No Progress without Conflict

This month’s CPNN bulletin illustrates clearly that we cannot make progress towards a culture of peace without engaging in conflict.

The divestment from companies that aid the Israeli apartheid oppression of the Palestinian people is a good example.

Several years ago we carried an article at CPNN by a young Palestinian activist at Wesleyan University who called for divestment of university funds from Israel because of its apartheid-like policies.  In fact, she was working in a tradition of divestment at Wesleyan which, under strong student pressure, had been the first US university to divest its funds from South African apartheid.  The movement for divestment from South Africa had divided the university campus to such an extent that national television came to film the struggle.  The article about Palestine brought on a different kind of conflict.  CPNN came under a cyber-attack, presumably launched by pro-Israeli forces, which completely shut down our website for several days until we were forced to remove the article.

It’s been a few days since we put on the article by Archbishop Tutu, the video “Why I support divestment” and the news story about the divestment vote by the US Presbyterian Church.  And so far, we have not come under cyber-attack.  However, it is clear that this is an issue which involves very heated opinions and actions on all sides.

As we say in the rules for CPNN: “Reports should show that peace can be exciting, adventurous and eventful. Making peace takes more courage than making war. Reporters and moderators should not avoid conflicting and controversial material, because that would make it seem like peace is boring and passive. Instead, there is an energy in non-violent conflict that can be used constructively and that stimulates dialogue and debate.”

Another example of a conflictual issue in this month’s CPNN bulletin is the call for the abolition of NATO which was launched at the Peace Event in Sarajevo and expressed eloquently by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire.  Back in 1997 when I was working under Federico Mayor at UNESCO, I proposed to him that UNESCO, being responsible for science policy in the UN system, should offer to convert NATO to work primarily for conversion of military industry to production of useful goods.  In fact, there was a small unit already within NATO that was concerned with this matter.  However, Mayor told me that it was an idea whose time had not yet come.  Already, Mayor had too much conflict with the major powers over his progressive actions and lack of budgetary restraint at UNESCO.

Hopefully, the time has come now that we can put sufficient nonviolent pressure on Europe and the US to convert NATO into a peaceful instead of military organization.  Just as in the case of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,  in the words of Archbishop Tutu,  we need “to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.”

In the words of the great American activist Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” and “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

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