Benjamin Creme announces the start of Maitreya's open work on video.
Benjamin Creme discusses the emergence of Maitreya, The World Teacher
The search for peace
by the Master , through Benjamin Creme, 13 June 2010
Without doubt, the most important achievement by humanity would be the ending of war. This achieved, men’s energies would be released to tackle the many other pressing problems which beset them today: the millions who starve needlessly in a world of plenty; the precarious ecological imbalance of the planet; the ever-widening gap between the developed rich and the developing poor nations; the growing incidence and fear of terrorism, ever more sophisticated; the hardship and fear engendered by the economic collapse around the world.
Some governments try to cope with some of these difficult problems while still others are main culprits and instigators of them. What can humanity do? How to start when each problem grows out of another, and all seem intractable?
From Our viewpoint, these problems are real and pressing, and stem from one single condition: the separatism which sits like a heavy yoke on the shoulders of humanity and prevents all action in unison. Ideology rather than reason still guides the minds and actions of governments whose decisions affect the lives of all. They seek friends and allies to support their position, and thus are built the power blocks which strive for supremacy in the minds and hearts of men.
Today, this problem is increased by the re-opening of the religious divide between Christianity and Islam. In a growingly secular world, the fundamentalist adherents of both religions are more and more bellicose, raising the temperature of confrontation to ever more dangerous heights. In particular, Islamic terrorism, in complete contradiction to the teaching of the Prophet, has brought a new dimension to the struggle for a peaceful world. How can this process be reversed? There is but one way to grapple with these problems, one which has never been tried but which, at a stroke, would ease the lot of countless millions and bring, at long, long last, true and lasting peace to a world in agony.
Men must realize that they are not separate, never were and never shall be, that they are part of a divine and seamless whole which enfolds us all, to which, in our own way, we give the name of God. Men must realize that God is peace, is justice, sharing and trust, and that their fear is also the fear of their brothers. Maitreya’s task is to show men this truth, and to remind them that at the core of their yearning lies the peace they all desire, waiting to be made manifest.
Q. How many interviews has Maitreya had to
Q. Did they all take place in the USA?
Q. Has Maitreya now been interviewed by other
networks and TV hosts?
Q. Have any interviews taken
place outside of the USA now?
Q. Were there any Masters at your May 2010
lecture in Nagoya, Japan?
Q. Why doesn’t Maitreya appear under
His real name? I think it would be better.
He must know, and will know, that when people respond to His ideas, they want the changes in the world which He is advocating; not because of His status, not because He is the World Teacher. If a World Teacher says we need to share, it is easier to believe the Teacher than to see for oneself that sharing is the only possible answer to our problems.
When you see that sharing is the only way to justice and therefore to peace, you are making an inner spiritual step in awareness. Not everyone sees this. Why do you see this? Because you have this spiritual awareness. It is the result of an inner awareness. But if you just accept it because you have recognized Maitreya it doesn’t mean that you are aware of the need. He has to know that enough people are responding from their own spiritual awareness.
Why do millions of people not share now? Why do people not see inwardly that sharing is a natural thing in a family of brothers? In a home the mother, father and children share everything. Likewise, we are in a home called Earth and we are brothers and sisters. Everything on Earth belongs to everyone and therefore should be shared. Everyone’s needs should be met. But it is not happening. Why? Because people do not have that inner spiritual awareness. They do not make it happen; it does not occur to them.
We have free will, we can choose to share or not. If we decide to follow Maitreya’s advice (whether we know it is His advice or not is immaterial) we will save the world. If we decide, however, that we do not want sharing, if there are not enough people who want change, sharing and justice, then we will destroy ourselves. It is as simple as that.
Maitreya knows that there is a ‘critical mass’ of 1.8 billion people ready to adopt His advocacy. When those 1.8 billion people make known where they stand and demand that their governments change their ways of working and share the resources of the world, it will happen.
Q. What can we do to get rid of capitalism?
Which countries are most stable? The Scandinavian countries. Their balance is around 60 per cent capitalism to 40 per cent socialism, which is still quite far off the best balance but it makes for a more stable society, which has no great wealth or poverty. It makes for a stable society with stable government.
One of the major problems from the economic point of view is that one of the most powerful countries, America, is 95 per cent capitalist to 5 per cent socialist; in Europe it is somewhat less: between 80 and 85 per cent capitalist to 20-25 per cent socialist. The perfect balance of 70 per cent socialism to 30 per cent capitalism works for all. You can see how far off the major nations are and therefore how far out of balance the world is. Japan is about 80 per cent capitalist and 20 per cent socialist. It is not a question of either/or, it is the right balance of both.
Q. (1) Do you personally feel that the recent
explosion on the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting environmental
catastrophe is the final coffin nail, so-to-speak, in the call for more off-shore
drilling in America? (2) May I ask how many hundreds-of-thousands or millions
of gallons of oil have flowed into the ocean from the broken oil pipe off
the southern coast of the US at the time of your answering this question?
Q. (1) Has Maitreya been asked about the situation
between Israel and the Palestinians now that the blockade of Gaza has captured
the world’s attention? If so, (2) What is the general nature of His
response? (3) Has He spoken, in answer to a question, about the oil leak
in the Gulf of Mexico? If so, what is the general nature of His response?
Q. Was the explosion that sunk the oil drilling
rig in April 2010, which has resulted in colossal environmental damage off
the eastern US coast, the result of karma and, if so, may I ask why?
Q. Could you tell us the
title of your painting that is printed on the cover of your new book The
Gathering of the Forces of Light: UFOs and Their Spiritual Mission and
what it represents?
Q. Are the spirit world and the etheric world
Q. If we have an etheric body can we see the
UFOs and space brothers?
Q. On Venus the climate is so extreme – how
can people live there, even if they are in etheric bodies?
Q. When will humanity begin to recognize the
fact of etheric matter?
Q. When will this take place?
Q. What is the Masters’ view of genetically
On 4 June 2010 a number of group members joined many others in Amsterdam in a demonstration calling for justice for the Palestinians sparked by the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla off Gaza. Two of us left the demonstration after some hours to go back to the Share International Information Centre by tram. As we were waiting for a second tram two young women approached us. “I couldn’t help noticing your sign, can you tell me about it, please?” Our signs read: “The Palestinians are us” and “Let the people live”. The taller young woman who did all the talking said she had wanted to attend but had missed it for some reason.
