Michigan Peace Team
What significance does this small non-profit really hold in a world filled with such enormous and complex political and social systems? How can a staff of 5 full time employees with an entourage of dedicated volunteers spread peace in a world where over 4 million are without homes in Palestine, Janjaweed militants are systematically murdering hundreds of thousands, and Zimbabweans are stripped of their right to a free vote by a campaign of violence and intimidation?
The truth lies in the heart of us all. The violence that has plagued humanity for centuries will not fall by the hand of UN troops or forceful peace-keeping marshals that physically prevent violence by brute force. On the contrary we must begin to challenge the ideologies of violence on an individual basis, through interpersonal interactions.
Violence is a cycle that constantly perpetuates itself and devours everything in sight. For example, the cycle of violence in the Israel/Palestine conflict is most obvious. At first the cycle began with the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their home in 1947 with the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel. The massacre at Deir Yassin by British soldiers in the establishment of Israel was the first overt display of outright terrorism and violence in the Israel Palestine conflict. Over 100 Palestinian men, women, and children were systematically murdered in the village of Deir Yassin. This scare tactic crushed any possible Palestinian opposition to the establishment of Israel, but planted the seeds of hate and violence to be harvested for decades to come.
Over 50 years later this cycle of hate, violence, and hostility remains as strong as ever. As Israelis and Palestinians are stuck in a fierce cycle of violence, with Israeli government forces and militants constantly imposing life threatening abuse against Palestinians, which is countered by small, independent factions of Palestinian extremists who counter with violence on their own. The cycle continues, violence perpetuates and grows.
Yet, there is hope. On both sides of this battle there are people, individuals, who are advocating for peace and an end to the violent interactions. Palestinian peace groups like Salam Al ann Palestinians for Peace Now!, the Culture of Peace Initiative, as well as individuals who everyday express peaceful but determined demonstrations against violence; coupled with a number of Israeli peace groups like Rabbis for Peace and the Refusniks who advocate for human rights and non-violence, are paving the way for progress and challenging the cycle of violence each and everyday. One should not forget to acknowledge international groups such as Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Nonviolent Taskforce, and the Michigan Peace Team, whose influence has added heavy weight to interventions of peace in the violent conflict.
The above groups are working together in unison to counter the negative ideologies of violence, ethnic enmity, and revenge that flourish within the cycle of violence. The fight for peace must be won by recognizing that it is not a group of people we must overcome or defeat, but on the contrary, we must embrace, love, and genuinely care for even those who displace us from our homes or bomb our schools. Instead of targeting populations we must target ideologies behind violent actions and movements. Specifically we must target violence itself, and end our constant association of the term with people. People do violent things, but they do not embody violence, they ARE not violent.
This is evident in the historical cases that prove to us, as hard as it is to accept, that we are all essentially the same, and would fundamentally act in the same way given the exact circumstances. How else can we explain how when the Hutu tribe, a Rwandan population that had been marginalized and oppressed by the British for decades, turn and oppress to an even greater and more violent degree the Tutsi tribe? How else can we explain how when on of the most oppressed populations in world history, the Jewish population, can displace, murder, and imprison millions of Palestinians? How else can we explain how Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe took office as a man of the people, fighting against poverty, and quickly turned into one of the world’s worst and most gruesome dictator? It is chilling, but given the right circumstances anyone of us could have turned into an Adolf Hitler.
This is why it is only an ignorant individual who targets a person. Ultimately the true cause of violence is the circumstances that breed regular individuals to do bad things. The soldier who bulldozes your home is in essence no different that you or me, and we must embrace him, we must provide him with a change of circumstances that breed love and solidarity instead of hate and violence.
It’s not a question of Israeli or Palestinian, Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, but in reality there is no question at all, only the truth that we are all in this together, challenging violence together, and working towards a greater world. Peace groups like the Michigan Peace Team encourage positive interactions between individuals and groups of people, as well as intervenes in violent interactions, to ultimately create the circumstances that will contribute to greater solidarity and peace through humanity.