HAIFA Con

It’s Christmas time in the „Holy Land“.

Miracles happened here before. They can happen again. Messengers of peace from around the globe assembled in Haifa from Dec. 5th to Dec 6th . Some went later on to occupied Ramallah. A welcoming coalition at the Red Crescent was awaiting them on Dec 7th. The assembly of the „brave ones“ in Haifa and Ramallah had followed the call of an ad-hoc coalition, co-represented by ex-MK Issam Makkhoul and former speaker of Knesset Avraham Burg.

US-Peace activist Jackie Cabasso of WILPF, called the event „a reachable moment in history“. Other speakers expressed this sentiment, too. A change of paradigm seems to be in the air. Weapons of Mass Destruction are unwanted by the peoples in the region, nobody seems to see them as an asset anymore. Responsible people in Israel call for international support to do away with them. After the accords of Geneva on Syria and Iran „the sand is shifting“ as Makkhoul put it.

While Right Livelyhood Award Winner of 2010, Dr. Ruhama Marton, quoted the whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu as her hero and pleaded on the world’s female majority to mark International Women’s Day in 2014 with the call for a Nuclear Free Middle East. Others like Sharon Dolev were even ready to strip themselves in front of the Knesset for the same objective. Women were well represented at the assembly in the posh Dan Carmel Hotel. The beautifully situated space offers a view over the Bay Region far up to the Lebanon. A charming impression of a more peaceful future, where different peoples live respectfully side by side was on the horizon for a couple of hours.

Dr. Edna Gorney from the Haifa Feminist Centre argued: „In the language of power, nukes are portraied as a male solution, male being considered as rational and women as irrational“ But she went on to say: „Nuclear weapons are a completely irrational answer. They pose an ongoing threat to humanity. While people are suffering from empty stomachs, they fill them with nukes“. In her eyes „nukes are a mascular issue and a malicious one.“ Even Dr. Emily Landau, responsible for the Israeli „Arms Control and Regional Security Program“ did not openly advocate Nuclear Weapons as a means of self defense. But she pleaded for a „long corridor of confidence building measures“ that had to pave the way to nuclear disarmament or even Israel’s joining the NPT. The German MP of „Die Linke“ Wolfgang Gercke seconded her on this long path full of obstacles.

The Israeli journalist Gideon Spiro questioned on his behalf the German nuclear capable submarines given to Israel as a gift for „recompensation“. Such gifts are a dangerous poison. They offer the possibility for another holocaust, said Spiro and demanded to reject them in the name of humanity. Ex Knesset Member Tamar Gozansky pointed out the leardership role of the United States Of America in the issues involved. It was them who introduced nukes to Israel in the sixties, she said. She also pointed out that the occupation and nuke-policy are interlinked.

Dr. Henry Loewenberg from the US-Peace Council congratulated himself that President Obama was forced to step down on Syria due to a public outcry in his country. Other speakers from ‚the greatest military power the world has ever known‘ focused on this historic turn, too. The Syrian deal and the following Iranian Interim Agreement are the major drive that brings in a new momentum in the seemingly frozen Middle East impasse.

Representatives from different corners of the world advocated for another strong citizen’s movement from the grass roots, now, in order to help turning over the deadlock in which governments seem to be caught. Among them were ex-major of Hiroshima, Professor Akiba, from the global network of majors for peace, Avraham Burg, respected as Torah-expert in Israel, Mamadou Diop from Sengal, a union man and peace activist. Akiba referred to South-Africa as an example for the possibility of opting out from the nuclear stance. Avraham Burg strongly advocated for a parlamentary debate on the until now tabooed nuclear issue in Israel and the syndicalist Mamadou from Africa reminded everybody that a new social order based on justice is the key for the security all people are striving for.

The US representative for „Peace Messengers“, 91 year old Al Marder, seconds them all in Ramallah were he says at the Red Crescent gathering: „We tie peace and justice together – a separation is not possible“ Dr. Bassam Salhi from the Palestine People’s Party expressed the anxieties of the Palestinians who are victims of nuclear waste exhaust in South Hebron near the Dimona nuclear reactor. The makeshift Palestinan State is completely demilitarized. He worried that Israel will soon remain the only power in the region equipped with WMDS. US-secretary of State Kerry rejected the day before in Israel putting an end to occupation according to UN-resolutions and International Law. Retired law professor Abdullah Abu Eid recalled all the customary and conventional applications of International Law that demand ‚a priori‘ the prohibition of WMDS. He reminded his audience that Israel’s arsenal was third in the world and most threatening as it has been used several times in Gaza and Beirut in forms of cluster and phosphor bombs. These WMDS do not discriminate between military objectives and civilians. He also referred to the harms being done by chemicals used by settlers in destroying olive trees. Medical doctor Mahmoud Saadeh added to this pessimistic tone by pointing out that the Palestinian territories are the nuclear garbage dump of Israel with all its catastrophic effects on people’s health in the region, most specifically in the Negev.

This conference was a beginning to end this misery. It happened at a historic moment. International peace workers have been reassured that there are concerned and courageous citizens in Israel and in the OPTS of Palestine on all levels of society. These people have invited the world and they plead not to let them alone in their struggle for survival and in their efforts to protect the natural environment.

It has been proven before, where there is a will, there is a way. The path to diplomacy has been opened up. There simply is no way back to warfare. Its possibilities are exhausted.

The participants of the Haifa and Ramallah Conference are back home by now. They will spread the word. They will continue to work for a nuclear and WMD free peace based on justice in their communities. They have promised to entertain and enlarge their world wide networking. The suffering of all sentient beings must come to an end. The change of paradigm has begun. Miracles are still possible in the 21st century. May the message of X-mas be understood and hence open up hearts and minds.

Irene Eckert, Berlin, Germany