The two girls, in their 20s, looked so familiar. We were both sure we knew them; I remarked on it: “You’re so familiar. Don’t I know you?” Both girls were attractive, smiling and had a lovely manner. The taller one, to my mind, looked more English than Dutch, with a soft heart-shaped face; she had lively, intelligent dark brown eyes. Her companion could have been any nationality with her dark hair, aquiline nose and pale complexion. She was entirely silent but smiled throughout, listening keenly to the exchange.
Why did we go to the demonstration, asked the tall girl. We talked about solidarity, justice, peace, trust, with sharing as the solution to building trust. In other words, without justice for all there can be no trust and also no negotiations in the Middle East. All peoples have equal rights. We are one family and all have the right to food, water, housing, healthcare and so on. She, too, concerned herself with the Middle East, she said.
We were being interviewed and quizzed, put through our catechism by the sweet young woman. “How would this happen?” “What is needed?” We told them about Share International, about Benjamin Creme’s work, about Maitreya, the World Teacher who comes not as a religious teacher but for all. “How will he make himself known?” He is appearing on TV calling for sharing, justice etc. But the world must respond to His ideas, not to Him because of His status. Basically we gave as much Emergence information possible in the few minutes at the tram stop.
At some point I was stuck, looking for a particular Dutch phrase, and she encouraged me to go on in English – which she said modestly she could manage OK. She then continued to question us in excellent English with no trace of an accent.
She went on putting us through our paces; her questions were so intelligent and led us on so that the story unfolded logically. We remarked on how nice it was that she asked so many questions. It was inspiring, she said.
“Why do you think this is important?” “What attracted you to this information?” “How did you hear about it?” She went on constantly bringing us back to our own involvement and commitment: “Now this is a personal question, I know we don’t have much time standing here at the bus-stop, but what was your journey – what brought you to this story? How did it begin?” I answered.
We were still telling them about Benjamin Creme’s books and Share International magazine, and our website, as all four of us boarded the tram. We sat down a little ahead of them. A man took exception to my text and began berating us loudly. But just then the tall young woman got up, walked through the tram to where we were and said with some emphasis: “I just wanted to thank you for sharing.”
We left the tram and I peered in, wanting to wave goodbye. I should have been able to see them although they were sitting on the other side of the tram. Perhaps I didn’t look carefully enough, but either I didn’t see them or they weren’t there.
Were our sweet persistent interrogators simply inquisitive young women?
M.L. and F.E., Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the taller, talkative ‘woman’ was Maitreya, the quieter ‘woman’ was the Master Jesus.)
Today, 4 June 2010, a number of co-workers from various Reappearance groups in the Netherlands joined the protest in Amsterdam against Israel’s outrageous attack on the Turkish aid flotilla heading for Gaza earlier this week.
We seemed to make a bit of a sight amidst a majority of Turkish and Arab protesters, and many people and photographers seemed to like our signs, which said things like “Let the people live!”, “Palestinians are us”, and “Stop killing our brothers!”
At one point during the protest meeting an attractive Arab-looking young woman, about 30 years of age and wearing dark blue harem trousers, a beige cardigan, a shawl half covering her head and carrying a blue backpack, came up to us teary-eyed and said something like: “I just want to tell you how moved I am by seeing you here and by your signs. We really are all one. Can I just give you a hug?” She held out her arms as if she wanted a group hug, and since she was standing in front of me I leaned over and hugged her, saying “Thank you!” The scene felt like a living example of brotherhood and unity, and her heartfelt remarks and gesture moved us all.
She went on to say something about Jesus who had also come and had given his blood, and that Gretta Duisenberg, a well-known Dutch activist for the Palestinian cause who was mistreated at a rally earlier this week, couldn’t be here today. After referring to Mrs Duisenberg as a mother, she said: “I’m just an unknown mother.” She moved along among the protesters in front of us, where a woman photographer wanted to take her picture, but she refused. After speaking to some other people she sat down on a concrete block for a while before walking off. Could it be that the young Arab woman was not just another protester?
G.A., Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘young Arab woman’ was Maitreya.)
At Benjamin Creme’s Tokyo Lecture in 2010, the 2,070 seats capacity Hibiya Public Hall became quickly full to capacity immediately after the door opened. Thirty minutes later, a long queue was formed at the entrance by the people who were not able to get in.
Since we were concerned about the people having to stand outside in a queue for one or two hours till the intermission, we offered to prepare a waiting list and record their mobile phone numbers, so that we could call them as soon as someone left. As more and more people came to stand in line, I felt I wanted to do something to help out, so I walked around among the people in line and explained the situation.
As I was handing out the numbered ‘tickets’, a middle-aged man with a red shirt, who was standing toward the front of the line, spoke to me. “I wrote down my mobile phone number, but when will you let us know? What if my turn is taken by the time I come back after I receive your phone call? Won’t it be unfair?”
He was gentle and frank. He said, looking at his watch: “Only because I was five minutes late! I thought the small two folded pamphlets were tickets, so I went back to the station where I found them. It took me over one and a half hours. So I was too late to get in!” I was very sorry for him. He also said: “Why isn’t there any mention on the pamphlet of the Transmission Meditation workshop scheduled for the next day?” His remark surprised me, for I didn’t pay attention to its content. He said: “This event is run entirely by volunteers, isn’t it?” I replied: “Yes, I am involved in this because this information is really wonderful. Today, I came from Okayama (a four-hour train ride), wanting to help out.”
He said: “I really want to hear this lecture, but it may not be possible judging from such a long line of people waiting for it!” He looked very disappointed. I recommended him to go to the book corners in the lobby to browse through or to come to Michiko Ishikawa’s lecture (which was quickly arranged) in Tokyo in June. I also told him about the lecture in Osaka the following week and handed him the information sheet.
Eventually, over 130 extra people were able to come inside the hall, but I didn’t see this man. I wondered what happened to him, because he seemed so eager to hear. Was he just a nice person?
H.N., Okayama, Japan.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was the Master in Tokyo. He didn’t come inside the hall.)
On 9 May 2010, at the public Transmission Meditation in Tokyo with Benjamin Creme, my sister and I were working at the table where Maitreya’s ‘hand’ cards and Benjamin Creme’s Esoteric Art (mandala) booklets were displayed. Not far from us was the book table. The hallway was quite small and was very crowded with the people who came to attend the Meditation meeting.
Among the crowd was a man who caught my attention. He was of medium build with grey hair, wearing a grey jacket and grey trousers, around 60 years of age. He first went to the book table and was talking to a staff member. I overheard their conversation, which intrigued me. He was asking her: “ Sharing…. What do you share?”, to which the staff member answered: “Everything.” To which, the man immediately asked: “Life, too?” After a pause, pointing to each of the staff members at the table, he said: “Life is shared, isn’t it?”
