried out by an Initiate
appointed by the Master Who was Mohammed.
(More questions and answers)
Letters to the editor
Over a number of years, some of the Masters, in particular Maitreya and the Master Jesus, have appeared, in different guises, to large numbers of people around the world. They also appear at Benjamin Creme's lectures and meditations, giving people in the audience the opportunity to intuitively recognise Them. Some people recount their experiences to Share International magazine. If the encounters are authenticated by Benjamin Creme's Master, the letters are published. These experiences are given to inspire, to guide or teach, often to heal and uplift. Very often, too, the Masters draw attention to, or comment on, in an amusing way, some fixed intolerance (for example against smoking or drinking). Many times They act as saving 'angels' in accidents, during wartime, earthquakes and other disasters. The following letters, previously published in Share International magazine, are examples of this means of communication by the Masters.
The people have the power!
On 12 March 2005 our local Transmission Meditation group
held a public video screening of Benjamin Creme’s May 2004
Tokyo lecture. Afterwards we held a discussion and question
and answer session with the several people who had seen the
video. During the discussion, a young African American man
walked in, sat down, and although he hadn’t seen the video,
almost immediately began taking part in the discussion. The
US political scene was being discussed, and someone in the
audience had suggested a less confrontational, more
compromising approach in dealing with the current US
administration. The African American man said one shouldn’t
compromise with evil, that it had to be confronted directly,
that the people should not back down.
The discussion continued on a wide range of subjects,
with the African American man speaking at length, and nearly
continuously. He indicated that although he himself was from
New York, San Francisco was a unique center for peace and
justice efforts in the United States. He said that those
living here should continue and increase our work in this
regard, becoming a positive example to the world. Peace
marches and protests were beneficial too because, he said,
many more people supported them than actually took part, and
the marches and protests set a positive tone and encouraged
others. He also indicated public outreaches like ours were
beneficial too and should continue, for the same reason; and
that we can never see all the benefits of the good deeds
that we do, because the good multiplies for ever, from
person to person, ad infinitum. He spoke on a variety of
subjects, and the overall sense conveyed was one of unusual
insight and wisdom.
Toward the end, the man suggested that we remain in
contact. He signed our mailing list, providing his name
(Kaliym Shabazz), street address, and e-mail address.
Another co-worker later saw the man in the library upstairs,
using the computer.
Was this man someone special?
ML, San Francisco, California, USA.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘African
American man’ was Maitreya.)
Sharing will save the world!
On Friday 15 April 2005 two members of our Transmission
Meditation group and I joined in the ‘Wake up to trade
justice’ event in London. We had put much thought into the
wording of our banner. It said: “Sharing Will Save
Like thousands of others, we queued for ages to get into
Westminster Abbey. When we realised there were just too many
of us, we unfurled our banner and joined the march along
Whitehall to where the vigil would be held at midnight.
However, this was the first time that we had done anything
quite like this and, to be honest, we felt very
self-conscious. We realised that our banner was different
from everything else around us which had slogans like “Make
Poverty History”, “Make Trade Fair”. We got mystified looks
from the crowd of protesters as they read our banner. Some
turned to their friends and started discussing whether
sharing really would save the world. This would have made it
worthwhile but the comments we heard were negative,
beginning with statements like, “Not necessarily ...” I was
disappointed to feel myself getting defensive.
Nevertheless, we kept going and we made sure our banner
was pointing out at the stream of traffic when we finally
had to stand at the side of the road because Parliament
Square was full. Passers-by looked interested in what was
going on but being a Friday night in the centre of London,
it’s not really surprising that those who called out to the
protesters tended to be jeering.
Then the traffic slowed and we noticed a car with several
occupants. The man in the front passenger seat was leaning
out of the window reading the banners out loud. When he got
to ours he read it out slowly to himself — “Sharing will
save the world.” He seemed to be thinking about it.
Then, suddenly, he shouted an emphatic “Yes! Yes!” He got
very excited, leaned further out of the car and, spreading
his arms wide he waved them about and shouted ecstatically,
“Sharing WILL save the world!” We heard him say it
loudly in the same way several times as his car moved on
down the road. Each time he called out the slogan he did so
with a strong and elated emphasis on the ‘WILL’.
We could not help but smile. This really lifted our spirits
for the rest of the night and we wondered whether this might
have been Maitreya or one of the Masters.
PW, Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man in the car
Voice of wisdom
On 18 June 2005 a television programme about Live Aid in
1985 showed an interview with a farmer who had to go to
court to get a licence to show the concert live on a huge
screen in his field. He expected a rejection. Whilst in
court, he noticed an old lady who came in and sat at the
back. She was humbly dressed in old woollen clothes and
carried a large bag. Just before the court gave their
verdict, the old woman stood up, came forward and said to
the bench: “There are people dying now.” She patted the
farmer on his shoulder in support and left the building. The
license was handed over immediately. Was this old lady
AG, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘old woman’
In 1998, a friend in Western Argentina told me the following
story: “Usually, once a month I travel 170 km north from the
city of San Juan to pick up a load of poplar logs. Sometimes
I go round the mountains to visit a couple of friends,
goatherds, who live isolated in the countryside in a humble
home that can only be accessed by driving a truck or a
four-wheel car across a deserted field, since there isn’t
“My friend told me that some time ago, when working in the
fields and taking care of the cattle with his wife, suddenly
they saw a bearded man with a stick, dressed in white and
accompanied by a small dog, approaching them, walking
Their reaction was concern, because they didn’t hear the
sound of a vehicle coming from that direction. At the other
side there was only a range of mountains. His wife took
shelter in the house while he asked the foreigner how he had
arrived there, to which he answered: ‘Walking.’ It was hard
to believe, since there wasn’t a town in those surrounding
100 km of desert.
“Luckily a truck appeared on the horizon, of a friend who
once in a while brings them letters from their children. My
friend took advantage of the occasion and asked this man to
give a lift to the ‘foreigner’, since they didn’t trust this
kind of ‘out of the blue’ man. His good-natured friend
calmed him down and invited the man with the stick and the
little dog to come with him to the next town, and he
“One week later, the friend with the truck asked the couple
if the ‘foreigner’ had come back to their house because,
while he had been driving and talking about the life in the
country, in one moment he turned his head and the man, who
was just sitting by his side, had disappeared.
“Looking back, the couple became aware that they were
facing something ‘very unusual’ and they felt very happy and
peaceful. To their astonishment, some weeks later the
‘foreigner’ reappeared, but this time they invited him to
their house, made of mud, straw and adobe, and together they
shared the food they had.
“He told the couple things about their family, their
children and the country. They could not figure out how he
knew all of that, but enjoyed his company. When departure
time came, ‘walking through the mountains,’ as he said, he
promised them that they would see him there again.
“Needless to say, this family, who live so isolated, awaits
with longing, desire and love for their ‘new friend’ who
they feel, is ‘someone special’.”
Who was the man in white with the little dog?
DGG, San Juan, Argentina.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘man in white’
with the little dog was Maitreya.)
