Fear of Foreign Forces 10/22/14

Victims of US Foreign Policy Deserve Our Votes

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

By Erin Niemela

The 2014 general elections are around the corner and candidates are walking political tightropes in hopes of earning our votes. But, what if candidates had to earn the votes of all the people whose lives would be directly impacted by their appointment?

Imagine the speech Sen. Lindsey Graham would need to give the citizens of Syria in order to earn their votes, particularly those who spent a year dutifully working nonviolently for democratic transformation in the face of brutal repression only to see their efforts quickly degrade with every US arms transfer. Graham was one of the first US politicians to openly endorse arming Syrian rebel factions. He’s now endorsing an American commitment of 10,000 boots-on-the-ground in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIL, because the airstrikes that have killed more than a dozen civilians and sent hundreds of thousands more refugees to Turkey aren’t helping enough.

This is our 13th year of war in Afghanistan. What if Afghan citizens were allowed to vote? Would candidates address the 77 percent of Afghans who said they fear encountering international forces, as recorded in the December 2013 Asia Foundation survey, “Afghanistan in 2013: A Survey of the Afghan People.” Would it be enough for Afghans that candidates addressed their top national and local concern – insecurity – while ignoring close second and third concerns – unemployment and corruption? It’s difficult to imagine how our candidates might appeal to the 68 percent of Afghan respondents who would be afraid to participate in a peaceful demonstration – for fear of foreign forces.

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism of the holy name of liberty of democracy?” Mahatma Gandhi asked this question in his 1942 text “Non-Violence in Peace and War.” Perhaps it’s time to direct this question to our democratically elected politicians who enact the violent foreign policies that bring suffering into the lives of everyday people abroad.

If our government continues to authorize and implement violence against global citizens in our name, on our behalf, through claims of democracy, then it is our duty to vote on their behalf.

But, let’s not confine ourselves to representative democracy. Our representatives get the gigs with votes, but also with major obligations, as reported by the New York Times on Oct. 10, 2014, to the secret donors paying for more than half of fancy general election advertisements. What’s in order is some good old-fashioned direct democracy; our government’s misconduct around the world must be met with civil resistance at every opportunity.

Majority rule should never trump human rights. Citizens in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq don’t get to vote, but they certainly feel the full weight of any results. It’s our obligation to the disenfranchised recipients of violent US foreign policies to use our supreme powers of disruption and disobedience to degrade every sector and institution until justice is served – for democracy’s sake.

Erin Niemela is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and Editor for PeaceVoice.

Like A Guard Dog 10/1/14

War Polls Obstruct Democracy and Peace

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

By Erin Niemela

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeting the Islamic State (ISIL) have opened the floodgates of war journalism reporting by corporate mainstream media – to the detriment of American democracy and peace. This has been recently evident in a traditionally democratic tool used by American press: public opinion polls. These war polls, as they should be called during wartime, are an affront to both respectable journalism and an informed civil society. They’re byproducts of rally-round-the-flag war journalism and without constant scrutiny, war polls results make public opinion look a lot more pro-war than it actually is.

Public polling is meant to signify and reinforce the role of media in a democracy as reflecting or representing mass opinion. Corporate mainstream media are considered credible in providing this reflection based on assumptions of objectivity and balance, and politicians have been known to consider polls in their policy decisions. In some cases, polls may be useful in engaging the feedback loop between political elites, media and the public.

The trouble comes when public polling meets war journalism; internal newsroom goals of fairness and balance may transform temporarily into advocacy and persuasion – intentional or not – in favor of war and violence.

War journalism, first identified in the 1970s by peace and conflict scholar Johan Galtung, is characterized by several core components, all of which tend to privilege elite voices and interests. But one of its hallmarks is a pro-violence bias. War journalism presupposes that violence is the only reasonable conflict management option. Engagement is necessary, violence is engagement, anything else is inaction and, for the most part, inaction is wrong.

Peace journalism, in contrast, takes a pro-peace approach, and assumes that there are an infinite number of nonviolent conflict management options. The standard definition of peace journalism is “when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value non-violent responses to conflict.” Journalists taking a pro-violence stance also make choices about what to report and how to report it, but instead of emphasizing (or even including) nonviolent options, they often move straight to “last resort” treatment recommendations and stay put until told otherwise. Like a guard dog.

Public opinion war polls reflect war journalism’s pro-violence bias in the way questions are worded and the number and type of options provided as answers. “Do you support or oppose U.S. air strikes against the Sunni insurgents in Iraq?” “Do you support or oppose expanding U.S. air strikes against the Sunni insurgents into Syria?” Both questions come from a Washington Post war poll in early September 2014 in response to President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIL. The first question showed 71 percent in support. The second showed 65 percent in support.

The use of “Sunni insurgents” should be discussed another time, but one problem with these either/or war poll questions is that they assume that violence and inaction are the only available options – airstrikes or nothing, support or oppose. No question in the Washington Post’s war poll asked if Americans might support pressuring Saudi Arabia to stop arming and funding ISIL or halting our own arms transfers into the Middle East. And yet, these nonviolent options, among many, many others, do exist.