The man then came to our table and picked up a copy of the mandala art booklet and flipped through the pages. I said to him: “It is Mr Creme’s lithograph booklet.” He said: “Modern mandalas are too graphic.” I understood that he was not referring to Mr Creme’s paintings. Then he asked, “What is this?”, pointing to one of the images printed on the cover of the booklet, which was titled ‘OM overshadowing the Earth’. It was such an unexpected question that I was taken aback for a moment, but answered: “It is the OM.” He then asked me with a challenging but serious tone: “What is OM?” I felt I needed to answer him as best as I could and said: “It is the first word of Creation.” I noticed he was searching for yet another answer, so I went on to say: “It is God.” Then the man pressed his palms together in front of his face and said: “OM is Gassho. It’s gratitude.” His voice was very clear and vigorous, and full of dignity and confidence. He then placed some coins in our donation box, saying: “Here is a widow’s mite.”
My sister and I were overwhelmed by this man and we felt very grateful. It is hard to explain in words, but I felt I was given some light leading to a new awareness. (1) Was this man a special person? (2) Does OM include the meaning of gratitude, as the man said?
M.M., Iwate-ken, Japan.
(Benjamin Creme‘s Master confirms that the man was Maitreya and that OM also means gratitude.)
On 9 May 2010, on the day of Benjamin Creme’s public Transmission Meditation, I was working as a volunteer in charge of Maitreya’s ‘hand’ cards and my twin sister Mariko was in charge of the Esoteric Art booklets, when a man of around 60 came to our table. He was rather short with grey hair, wearing a jumper over a blue and grey striped polo-shirt. Pointing to the painting of ‘OM Overshadowing the Earth’, he asked my sister: “What is this?”
I was standing beside my sister, watching closely his eyes while listening to their conversation. I could not keep my eyes off him, because in spite of his quite ordinary appearance, he had extraordinary eyes. They were not only piercing, but at the same time very deep, giving me an impression that they were seeing beyond this physical realm. His eyes looked to me deeper than the sea and higher than the sky. I was very moved by them.
Some days later, I attended the Share Japan Conference. When Mr Creme mentioned that some artists paint watered down paintings, and people often live “watered down lives,” I remembered this man’s eyes. I strongly thought that we should not water down our words, paintings or writings, and above all, we should not live watered down (lukewarm) lives. I felt deeply that I would like to choose a way of living as deep as the sea and as high as the sky. I wished to be a kind of person who could have such deep and lofty eyes.
R.M., Miyagi-ken, Japan.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man with extraordinary eyes was Maitreya.)
UFO sightings worldwide
In March 2007 Benjamin Creme’s Master wrote: “Important events are taking place in many parts of the world. People everywhere will be astonished by the reports. These will include sightings, in unprecedented numbers, of spacecraft from our neighbouring planets, Mars and Venus in particular. Nothing like this increased activity, over vast areas of the Earth, will have been seen before.” UFO sightings are now reported so frequently that not a day passes, it seems, without someone somewhere in the world reporting seeing a UFO. We here offer a selection of some of the most significant recent sightings from around the world.
Naples, Italy – Naplesnews.com reports that as many as 75 people
gathered in a small Italian community to watch a mysterious lighted object
that has been seen in the sky over the Isles of Capri, between Marco Island
and Naples, Italy, since 11 March 2010. Witnesses describe the object as “a
glowing globe or a box either glowing from the inside or framed with lights”. (Benjamin
Creme’s Master confirms the object was a spacecraft from Mars.)
South-western Arizona, USA – In April 2010, a father and son
soft white, single colour ribbon, flying silently across the sky” while relaxing in their backyard at 9pm. Soon afterwards they
saw a second object directly overhead and moving in the same direction – south
to north. Then came a third object which “seemed very large, quiet with
a faint white, luminescent light emanating from it. It was as if we were seeing
something that was almost completely invisible, except for the curved leading
edge of the crescent.” The men could not say how large the objects were,
but thought they flew at high altitude, which would mean they were very large. (Benjamin
Creme’s Master confirms the object was a spacecraft from Venus.)
Moray, Scotland – Heather and Karl King were in their garden at about 10.30pm on 2 May 2010 when they spotted an unusual phenomenon in the sky from their home in Moray, near Inverness, Scotland, UK. “It was an orange flame and was hovering. It came towards us then the light died out and it became a black sphere and started to spin towards the ground but we lost it in the cloud. There was no noise.” Mr King said: “As an RAF man I’m an aviation enthusiast. I know planes when I see them; I have never seen anything like this before.… UFOs are not something I have really thought about but this was definitely unexplained and it was definitely not a Chinese lantern.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the object was a spacecraft from Mars.)
Toronto, Canada – YouTube user graiz23 posted a video clip
of a cylindrical craft floating in the sky and into a cloud in clear daylight
over Toronto, Canada, which they captured on 6 May 2010. They write: “A
few neighbours and I have seen this object flying over our neighbourhood for
a while now. I have been trying to capture it on tape for more than a year...
I don’t know what it is but it definitely doesn’t look like anything
man-made.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the object was
a spacecraft from Mars.)
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA – During a live camera shot at the end of Cincinnati’s WLTW (Ohio, USA) 11pm news broadcast in early May 2010 an orb of light was seen streaking across the night sky. The angle at which it moved could only mean it wasn’t a meteor. Other explanations were ruled out as well, which left a local expert to declare: “A UFO, that’s what we’ll call it. That’s my official decree.” (Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms the object was a spacecraft from Mars.)
Norway 'star' spiral
Australian ‘star’ spiral
The spiral light seen across eastern
Australia in the early morning of 5 June has been confirmed by
Benjamin Creme’s Master to be the ‘star’ which
heralds the emergence of Maitreya, the World Teacher into full
Scientists are attempting to explain away this latest spiral phenomenon as the effects of a private spacecraft launched in the US. Witnesses and many other commentators have pointed out that this spiral light is reminiscent of the spiral formation which appeared over Norway in December 2009 and which was confirmed by Benjamin Creme’s Master to have been the ‘star’ heralding Maitreya’s emergence. At the time, Benjamin Creme’s Master also noted that many more such spectacular celestial signs could be expected.
People out in the early morning, about 5.45am, were treated to an amazing spectacle. Reports of the spiral star sighting quickly reached The Sunday Mail, radio stations, the police and even search and rescue services. Officials at agencies from the weather bureau to the Defence Department could offer no explanation but all who saw it agreed that it was extraordinary. UFO Research Queensland spokesman Pino Pezzimenti said it was “extremely unusual” for a UFO to be seen over such a wide area and for such a long time. Witnesses were quick to compare the light with a similar recent sighting in Norway.