In June 2004 I helped on the Transmission Meditation stand
at the Melbourne Mind, Body, Spirit Festival. When I arrived
in the morning I felt uplifted, expectant, and joyful. I
walked through the huge hall, past many stands concerned
with the body aspect of Mind/Body/Spirit, feeling very
thankful for the knowledge I have encountered about
Maitreya, happy that I would be in a position to pass this
information on to others.
As the day wore on, this feeling gradually faded. I felt
frustrated that whenever people asked me about our stand my
answers seemed clumsy, tongue-tied, unlikely to inspire
Around 2pm a man arrived at our stand. He was about 30,
short, wiry, of Indonesian or Malaysian appearance. He wore
denims, an orange hat, lots of silver jewellery, thin plaits
in his longish black hair, altogether flamboyant in
appearance, with laughter in his eyes. He addressed himself
to me, asking what our stand was about. Each question I
answered was followed by another. He pointed to our photos
and continued to question me — it all went very smoothly. It
came to a question I was unsure about answering fully, and I
said something to the effect of “I’m not very good at
explaining this”, to which he replied: “No, you’re doing
fine.” I found myself laughing and responding: “That’s
because you’re asking the right questions.”
At some point I began to suspect he was one of the
Masters, putting me through my paces so as to encourage me.
We spoke for about 30 minutes, during which time I asked him
many questions. I cannot remember exactly what we talked
about for such a long time — he answered questions about the
nature of human existence as one with profound knowledge. I
felt he knew my thoughts and background, as if he were my
teacher, familiar with my pathway and progress, checking in
every so often to ascertain that I was keeping up, but
knowing where I would be in familiar territory.
He talked deeply with other members of our group and
remained with us for two or three hours. It was uplifting
and fulfilling. Were we blessed by a visit from one of the
AB, Mt Dandenong, Victoria, Australia.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the visitor to the
stand was Maitreya.)
Image of perfection
Around 1994 I first heard of Maitreya and the Masters. Soon
after that, when I was buying a book at Oxford Centre
bookshop in Ljubljana, I saw a wonderful man and woman
there. They were in their 30s. They were buying something
and asking a shop assistant about good restaurants in town.
The man was divinely handsome, magnetic and so very
different. I’d never seen such a perfect human being before.
He had long brown curly hair and was dressed in black. Every
gesture he made and every word he spoke seemed perfect.
There was something divine about him. I couldn’t take my
eyes off him. The woman was very beautiful, too. Could you
please tell me who they were?
PJ, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘man’ was
Maitreya and the ‘woman’ was the Master Jesus.)
Signs of the time
Madonna statue turns to “flesh and blood”
A statue of the Madonna in a small southern Italian town
has been seen to move its limbs and the plaster turn to
“flesh and blood”. Over the weekend of 23-24 July 2005,
visitors to the church of San Pietro, Acerra, near Naples,
saw parts of the plaster statue “take human form, flesh and
blood”, her knees move and a cross appear on her breast.
“Yesterday evening I saw the ear lobe extend and become
flesh, just like the nose, which assumed a pinky colour,”
said Maria, one of the witnesses. “The gown turned into a
veil, showing the legs.” Another witness Domenico, aged 45,
said: “The legs gradually became more prominent and then the
knees moved forwards, until they stretched out the folds of
the white dress. It’s not the power of suggestion. Many of
us really saw it.”
The 1.6m (5ft 6ins) plaster and marble statue was made
especially for the opening of the new church in December
2004. It was installed on a pedestal next to the altar, and
portrays the Madonna holding a rosary and cross and wearing
a clinging white gown. Cleaners had seen the statue move
previously, but said nothing for fear of being disbelieved.
Some witnesses filmed the phenomenon on their video phones,
and it is believed that video footage was also taken. Images
of the miracle were shown on television news around the
world. Ordinary cameras, however, appear not to have
captured the transformation. The photographic images were
transmitted to the local bishop, who remains sceptical while
he decides whether to appoint a commission to evaluate if a
miracle has taken place.
Acerra’s mayor Espedito Marletta, however — a member of
the profoundly non-religious Rifondazione Comunista
(Communist Refoundation Party) — believes that the ‘miracle’
was a sign of the Madonna’s anguish over terrorist attacks,
and a plea for peace. (Source: timesonline.co.uk, UK;
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that this is an authentic
miracle manifested by the Master Who was the Madonna.)
Russian boy from Mars
A nine-year-old Russian boy named Boriska from the region
north of Volgograd says he is originally from Mars, and has
spoken extensively about that planet as well as the ancient
history and current situation on Earth. According to an
expedition team visiting the area where the boy lives,
Boriska spoke to a group of people about life on Mars — its
inhabitants, their flights to Earth and other planets, their
spaceships and megalithic cities — and about an ancient
country on Earth, Lemuria, which he knew in detail because
he said he descended there from Mars. A UFO investigator,
Gennady Belimov, subsequently visited the boy and his
family, and wrote an article for Pravda on-line. According
to Boriska’s mother, “When Boris was just one year old, I
started giving him letters, and at 18 months he was able to
read large newspaper print. He began to paint at two.
Then, soon after he turned two, we took him to the
children’s day-care center. Teachers were stunned by his
talents and unusual way of thinking. He possesses an
exceptional memory and an unbelievable ability to grasp new
information.”However, his parents soon noticed that their
child had been acquiring information in his own unique way.
“Sometimes he would sit in a lotus position and start all
these talks,” his mother said. “He would talk about Mars,
about planetary systems, distant civilizations. We couldn’t
believe our own ears. How can a kid know all this? Cosmos,
never-ending stories of other worlds and the immense skies
are like daily mantras for him since he was two.”Boriska
told us about his previous life on Mars, about the fact that
the planet was inhabited, but as a result of the most
powerful and destructive catastrophe had lost its atmosphere
and that now all its inhabitants have to live in underground
Back then, he used to fly to Earth quite often for trade
and other research purposes. It seems that Boriska piloted
his spaceship himself. This was during the time of the
Lemurian civilizations. A major catastrophe took place on
Earth. A gigantic continent was consumed by stormy
waters.”Boriska thinks that now the time has finally come
for the “special ones” to be born on Earth. “The planet’s
rebirth is approaching. New knowledge will be in great
demand, a different mentality of Earthlings.”The boy was
asked if he has a special mission to fulfil, and if he was
aware of it. “He says he can guess,” his mother said. “He
says he knows something about the future of Earth. He says
information will play the most significant role in the
future.””What do you know about multiple dimensions?”
Boriska was asked. He spoke about his UFO flights: “We took
off and landed on Earth almost momentarily!” He took a piece
of chalk and began drawing an oval object on a blackboard.
“It consists of six layers,” he said: 25 per cent outer
layer, made of durable metal, 30 per cent second layer made
of something similar to rubber, the third layer comprises 30
per cent once again metal. The final 4 per cent is composed
of a special magnetic layer. If we charge this magnetic
layer with energy, those machines will be able to fly
anywhere in the Universe.
