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Shalom and Salaam - Why We Must Avoid World War

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

A BioEarth Plea for Peace in the Israel-Hamas War

By: Frances Flannery and Madiha Patel


Once we fully understand what we all stand to lose,

we must all do everything in our power to de-escalate this conflict

and generate an authentic peace process that is

committed to achieving sustainable peace.

This tragic conflict, absolutely horrific on its own, will also lead to greater suffering in a regional war that could well escalate into a world war.

This will spell our common doom before the end of the century.



As nations, groups, and communities all around us quickly divide into camps to support one side or the other in the Israel-Hamas war, we issue this urgent Plea for Peace. We speak to you as the author of the One Billion for Peace Pledge and as Director of the One Billion for Peace Pledge, but also as two friends, as an American Reform Jew and an American Muslim, as two female academics, as women who have experienced discrimination, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Asian hate, and most of all, as two mothers who love our own children, and who know and love one another’s children.


What we are seeing unfold in Israel and Palestine is the result of the absence of a genuine peace process, replaced by the faulty notions that “peace” is the same as national security, that “peace” is merely the absence of physical violence, that “peace” can be achieved if one’s enemy suffers, and that violence, disrespect, dehumanization, force, terrorism, or intimidation could ever achieve peace. These are all false paradigms that lead to more pain and more violence. Instead, real peace is a dynamic system, unfolding continually, in which there is shared commitment to the well-being of interdependent peoples and a willingness to work to meet all of their critical needs.


Sustainable peace entails the physical, material, psychological, cultural/religious, and ecological well being of all peoples. [1]


What the world witnessed in Israel and Gaza on October 7, and what the world continues to witness since that day is inhumane, tragic, unethical, and a violation of human rights. We feel this in our hearts and bodies, and it hurts. We have the greatest compassion for those in Israel and Gaza suffering from the tragic loss of loved ones and for those who are traumatized at the present moment, in existential fear for their own safety and for the lives and well-being of those around them.

In addition to compassion and a necessary tending to others’ and our own grief, in addition to the difficulty of going through our own peace practices as we disagree, listen, and search for shared understanding with one another, we recognize that the moment also calls for a cool-headed analysis of the facts and an understanding of the longer-term repercussions that will result from the actions taken. We maintain that the present approaches of both Israel and Hamas will generate far greater suffering in Palestine and in Israel, creating more trauma and moral outrage on each side, with neither side able to achieve its goals using these strategies. Worse yet, it is likely that this conflict will widen to a regional war and then to a world war.


This is something none of us can afford, because it will foreclose the possibility of reducing global carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and reaching net zero global carbon emissions by 2050. Missing these emissions targets will leave 3.6 billion people highly vulnerable to dangerous climate impacts and generate 1.2 billion climate migrants by 2050. This trajectory also unleashes planetary wide ecological tipping points that then threaten much (or even all ) of human civilization by 2100.[2] Thus, without minimizing the unimaginable pain and trauma within both Israel and Palestine over the deaths of innocent civilians, so many of whom are children; without minimizing the political, diplomatic, and social complexities involved; and without suggesting that there are any simple solutions to this crisis, all leaders must work to de-escalate this present crisis and all people must demand that their political leaders do so.


Once we fully understand what we all stand to lose, we must do everything in our power to de-escalate this conflict and generate an authentic peace process that is committed to achieving sustainable peace.

Sustainable peace entails the physical, material, psychological, cultural/religious, and ecological well being of all peoples. [1]


Working towards peace is not a passive choice and it does not ignore the facts. It is a fact that Hamas committed terrorism on October 7 by slaughtering 1,400 persons, mostly civilians and including children, in shocking and brutal ways, and by taking back to Gaza some 230 hostages, whose plight continues to generate fear and trauma. There can be no justification for terrorism, and we wholeheartedly condemn the use of terrorism by Hamas and its allies, as well as terrorism in any society. Terrorists must also be stopped from committing more terrorism and must be held accountable for their actions, using the full extent of legal means to do so. We also believe terrorism contradicts key tenets of Islam: that Allah forbids offensive fighting, that the innocent must be protected from harm, and that we are all the children of Allah, God.