Sergeant John Garner was trying to rescue his cat from his roof in north Brisbane when the UFO whirled across the sky. “The light was very unusual in that it consisted of a central light surrounded by a spiral anti-clockwise halo,” he said. “The speed and direction remained constant during the flyover, perhaps 40 seconds in duration.”
Ben Harris – who has written magazine articles on UFOs – had just taken his wife to work at Taigum in Brisbane’s north when he saw the light and took 18 photographs with his mobile phone camera. “It’s absolutely freaky. I believe I’m a good sceptical person and if you ask me what it is, I’ll honestly tell you I don’t know,” he said.
Jeff Hannah, from Redcliffe, was out jogging with friends when he saw the “perfect spiral of light”. “I realised soon it was not the moon but that it was shooting like a comet from the southern sky and off into the northwest,” he said.
A police spokeswoman said: “We have received calls from the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.” And ABC News Online received dozens of emails, pictures and videos from those who claim to have witnessed the huge white light.
A number of people from Morayfield and Caboolture in Queensland have reported that they too saw a white light in the sky about 5.50am.
“It was just the one light. I just came home from my walk and I happened to look up in the sky, and here it was racing across the sky,” Linda told 612 ABC Brisbane. “It was spectacular.” She described the light as like a lollipop swirl.
Another eye-witness from Balmoral says he saw the light while he was on a ferry terminal on the Brisbane River. “It certainly had that lollipop-type swirl ... but it was travelling low and fairly fast, and as it went past me and I looked up, it looked like a row of lights, maybe four lights,” he said.
A caller from Pine Mountain told ABC radio in Brisbane that she saw the lights shortly before 6am. “There was no noise. It was like bands of ribbon coming out of it and it looked like it was coming through a cloud, yet there were no clouds.” (Source: couriermail.com; ABC News Online, Australia)
On Sunday 23 May 2010 I noticed from my window a beautiful bright star and decided to take some photographs of it. As I was attaching my camera to the tripod I noticed through the window a bright orange light. When I got outside the orange light had gone. I continued to photograph the bright star and to my surprise the orange light appeared again. I was delighted as on my screen I could see both the star and the orange light.
I didn’t think the orange light was a plane as there was no flashing light visible as it moved from left to right and eventually faded away.
What was the bright star and the orange light?
C. E., Hullbridge, Essex, UK.
(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the orange light was Maitreya’s Lightship, and the bright star was Maitreya’s ‘star’.)
See Share International April 2010, p18, for Benjamin Creme’s answer to the question: “What does Maitreya need His light-ship for?”
Bright lights were filmed for several weeks in the night sky over Kadina, northwest of Adelaide, Australia, in June 2010 and reported in local television news. Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘bright light’ was the ‘star’. (Source: Bigpondnews.com)
You can read more about the 'star' on a separate page, please click.
The Gathering of the Forces of Light – UFOs and their Spiritual Mission
The Gathering of the Forces of Light is a book about UFOs, but with a difference. It is written by someone who has worked with them and knows about them from the inside. Benjamin Creme sees the presence of UFOS as planned and of immense value for the people of Earth.
According to Benjamin Creme, the UFOs and the people in them are engaged on a spiritual mission to ease humanity’s lot and to save this planet from further and faster destruction. Our own planetary Hierarchy, led by Maitreya, the World Teacher, now living among us, works tirelessly with their Space Brothers in a fraternal enterprise to restore sanity to this Earth.
Creme shows how all the planets of our solar system are inhabited, but on physical levels beyond present human sight, the so-called etheric planes. The spacecraft are constructed on the same principle; they too are in etheric matter and have complete control of energies in space. Our Space Brothers are responsible not only for crop circles but also for preparing the way on Earth for a new technology of light which will give us unlimited power from the sun. When we banish war forever and are endeavouring to live in right relationship, that technology will be ours. For the Spiritual Hierarchy of both our own and the sister planets of our system, right human relationship involves the end of competition and the beginning of an era of co-operation with sharing, justice and freedom as its hallmarks.
The book also addresses the emergence of new and more inclusive forms of education, which will be needed as we experience a huge shift in consciousness and a growing awareness of the richness of life ahead, unfettered by the stranglehold of commercialism and the dominance of market forces.
Fantasy? Benjamin Creme writes with such cogency and authority that it is
difficult to gainsay his message. We leave it to the readers to come to their
own conclusion; in any case, according to the author, the truth will soon be
apparent for all to see, awakening humanity to their own divinity and the establishment
of the rule of spiritual law on Earth.
The Gathering of the Forces of Light: UFOs and their Spiritual Mission
Publication date: July 2010
Price: US$16, £12, 240 pp
Interview with Polly Higgins
by Gill Fry
Polly Higgins, a Scottish environmentalist, campaigner and barrister, has launched a campaign to declare ‘ecocide’ – the mass destruction of ecosystems – the 5th international crime against peace, putting it alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity. When adopted by the United Nations this will have a profound effect on industries blamed for widespread damage to the environment. Higgins gives the term ‘ecocide’, a word already recognized by dictionaries, a legal definition: “The extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystems(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.”
Higgins’ definition of ecocide includes damage done to any species, which would prevent prosecutions getting caught up in legal arguments about whether humans were harmed, as happens with current environmental cases. She has support in the UN and European Commission, and among climate scientists, environmental lawyers and international campaign groups.
Higgins has already had success at a UN conference proposing a Universal Declaration for Planetary Rights, modelled on the Human Rights Declaration. This has now been adopted by the Bolivian government, which will propose a full members’ vote at the UN.
Polly Higgins was interviewed by Gill Fry for Share International magazine on 12 June 2010.
Share International. How do you see the current world situation?
Polly Higgins. It is the end of an old world system.
We are moving to a far more holistic world and the ending of systems that ultimately
don’t work, into a new era that’s not just about accountability
and transparency but also about genuine understanding and valuing each other,
nature and the world. It’s getting away from the whole concept of commoditizing
the planet, of valuing it solely for the money you can make out of it. But
if you value the planet as a living being then you start taking responsibility
and that is a dramatic shift in approach. More and more people are understanding
that the planet is a living being.
SI. In these chaotic times masses of people have little control over their lives and destinies. How do we reinstate those rights?