”Regarding sickness, Boriska said: “Sickness comes from
people’s inability to live properly and be happy. You must
wait for your cosmic half. One should never get involved and
mess up other people’s destinies. People should not suffer
because of their past mistakes, but get in touch with what’s
been predestined for them and try to reach those heights and
move on to conquer their dreams. “You have to be more
sympathetic and warm-hearted. If someone strikes you, hug
your enemy, apologize and kneel before him. If someone hates
you, love him with all your love and devotion and ask for
forgiveness. These are the rules of love and humbleness. Do
you know why the Lemurians died? I am also partially to
blame. They did not wish to develop spiritually any more.
They went astray from the predestined path, thus destroying
the overall wholeness of the planet. The Path of Magic leads
to a dead end. Love is the True Magic!” “How do you know all
this?” he was asked. “I know,” Boris replied. “Kailis.”
“What did you say?” asked the journalist. “I said ‘Hello!’
This is the language of my planet.”
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the authenticity of the
boy’s origins, but adds that some of the boy’s information
is not accurate.)
long as it takes:
Interview with Brian Haw
by Gill Fry
Since 2 June 2001 Brian Haw, aged fifty-five, from
Redditch, Worcestershire, has been camped out opposite the
Houses of Parliament in London. For over 1,500 days and
nights he has protested against the UK and US government
policy of economic sanctions in Iraq and the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
He has beaten six eviction orders and in August 2005 charges
against him under the Serious Organized Crime Bill were
dropped. The new law removes 350 years of rights to peaceful
protest within a quarter of a mile of the Palace of
Westminster, but because Brian’s protest began before
authorization was required he is the only person in the UK
who can (spontaneously) protest there. The government is
expected to amend the legislation to include protests such
On a Sunday afternoon, as people leaned out of their cars,
driving slowly by looking at the display, and hooting their
horns in solidarity, Gill Fry interviewed Brian for Share
Share International: You have been beaten up by
strangers and hospitalized, arrested several times and been
evicted six times for protesting here on the street. And
still you go on giving out your message to the MPs across
Brian Haw: When I shout out across the road you see
people over there with an amused smile. It’s not exactly a
public speech is it, a man standing and shouting across the
road? I have been advised by my solicitors not to use the
megaphone after the police attack on 9 May  when the
police dragged me violently away at midnight and destroyed
the display. It was the morning the Chinese Premier went to
Parliament to be lectured by Mr Blair for human rights
abuses in China.
SI: You are a symbol for the voice of the people. You
are the only person allowed to protest here without written
authority, is that correct?
BH: It is until the people reclaim that right. Like the man
who was arrested here today when he stood up and spoke out
about the Brazilian man [Jean Charles de Menezes] who was
shot dead by British police, who they later said was
innocent. When we had the death penalty, it could be argued
long and hard, and when somebody’s life was at stake the
argument had to be “beyond reasonable doubt”. And here we
are — you can shoot somebody dead on suspicion, because of
the suicide bombings.
SI: Are people meeting here on a regular basis to
protest against the new law?
BH: On 1 August, 200 people dared to stand up and claim
their right to speak, with black ribbons around their
mouths. Why were there only 200 here? Who wants to be
arrested? Basically we leave it to somebody else.
Tony Benn and Bianca Jagger were here the other night
demonstrating. They were here long enough to be threatened
with arrest but the strange thing is the police didn’t come
near them. Nor did they arrest Cherie Blair’s sister, Lauren
Booth, even when she demanded they should, with her wrists
outstretched [on the 1 August demonstration when six people
were arrested]. I am here 24/7, the man at the front, if you
like, but there are so many people behind me.
What do you hear in there [Parliament]? Blair’s bunch all
singing the same song, and on the other side Michael Howard,
and before him, Duncan Smith. He has a lot to answer for as
the [then] leader of the opposition who said anyone who
thinks Saddam Hussein does not have all these weapons of
mass destruction is “living in cloud cuckoo land”. There
weren’t those terrible weapons, were there? All those people
have been murdered based upon lies.
SI: How long do you intend to stay here?
BH: At the start of the war Tony Blair and George Bush said
they would continue for “as long as it takes”. On 2 June
2001 a policeman came up to me for the first time and asked:
“How long are you going to be here?” And my answer was: “As
long as it takes”.
Rain begins to fall, Brian puts up a large umbrella and
we discuss the cold weather.
BH: I’ll tell you one consolation. In Iraq, with bombs and
missiles they wouldn’t be moaning about the rain. Everything
An elderly, well-dressed man walks ups and gives Brian a
cup of tea and a banana.
Passer-by: I am actually in favour of the war in Iraq
but am in favour of this man sitting here.
BH: You are not in the war in Iraq. It’s OK for you to be in
favour, you are not at risk. I don’t want to be here. We
have been murdering these people for 90 years. How many
times have they bombed us? How dare we treat other people
like this! “I am in favour” — it’s so academic, so casual,
The man walks off.
BH: That man thinks he is qualified and entitled to
pronounce judgement upon it. How dare he? It doesn’t cost
him anything, whether he is right or wrong. MPs pretending
to be God Almighty, with the power of life and death, like
the Roman Emperor — put the thumb up or the thumb down — and
they encourage people to do the same. A young boy said to
me: “I think war is necessary sometimes.” I said: “Excuse me
son, you are not qualified to say, you have never been
there, what do you know about it, what do you mean, you
think it is necessary?”
People like that, I am supposed to accept what he says. I am
talking about genocide, not talking about your house door
being painted green and the council says it has to be blue.
I am not talking about things which we all have different
shades of opinion on. We are talking about life and death,
wiping out a whole nation. We are talking about what was
being done to the Jewish people, the communists, the
gypsies, the thinkers, writers, artists, creators, because
this is dangerous. You saw how dangerous it was — somebody
felt the need to send all those police officers. It’s not
the words the government want said. [A large group of police
had just left in a van after warning about protesters.]
SI: Where do you get your energy? You have been here
for hundreds of nights and you still feel so passionate.
BH: It’s down to knowledge. I get it from everybody. I get
it from a soldier crying his eyes out on this pavement after
killing children — he can’t sleep at night and he comes to
me for answers and help. Nobody else can help him.
SI: Do you find that people find it difficult even now
to change their opinion about the war?
BH: It is hard admitting you are wrong. Why can’t we
have the courage of a man in a taxi, who stopped after two
years of driving past abusing me, and told me: “I had to
stop to tell you, you were right, I was wrong, I had to tell
you that,” and shook my hand. I appreciated being told, but
it was too late for too many. I had spent the time and the
trouble looking into it, but it had been going on for 11
years before I had been aware of it.
SI: What made you take to the pavement? Is it your
BH: Somebody called God Almighty sent me here. I used to
make fine furniture, one-off works of art, make a few
pennies, then start again with a new piece. And that’s you —
each person is a one-off, unique. That is awesome to me. All
the billions of people on Earth are one-off works of art. We
started off as a little blob of jelly then somehow after
millions of years we all became this unique person. Yet my
neighbour’s baby born in another country, his life is
counted as worthless. His life is priceless, above price.