For the sake of all Palestinians, Hamas must finally recognize that violence will not achieve peace in Gaza. Every act of terrorism by Hamas and its allies will fail to achieve their stated goal of creating a free and self-governing Palestine and generating a flourishing standard of living for Palestinians. Instead, terrorism in pursuit of this goal will backfire, bring more violence against Palestinians, cloud the legitimacy of humanitarian calls for the needs of the Palestinian people to be met, and contribute to a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment around the world.

Despite the horror of the acts of terror that Israel suffered on October 7, it is also a fact that in its response, Israel has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the lives and welfare of Palestinian civilians, including over one million children. As of Oct. 27, Israel’s indiscriminate military campaign has taken 7,326 Palestinian lives, mostly civilians and including thousands of children, and injured over 18,967 Palestinians. As almost 30,000 of their homes were reduced to rubble, concealing more bodies underneath, 1.4 million Palestinians were displaced from North Gaza, given just 24 hours to evacuate for South Gaza, parts of which were then also bombed by Israeli missiles.[3]


Still, Israel is ramping up its attacks, stating it will not cease until it has completely wiped out Hamas, which virtually guarantees that an even greater humanitarian crisis will unfold, unleashing vast suffering. The 20,000 fighters of Hamas make up less than 1% of the population of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, around half of whom are children. Gaza is one of the most densely populated locations on earth, its population packed into just 140 square miles, along a 25 mile long strip, hemmed in on all sides by the Mediterranean Sea and armed barriers. As the displaced population struggles to find adequate shelter, as no place appears to be safe, they face dwindling food supplies, lack of clean water, lack of life-saving medicine, a lack of fuel needed to operate hospitals, bakeries, and other institutions necessary for basic survival, as well as the intermittent loss of all internet and power, which completely isolates Gaza from the outside world. Israel’s indiscriminate violence and treatment of Palestinian civilians in this crisis is unjust and egregious, flaunting the rules by which nations have sought to conduct war in the contemporary age. We condemn in the strongest of terms the escalation of Israel’s operations in Gaza which endanger civilians. We call for a humanitarian ceasefire that protects the lives of civilians and ask for the intervention of international parties to hold Hamas accountable and to prioritize the protection of civilians on all sides . We reject the calculus that accepts massive loss of innocent life as justified and believe this contradicts key tenets of Judaism: namely that we must work to repair and heal the world, that what we hate for ourselves we should never do to another, and that we are all the children of God.

Moreover, for the sake of all Israelis, Israel’s leaders must finally recognize that violence will not achieve peace in Israel.[4] Systems-based terrorism analyses have repeatedly shown that terrorism is not restricted to a particular group of terrorists - this is faulty thinking. Rather, targeting terrorists in a way that creates civilian suffering and trauma will only perpetuate the cycle of terrorism, because at its root terrorism is an ideology of revenge that gains support in an environment of unaddressed grievances and trauma. This is the case regardless of whether terrorism has arisen in the cultural context of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age religions, or secularism.[5] President Biden rightly warned Israel that our nation’s own traumatized response to terrorism after 9/11 clouded our thinking and we took actions, including the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, which eventually made the problem of terrorism worse, not better. [6] Crafted in the white-hot heat of pain and rage after our national suffering, our strategies to pursue Al Qaeda ended up unintentionally creating the hotbed that gave rise to ISIS. Similarly, Israel’s attempt to eradicate Hamas through unleashing an indiscriminate campaign of violence that also kills, injures, displaces, starves, and terrifies Palestinian civilians, will likely fuel future violence and terrorism against Israel as well as its allies, contribute to incidents of anti-Semitism around the world, and weaken Israel’s international standing and diplomatic relationships. The Israeli government must look beyond this trauma-informed moment of rage to understand that their strategy will not achieve its goals of eradicating terrorism, but will have the unintended effect of perpetuating the cycle of terrorism.