PH. If we go back to first principles in terms of international law and the whole concept of self-determination, it’s just been overridden by big business. Indigenous rights have been trampled on in favour of the private, corporate interest. If you’re stuck in valuing only private interest then that’s really about valuing property and consumerism – “what’s in it for me” mentality, whereas if you embrace societal interest you start to value each other and our interrelationship with each other. They are very different approaches: one is coming from a lower consciousness, and the other from a higher consciousness. You begin to understand the connectedness and interdependency of all life. Bees are a very good example. We have colonies collapsing and yet we are hugely reliant on bees. Most people don’t realize that bees pollinate 70 per cent of our food stocks, so to lose our bees we lose our ability to feed ourselves. We are interdependent; we need them and now they need our help.
SI. Can you tell us how you became involved in your campaigning work?
PH. I was practising as a barrister, dealing with a case that had gone on for three years. I had advised my client to settle but they ignored that advice and I was fighting a case I didn’t believe in, for a client motivated by greed, in front of judges who treated the whole experience as bear-baiting. I thought, why am I not working for what I care so much more about – the planet?
I started my research and found that environmental law was too predicated on compromise. It was piecemeal, reactive and put in place after the event. It protected private interest rather than society with legislation based on permits to pollute – not addressing pollution at point of source. In fact environmental legislation from the 19th century onwards was predicated on providing for industry to continue with ‘business as usual’, albeit with a few modifications. This just wasn’t acceptable but I didn’t know where to start.
Ecocide – the fifth international crime
SI. Please can you explain the term ‘ecocide’?
PH. Ecocide is a word that’s been around since the 1970s, so it’s not a new word but it has never been legally defined or used in legislation. At the end of World War II an international lawyer Raphael Lempkin realized that we need to create a new language to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust. He literally got on his soap box around the world explaining what the term ‘genocide’ meant. As a result the Nuremburg Trials were set up. There were a couple of crucial legal principles he put in place: that genocide is an international crime and nobody in the world could escape liability.
This is key with countries that deny acceptance of international crimes. For instance, General Pinochet in 1998 visited London and a Spanish magistrate delivered an extradition order to Bow Streets magistrates. Chile said they weren’t signed up for Crimes Against Humanity but the House of Lords said it was an international crime and therefore applies to all. It was a very important testing of that principle because nations and Heads of State try and sidestep their responsibilities even though crimes have been committed.
After the Nuremberg Trials there was the Cold War, and there was no international criminal court until the late 1990s when ad-hoc courts were put in place following the genocide in Rwanda. The United Nations’ International Criminal Court (ICC) was put in place in 2002, which is a permanent court, with the first case trial in 2006. We have only had four years of dealing with international crime. It is a new idea and we are discovering that it is very effective.
SI. Which crimes can be dealt with there?
PH. We have four international crimes: Crimes Against
Humanity, War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes of Aggression in the run up to war.
SI. So there has never been a United Nations’ body to deal with such crimes before?
PH. There is the International Court of Justice
that deals with member state issues: mainly trade disputes, but not about crime;
primarily it gives legal opinions on trade issues. Member states will not take
other member states to court for criminal activity and the public don’t
have a voice. Whereas the new ICC has four ways to initiate procedures: a member
state can submit a request; the Security Council can recommend action be taken;
the prosecutor can raise it of his/her own motion; or a person can submit a
request that a prosecution be levied.
SI. So if thousands of people proposed that, for example, George Bush or Tony Blair should be prosecuted for the illegality of the Iraq war, then the ICC would investigate it?
PH. It doesn’t need to take thousands. It can take a letter from one person for the ICC to decide whether or not they are going to investigate it. The biggest problem is they only have capacity for a limited number of cases at any given time, but it’s proving to be hugely successful. Countries are more reluctant to go to war now because they can now be held to account and be prosecuted by the court if it’s illegal. It is creating boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable.
The interesting thing about ecocide is that we have a kind of moral awareness-gap happening at corporate, banking and political levels. For instance, The Royal Bank of Scotland is now 85 per cent owned by the taxpayer, and has as a result of the government buy-out become a ‘people’s bank.’ It doesn’t act like a ‘people’s bank’. It is one of three banks in the UK that have put millions of pounds into the tar sands unconventional oil extraction in Alberta, Canada, where indigenous people and wildlife are dying due to the toxic pollution that unconventional tar extraction brings.
Another British company RBS finances is Vedanta, who mine aluminium to make tin-foil and armaments. Their plans are to completely raze a sacred mountain [Niyamgiri] in India to extract the aluminium. The indigenous peoples are completely up in arms. At the bank’s AGM in April 2010, in Edinburgh, a documentary-maker asked why it was bankrolling our money, the people’s money, into a project that was enormously destructive and damaging. The head of RBS laughed and said it was not a criminal activity, that they are perfectly entitled to do so. This shows a consummate lack of understanding of what is acceptable in terms of damage and destruction. It demonstrates it will take an international law for a CEO to say: “I can’t go down that route, because I’m going to be directly accountable to my shareholders, directors, and investors and they’re not going to accept me doing something that’s criminal or is going to put my own head on the block.”
We need to wake up and fundamentally reassess what we consider to be acceptable damage and destruction to the planet. If we don’t then we are on a roller-coaster ride to what Sir David King calls a “century of resource wars”. In fact we have started already: the Iraq war was a war fought for oil.
SI. We have had huge advances in alternative technology like tidal wave power and solar power. Can these supply our energy needs?
PH. We’ve got the solutions, and even if we don’t, we can invent them. We didn’t know how to get to the moon when America decided that they’d get to the moon in 10 years with the Apollo Mission. Not only did they crack how to do it, they got there in eight years! This is about the power and ability of humans to co-create the world we want to live in. Set the intent, and make it happen. This is how the world works.
William Wilberforce argued for the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. He quickly realized there was no point saying: “Do you mind using your slave a little less?” That’s akin to energy efficiency today, because slaves were a form of human energy. He knew that you had to go upstream to the source of the problem and do three things: pull the subsidies that are propping up the system (the sugar plantations where many were put to work were massively subsidized); make slavery illegal; and put in new subsidies for companies to reinvent the wheels. It’s not about putting the companies out of business but redirecting them, shifting their business interests to non-destructive practices.
SI. So there are parallels today?
PH. Yes, Wilberforce came up against the same arguments from companies: abolishing slavery would be uneconomic; it would mean loss of jobs; the public demanded it; and it was a necessity. They put offers on the table to cap the amount of trade, to give the slaves better conditions, to create a form of auctioneering and trading. The difference between 200 years ago and now is that all their suggestions were laughed out of Parliament. Today in climate change negotiations we have actually applied all those industry suggestions (carbon permits, cap and trade provisions). We know that under the Kyoto Protocol the clean development mechanisms and carbon trading have been a failure and that emissions are still rising. All you’re doing is shunting the problem elsewhere – while profiteering. The planet has been commoditized. Instead, view the planet as a living being and you start to take responsibility.