You can’t buy a baby at Harrods or Sainsburys [a
SI: In Share International we write about sharing as
the key to solving world problems. What do you think about
BH: Sharing? It’s a good idea. Like the United Nations
or “all are created equal” is a good idea. When are we going
to do it? It is the only thing that makes sense in our
lives, in our world, the only thing that is going to keep
this world in one piece.
It is utter madness that the world squanders billions on
weapons when a fraction of that would pay for all the
people’s most basic needs — food, water, schooling, housing
— and they spend all that money slaughtering the poorest of
the poor simply because they don’t value a life, and a life
born in Asia or Africa or Arabia is regarded as less than
one born in New York or London. Don’t tell me there is any
difference between these children. We have got to stop this
It is not sharing, it is called pay-back time. We are the
biggest thieves and looters of the planet. You know of the
slavery in the Old Testament — after seven years they had to
let you go free. Not like our slavery, where it’s all about
putting a collar round their neck and a dog chain. Africa
has always been enslaved. Physically once upon a time in
chains, and now with the IMF, the World Bank, GATT
agreements. We give beads and baubles to the natives and fob
You have just read my letter to the American lady [Cindy
Sheehan, whose soldier son died in Iraq]. We give beads and
baubles to our own people too. What do you think of a scrap
of flag, and a piece of metal in exchange for your beloved
son, your adored husband: taken away and in exchange you are
given a scrap of material and metal called a medal. It’s all
comes down to material, have you noticed? Sierra Leone had
to die for diamonds, Chile had to die for copper, in the
Falklands there was oil. Whenever you look at a war, have a
look and see — is there oil?
SI: You must have witnessed the night vigil “Wake up
to Trade Justice” on 15 April. What was it like?
BH: What a morning that was. Twenty-five thousand people
came out of nowhere walking down Whitehall with little
tea-candles and the whole road lined with candles — what a
sight! There were all sorts of people and youngsters: the
church people were singing, it was beautiful and peaceful.
Twenty-five thousand people spent the night here and you
didn’t hear a word about it [in the media]. Can you imagine
if 25,000 foxhunters spent the night out, would you know
about it? Would it be the news item of the day?
SI: How do you manage in the winter?
BH: I think about people in Afghanistan and the people I
meet from around the world, and their love sort of warms me
up. A man from Afghanistan came to see me and he told me
that in the mountain villages — with no television or
telephone, cut off from the world — they know all about
this, all about me, and what he can’t get over is that I
love their kids like I do my own, and think their kid is as
precious as mine. Isn’t that the saddest thing you have ever
heard, that that makes me exceptional? Isn’t that
Christianity? It is certainly in the Islamic and Jewish
SI: How does your protest help?
BH: It’s giving people hope. Too many people haven’t had
hope for too long especially when people are dying, are
expendable — like in Cambodia, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan.
We need to give people hope that things might change, that
there might be something better. You need faith in somebody
bigger than yourself because we need some help don’t we? We
can’t sort this one out on our own — it’s too big a mess and
the more you look into it the bigger and dirtier it is. It’s
all about money, about mega-business. And the only way to
counter it is to look into your neighbours faces.
There will be a lot of crazy people coming back from this
war, just like in Vietnam. You reap what you sow. I like to
sow good: love, truth, righteousness. Sharing is the answer
and the more we pay back materially, the more we’re going to
When we give away £1 out of 10 we think we’re a pound short.
In our book [the Bible] it says give a tithe (a tenth) as a
gift to God. People think when they’re giving God their gift
to religious people that He’s been paid off and that’s it.
But that’s the minimum. God gives 100 per cent — every one
of my breaths — I didn’t have to pay for one of them did I?
We take it so much for granted: and the rain we take for
granted; and germination. If that seed didn’t grow, what
could we do about it? That’s the gift of life. Each one of
us has been given that gift of life. My life’s not my own —
it was given to me. And each one of us has a debt to pay.
Each one of us owes our creator a life. How about spending
our life for good?
SI: Can you recall any special people who have
protested with you?
BH: There was a lady called Pila from Chile: a small
lady, slight but so full of joy, light and had such energy,
vigour, passion. She was here on the pavement protesting:
“Tony Blair, USA, stop protecting Pinochet! Never forget
September 11 1973 — Chile.” She was dying from cancer and
was in pain. Even though she was suffering she was here on
the barriers crying out for her people. Then I see
namby-pamby people put off by a spot of rain, or the cold or
if the football is on. Before she died she went home and
told her husband who was a Spanish correspondent for CNN,
and he put us on for three minutes on Christmas Day to the
Americas (South America, Latin America and the USA). Can you
imagine Brian outside Big Ben talking about peace on CNN on
None of us knows the measure of our days but it is not how
long you live but how you live, isn’t it? She packed far
more in her shortened years than many people in their whole
long lives. When are we going to wake up? Too many are
dying. When are we going to stand up and say “enough”?
For more information:
Music review of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan
by Adrian Jackson
Of course we all expect high standards from London’s
music scene and those of us lucky enough to live here are
offered a constant feast of top orchestras and musicians
performing a bewildering variety of classical and
avant-garde works. The Henry Wood season of Promenade
Concerts (the ‘Proms’) performed every summer at the Royal
Albert Hall lives up to these expectations in every way.
However, nothing prepared this observer for the sheer
lushness, vitality and energy of Daniel Barenboim’s
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performance on 14 August 2005.
Formed in 1999 with the late Edward Said, Palestinian writer
and critic, the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra
was set up as an opportunity for young musicians from Middle
Eastern countries to both study music and reflect on the
Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Workshop now has a
permanent home in Seville, Spain, an apt setting in the
heart of Andalusia where Jews and Muslims had lived in peace
for seven centuries. The Orchestra also performed at the
Edinburgh Festival and followed a tour of Germany with a
concert in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Because of the
enormous personal risk taken by members of the orchestra,
their names are not published in the official programme.
Back to the London concert. Beginning with the
Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for oboe, clarinet,
bassoon and horn attributed to Mozart (origins disputed),
the orchestra demonstrated its versatility and softness of
touch required for many of the maestro’s works. They were
equally at home in the rich lyricism of the central Adagio
as in the flamboyant finale. What really impressed me were
the occasional smiles and exchanged glances between members
of the orchestra — not usually observed in traditional
orchestras with their dead-pan delivery (nothing wrong with
that though — let the music speak for itself, I say). This
gave a real human feel to the orchestra whose members were
obviously enjoying each others’ company as well as giving
their all to the music. Barenboim, of course, conducted the
piece entirely from memory, as he did for the rest of the
evening, with no musical scores on his stand.
After the interval we heard the pièce de resistance
— a simply superlative rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No.
1 in D Major. Always a favourite piece, nevertheless the
‘not-a-foot-wrong’ performance of Mahler’s most powerful
work with its delicate conversations between strings,
woodwind and brass brought the house down at the end of the
fourth movement. ‘Promenaders’ can be enthusiastic, but I
cannot remember hearing such a deafening cacophony of
applause, foot stamping and shouts of appreciation being
given by a London audience for a very long time.
