Newsletter n°98

    December 24-25  2016




    Father Jacques Hamel, 86, slaughtered in his church in France



    First Part : How did we get there ?

    Second Part : The way out


         Hyper Cacher - « What is Enlightenment ? »

    Imagine a very discreet façade of a modest shop in a narrow street in the North of Paris. The window is painted white. You only find two words, in pale black letters, above the door : HYPER CACHER. Hyper Kosher. Almost a hidden store. I walked in to buy candles, halva, chocolate. A pressing need for fast sugars and lights.

    Your  heart squeezes the instant you step in, with a mixed feeling of angst and oppression. People's faces are tense, you can read fear and tension in their eyes. The people who are there, on Christmas eve, are all scared for their lives.  They're afraid of what happened in that other Hyper Cacher store, almost two years ago, on January 9, 2015. When a man walked in with an automatic gun, to exterminate them, for being Jews.

    Elsewhere, in the city, stores are overcrowded, and the tension is different (although present, due to rising anxiety : in Berlin, on December 19, the truck driver who rammed into the crowd of a Christmas market did it for the same kind of "reasons" : "to attack the Crusaders, the Infidels, wherever they areé. Elsewhere, the fear is more diluted, less precise.

    Here, it is concentrated, condensed in the memory of everyone : those who are here have always known that to be Jewish is exactly this : to be exposed, yesterday and today, to massacres, to blood-thirsty hatred, to pogroms - it has always been like this.

    So, in 2016-2017, in France, you risk your life just wearing a skull-cap, a David star, entering a kosher shop ? And those who persecute them dare do it in the name of Allah ?

    As they dare slaughter Christians, slit their throats, for being Christians, shrieking "Allahu Akbar" ?

    I keep thinking of all the wounded of 2015 and 2016, of the survivors.

    « … generally speaking, it seems to me that nobody cares about the wounded ones. They're a pain in the ass, with their physical traumas that they can't hide. They're in pain. (...) They reflect suffering that bears no doubt..." (Gregory Reibenberg, a survivor of the killing at La Belle Equipe (Paris restaurant, 92 rue de Charonne). 


    For all of that we won't stop living, smiling, wishing, projecting. "You will not get my hatred" wrote Antoine Leiris, after the assassination of his Hélène at the Bataclan. Neither our hatred nor our fear. We're just looking forward to being born to life again...



    Wishes for 2017 : Despite it all, Hope, Enlightenment

    Despite the renewed state of emergency in France, despite the bereaving and the pains, first and foremost, Hope. Like in the story of this uprising at the time of the second Temple in Jerusalem, when there was not enough consecrated oil left in a vial, except for one day at most, and this minute quantity lasted eight days, time enough to find some more. The "multiplication of loathes" on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, like the "multiplication of oil" : when there's nothing left, that's when you find some more...

    You thought you'd never make it, and yet you're getting there, against all odds. as if miraculously !


    « State of emergency »… The absolute emergency ? « Be kind ! » : the last words uttered by drummer Mickey Hart, at the end of the Grateful Dead's ultimate concert in the summer of 2015. Be cool... be good with each other...

    Not so easy ? To stay away from ordinary cynicism, from the old feeling of helplessness, and all the excuses we find on the way... To radiate benevolence, continuously, along with trust, and presence.

    "The only thing we can do is to love each other stronger," said Matthieu to his wife Aurélie after the killings at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher store.

    . Matthieu, gone on November 13, 2015, at the Bataclan. 


    To love each other stronger in the heart of darkness. What of Enlightenment then ? "Better light a candle than blame the darkness!" goes ancient wisdom, reactivated by the founder of Amnesty International, Peter Benenson. He chose the candle surrounded by barbed wire their symbol. Benenson's candle is burning for the Others, those we could not set free...

    Just the opposite of jingoism and national arrogance, this obtuse reflex of those who always "prefer their daughters to their nieces, their nieces to their cousins, their cousins to their neighbours", their limited region to their nation, and their nation to the Union, to the world at large.

    We'd better stop, think about it all, it won't be a bummer, said Gébé, one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo.


     When push comes to shove, you go so fast it's bound to be a crime... Where's the helping hand when indifference has become the norm ?

    And there goes 2017... Back on the trail of wishes... Like in the days of old, when people would send their wishes to those they love, to those who matter.  This humble force, made of desire, for the others and for self, made of simple joys, continued innocence, and sharing.

