The Guardian June 18, 2003


Teach-ins say: Peace now! Dump Bush!

by Tim Wheeler

WASHINGTON: The nation's capital was abuzz last week as peace activists 
from around the country pondered the next steps in the fight against the 
Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war at teach-ins organised by the Tikkun 
Community and United for Peace and Justice.

The meetings, which began on May 31, ended June 4 when 500 people, most of 
them of Jewish heritage, jammed a teach-in held in a hearing room in the 
Rayburn Building demanding that President Bush deliver on his promise of a 
"roadmap" leading to an independent Palestinian state, coexisting 
peacefully with Israel. The plan was drawn up by the UN, the European 
Union, the United States and Russia.

Teach-in participants, who had come to the meeting at the call of the 
Tikkun Community, cheered when Democrat Representative Maxine Waters) 
announced her endorsement of Tikkun's Mideast peace resolution that had 
been introduced by Representative Dennis J Kucinich (D-Ohio) earlier in the 
day.

In his remarks Kucinich praised Tikkun for "bringing this discussion to 
Washington on a plan that can bring peace to the Middle East".

Tikkun founder Rabbi Michael Lerner told the meeting that his organisation, 
dedicated to the search for a just peace in the Middle East, represents an 
alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a conservative 
lobbying group.

"It is no secret that many Congressional leaders have been intimidated by 
the Committee and oppose the roadmap", Lerner said, adding that the teach-
in brought together the voices of many Americans "who understand that 
security for Israel can only come when there is security and self-
determination for the Palestinian people".

Lerner said many Israeli peace activists have criticised the road map 
because it lacks a "clear destination". By contrast, the Tikkun resolution 
calls on Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders with minor changes allowing 
Israel to retain sections of Jerusalem, and to create an "economically and 
politically viable Palestinian state".

Josh Ruebner, executive director of Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, 
told the People's Weekly World, "This is perhaps the largest 
advocacy day for Palestinian-Israeli peace ever. I hope it has an impact on 
how lawmakers view the two-state solution. Tikkun is trying to put more 
substance on the bones of the roadmap."

Other speakers included Yaniv Iczkovits, an Israeli reservist and co-
founder of "Courage to Refuse", who described how he was ordered to search 
Palestinian houses in the West Bank for weapons.

"I didn't think about going into a house at 1am in the morning waking up 
the children", he said. "It is totally open to any soldier who wants to get 
in. When we dehumanise other people, we dehumanise ourselves. When we deny 
others freedom, we definitely are not free." The crowd erupted in applause.

A May 31 National Teach-in organised by United For Peace and Justice 
brought 2000 enthusiastic participants to Washington's National City 
Christian Church to protest the US occupation of Iraq and the threat posed 
by the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The crowd, described by The Washington Post as "teenagers in jeans 
and sneakers [and] retirees in slacks and shined shoes", filled the pews at 
the National City Christian Church, saying the war in Iraq is a long way 
from ending.

Those interviewed by the Post said they had come because the fight 
did not end the day Bush declared victory in the Iraq war and because they 
were worried about the direction of the country's foreign and domestic 
policies.

The Reverend Graylan S Hagler, the African-American pastor of Plymouth 
Congregational United Church of Christ, was elated by the large turnout.

Hagler said the movement is shifting from an "anti-war" to an "anti-
occupation movement  one that opposes the empire building" of the Bush 
administration.

Hagler voiced the concern that the traditional peace movement 
insufficiently reflects the diverse make-up of the US population.

"At this point we are holding open discussions about reaching out to the 
Black and Hispanic communities", he said. "If you are going to remove the 
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld regime from power, it is going to take every stream 
of our population."

Hagler said the peace movement should be looking to the 2004 election with 
a platform "that resonates in people's hearts" by emphasising funding 
social needs and ending pre-emptive war. "Our struggle against the Iraq war 
was righteous", he said.

Organisers said the teach-in was held to help build a mass movement opposed 
not only to war but current US policy as well. "What happened in Iraq was 
not an accident, was not an anomaly", Leslie Cagan told a Post 
reporter. "It was part of a total global plan by the Bush 
administration."

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People's Weekly World, Communist Party USA (abridged)

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