The audience simply wouldn’t let Barenboim go home, and
after coming back on stage for, I think, the fourth or fifth
time he returned the compliment to a largely British
audience by playing Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.
Given the special place that Elgar still occupies in the
British psyche I probably don’t need to describe the
audience’s reaction to this.
However the evening was not yet over; Barenboim was still to
weave a very special piece of magic into the evening. Taking
the stand once again he waited for the audience to settle
down and then in his own intimate and quiet manner talked to
the audience about the formation of the orchestra, the work
they do and what it meant for the participants. He explained
that every one of the musicians here tonight was showing
immense bravery simply by turning up at all, and that of
course they did not all agree with each other about the
Israeli-Palestinian situation. What they could do together,
though, was to make music and that this transcended any
differences they might have and they could at least work
together in this way. On the quality of music they produced
he said he did not comment as the audience had already shown
their appreciation of that, and I hope I have given a
flavour of that in this review. He also talked about the
work they did in the Workshop and how they at least tried to
‘understand the narrative of the other’. I thought this was
very important and a very profound point — understanding the
narrative, the story, the point of view, the argument of the
other side, even if you didn’t agree with it. This is what
they are trying to do.
Naturally, he realises that they will not solve these
problems with this initiative and he admits as much, but
Barenboim and his orchestra are doing something here,
showing by example how young people on opposite sides of a
political divide can come together and work together in a
constructive way. He is helping to show that even in the
case of one of the most polarized and bitter conflicts in
the world there are constructive alternatives to the
destructive acts that gain so much publicity and I think
this message was very much appreciated, especially by a
London audience at this time.
More applause, after which in a final act of bravery
Barenboim explained that they were now going to play the
Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, a very beautiful
moment, and again I’m sure I don’t have to explain the
significance of an orchestra containing Jewish musicians
playing Wagner with his known anti-Semitic views. It was
played with the same aplomb that they had entertained us
with for the whole of the evening.
A very special evening spent with a very special man and a
very special orchestra and with, I think, a very important
message for the world.
letters: building bridges
Interview with Eric van den Broek
by Felicity Eliot
1992. War in Europe, again — it seemed unthinkable.
But Europe was forced wake up to the fact that war had
broken out in its own backyard, in a region where many
Europeans took holidays and did business. And at the end of
the 20th century which had already seen so much conflict.
The break-up of the old Yugoslavia created opportunities for
ancient differences to be fanned into ultra-nationalistic
fervour. For over 40 years Serbs, Bosnians, Croats and
Albanians — people of various religious persuasions and
ethnic backgrounds — had lived in peace and mutual tolerance
under the synthesizing domination of Yugoslavia’s President
Tito. Now, as that strong leadership fell away, ambitious,
power-hunger demagogues consolidated their positions, first
with local militias, and then gradually expanding their
reach and influence. Enmity, fear and suspicion divided
cities, villages, communities — sometimes even families —
against one another.
What followed was a shameful episode in modern European
history. During the wars in Yugoslavia, over 300,000 people
died and two million were driven from their homes. Europe
is, even now, dealing with the effects of the conflict.
Poverty and desperation mean that many former Yugoslavs
fled, seeking asylum in other European countries. Many
villages stand more or less empty, fields and orchards
Now, in 2005, the world has just commemorated the thousands
of Muslim men and boys slaughtered in Srebrenica, where more
human remains have recently been uncovered in mass graves.
So much damage was done to infrastructure and to communities
that many villages are hardly viable. The need to rebuild
houses, in many instances starting virtually from scratch,
has meant that less time and effort has been put into the
crucial work of reconciliation and bridge-building between
and within communities.
Independent documentary film-maker, Dutchman Eric van den
Broek, and his partner Katerina Rejger were in Sarajevo
visiting friends in 1996 just after the war, when they
realized that a pattern was emerging in their random
conversations. Whether they spoke to Muslims or Christians,
Bosnians or Serbs, Eric and Katerina heard one particular
theme again and again. Felicity Eliot interviewed Eric van
den Broek for Share International.
Eric van den Broek: We had recently become independent
film-makers and we had our equipment with us. Naturally, as
journalists we are curious about everything. We drove from
the Netherlands and as we entered Bosnia we saw all the
destruction, the ruins, the chaos. It appalled us and we
started asking questions — what was this war about?
We asked people about their experiences — anyone and
everyone who would talk to us. We started conversations in
bars, cafes, on the streets, wherever.
Share International: Did you find that people were
reluctant to talk about their political views?
EvdB: You would expect so, but we found that people really
wanted to talk politics — all the time, in fact. But we got
the impression that, in a way, they were using politics. It
was as if their political stance gave them permission ... as
if they were hiding behind their politicians.
SI: Your aim was to get to some other kind of
experience; wasn’t it too painful for them — so soon after
EvdB: We asked people about what happened to them, to their
immediate families, to relatives and friends. We got the
impression very quickly that they were extremely
disappointed in each other. And everyone we spoke to kept
saying that they were disappointed in their friends.
SI: For those of us who know little about the
circumstances of life before the outbreak of war, are you
saying that cross-cultural friendships, partnerships, social
mixing of all kinds were all quite normal? Serbs and Croats
were friends, Muslims and Christians were colleagues,
friends, partners, went to school together and generally
moved freely whatever the differences?
EvdB: Exactly; and then suddenly there was war and post-war
full of suspicion and fear. Their trust was damaged. They
kept saying: “My friends haven’t contacted me.” And when we
asked why they themselves didn’t phone their friends, the
answer would always be the same: “They’re the ones who
should contact me.”
SI: How did you react to that?
EvdB: We decided to go to ‘the other side’ and ask them the
same questions to find out what their attitudes were. So, if
we’d just interviewed some Muslims, we’d go to their former
Christian Serbian friends or colleagues. We asked the same
questions about their suffering and losses, grief and
grievances. And out would come the same reply, again and
again: “It’s up to them, they should write to us,
they should call us first.”
SI: That seems like a stalemate. Where could you or
they go from there?
EvdB: At first we were stuck. We felt we ought to be able to
do something with the information and the interviews but we
just didn’t know what.
We were making a film for Dutch television and one day we
read the headlines in a newspaper in Sarajevo which said
something like: “Where politicians fail rock-band succeeds.”
It was about the U2 pop concert in Sarajevo and the
important news in that report was that the train from Mostar
to Sarajevo was going to run again for the first time since
the war to allow people to go to the concert!
This looked like a good story to us. We decided to board the
train and film the whole episode of young people going to a
rock concert. We planned to talk to people, interview and
film them on the way to the concert. The problem was that
young Croats couldn’t get to the concert because the train
was leaving from the Muslim part [of Mostar] and the tickets
were being sold there, so young Croatian students were
afraid to enter the area to get tickets.