    With the audacity of wishing, desiring, moving to meet the Other one, confiding, daring...

    And if the news of the world are not those we need, we shall create our own networks of news, for the sheer fun of it, the strength, and the reliability.

    « Dare to use your own understanding," the motto of Enlightenment...


    3-     The good news from France


    This is not a translation of the Lettre de Liaison n°98. Somehow, a language does have its own national limits and boundaries, especially regarding matters of international significance.

    On November 27, 2016, more than 4.4 million people paved the way for the coming presidential elections in France (April 23 and May 7, 2017). The losers were those responsible for the Libyan disaster in 2011. On December 1, the French president reacted on this and said he would not run again for a second mandate.


    More and more, people think : why should we go on acting as law enforcers, gendarmes du monde, in Africa, Sahel, and the Middle East, when it is so hard to enforce the law on our own territory ?

    Do we really need to read Sun Tzu's Art of War, to admit that you "should never get involved in wars that you foresee you will not win" ?



    4-      The Dirty Dozen


    The most obscure part in the state of war which has been imposed to so many Europeans since 2011 (Libya) and 2013 (Mali) : it is always civilians, politicians who make the decisions, instead of the professional warriors who are sent to risk their lives, and instead of the populations, the people, who pay the expenses in so many ways. But what is their personal experience of  war ?

    Remember how President Obama had to dissuade the French President from sending the French Air Force bomb Syrian national positions in late August 2013 ? In the United Kingdom, it had to be a vote to prevent the former British Prime Minister from joining in the furia francese... This weird, sick appetite for "settling" matters abroad through bombs and missiles (when there is so much trouble at home).



    To decide upon the others' life and pain : Cain's mark. As long as the dead and the wounded, in their vast majority, are Africans or Easterners, it is always a "just war"... Just another war.

    « Daesh: 50,000 jihadis killed since 2014 » printed Le Figaro on December 9, 2016, « after nearly 16,600 air strikes since August 2014".  The NGO Airwars has numbered « more than 1,900 civilians killed by these airstrikes » - the wounded are never accounted for. Actually, how do you distinguish a civilian in a fatigue from a combatant in a fatigue at bombing altitude ? As early as August 3, 2015, Le Monde published this warning ; "Hundreds of civilians pay the price of the airstrikes against the Islamic State/" Kill them all, Allah will recognize His folks ?

    Now it is the siege of Mossoul. But Mossoul has been under siege for a dozen years or so... You should read about it from Sara Daniel (Voyage to a stricken land - in French Voyage to Al-Qaida's land). Her testimony about what the American invasion of Iraq did to Tikrit, Mossoul, from 2003 onward... Al-Qaida's land in the Middle-East : an American story since 2001-2003.

    « War against the Islamic State : the United States has spent almost 10 billion dollars" (Le Monde, November 8, 2016). Roughly 200,000 $ for a dead jihadi. Where has the money gone ? To which accounts ?

    As early as 1965, another distinguished war reporter, Jean Lartéguy, had titled one of his books "One million dollars for a Viet-Cong". Isn't it strange, the way some journalists sometimes report about what wars cost to the tax-payer, never who pockets the money ?

    In the French weekly Paris-Match, on the eve of the atrocious truck-ramming of July 14, 2016, you could find these figures, in billions of euros made from French arms sales worldwide :



    We're simply trying to understand. What for. Whom for.

    In our pevious Newsletter (October-November 2016), we had published the list of the "12 World Brigands" : the main countries exporting weapons. Brigands, for lack of a better word. In the 80ies, they used to talk a lot about "rogue states". In 2001 there was a list, which at some point had included Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan... The criteria were : detention of WMDs - weapons of mass destruction, disregard for the essential laws of humankind or of... American interests.

    We certainly would like to see the lists coincide, of "rogue states" and double standard states, Janus states who have a vested interest in war as foreign policy. One masked face and sweet mouth for freedom in theory, one hidden face and sour mouth for war as endless business.

    As far as massive destruction goes, and the weapons that will take you there, you could borrow a title from film-director Robert Aldrich : The Dirty Dozen. Naming the twelve main exporters of WMDs is one thing. Something else is to divide the profit they draw from their trade by the number of inhabitants in each of the twelve countries.