Once you start seeing slaves as human beings with equal rights, you start taking responsibility. Wilberforce gave up his life to fight that fight, and lived to see legislation put in place two days before he died. He knew that the 300 companies involved in slavery could reinvent their wheels very fast and they did. Overnight they moved from trading in slaves to trading in tea and china, or policing the seas. There was a huge shift in consciousness from the year before, when it was de rigueur to have your slave in chains, to it being utterly unacceptable within society. We need to learn the lessons from history and improve upon them.
SI. It also shows how a great idea can take years to be championed and then suddenly, overnight, it’s accepted.
PH. Yes, it’s the tipping point. We’re at such a point now – our planet cannot sustain this for many more years. The thing with tipping points is that it doesn’t have to be 50 per cent of the population that gets it. Today, with our ability to assess information and knowledge and spread it across the world, you get a sense of when the uptake will happen and how quickly. Shaping ideas, and providing a new language, is part of getting to that tipping point. So one of my starting points was to get the word ‘ecocide’ into use. We put the website up at the end of April 2010 and when The Guardian newspaper published an article about it we had 28,000 hits that first weekend.
SI. The media regularly publishes reports from climate change sceptics. How much opposition is there for your ideas and where does it mainly come from?
PH. I don’t pay much attention to those who write articles protesting against my proposals; instead I see it as part of the debate and view it as a productive way of disseminating the information. There are those who think ecocide is a law for prosecuting climate deniers but this is not a law for prosecuting people just because they have an opinion. This is not directly about climate change, but about stopping planetary destruction – in other words criminalizing the source of the problem. Climate change is just a symptom of that.
The Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights
SI. When did the idea for the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights germinate?
PH. I was researching new legislation for solar power mirrors in the desert. We only need 0.3 per cent of the world’s deserts to give us all our energy and 90 per cent of the world lives within 2,000 km of a desert. So we can build concentrating solar power plants in the deserts to give us all clean energy. Then I thought what’s to stop the ExxonMobils of the world coming along and just grabbing the land? How do we protect the rights of that land and in fact the planet as a whole? How do we put in place a duty of care for the planet?
The law would have to be international and universal and give rights to the planet. So that would be a ‘Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights’. I started researching and discovered that there was 30 years of thought and written material on nature’s rights. Once we go outside the Western world way of thinking we see this is how indigenous people view the world.
My husband and I went for two weeks to the west coast of Scotland where we talked about what the top 10 Rights would look like, and literally put them together in 20 minutes. We were talking through these ideas, and wondering: “How on earth do I get a really big idea like this to the United Nations?” Three days later, while up a hillside, I pulled out my mobile phone. It had reception, which nowhere in that area had and it suddenly rang. It was a girl from the United Nations! She was phoning to invite me to speak at a conference on ‘Women and the Environment’. I said: “No, there is something far more important the United Nations needs to be considering – and it just so happens I am working on it: it is the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights. Find whoever you need to ask and tell them that’s what I am going to talk about. But be quick because it’s going to rain and I am up a mountain and this is the only place we have reception for 150 miles!” She came back in 15 minutes and said: “Forget that conference, we want you at our big International Climate Change Conference as Number Two speaker.” I came off the phone and said: “I think my question was just answered!”
I treated it like a legal brief: my client was the planet and I had five months to deliver. I dropped everything and completely researched it. The weekend before the conference I stayed up all night writing my speech, an accumulation of my thoughts and research of the past two years. It felt like I was doing the most radical thing in the world. Five conferences took place on five continents, and this one was for Europe and held in Belfast. I gave my speech and felt very exposed because it felt like I was talking about something not in the frame of reference for regular climate change discussion.
SI. How did the audience respond?
PH. I remember giving my speech and people clapped. We broke for coffee and as I stood up to go I saw that literally half the conference was coming towards the speakers’ table. I turned round but there was nothing behind me, so where were all these people going I thought? They were all coming to speak to me! It was truly amazing!
The rest of the conference just focused round this idea, and repeatedly people said they had spent their whole lives going to climate change conferences but this was the first big idea that could really change the world. They taped it and it was played at the UN in New York.
I came home and thought where do I go from here? I had in mind there were a few top NGOs that I needed to be in touch with, one of them being Earth Charter International. By the end of that week by chance somebody had sent me the email introducing me to the Head of Earth Charter UK.
Polly was invited to attend an international conference the following weekend in the Netherlands where she met more crucial contacts to extend her campaign.
PH. I got very stressed the first few months thinking,
how am I going to get a nation state to take this on board? Who do I need to
target? Then I thought: “I don’t need to worry – it will
happen.” I thought the member state would probably be an indigenous nation
like Bolivia – and it was.
SI. So now the Declaration needs to be proposed at the United Nations?
PH. Yes, it is about a member state proposing the Declaration to the General Assembly at the United Nations. The drafting of the Declaration is already pretty much done and then it will go to the vote. Every head of state will have their UN representative to say yea or nay or abstain. I expect that within the next 18 months to two years it will be up for the vote.
Bolivia is really pushing for it and will make
sure that it is kept very much on the radar. It needs people putting pressure
on the governments to support it.
SI. Share International talks about the need for sharing resources on a global scale to address the injustice of our present economic system. Do you think this could happen quickly if there is enough political will?
PH. Everyone presumes things won’t happen overnight, but actually they do happen incredibly fast. When it is an emergency, it does happen – literally – overnight. In World War II the Americans came late into the war effort and needed planes. Their aviation industry was not set up to make mass-produced planes so they asked Henry Ford to make planes [instead of cars]. When he refused the government said: “We have passed emergency legislation. It is now illegal for you to make cars.” That is why it is called ‘emergency legislation’. You need the political will to make that decision – fast!
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by Alexander Douwes Dekker
Humanity has long pondered over and still heatedly debates one of the most fundamental and contentious issues of our existence: does human free will exist at all? And if so, what qualifies our free will and what conditions it? And how does our free will relate to the laws of Nature or to the Will of Deity? This issue is becoming more and more central to our daily lives as we face the world crisis with increasing intensity.
Many myths, legends and sacred texts of the great ancient civilizations touch upon the issue of free will. Usually they depict a hero of royal birth, who is tested by the gods who determine his fate. In the Ancient world during the age of Aries and before, the issue of human free will centred on the fate of emperors, kings and princes, who were described as being of divine lineage and therefore destined to rule.