Just one city but divided by a barrier, invisible to us
as outsiders but it seemed only too solid to them. It was
fear — there had been so much fighting, so many terrible
things happened. The Muslims had been attacked by the Croats
and so Croats were afraid to go near the Muslim areas. They
feared reprisals or that someone would recognize them and
accuse them of killing their father or brother. There was
also rumour, conspiracy, suspicion — and all the kinds of
behaviour you see in wartime and post-war. But we managed to
film people on the train and also to interview them.
I decided to edit the film while in Bosnia, and set to work
at the local television station studios running the tapes to
edit them. As I worked I became aware of a crowd of people
who worked at the television studios gathering behind me
looking over my shoulder at the film.
SI: Were they Muslims or Croats?
EvdB: They were Muslims, standing looking and listening to
the interviews we had done with the Croatian students on the
train. Since it was just rough, unedited footage I was
curious and asked what they found so interesting. They said
they hadn’t heard Croatians’ opinions since the war. They
wanted to know what their attitudes were since the conflict.
It was at about that point that it suddenly ‘clicked’ for
us. Perhaps we should try to do something with the films
here in Bosnia.
SI: So that was the beginning of VideoLetters?
EvdB: Yes. I got the central idea of VideoLetters
then. It’s a simple idea.
SI: As far as I can tell, having seen a BBC television
report which showed something of VideoLetters, it is
also extremely effective.
EvdB: In order to make the films and carry out this project
we needed money. We approached NGOs and charitable
institutions to ask for sponsors. Everyone thought it was a
wonderful idea but many, especially governments, said they
were busy trying to rebuild infrastructure and houses so
that people could return to their homes and communities. But
we thought they had things the wrong way round; we believed
that first you need to reconstruct society. You must first
build bridges between people and communities, and then the
SI: I suppose people were afraid to go home.
EvdB: Absolutely. They were afraid of their neighbours.
First you have to reconstruct souls, as it were, then roads.
Eventually we got some money, episode by episode, and we
started the project in 1999. The first one was a ‘heavy’
story about two boys Emil and Sasha who had been best
friends as boys, but then because of the war hadn’t seen or
spoken to each other for years.
It was very difficult because one accused the other of
killing someone they both knew very well. It made it
problematic for us too because we didn’t want to be put in
the position of being a tribunal. We wanted to focus on
people’s ideas. And now, here we were in a story which
involved “did he or didn’t he do it?”. After a lot of
editing work we sent the film to Holland where it was to be
SI: Did people in Bosnia get to see it too?
EvdB: Yes. We’d wondered how people would react. And we were
amazed to see that the viewers, Muslims in this case,
immediately took the Serb[in the film] to their hearts. We
had thought they would hate the film or hate him, but the
opposite happened. We saw they were all crying. We asked
why. It wasn’t about whether someone killed another, they
said. No; it made them sad because a good friendship had
been destroyed. To us this meant that we were on to
something — since the reaction hadn’t been to accuse or
People started to talk after seeing it. For example, the
women of Srebrenica, on both sides. It was extraordinary.
The Serbian wives of the men who had killed Muslim men and
the widows and mothers of dead Muslims both watched the
film. They had not talked to one another since the war.
SI: I found the piece I saw on television moving and
instantly thought of its application to other similar
situations such as Rwanda. It is such a powerful tool for
reconciliation. Did you have a sense right from the start of
the potential of the video letters for reconciliation?
EvdB: No, not really. What we knew is that in the former
Yugoslavia after World War II there were 60 years of silence
— about what happened in the war. People were not even
allowed to say what nationality they were. Our idea was, if
they don’t talk now perhaps the horrors and cruelty would go
SI: Let’s just describe exactly how VideoLetters
works. How was it done, practically speaking?
EvdB: Well, basically we gave a video camera to a person who
wanted to make a video letter, to give them a way to
communicate as directly as possible since they were too
afraid to try to visit their old friends.
We would go to their houses and, while they were talking to
camera to appeal to an old friend, I would film them sitting
in front of the camera reading something they’d written or
just speaking aloud as if they were speaking to the person
they wanted to contact.
Then we’d act like postmen really and contact the people
concerned — the person or family addressed in the video
letter — and ask them whether they’d be willing to watch and
possibly respond to a video letter made for them. Their
reactions were varied, but generally we chose not to tell
them who the letter was from — partly to avoid the
possibility of a prejudiced response and partly because we
wanted to see their spontaneous and immediate response at
the moment of seeing the video for the first time. It was
wonderful to see, in virtually all cases, their happiness as
soon as they saw the other.
SI: Were you satisfied with that local result?
EvdB: For us the aim was to allow as many people in the
former Yugoslavia to see these filmed letters. It’s great to
bring happiness and reconciliation on a personal level but
we wanted the whole region to see the films and to work from
there, to think creatively about solutions, not only to the
aftermath of war but for the present and the future. We hope
that seeing these personal experiences people would begin to
ask: How do we deal with differences? What should we do as
communities, as countries, as ethnic groups? What is the way
SI: I believe you’ve got the co-operation of a number
of television stations or networks across the region?
EvdB: Last year (2004) in Ljubljana [Slovenia] we heard of a
meeting of all the directors of the different public-service
broadcasting companies to discuss co-operation for the first
time since the war. We had the opportunity to make a
presentation there and showed a short compilation. There
were Kosovars, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians
present; the atmosphere was very strained, they hardly
spoke. The video film we showed was only 10 minutes long but
we had to stop a couple of times because they all found it
so moving and emotional.
To break the tension I suggested a coffee break and then it
happened – they all started to mix and talk. Influenced by
their strong emotional reaction to the film they agreed to
co-operate and agreed to give broadcast time to our
VideoLetters films. This is extraordinary because some
television stations were responsible for stirring up hatred
and broadcasting propaganda. Now VideoLetters is being shown
throughout all the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
Since then we have also organized help-lines and about 60
information points where people can go to look on the
internet for information to find friends and family. Bosnian
radio stations now announce when a video letter arrives from
Serbia so that, if willing, its addressee can come forward.
What’s really important is that people are starting to make
their own video letters and put them on the web. We also
have a touring studio set up in a bus, to provide more
access to facilities so people can keep making contact,
building bridges themselves.
For more information:
The New York Human Rights Watch Festival recently
awarded Katarina Rejger and Eric van den Broek the 2005
Nestor Almendros Prize for courage in filmmaking for the
vision for a durable peace in the Middle
East (part I and II)
Interview with Dr Mazin B. Qumsiyeh by Andrea Bistrich
Sharing the Land of Canaan — Human Rights and the
Israeli-Palestinian Struggle is the new book by
Palestinian activist and Yale University professor Mazin B.
Qumsiyeh. It is a critical examination of the core issues of
the conflict and outlines a vision for a lasting peace based
on upholding the principles of human rights for all. Mazin
B. Qumsiyeh is co-founder of a number of organizations and
groups, including the Triangle Middle East Dialogue, the
Carolina Middle East Association, the Holy Land Conservation
Foundation, the Middle East Genetics Association, the
Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and Academics for
Andrea Bistrich interviewed him for Share International.