    The U.S. do not lead anymore, for the last recorded year (2014), but tiny Israel, followed by equally tiny Switzerland (go figure) and Russia. Had the profit of this trade been equally divided among the people, each Israeli would have pocketed 132$ in 2014, each Swiss 42, and each respectable Swede, each Russian 40. Next you find the gentle Dutch : 35, the Americans : 31 $, the brave British : 19, the  proud Spaniards : 17.5, followed by the industrious French : 16.5, the Ukrainians : 16, the gentle Germans : 13.5, and the honorable Italians : 13 (source : SIPRI)

    Sure thing, nobody ever saw one cent of that money (except the right people in the right places), be it in Israel, France, Switzerland or Russia. The right places ? Let's name the six first firms worldwide : Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE, Raytheon, Northrop, General Dynamics– all of them American except British BAE.

    We're simply trying to understand.

    Another question, as Le Monde journalist Soren Seelow put it : why is France both "the main source and target for terrorists" ? Occasionally there are terror attacks in England or Germany, but not on the same scale, and none in Poland, Portugal, Greece or Romania (which do not belong to the "masked states". Any relation there ? Wouldn't any unbiased observer want to investigate into a close connection there, one of reciprocal adpatation, objective between those who make huge money selling weapons en masse, and these terrorists that make you wonder : where exactly do they all come from ? How are they manufactured

    A matter-of-fact codependency between the exporters, as commercial agents, and the agents provocateurs. Are you looking for a way to "deradicalize" the youth attracted to jihad ? Show them that the kouachis (who slaughtered the Charlie Hebdo team in January 2015), the nemmouches (who sprayed people with bullets at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014), and all those who dream of emulating Bin Laden, actually work for Lockheed Martin, BAE, Raytheon, Airbus, Dassault...

    Without Bin Laden, without Al Qaida in Maghreb or Syria, Arabia, what excuse would the arms salesmen of the "coaliton" find to test, sell and spread their products ? How could they ever justify their instllations and bases so far from home ?

    Where's the way out ? If we look for something to lean on, some principles, we can find them in Tolstoy's writings, when he advocates a rational individual awareness, reinforced by lucidity and an autonomous judgement. In his view, the most fundamental law is one of love and compassion for humankind. He maintained that it is the institutionalization of war and violence that is to blame for most of the massacres and injustice on the surface of this Earth.   


    5-     Good news from the East : "you have this power"« vous avez ce pouvoir »

     Same old blues again ?  Nothing new under the sun ? Against this institutionalization of war and violence, our work as Peace Lines has doubled. First and foremost : never give up.

    This implies a methodical quest for other news, other voices, that are relegated to the background in most media (when they are mentioned). Then, go for the info-source (of life, of hope, of a surge) where it is, when others get together to find, create other ways together.

      In Israel, from October 4 to October 19, 2016, extraordinary gatherings took place, that had never been seen in more than fifteen years, since the beginning of the Second Intifada. Hundreds, and then thousands of women mostly, with some men and children, started walking, from North to South, West to East, converging towards Jerusalem. Of all walks of life, all creeds, all beliefs.


      In the summer of 2011, people had taken to the streets massively, setting tents in parks and all, in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, but it was all about the standards of living, and turned a blind eye to anything else. This time around, women took the initiative of this March of Hope : a March without any ideological a priori, without any other stnad but the demand for direct negotiations between the leaderships behind the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians.  


      Together we walked, under a scorching sun, through the cotton fields and the woods of Latrun, up to the mythical village of Israeli-Palestinian togetherness, Neve Shalom, Wahat as-Salam, where Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee was to address us.

    It's been, it is as simple as that : hit the road, and walk, all together, make friends, find old friends, get together... Break away from isolation, irresponsibility and resignation.


    To discover a land hitherto unknown, or neglected. In its rank naked beauty.

    A land without the national stigma, bearing only the fruits of human labour, of the sweat of the men and women who toil it, daily, silently.





      At the end of the road, behind the Cistercian monastery of Latrun, there is the tent of Neve Shalom, Wahat as-Salam, where Noa will sing, after other less famous voices, and where Leymah Gbowee will testify about her experience in faraway Liberia.

    At the far end of the road, there will be Jerusalem. There always has been Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, Al-Quds. The next day, other groups will march, other processions will navigate, from the North, from the South, towards the banks of River Jordan, where Israeli women and Palestinian women will mix, as if this were the most natural alliance of all in this "Holy Land" where nothing really looks like anything happening elsewhere.