With the advent of the Piscean age and the spread of the teachings of the Buddha in the East and of the Christ in the West, the perception of free will gradually began to change. In the polytheistic traditions of the Far East, religious teachers and thinkers have approached and still approach the issue through different interpretations of the great laws of Karma and Reincarnation. In the monotheistic traditions of the Near East and the West, theologians and philosophers have discussed and still discuss various concerns relating personal will and the Will of God in terms of sin and morality. When human free will is considered, it is usually limited to the personal choice of privileged individuals of either submitting to the religious tradition at hand (and most traditions still present themselves as the one and only true faith with the exclusion of all others) or rejecting it. This, it is believed, leads to either eternal salvation and liberation or to eternal suffering and damnation.
Over the recent centuries the issue of human free will has entered into the domains of politics, education, economics, the arts, scientific research, technology and the media. It has increasingly played its part in political revolutions: the abolition of slavery, the start of women’s emancipation, the formulation of universal human rights, social awareness and reform, public opinion, and today in modern culture and new understandings of psychology.
The issue of human free will has broken out of its singularly religious mould and has pervaded human living as an ideal at least. At the same time, our abuse of free will is at the root of the world crisis in which millions suffer needlessly of hunger, disease and abject poverty; in which we pollute our environment, damage our ecology and disrupt our climate; and in which we cause violence through crime, terror and wars. More and more we are becoming aware of the fact that the just use of our free will is the key to the solutions, implemented through willing co-operation. Goodwill is at the heart of beneficial changes everywhere.
Interestingly, human free will is still not accepted as an established scientific fact, despite recent advances in the neurosciences and psychology. Many scientists today believe – often rather religiously – that the choices people make, and all thoughts leading to these choices, are the direct result of behavioural conditioning, which itself is said to be the direct result of brain activity. In other words: they assume that by now, human free will has been proven to be non-existent and that mind activity is identical to brain activity.
In the esoteric teachings of our spiritual Hierarchy, as presented in the writings by Alice A. Bailey, Helena Roerich, Benjamin Creme and others, numerous statements on human free will can be found. These references are both from the personal perspective of individual human evolution and from the perspective of humanity as a whole, as a Centre within the planetary scheme. This is in line with the Aquarian dispensation as we enter the New Age, in which we, humanity as a whole, are gradually becoming aware of our true energetic and esoteric function, both in relation to Hierarchy, the planetary Heart Centre and to Shamballa, the Centre where the Will of God is known. On an individual level, millions of people are becoming aware of their free will, under the increasing stimulus of their souls, leading to action on behalf of our shared humanity and our planet as a whole.
In Esoteric Psychology, Volume II (dictated by the Master Djwal Khul to Alice Bailey; p29) it is conveyed as follows:
“It might be said that within the limits of the intelligent direction of the intelligent man there is free will, as far as activity in the human kingdom is concerned. Where no mind activity is present and where there is no power to discriminate, to analyse and to choose, there is no free will. Within the vaster processes of the Plan, however, as it includes the entire planetary evolution, there is for the tiny unit, man, no free will. He is subject, for instance, to what we call “acts of God”, and before these he is helpless. He has no choice and no escape. Herein lies a hint upon the working of karma in the human kingdom, karma and intelligent responsibility are inextricably woven and interwoven.”
In Maitreya’s Teachings – The Laws of Life (p23) the often complex issue of individual free will is addressed in a most direct and simple way. Maitreya says: “Be sincere in your spirit, be honest in your mind, be detached.” When you surrender the Self to mind, spirit and body (when you identify with thought, power and matter), everything becomes predestined. This means that you are subject to conditioning, your thoughts and acts are the result of conditioning, you lose your free will. Thus attachment is loss of freedom. Detachment is freedom. “Even when you see Me, do not run after Me. I have not come to create followers. If you parade Me, you do not know who I am. What you experience yourself is your wealth.”
Agni Yoga (366) offers some more insight into the importance that Hierarchy places on free will: “Searching for a broad application of the Teaching will give experience to the hand. But one can easily destroy an expected result, for Our voice from afar is like whisper of the reeds. The free will that rebels should not be opposed. We may regret and once again whisper, but the law of free will, as an inalienable characteristic of man, guarantees his dignity.
“When I say: “Do not coerce,” I have in mind precisely the law of free will. Who would bend a sapling that is tensed with its own will? And would not the recoil be worse than the bending? Thus, find ways to attract people without molesting their will.”
The teachings of Hierarchy (presented for our consideration only) underline that our free will is sacred, though limited, and essential to our evolution as unique human beings within the planetary scheme. We as humanity are being approached by Hierarchy under law which ensures that our free will cannot be infringed. Maitreya, the embodiment of Love on our planet, leads the way in this great approach as the world crisis in all its aspects culminates.
Just after Maitreya emerged from His ancient retreat in the Himalayas and took up residence in the Asian community of London, He emphasized the importance of human free will (Message No.3, 22 September 1977):
“Allow Me to help you. Allow me to show you the way – forward, into a simpler life where no man lacks; where no two days are alike; where the Joy of Brotherhood manifests through all men. Mine is the task to lead and guide, but you, willingly, must follow. Otherwise, I can do nothing. My hands are tied by Law. The decision rests with mankind.”
by Graham Peebles
In July 2009 Graham Peebles, photographer and director of the charity Create Trust, went to the Middle East to run creative education workshops with Palestinian children in the West Bank. The Trust, formed in 2005 to help Sri Lankan children affected by the tsunami and later working in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, seeks to build self-confidence and self-belief in disadvantaged children, to encourage independent creative thinking and cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding.
We present extracts from Graham’s diaries and photographs. Photographs in this section (c) Graham Peebles.
The Separation Barrier
We drive through the checkpoint and I have my first sight of the Wall – known variously as the Apartheid Wall, Separation Wall or the Israeli’s name, Security barrier. The ‘Wall’ is being constructed mainly on Israeli occupied territories inside the West Bank and substantially deviates from the 1949 Armistice or ‘Green Line’, which demarcates the West Bank. A concrete structure eight metres tall (the Berlin Wall was 3.5 metres high) makes up around 5 per cent of the total barrier’s length. In many places three fences of barbed wire act as the dividing barrier.
A land-grab has taken place as the Israelis have redefined boundaries and demarcated territory through the construction of the wall, branding land that had been in the West Bank and therefore Palestinian, as part of Israel.
