Dear Friends: Thank you for welcoming me so warmly...
Thank you for welcoming me so warmly to the Muste Institute! Your responses to my August letter have been truly gratifying. (It's still up on our website in case you missed it!)
When I explain to people that our mission is to sustain nonviolent action for social justice, a common response is: “But what does the Muste Institute actually DO?”
This issue of Muste Notes will give you an idea of the answer. We're putting your contributions into action, and that means Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace, circus artists facilitating dialogue on race, indigenous people fighting back against nuclear waste, public exhibitions on prisoners' rights organizing, and small farmers in Africa resisting land theft.
These are just a few of the things the Muste Institute “actually does” with your contributions. By giving generously, now and into the future, you can help us put even more resources into the hands of activists and organizers on the front lines of today's global nonviolent movements.
September 2014: As the People's Climate March brought some 400,000 people together in New York City, the Muste Institute and Times Up!, a local environmental action group, collaborated to hang this banner on the Muste building demanding the closure of the Indian Point nuclear plant. (Photo: Heidi Boghosian.)
Strengthening Nonviolence in Latin America
March 2014: Activists from across Latin America gathered at a five-day training for trainers in Quito, Ecuador, practicing exercises like “turn the blanket,” in which they must turn over a blanket without anyone stepping off it or using their hands; they then analyze the strategies and tactics used to accomplish the goal. Organized by War Resisters’ International with support from the Muste Institute’s International Nonviolence Training Fund, the event helped 25 participants develop their nonviolence training skills while laying the groundwork for a regional network of trainers. (Photo: Javier Gárate.)
Palestine-Israel Journal: A Ray of Hope
Given the crisis-filled headlines coming out of the Middle East, the very existence of the Palestine-Israel Journal provides a unique ray of light and hope. Founded in 1994 as an independent quarterly by prominent Israeli and Palestinian journalists Victor Cygielman and Ziad AbuZayyad, today its office in East Jerusalem is one of the few places where Israelis and Palestinians come together in the same space to seek a nonviolent end to the occupation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
With Israeli and Palestinian co-editors, and a 32-member editorial board with an equal number from both peoples, PIJ devotes every issue to one of the central questions on the joint Israeli-Palestinian agenda, and it becomes a major resource for students, scholars, activists, opinion and decision makers in the region and around the world.
The theme of our October 2014 issue is “Natural Resources and the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” a key cause of conflict in the Middle East, but also a potential basis for cooperation and sustainability. Given the terrible violence and loss of lives this past summer, we added a section on “The Israel-Gaza Crisis: What comes next?”--a roundtable discussion between four Israelis and four Palestinians about the war and prospects for the future. We also held a very successful public conference in Jerusalem on both topics.
Previous issues included “Two-State Solution at the Crossroads: Obstacles and Challenges Facing Negotiations,” “A Middle East Without Weapons of Mass Destruction,” “The Younger Generation,” “Civil Society Challenges,” “Women and Power” and “The Arab Spring.”
In April 2014 I came to New York and Washington, together with Palestinian Co-Editor Ziad AbuZayyad, to carry out a series of activities around "Advancing a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East". We believe that the U.S. government and civil society have key roles to play in advancing a nuclear free zone in our region, but that the topic is not on their agenda. So we organized an all-day conference in New York where 50 civil society activists, think tank experts, and UN diplomats had the rare opportunity to engage with Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Tom Countryman.
Our delegation included Egyptian Prof. Sameh Aboul-Enein, an expert on arms control and proliferation issues, and Israeli Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Shlomo Brom, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), who during the conference pointed to the cover of our issue and quoted the slogan “Don't Bomb – Talk!” In Washington we had a marathon meeting with congressional staffers, and in both cities we gave public talks sponsored by important civil society groups. Our presentations—each from our own perspective, but with a common agenda of promoting a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone—clearly had a major impact on the people we met.
Since 2012 we are proud to partner with the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, enabling us to receive tax-exempt contributions from U.S.-based donors, without whom we could not maintain and continue our activities.
You can read the Palestine-Israel Journal online at www.pij.org. Or better yet, subscribe.
Defending the Earth
Western Shoshone activists and leaders approached the gates of the Nevada Test Site and spoke with guards there in an annual walk-run event drawing attention to the nuclear tests carried out on Western Shoshone land at the test site and adjacent Yucca Mountain. The Muste Institute supported the Western Shoshone Cradle-to-Grave Radioactive Waste Awareness Project with a Social Justice Fund grant in February 2014. The Corporation of Newe Sogobia said the grant “provided us with the opportunity to reach out across the country, to build a network, and to tell the story of how nuclear waste from nuclear reactors and military installations eventually impacts the culture and lifeways of our Native people.” (Photo: Jeremiah Jones.)
A Lifetime of Inspiration
Marjorie “Marj” Swann Edwin, who worked with many of the nonviolence movements in the U.S. over nearly eight decades, died in March 2014 at age 93. Marj was deeply engaged in social justice work throughout her life, including in the 1940s when she got involved in anti-war efforts; in civil rights struggles, starting with CORE in Chicago; and in the labor movement, as a volunteer organizer for the first inter-racial white-collar union in Washington, DC, representing department store workers. Marj was sentenced to six months in federal prison for civil disobedience in 1958 at the Omaha, Nebraska nuclear missile site protests, where A.J. Muste was also famously arrested. In 1960 Marj founded the New England Committee for Nonviolent Action with her then-husband, Robert Swann. (The Swann Fund at the Muste Institute was named in their honor.) Her many accomplishments don't fit in this space—they are worthy of a book, which she had in fact been working on in recent years. Marj will continue to inspire us. (Photo: Ed Hedemann.)
(You can read more about Marjorie Swann's life here.)
Creative Nonviolence at the Left Forum
On May 31, 2014, the Muste Institute celebrated its 40th anniversary with a well-attended panel on “Active Non Violence as a Tool for Creative Social Change” at the Left Forum in New York City. Panelists from left to right: Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters, Lamis Deek of the U.S. Palestine Community Network, Muste Institute board member Matt Meyer, who served as moderator; and Liz Roberts, longtime activist with the War Resisters League. (Photo: Deep Dish TV.)
Highlighting Prison Resistance
Participants engaged with an exhibition of cultural materials produced by incarcerated people and their allies at the September 2014 opening of “Self Determination Inside/Out” at Interference Archive in Brooklyn. A Social Justice Fund grant supported the exhibit and related film screenings, panel discussions, community dialogues and other public programs, all designed to spark dialogue about the history and future of grassroots resistance to the prison-industrial complex. (Photo: Sarah Cowan.)
Building Pan-African Nonviolence
Representatives of grassroots social movements from 33 African countries came together for the Pan African Nonviolence and Peacebuilding Network meetings in Cape Town, South Africa, in early July 2014. The meetings were held in conjunction with the War Resisters’ International (WRI) conference “Small Actions, Big Movements: The Continuum of Nonviolence.” With help from a Social Justice Fund grant and Muste Institute sponsorship of WRI, the Network was able to greatly expand its ranks, strengthen its structure, and plan new actions and trainings. (Photo: Christine Schweitzer.)
Organizing Against Land Theft in Africa
Engaging in Dialogue on Racism
The Race Circus Project creates spaces for group dialogue about racism, segregation and current relationships among Atlanta's white, Black, Latino, and Asian residents. The makeShift Circus Collective used its first-ever grant, from the Social Justice Fund, to develop this project. (Photo: Patty Gregory.)