      On the day after, some of the marchers gathered before the high concrete wall that surrounds Gaza, where very young soldiers desperately stand guard in concrete cubicles, waiting for an enemy who may emerge from earth at any time, under their feet, as happened in June 2016 when soldier Shalit (who was 19 then) was taken prisoner into Gaza.  


      The inhabitants of surrounding kibbutzim collect some weird items : the pieces of shells, rockets, which are aimed at them - the only way of "exchange" between the two peoples : the two million people detained in Gaza, and the few dozen thousand Israelis of the "Gaza belt", their unwilling guards. The only dialogue to-date between the sides : the rockets sent by the former, as lethal messages in a bottle, and the missiles of retaliation sent by the latter. To each his own means... 

    It's been going on for so long... for one thing. Something else is the rule of numbers. The casualties of this conflict have been limited to 10,600 killed (9,360 Palestinians, 1,220 Israelis) from September 2000 to November 2016. In the same period, there were 60,000 killed in Libya in 8 months in 2011, and more than 300,000 victims in Syria in 5 years. In Iraq, the n.g.o. Iraq Body Count has numbered 184,500 killed during the American occupation of the land from 2003 to 2013. In Egypt, in a single day, on August 14, 2013, on Square Rabia Al-Adauïa, 640 people were killed according to the authorities, 2,600 according to the opposition. To this day there are around 40,000 "dissenters" detained in Egyptian jails.

    Relatively speaking, the 7,000 Palestinians detained in Israel "don't count" as much and have fallen into oblivion, except for their families.



    Will the wind take the white balloons across the Wall ? In Berlin, the Wall of Shame divided the Germans for 28 years...

    The American blockade of Cuba lasted 54 years... What good was it, as it only radicalized the different movements advocating the armed struggle, which took their inspiration from Cuba ? Look at South America today : how many régimes have been voted in, for whom the Cuban experience has been the role model ? So much for punishment, blockades, deprivation...

    You may well erect more walls : this is not the Middle Ages anymore, you find cellular phones in prisons even.

    At the end of this very long, very hurtsome day, this is not only a matter of land, of territory, but rather of humankind side by side, of populations inextricably interwoven, a matter therefore of compatibilities : of daily coexistence between those who pray one way, and those who pray another way (between Hamas Palestinians and secular Fatah people, or between Orthodox Jews and secular Jews); between those who want it all for themselves, and those who have learnt to deal with others; between the loud ones and the silent ones; between the greedy and the sober; between the brutes and the gentle ones; between those who hold human life to be sacred, and those who shed blood as they would bad coffee...

      Overlooking the banks of the Jordan River (the banks are forbidden, military territory), Leymah met with women who represented the Palestinian people. This first March of Hope took place in Israel. The next one will have to unfold on the other side, in Palestine, in 2017... Both marches should then merge in Jerusalem and its suburbs, along the wall separating East from West...


    As was not the case with Mairead Maguire (Irish Peace Nobel Laureate),with whom we organized a trip to Bethelehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tel Aviv in January 2002), who's been known as tilting more to one side, Leymah Gbowee had a meeting with President Rivlin, as a token of her impartiality. The idea now is for her to meet with President Abbas, and that the long awaited negotiations between Ramallah and Jerusalem start at last... The question remains : how can "Jerusalem" negotiate with a a people divided in its midst ? The other question being : how much longer will the Gaza blockade last ?

    If you want to know more about Leymah Gbowee, you should read Mighty be our powers (How sisterhood, prayer, and sex changed a nation at war). Also see the documentary film Praying the devil back to hell.

      Leymah Gbowee is not one to be impressed by obstacles. Everywhere she speaks, she radiates vibrant energy, such a trailblazer. "We definitely have partners in Palestine!" she insisted. "Yes, peace is possible ! The time is coming : your young children's lives will not be cut short by war ! You need to begin to believe this : each and every one can make a change... We do have power, once you stand up for the truth peace is bound to come... What is it we want ? Justice, the rule of Law, and Freedom ! This is your time ! To stand up for Justice & Equality ! Even the men of guns are afraid of you when you stand up for what you believe. I stand firmly with you. It is not enough to talk of peace. You need to believe in it. Never give up !  It is not easy,  if you're not serious about it don't start. You lose people on the way. But why are you there ? Because people have lost hope, but you and a handful of women have become a symbol of hope - this is a lot of responsibility...  Stopping is not an option : you are in war, and again, why are you here ? so that it never happens again ! We are going to build peace, regardless of what our political leaders say! "



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