On the surface, life in Ramallah looks fine. It appears much as it does throughout the developed world. Appearance is deceptive of course: it is estimated that 50 per cent of Palestinians – 2 million people, live in poverty. The average income in the West Bank is around $11,000 per annum, this compared to their Israeli neighbours’ $21,000 a year. Much of the Palestinian economy is remittance-based, with Palestinians living abroad supporting hundreds of families.
The Qalandia checkpoint
To enter Jerusalem from Ramallah by bus we must go through Qalandia checkpoint. Qalandia separates Ramallah residents from southern Palestinian towns and the neighbourhoods of (East) Jerusalem, home to around 200,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers check identity cards and passports of all traffic from Ramallah to Jerusalem. I had been warned that it was a pretty ghastly ordeal and could take some time.
The bus parks at the entrance to the checkpoint. Issued with a second bus ticket, the passengers disembark and walk through a full body turnstile into the checkpoint. Inside the partly-covered area there are three caged corridors, about 10 metres long with, at the end of each, another full body turnstile, a CCTV camera and a red and green light. Once inside there is no way back, there is no choice but to stand in the queue and wait.
It is 2pm and very hot, certainly over 30 degrees centigrade. People are pushed up against the turnstile, which is not moving in any of the corridors. After about 15 minutes a loud siren sounds, the green light shines and one, two or perhaps three people push through the turnstile, then nothing for another 10 minutes.
I am standing with a young Israeli woman, a university student. It is her first time at Qalandia too. I ask what she thinks of the checkpoint and the occupation in general. She becomes quiet, then in hushed tones whispers: “It is not safe to talk of such things, they have spies everywhere.”
The atmosphere in the queue is calm to begin with, but after 30 minutes in very hot, claustrophobic conditions the anxiety level begins to rise, there is some jostling and shouting through the turnstiles to the unseen guards on the other side. After 45 minutes the turnstiles are released and two by two we pass through to the security check. Much like airport checks, all objects pass through an x-ray scanner and personal documents are checked.
I show my passport to a young female officer then walk out and board my original bus and after a wait for the remaining passengers we leave Qalandia. The whole process takes over an hour; it is an unsettling experience, which many people face daily.
The children’s session begins with the usual two minutes of silence. We discuss friendship with the group and they are encouraged to share examples of friendship. They are then asked if they could be friends with someone who has completely different interests to themselves. This question causes a major rift in the group, with roughly 50 per cent saying they could, the other half adamant they could not. A highly animated debate followed, with both sides marshalling their arguments and presenting their case through an elected spokesperson. After 45 minutes of debate, the balance shifts there are now 75 per cent in agreement that ‘yes’, friends could have different interests.
A powerful way to break conditioned patterns of thinking is through drawing and playing. Working in pairs within small groups, the children are asked to make drawings using geometric shapes to depict qualities of friendship. One boy for example draws a circle, with arms and smaller circles; this drawing morphs into an army jeep and a soldier with a gun.
The road to Nablus is dotted with Israeli settlements built strategically on hilltops. These individual hilltop settlements grow and then merge to form one large town. The settlements are a world within a world, often gated, always guarded. The Israelis settlers live altogether more comfortable lives than their Palestinian neighbours. Stories abound of settlers attacking Palestinian farmers, beating them, burning or cutting down their trees and crops and generally making life intolerable. The settlers have access to Israeli-only roads and tunnels, use settler-only buses, and have ample, disproportionate supplies of water and good electricity services. Housing is subsidized.
Maale Adumim, with 30,000 residents, is one of the largest Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). In an arid area bordering the Jordan desert, the settlement is adorned with palm trees and gardens bursting with colour.
The supply of water in the region – on average 1,100mm annually in the north, but only 100mm in the far south – is a major issue. The Wall has meant it was possible for Israel to confiscate sources of water: springs and ground wells, once on Palestinian land, are now inside Israel.
Israel takes the water, provides ample supplies to settlements inside the West Bank, enough for tree-lined avenues and landscaped gardens, and rations water to Palestinian communities. The apartment I stayed in in Ramallah, for example, received mains water only once a week: water tanks and jerry cans are filled to provide water until the following week.
Palestinians have no legal control over their own water resources. The Israelis determine the water supply, which is far below that of Israel’s, and well below World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. The inadequate water supply is affecting the Palestinian economy and having a ‘de-development’ effect. Try buying fruit which is produced inside the West Bank and you’ll find it very limited. I would estimate 80 per cent of all available fruit and vegetables are ‘imported’ from Israel.
Intimidation, demolition, despair
A small example of the daily inconvenience and controls placed upon Palestinians by the occupying Israeli forces: I met a man working in a pharmacy in Ramallah, from a village outside Nablus. For three years he has been denied access to the city, where he had work and family, due to what the Israeli military described as ‘problems with his ID’. He would repeatedly queue at the checkpoint for hours, only to be turned away. Offers by the man to have his ID renewed were dismissed by the soldiers.
Another example is travelling within the Occupied Territories. Travelling the 30 kms from Ramallah to Halhul, avoiding checkpoints, requires making a huge semi-circle around Jerusalem; the journey takes one hour and 25 minutes. When we arrive at the community centre in Halhul at 10.30am for the first workshop, the temperature is already 30 degrees centigrade. Thanks to further checkpoints and searches, our return journey takes almost two hours.
A few miles outside Halhul we spot an Israeli military lorry and jeep parked at the side of the road, where a young Palestinian has a simple stall selling fruit and vegetables. Israeli soldiers are breaking up the stall, pulling the makeshift tarpaulin roof down and kicking in the sides. Farther along we see another eight stalls destroyed and abandoned. A common practice, I later discover, and one that is illegal under Israeli law. According to Israeli military the stallholders are trading without the required paperwork. The permits issued by Israeli authorities, according to Palestinians, are difficult to obtain but needed to trade inside the West Bank, supposedly Palestinian land.
House demolition is a particular horror for many families. Demolitions are usually done without prior warning and often during the night. The inhabitants are given little time to evacuate – anything from a few minutes to half an hour. Once a demolition order has been passed by the Israeli authorities, it may be executed any time – immediately, or after 10 years, 20 years or more. A family, known to a colleague here, has been living under the ‘imminent’ threat of demolition for 37 years, causing them untold stress and anxiety.
Once an order has been passed, the family has a choice. They are free to move before the house is levelled, demolish it themselves, or stay in the knowledge that at any moment their home may be knocked down. If the Israeli authorities carry out the demolition, the family may be presented with a bill for the work, up to $20,000 – lose your home and pay for the privilege!