“We Have to Act with Peace and Love” (and Justice)

By Phoebe C. Godfrey

I am a Holocaust survivor. I experienced as a child every single thing a Gazan child is experiencing on a daily basis, including the loss of my family, war, firebombing, hunger. It pleases me to no end to see you here… I take courage and urge you to keep going… We need to bring this to an end, there is no excuse for the slaughter of 15K+ children and untold others. We have to act with peace and love, and I am proud to be here with you.

—Marione Ingram, author and peace activist,

speaking at an American campus protest

Yesterday I was sent a mini-video on X (formally Twitter) of Marione Ingram speaking at a campus protest about the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians, and I was deeply moved by her words. In fact, I was so moved that I knew I had to write about her courage to recognize that the slaughtering of innocent civilians, and in particular children, regardless of who is doing it and the reasons claimed as to why, constitutes what can be considered crimes against humanity. In short, what is happening to Palestinian civilians by the current Israeli government cannot be justified and therefore should not be supported by our government, and certainly not by our tax dollars, as in military support. And yet, as succinctly pointed out by Jon Stewart during his April 8th show, the same actions for which we have no trouble critiquing Russia, when done by Israel receive no condemnation at all. Fortunately, many of our nation’s college students disagree with our government and even with many of their universities, which, despite their generally implied missions to stand up for the public good, and even for truth and justice, often do not.

When I was at Rutgers University in the spring of 1985, we had a student protest movement—the Rutgers Coalition for Total Divestment—that, through persistence over years and months, including many weeks camping out on campus, resulted in “a New Jersey Senate committee approv[ing] a divestment bill that would remove $2 billion worth in investments of pension funds from companies associated with South Africa” and that led Rutgers to announce “a total divestment worth $6.4 million from over ten companies, including Coca Cola and IBM.” Our student protesting “made Rutgers one of over twenty schools that adopted or that would go on to adopt policies of at least partial divestment from companies that did business with South Africa.”

I share this because, as I write, many of my own students, as well as many other students at UConn and around the nation, are calling for their universities to divest from the fossil fuel/military industrial complex as they recognize the direct links between these industries and what is happening in Palestine. Many of these students identify as Muslim and are also standing up to the Islamophobia that our nation’s blanket support of Israel embodies, and many others who do not hold that identity are nevertheless standing in solidarity with their peers, as they know that what is being done in our name, with our taxpayer money and with direct links to our universities, is wrong. As Ingram says, “there is no excuse for the slaughter of 15K+ children and untold others,” including journalists, medical personnel, and aid workers. Except…ahh yes, and it is always the same, for the ruling few there is power to be gained and money to be made. Shame! Shame! Shame! as students have been chanting.

Given the students’ divestment agenda, I decided to investigate UConn’s links to the military industrial complex and was not surprised how easy it was (given the internet) to connect the dots. In fact, just last month UConn renamed its engineering building from the United Technologies Engineering Building (after the seventh largest military contractor in the country) to the Pratt & Whitney Engineering Building, no doubt due to the donation of large sums of money. This all sounds well and good—who doesn’t want money to name buildings and fund students?—but when I further googled Pratt & Whitney, I found that last year they were awarded a defense contract worth “$2,023,073,136 … to procure materials, parts, and components for Lot 17 of the F135 Propulsion system for F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.” Then I looked up where some of these planes have ended up and found that recently the “State Department authorized the transfer [to Israel] of 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines worth roughly $2.5 billion,” as well as 1,800 “2,000-pound bombs,” which the planes are able to carry. These bombs, which, according to the Washington Post, are “capable of leveling city blocks and leaving craters in the earth 40 feet across and larger, are almost never used anymoreby Western militaries in densely populated locations due to the risk of civilian casualties.” Yet, as the article goes on to say, “Israel has used them extensively in Gaza, … most notably in the bombing of Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp Oct. 31.” As a result, “U.N. officialsdecried the strike, which killed more than 100 people [among many thousands of others], as a ‘disproportionate attack that could amount to war crimes.’” However, “Israel defended the bombing, saying it resulted in the death of a Hamas leader.” Of course that would be the claim, just as when we were killing thousands of civilians in Iraq (about 200,000, at the cost of $728 billion) during the so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom (nothing was further from the truth), any number of casualties would be justified by unsupported U.S. military claims of having successfully killed at least one of our extremist enemies.

And so, when we take the time to connect the dots we must concur with the students that UConn, and many other universities around the nation, are financially tied to our military—a military which has committed and continues to commit atrocities directly and indirectly, through equipment support and sales, all in the name of ridding the world of so-called “evil.” Additionally, we must listen to Marione Ingram, who was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, where she said that such wars only increase terrorism, suffering, and death—as well as, I would add, climate change and ecological destruction. They do not lead to peace, nor increased global security, and they certainly don’t help us, as a species, maintain a livable planet.

The only answer I can offer to all this death and destruction, based on my past activism and my educated understanding of the world, is almost the same one Ingram offers. It is one that so many who have gone before, including all the world’s great spiritual leaders (but, sadly, not most of their followers) have offered, and that is, “We have to act with peace and love” (and justice).

Ceasefire now! Divestment now! Peace now!

Anything less is shameful! Shame! Shame! Shame!

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