For the purposes of this website we present some extracts
from this wide-ranging, clear-sighted and positive
interview. (For the complete interview please see Share
International, July/August and September issues.)
Share International: Is the Middle East conflict
primarily a religious conflict or is it a struggle for land,
water and other natural resources?
Mazin Qumsiyeh: The essence of the conflict is a struggle of
the native people to remain on their land in the face of a
relentless campaign of “cleansing” (term introduced by the
Zionist programme in the early 20th century). After nearly
100 years, two-thirds of the native people are refugees or
displaced people and the remainder live in shrinking areas
and are increasingly impoverished and ghettoized.
SI: Who is profiting from the unstable situation in
the Middle East?
MQ: Several groups:
1) The arms industry. The US is the largest exporter
of weapons in the world and 60 per cent of our exports go to
the Middle East.
2) The oil industry. Less US involvement could spell
an end to dependence on oil, development of alternative
energy sources and energy conservation.
3) Think-tanks and their employees in Washington. No
less than 24 such groups receive significant funding from
special interests ranging from oil and military industries
to lobbies for Israel.
4) Many Zionist leaders. Some get significant
attention, hefty lecture fees and adulation. Collectively,
they can maintain the Jewish character of Israel and avoid
needed democratic reforms, separation of state and religion,
and uncontrolled economic development.
5) Religious zealots (whether Christian, Jewish or
Muslim) who believe in doomsday scenarios. These zealots
ignore clear admonitions in their religions calling for
mercy, love and respect for others. The fanatical Jewish
colonizers/settlers in Hebron are a good example of this, as
is Osama bin Laden.
6) Many Arab leaders. A resolution could take away
the only crutch left for their dictatorial powers, which
benefit immensely from lucrative oil and arms deals and
which distract their constituents from local problems.
7) Many US office-holders who receive millions of
dollars in donations for re-election, from pro-Zionist and
other groups who benefit from the status quo. The absence of
a Middle East conflict could deprive them of money from
segments of their voter pool.
SI: Israel has violated over 65 UN Security Council
resolutions and was protected from 37 others by US veto.
Nevertheless Israel receives billions in tax-funded aid by
the US. What is behind this obvious Israeli-US relationship?
MQ: Fortune magazine rated the Zionist lobby in
America as the fourth strongest lobby, and certainly the
first in terms of being a lobby for foreign issues. But I
also think other factors are important which I mentioned
earlier when listing those who profit from the continuing
low level conflict (eg, military industries, oil interests).
SI: How long could Israel go on with the illegal
occupation of Palestine without US backing?
MQ: According to the Israeli author Nehemia Stessler writing
in Haaretz, without US support, Israel would have
been subjected to a trade embargo and “kicked out of every
international forum not to mention the UN” and would not
have lasted long because it is dependent on the import of
raw materials and the export of weapons (mostly US
SI: What steps could lead to the first signs of peace
and democracy in the Middle East?
MQ: Cutting off both military and economic aid and
subjecting Israel to boycotts and divestments in the same
way as was done with apartheid in South Africa is essential
to bring a durable and just peace.
SI: Your main statement and purpose of your book is to
provide a vision for a durable peace based on human rights
supported by international law. What role does the
international community play in this process?
MQ: Simply this: if one wants a ‘road map’ to peace that is
durable and just, then the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights is the best document.
Amnesty said the reason the Oslo accords failed is because
human rights were ignored. The Bush administration’s ‘road
map’ (supported by the ‘Quartet’ — The UN, European Union,
the United States and Russia) is 2,218 words long but lacks
four key words: human rights, international law.
SI: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
which is considered as a sine qua non for peace has been
ratified by most countries, including Israel and the US. Yet
Israel’s systematic human rights violations by the state of
Israel show the opposite. How to deal with this?
MQ: Educating people on these issues and explaining the
undeniable facts is an essential component of building
support for boycotts, divestments, and other methods of
effecting change. Most people get active when they realize
that they were lied to. Governmental hypocrisy and double
standards used to support racism and oppressions are
particularly offensive to most decent people.
SI: Nine million Palestinians are without a country of
their own, most of them impoverished and dispossessed of
their lands and properties. What do Palestinians want in
terms of justice, equal rights and self-determination?
MQ: Palestinians have their country: it is Palestine.
The fact that most are currently dispossessed and many live
in refugee camps or squeezed into smaller and smaller
cantons is not a permanent state. No matter how much time
elapses, Palestinians will continue to fight and resist
until their basic human rights are restored (especially the
right to return to their homes and lands). Such basic rights
are articulated in international human rights covenants (but
are inalienable rights that do not derive their validity
from such covenants). I think having the right to return
implemented and the right to be treated equally regardless
of religion are fundamental rights.
SI: “Peace in the Middle East is possible” is your
positive statement. When?
MQ: The timing could be as short as five to 10 years if
enough people get involved, or as long as 20 to 30 years. I
was surprised at how quickly apartheid in South Africa was
dismantled and how quickly the Berlin wall tumbled. In
retrospect, it would have been difficult to make predictions
on these or other historical struggles (eg, US withdrawal
from Vietnam). As always, no one has a crystal ball, and
many surprises may come our way.
Mazin B. Qumiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan — Human
Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. Pluto
Africa’s biggest aid donors — Africans
An estimated £110 billion of hidden aid is flowing into
Africa every year, as ex-patriot Africans send money home
from their jobs abroad.
With about half of Africa’s 600 million people attempting to
live on less than 65 pence a day, these donations are “an
invisible welfare system that’s keeping Africa going”,
according to Onyekachi Wambu, of the UK-based African
Foundation for Development (AFFORD).
London night-worker Bernard Oppong-Kyekyeku supports a wife
and two children in the city, but from his weekly salary of
£250 still manages to send more than £100 per month back to
his family in Ghana. “Sometimes a relative will need money
to send their child to school, or pay for healthcare, and I
help them out,” he said. “Money that doesn’t buy much here
goes a long way in Ghana.”
However, Wambu said, “we’re starting to see that sending
a relative to school is not much use if it lacks basic
facilities”. Accordingly, Africans are working together to
raise larger sums. In 2004 London-based Ugandan volunteers’
organisation Iteso Welfare Association raised £10,000 in
support of a number of projects, including science equipment
for a Ugandan school of 600 which had only one working
microscope, and funding for medical training. Said
chairperson Martin Osengor: “We need doctors in order to
have a healthy community, so we’re trying to redress that
situation from the UK.”
There has been criticism of such funding, since it reflects
the ‘brain drain’ of African skills to the West. AFFORD’s
chairperson Gibril Faal sees it differently: “We cannot tell
them to stop coming, but we can develop remittances to
ensure the money goes back to the countries where they were
trained — and helps train others.”
“The biggest aid donors to Africa are Africans, although you
wouldn’t believe it from what you hear,” said Wambu.