Israel must also recognize that its relentless assault threatens its international alliances and moral standing, even within the worldwide Jewish community. On October 27, 120 nations in the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza, with additional demands for “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” supplies and services for civilians trapped in Gaza. Even the 14 nations who would not support calling for an immediate ceasefire, including the United States, have repeatedly urged Israel to prioritize preventing civilian casualties in Palestine, provide sufficient aid for Gaza, establish and observe genuine safe zones in Gaza, and create humanitarian corridors that would allow Palestinian civilians to leave Gaza. Human rights groups and the media continue to press Israel publicly for details on how it plans to ensure the welfare of Palestinians after the removal of Hamas, and how and whether it will assure displaced Palestinians that they will not lose their territory if they do emigrate.


The entire world is watching Israel. Although there has been widespread and swift condemnation of the terrorism that Israel experienced on October 7 and deep concern for the plight of the hostages still held by Hamas, Israel’s failure to observe basic humanitarian safeguards in Gaza and the West Bank and the expansion of its devastating ground offensive lend validity to longstanding arguments that Israel devalues Palestinian lives, raising serious discussions at the highest levels about whether the response of Israel’s government constitutes war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and/or genocide [7], both in legal and in moral terms. An increasing number of American and Israeli Jews are calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and speaking out against a full ground invasion in Gaza. Consider the calls for peace from the children of Yakovi and Bilha Inon, peace activists slain by Hamas on October 7 [8], as well as 85 year old Yocheved Lifshitz, the former hostage of Hamas who paused as she was freed to shake the hand of her Hamas captor and to say “Shalom,” Peace. Vigorously condemning terrorism and condemning indiscriminate harm to Palestinian civilians are not mutually exclusive positions.


The entire world is also watching Hamas and its allies. The vast majority of Muslims have long rejected terrorism, calling it fundamentally un-Islamic. [8] The number of Gazans who reject Hamas’ leadership will grow, as they learn the details of what Hamas did on October 7 and as they see what rebounded on them after Hamas’ terror tactics. Hamas and its allies must see that subscribing to terrorism backfires and brings about more violence and chaos, erodes support for their leadership, loses them any seat and legitimacy at the negotiation table, and brings about the condemnation of the international community.


Meanwhile, around the world, the small but growing coalition of Jews and Muslims, and of Israelis and Palestinians, continues to unite together in calling for peace and mutual dignity.


Sustainable peace entails the physical, material, psychological, cultural/religious, and ecological well being of all peoples. [1]


We understand that it is especially difficult for any leaders in Israel and Palestine to imagine that sustainable peace is even remotely possible at the present time, not just because of strategic difficulties and competing political interests, but also due to their own heightened trauma and fear, which block rational thinking and trigger the impulse to flee or fight, literally, in the nervous systems and bodies that even national leaders inhabit. We have compassion for the people of Gaza, West Bank, and Israel who are suffering from the unimaginable loss of their loved ones, for those who are in fear for their safety at this very moment and for the well-being and very lives of those around them, and for the pain of broken communities that continues to radiate outward. We ourselves, who do not even live in Israel or Palestine, have found this to be a gut wrenching process of vetting the information, deliberating, disagreeing, listening deeply, researching from multiple angles, tending to grief, taking breaks, bringing in the perspectives of those in our communities, and then repeating all these steps as we listen more intently. We who live in relative safety and privilege have had nightmares, bodily pains, and many tears, as the painful events have played into our own traumas and as the violence unfolds to impact those whom we know personally. Yet, we remain committed to peace as our shared goal and our shared process. In no way do we make our suggestions lightly or assume that a peace process will be simple. For this very reason, it is largely up to those third party entities who are slightly more removed to help those who are more directly involved make better decisions, by laying out the repercussions that will result from the actions that are taken.


We are aware that some will say that committing to work towards sustainable peace at such a time seems impossible and ridiculous. Yet it is the alternative that is unimaginable and ridiculous. Calling for peace is not naive, it is simply realistic. We know that the peace process is not simple, and it is not passive. It will take courage and insight to cease all aggressions now, and it will take further wisdom, thoughtful deliberation, tenacity, humility, and sheer bravery to arrive at a new paradigm of peacebuilding. On the other hand, ramping up military aggression and carnage, failing to commit to change course and strive for peace, will not only cost more precious lives in Palestine and Israel, it will also likely bring more violence and suffering to the broader region. Then, as the national allies of each side are pulled in, including nations with larger arsenals and nuclear powers, we will find ourselves in WWIII. As calamitous as that prospect may be, the gravest outcome will be that humanity will lose our last chance to steer the planet back from our shared, catastrophic climate future, which will impact and threaten billions mere decades from now.