Another example is the widely cited Wall Street Journal/NBC News war poll from mid-September 2014 in which 60 percent of participants agreed that military action against ISIL is in the national interest of the US. But that war poll failed to ask whether Americans agreed that peacebuilding action in response to ISIL is in our national interest.

Since war journalism already assumes there’s only one kind of action – military action – the WSJ/NBC war poll options narrowed: Should military action be limited to airstrikes or include combat? Violent option A or violent option B? If you’re unsure or unwilling to choose, war journalism says you simply “have no opinion.”

War poll results are published, circulated and repeated as fact until the other 30-35 percent, those of us unwilling to choose between violent options A and B or informed about alternative, empirically supported peace building options, have been pushed aside. “Americans want bombs and boots, see, and majority rules,” they’ll say. But, war polls don’t really reflect or measure public opinion. They encourage and cement opinion in favor of one thing: war.

Peace journalism recognizes and spotlights the many nonviolent options often neglected by war journalists and political hawks. A peace journalism “peace poll” would give citizens the opportunity to question and contextualize the use of violence in response to conflict and consider and value nonviolent options by asking questions like, “how concerned are you that bombing parts of Syria and Iraq will promote cohesion among anti-Western terrorist groups?” Or, “do you support the U.S. following international law in its response to the Islamic State’s actions?” Or maybe, “How strongly would you support a multilateral arms embargo in the region where the Islamic State operates?” When will a poll ask, “Do you believe military attacks will tend to aid recruitment of new terrorists?” What would these poll results look like?

The credibility of journalists, political elites and unelected opinion leaders should be called into question with any use of war polling or war poll results where the efficacy or morality of violence is assumed. Opponents of violence should not humor the use of war poll results in debate and should actively ask for the results of polls about peacebuilding alternatives, instead. If the one structure meant to keep us informed as a democratic society ignores or silences the vast majority of possible response options beyond violence, we cannot make truly informed decisions as democratic citizens. We need more peace journalism – journalists, editors, commentators and certainly polls – to offer more than violence A and B. If we’re going to make good decisions about conflict, we need nonviolence A through Z.

Erin Niemela is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and Editor for PeaceVoice.

Violence is an Addiction 9/17/14

ISIL, the US, and curing our addiction to violence

Tom Hastings

Tom Hastings

by Erin Niemela and Tom H. Hastings

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

President Obama’s Wednesday night address on the Islamic State (ISIL) reintroduced a war weary nation to more violent intervention in Iraq, another war weary nation. The Obama administration claims that airstrikes, military advisors and a Muslim states-American military coalition are the most effective counterterrorism tactics, but that is demonstrably false for two major reasons.

One, the history of US military action in Iraq is a repeatedly failed strategy featuring extremely high costs and poor outcomes.

Two, scholarship in both terrorism and conflict transformation indicates this mix of strategies is a statistical loser.

The people in ISIL are not a “cancer,” as President Obama claims. The massive and multifaceted global public health problem is violence, which shares characteristics with many diseases, such as cancer, meth addiction, the Black Death and Ebola. Violence is the disease, not the cure.

This metaphor applies to the violence committed by ISIL and the US alike. Both claim to be using violence to eliminate injustice. Both ISIL and the US dehumanize entire swaths of people in order to justify that violence. Much like drug addicts, both armed groups alienate and indiscriminately harm others while claiming it’s in everyone’s best interest.

The disease of addiction isn’t eradicated when police raid the addict’s family home, accidentally gun down his brother and then shoot him in the head. An addiction–in this case, violence by militarists on all sides–is vanquished with an entirely different approach that scholars in counterterrorism and conflict transformation have found and recommended for years–continually ignored by successive US administrations despite the growing evidence. Here are eight scientifically supported treatments for the ISIL threat that both realists and idealists can and should advocate.

One, stop making more terrorists. Abandon all violent repression tactics. Violent repression, whether by airstrikes, torture or mass arrests, will only backfire. “Despite the conventional confidence in deterrence approaches, repressive actions have never led to decreases in terrorism and have sometimes led to increases in terrorism,” Erica Chenoweth and Laura Dugan stated in their 2012 study in American Sociological Review on 20 years of Israeli counterterrorism strategies. The authors found that indiscriminate repressive counterterrorism efforts – violence used against the entire population from which the terrorist cells operate, such as airstrikes, destruction of property, mass arrests, etc., were associated with increases in terror acts.

Two, stop transferring military arms and equipment to the region. Stop buying and selling the stuff, profitable to a few dealers and harmful to everyone else. We already know that U.S. military weapons sent to Syria, Libya and Iraq, among other Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) states, have been seized or purchased and used by ISIL against civilians.

Three, start generating real sympathy in the population that terrorists claim to “defend.” The 2012 Chenoweth and Dugan counterterrorism study also found that indiscriminate conciliatory counterterrorism efforts – positive rewards that benefit the entire identity group from which terrorists draw their support – were the most effective in reducing terror acts over time, particularly when those efforts were sustained over the long-term. Examples of these efforts include signaling negotiation intentions, withdrawing troops, earnestly investigating claims of abuses and admitting mistakes, among others.