(Source: Metro, UK)
The voice of the people
Worldwide call for action on poverty
The G8 summit held in July 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland
(UK), was preceded by a massive worldwide call for action on
the issues of poverty and climate change. The UK, as the
current president of the G8 (the eight richest countries of
the world plus Russia) was seeking agreement on aid, debt
relief and trade for Africa, and climate change.
Under the banner ‘Make Poverty History’ hundreds of
charities and groups organized a rally on 2 July which was
attended by 250,000 people, making it the largest ever
demonstration in Scotland. Of all ages and from all walks of
life they travelled from far and wide to meet in Edinburgh
on the Saturday before the summit. Most demonstrators wore
white and made a ‘human chain’ around the city, symbolizing
the white armband that thousands of people have been wearing
in support of the campaign. The mood was upbeat, peaceful
and determined, and a moving and poignant one-minute silence
was held at 3pm.
Various well-known figures from politics, entertainment and
religious groups spoke to the crowd. The political
commentator Jonathan Dimbleby dismissed the idea that
campaigning doesn’t lead to change: “The cynics say you’re
wasting your time. If you listen to the cynics, there will
be no change.”
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic
church in Scotland, read out a message on behalf of Pope
Benedict XVI. “People from the world’s richest countries
should be prepared to accept the burden of debt reduction
for heavily-indebted poor countries, and should urge their
leaders to fulfil the pledges made to reduce world poverty,
especially in Africa, by the year 2015.” Cardinal O’Brien
said his own message for the G8 leaders was to “listen to
the voice of your people: the poor do not seek charity, they
Share International co-workers from Scotland and the north
of England carried banners bearing the slogans “Only Sharing
and Justice will bring Peace”, and held an information stand
in the ‘campaign zone’ and at the G8 Alternatives event of
talks and workshops the following day. Tom Richardson, a
co-worker from Glasgow, said “there was a really positive
atmosphere ... People were genuinely concerned about these
issues and by being part of this event you got a sense of
the growing power of people becoming an influential force in
Also on 2 July large Live8 concerts were held all over
the world and were watched by millions. In contrast to the
previous Live Aid concerts organized by musician and
campaigner Bob Geldof and held 20 years ago in London and
Philadelphia, these concerts were not asking for donations
of money but were aiming to galvanize people and send a
strong message to the leaders meeting in Gleneagles. The
concerts were organized by Bob Geldof, writer Richard Curtis
and musician Bono, and took just five weeks to come
Nelson Mandela’s speech at the Johannesburg concert was
relayed at other concerts across the globe. “While poverty
persists, there is no true freedom,” he said and urged the
leaders of the world “not to look away” but to “act with
courage and vision”. He told the audience: “Sometimes it
falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that
generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task
will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime
against humanity against which I ask all humanity now to
rise up.” At the London concert, where stars such as U2,
Pink Floyd, Madonna, Coldplay and 50 Cent thrilled and moved
audiences, actor Brad Pitt introduced one of the acts by
saying: “Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a
child dies every three seconds simply because he does not
have the drugs that you and I have. Let us be the ones to
say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines
your right to life.”
The concerts and the demonstration were given much media
attention, and the message of the need for justice seemed to
take no time to catch on. There was a mood that change can
and must be effected, and that ordinary people can push for
that change. Millions of people wore white armbands, watched
the concerts, talked about the issues, put up “Make Poverty
History” banners and demonstrated, in a huge and global show
of people-power. Khy Griffin, a student who attended the
concert in Berlin said that the G8 leaders “have to listen
or else we should club together and vote them out. The
strength of feeling here ...is so apparent that they can’t
ignore us.” Jackie Clark from the USA travelled from Georgia
with a friend to attend the Philadelphia Live8 concert and
said: “They told us that the poverty in Africa and the loss
of life is like two 9/11s happening every day. That really
hit home for many Americans. I really felt connected with
the cause. It is difficult for us as a nation to understand
abject poverty and suffering, our experience is so far away
from that reality. Live8 gave everyone a voice and now they
can speak up. It’s a bit like voting in an election. We were
all there to vote for change. We gathered together for one
Several days later the G8 leaders came to an agreement on
the issues of poverty, trade and the environment — with a
mixture of pleasing and disappointing results. In their
final communique, they agreed to double development aid to
$48 billion (£28 billion) by 2010 and write off debt
initially for 18 African countries, as part of a set of
pledges concerning poverty and the environment.
Environmentalists were particularly disappointed, saying the
summit had failed to make any progress on climate change and
blaming President Bush for blocking action by the other
leaders. Campaign groups acknowledged that the summit had
produced an important step forward in terms of ending
poverty but asserted that more needs to be done, and that
people must keep up the pressure on their leaders to keep to
the promises made at the meeting. They also thanked the
public for marching and for making sure that the issues
could not be ignored. Campaigning group Christian Aid
acknowledged the importance of the show of people power in
determining the outcome of the summit: “Whether you wore a
white band, sent an email or were one of the 225,000 people
who came to Edinburgh to make their voices heard, the fact
that global poverty was at the top of this year’s G8 agenda
is thanks to you and thousands like you.” (Sources: The
Guardian, The Observer, BBC Online, UK)
One mother’s stand
A mother whose son was killed in the Iraq war has
galvanized anti-war sentiment in the US by camping out at
President Bush’s ranch in Texas, demanding a personal
meeting with the President. Cindy Sheehan, of Vacaville,
California, said she would like to ask the President to
explain why he says her son died “a noble death”.
Sheehan began her vigil on 6 August 2005, coinciding with
the President’s five-week vacation at his ranch. Her protest
drew national attention as hundreds of peace activists,
other parents who have lost children in the war, interested
members of the public, and numerous media representatives
visited her makeshift “Camp Casey” (named after her son)
near the President’s Texas vacation home. Some individuals
were so moved by news accounts of her vigil that they
travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to join her.
Offended by Bush saying that US soldiers killed in Iraq had
died for a noble cause, Sheehan decided to head for
President Bush’s ranch after speaking at a national
convention of Veterans for Peace in Dallas, Texas. “He said
my son died for a noble cause, and I want to ask him what
that noble cause is,” she said.
“You tell me what the noble cause is that my son died for.
And if he even starts to say ‘freedom and democracy’ I’m
going to say ‘Bull....’ You tell me the truth. You tell me
that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to
make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread
the cancer of Pax Americana imperialism in the Middle East.
You don’t tell me my son died for freedom and democracy,
because we’re not freer. You’re taking away our freedoms.
The Iraqi people aren’t freer, they’re much worse off than
before you meddled in their country.”
Sheehan said she is hopeful about the US public’s view of
the war. “58 per cent of the American public are with us.
We’re preaching to the choir, but the choir’s not singing.
If all of the 58 per cent started singing, this war would
She urged the public to take a stand, one way or the other.
“If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you
get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody
who wants to come home. If you fall on the side that is
against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak
out. But whatever side you fall on, quit being on the fence.
“The opposite of good is not evil, it’s apathy. We have to
get this country off their butts, and we have to get the
choir singing. We need to say ‘Bring our troops home now’.”