We believe in the One Billion for Peace Pledge because a broad coalition of diverse persons and organizations in civil societies around the world, not always agreeing but yet committed to the goal of sustainable peace, is a possible path forward. Such a coalition can exert pressure from the “middle-out” position of diverse societies and demand that our leaders call for a humanitarian truce that ends any violence that will knowingly cause harm to civilians, as we facilitate shared information that deepens our commitment to avoid a world war. Such a coalition, united around a shared goal, while differing in our identities and worldviews, can help to inform the new paradigm of a genuine peacebuilding process in a framework of sustainable peace. A global peace movement can help us survive climate change more equitably (given that the process of vested national self-interests has repeatedly failed us, and is failing us now in this tragic war).


Together, we can make the impossible possible. We ask each of you to go to www.bioearthcommunity.org and consider signing the One Billion for Peace Pledge. Please share it in your synagogue, masjid, church, school, businesses, and civic organizations and help build a coalition of people and organizations in civil societies, diverse in our identities and often not in total agreement, who are still united around our shared commitment to work towards sustainable peace. Then please call your leaders and ask them to exercise wisdom and to walk back from the brink of annihilation.


Once we fully understand what we all stand to lose,

we must all do everything in our power to de-escalate this conflict

and generate an authentic peace process that is

committed to achieving sustainable peace.


Sustainable peace entails the physical, material, psychological, cultural/religious, and ecological well being of all peoples. [1]

---


[1] Go to www.bioearthcommunity.org to see and hear the fuller One Billion for Peace Pledge. Please sign and share widely. A broad enough coalition of diverse organizations and persons from civil societies speaking together in a shared commitment to sustainable peace could help to stop this unfolding tragedy.

[2] IPCC 6th Climate Assessment, 2023.

[3] Julia Frankel, “These Numbers Show the Staggering Toll of the Israel-Hamas War.” AP Oct. 27, 2023.

[3] In addition to the victims of October 7, Israel has also suffered additional losses, with 5,431 Israelis injured and 250,000 displaced, see Frankel.

[4] For more on the root causes of terrorism in an apocalyptic framework, and on successful strategies to stem the cycle of terrorism in the long-term, see Frances Flannery, Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism: Countering the Radical Mindset (London, New York: Routledge: 2016).

[5] This isn’t merely a political talking point by President Biden; it was also the assessment of sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies, summed up in the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Terrorism. See Flannery, p. 117.

[6] Shany Littman, “Israeli Peace Activists Who Lost Loved Ones in the Hamas Massacre Stand Their Ground.” Haaretz, Oct. 27, 2023. <https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-10-27/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/israeli-peace-activists-who-lost-loved-ones-in-the-hamas-massacre-stand-their-ground/0000018b-7235-d51e-a3cb-737d82d80000>.

[7] See UNODC, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Frequently Asked Questions on International Law Aspects of Countering Terrorism, New York: United Nations, 2009, especially pp. 63- 100. https://www.unodc.org/documents/terrorism/Publications/FAQ/English.pdf

[8] Based on other scholarship, I estimated in 2014 that the number of terrorists in the world constituted less than 1% of the Muslim population, but I lacked a quantitative method for arriving at a more precise figure (Flannery, p. 87). Subsequently, I had the research interns at the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Terrorism and Peace try to calculate the percentage of Muslim terrorists in the world by compiling all of the State Department’s figures for populations supportive of terrorism within majority Muslim countries. We inflated these statistics by 150% (to arrive at a conservative estimate for an audience of intelligence practitioners, assuming that they missed counting that many hidden people supportive of terrorism!), and still, the number of Muslims who supported terrorism in the world came to 0.01% of the worldwide population of Muslims. It sounds like an exaggeration to say that 99.99% of Muslims in the world do not support terrorism, but this is close to accurate.



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