Patricia DeGennaro Headshot

Israel and Palestine Going to the Mountaintop: Oh Yes You Can!

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On the anniversary of Martin Luther King and the eve of a historical inauguration, the bombs plummeting on Gaza finally cease. Unfortunately war in our world continues. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and the Congo, fighting persists and I am sure we have not seen the last of it there or in the Middle East.

While America celebrates a step beyond its brutal and racist path, the Palestinians in Gaza sift through ruble of a devastating aftermath. In the midst of it all, I can't help asking myself why leaders use force as a first response thinking the aftermath will have no consequence for their future, a notion that is far from true.

On this day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. A man grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. He stood for equal rights for all beings regardless of race or religion. He spoke while the United States promised equality to its African brethren, but failed to deliver it. He lost his life for all people who live in a world of forceful repression and intolerance.

Martin Luther King was a man who had the courage to lead others beyond hatred, segregation and violence. He, like Gandhi, Mandela and Rabin, knew that none were the answer during their leadership and they are not the answer today.

In a new day with new American leadership, I can only hope that President Obama will follow the lead of Dr. King. Americans elected him partially because they feel he will lead us out of war. We hope he has the will, the courage, and the unwavering support to think beyond war. We hope he will speak loudly before another war begins allowing its poisonous remnants to live on for centuries.

However, as the US continues to discuss 'residual' troops in Iraq and sending 30,000 more to Afghanistan, I worry. Too many leaders are allowing us to think violence and separation is the answer to all our ills. It is the way to 'dispense' with those who are not like us, those who we do not like and those who we have convinced ourselves are our enemy.

In 2003, the US Congress waved its right to oversee the declaration of war. Six years later too many children will not come home. Others will return with grave wounds, brain injury or traumatic stress, none of which may be curable. It too was 'worth it' to remove Saddam while hundreds of thousands Iraqis die they say.

But it seems we cannot get away from supporting yet more war. Instead of speaking up to prevent another war, it is condoned. "On Jan. 9, the 14th day of the fighting in Gaza, the House passed a resolution sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza." writes Robert Bryce in his article, Gaza invasion: Powered by the U.S..

Supporting Israel does not mean just supporting war or violence, it means supporting it through finding a peace agreement as well, but 390 of 435 members voted yes to supporting the 22 day war with all to much death and destruction, but to what end?

Waging war has consequences. The move to choose force instead of a hard decision to work together diligently for peace has supported more militancy, more anger and more legitimacy for not only Hamas, but Hezbollah. It has also further diminished the United States reputation as an honest broker for peace and any good will toward Israel.

Once you start a battle it is, as Israelis and Palestinians should know, almost impossible to halt. The people of the world should do everything they can to avoid wars but instead we find excuse after excuse to make them.

There are options and we all should work together to take them. Peace is hard work, it takes cooperation and understanding. War is the coward's way out.

In the wake of celebrating Dr. King's message of non-violence and inaugurating a US President that professes change, let us revisit the world's tendency toward a warring foreign policy.

As a first step, the US must stop providing weapons to all peoples. In the Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis have too many US weapons. Hamas stole a plethora of M16s that the US gave to the Palestinian Authority. Now they use them against each other and Israel. (See FATAH flees abandoning U.S.-supplied weapons, vehicles to Hamas).

Israel receives at least $2 billion a year in US weapons at this rate it will have no room for its people. A few years' hiatus will not make the Israeli Defense Force any less lethal.

US weapons hurt peaceful efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, as we have seen this past week, they aided another deadly invasion in the Middle East. US weapons distribution must be revisited immediately.

The world needs more leaders who have the audacity to try other options. Options beyond war.

In the words of Dr. King, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom" never allowing anyone to reach peace across borders or more importantly within oneself.

War ironically allows us to think hurting others gives us a better life. History shows us this is not so. The suffering lives on.

It is time to evolve as people, to think of possibilities and support a world without war. It is time to change.

So lets us come together and honor Dr. King and move beyond violence. Let us concurrently join our next President who says, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." We most definitely can move together beyond the continuous propensity to wage war.

There will be difficult days and years ahead, but the time is now.

Yes we can.