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Share International magazine September 2005

Share Internaional magazineThis is an abridged version of
Share International magazine.
Through these electronic files, the magazine Share International makes available a compilation of its contents.
Permission is granted to reproduce these articles in magazine, newspaper or newsletter format, provided that credit is given to Share International and clippings are sent to: PO Box 41877, 1009 DB Amsterdam, Holland. Copyright (c) 2003 Share International. All rights reserved.

Master's article

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 now.

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)

Questions & Answers

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 terrorist attacks?
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 economic/political field.

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 world?
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 again?
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 G8 summit?
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 arena?
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 Hierarchy?
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 sense it?
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 democratic society.

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 private.

Q. In your book The Great 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!

Dear Editor,
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!

Dear Editor,
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 the World.”
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 was Maitreya.)

Voice of wisdom

Dear Editor,
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 ‘someone special’?
AG, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘old woman’ was Maitreya.)


Dear Editor,
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 any path.
“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 peacefully.

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 accepted.
“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.)

Moral support

Dear Editor,
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 anyone.
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 Masters?
AB, Mt Dandenong, Victoria, Australia.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the visitor to the stand was Maitreya.)

Image of perfection

Dear Editor,
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:, UK;, Italy)
(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 cities.

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.)

As long as it takes:

Interview with Brian Haw
by Gill Fry

Brian Haw protesting opposite the Houses of Parliament in LondonSince 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 as Brian’s.
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 International.

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 the road.
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 [2005] 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”.

Brian's huge display attracts much attention to his protest

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 is relative.
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, so intellectual.
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 faith?
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 supermarket].

SI: In Share International we write about sharing as the key to solving world problems. What do you think about sharing?
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 madness.
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 them off.
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 tradition.

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 gain.
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 Christmas day!
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:

Crossing the divide

Music review of Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
by Adrian Jackson

Daniel BarenboimOf 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.

Video letters: building bridges

Interview with Eric van den Broek
by Felicity Eliot

Eric van den Broek1992. 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 untended.
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 the war?
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 physical bridges.

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 shown.

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 hate.
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 on.

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 forward?

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 VideoLetters series.

A vision for a durable peace in the Middle East (part I and II)

Interview with Dr Mazin B. Qumsiyeh by Andrea Bistrich

Dr Mazin B. Qumsiyeh 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 Justice.
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 technology).

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 Press, 2004.
Further information:

Maitreya's priorities

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.”

Demonstration for justice

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 seek justice.”
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 the world.”

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 together.
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 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 purpose.”

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 end.”
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’.”

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First published April 1999,