Four, stop creating more terrorism targets. Anyone the US purports to protect with violence becomes a target. The Responsibility to Protect does not require violence, and a better policy would be to consult with and support unarmed nonviolent forces that have already succeeded in hot conflict zones. For example, Muslim Peacemaker Teams, located in Najaf, Iraq works with civil society organizations and international and local nongovernmental organizations in Iraq to decrease hostilities and serve civilian survivors. Another group is Nonviolent Peaceforce, a by-request unarmed peacekeeping team with successful fieldwork in South Sudan, Sri Lanka and other armed conflict arenas.

Five, ISIL’s violence is an addiction best treated with a humanitarian intervention by caring but firm stakeholders. A humanitarian intervention targets behavior, not the existence of the addict, and mandates collaboration with all on-the-ground stakeholders, including Sunni, Shi’a, Kurds, Christians, Yazidis, businesses, educators, healthcare providers, local politicians, and religious leaders to intervene on the destructive practices of the group. ISIL is entirely made up of ex-civilians – family members, friends and children of civil society; any true humanitarian intervention must include the work and support of the community – not foreign armed forces.

Six, look at the ISIL issue as a community policing problem, not a military problem. No one likes warplanes flying over their home or tanks rolling into their neighborhood, whether in Ferguson, Mo. or Mosul, Iraq. Terrorist activities in a region are best prevented or mitigated by community-based solutions that are culturally sensitive and subject to legitimate laws.

Seven, accept world law enforcement, not US global policing. It is time to strengthen the sovereignty of civil society of all humanity, not arrogate the power to those with war jets and missiles.

Eight, stop pretending to be a leader in MENA. Accept that the borders there will be redrawn by those who live there. This is their region and they resent a full millennium of the combination of crusades followed by colonialism capped off by imperial powers drawing their boundaries and extracting their resources. Stop feeding that long history of violent intervention and give the region a chance to heal. It will not be pretty but our ugly repeated adventures into Iraq have unleashed too much death and destruction too many times. Repeating those disastrous treatments and expecting different outcomes is a symptom of our affliction.

The addiction to violence is curable, but not by more violence. Starving any disease works better than feeding it and more violence produces the obvious–more violence. The Obama administration, and every US administration preceding it, should know better by now.

–end–

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, specializing in media framing of violent and nonviolent conflict. Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

Determined Civil Resistance 9/10/14

The New Realpolitik

By Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

The re-emergence of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his latest book, “World Order,” has prompted accolades and resentments from across the political spectrum. “World Order” is realism re-emerging in a time of American idealistic, “moral” foreign policy. Kissinger campaigns once again for the Westphalian model of world peace in which nation-states draw borders, balance power, demonstrate mutual respect for sovereignty and work to manage conflict, and peace, accordingly.

Kissinger’s realism and humility, as Time Magazine’s Walter Isaacson emphasizes in his Sept. 6 overview of the book, are probably in order for a nation constantly intruding violently in a multitude of conflicts under the guise of democracy, human rights and policing morality. But while a dose of realism is certainly needed in the U.S., Kissinger’s realism is missing the slap-in-the-face reality that strategies and borders drawn by elites with the intention of creating world order and peace are fundamentally irrelevant in the face of massive determined civil resistance.

For a guy who claims to be a realist, Kissinger sure doesn’t seem to recognize the real conditions nation-states are currently facing. Recent revolutions and movements for change around the world – in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, Asia, the Americas – have brought collective injustices, identity and agency to the forefront of affairs of state, foreign and domestic. We see over and over again that the modern nation-state is no longer nearly as empowered by its monopoly on violence. The existence and security of a nation-state depends now on serving and satisfying citizen needs more than overweening violence or crafting cunning foreign policies. Even discussing world peace and order without including popular demonstrations and civil society is, well, unrealistic. If we want stability, we’re going to have to face real collective injustices on the ground first. That’s where the real power lies, less latent and more real every time it flexes and increases self-awareness.

In his Sept. 6 National Public Radio interview, Kissinger states that the threat of Iran lies with its opportunity to “reconstruct the ancient Persian Empire … in the rebuilding of the Middle East that will inevitably have to take place when the new international borders [are] drawn. Because the borders of the settlement of 1919-’20 are essentially collapsing.” ISIS, however, “is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can become a strategic, permanent reality.” That’s Kissinger’s realism – power comes with permanence and territorial conquest, and this stable control is determined by elite border-drawers with strategic interests.

What new realists know is that territorial control and monopolized violence are outdated forms of power. Motivated, disciplined people with a collective grievance are the most genuine threat to nation-state stability and security. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 book, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” demonstrated this threat when their study of 323 maximal goal campaigns (overthrowing dictatorships or authoritarian regimes) found that nonviolent people power movements were twice as likely to succeed as violent insurgencies.

With this kind of knowledge, Iran is less threatening because it’s not just a permanent territory full of “mad mullahs” who can tell people where and when to fight and with which weapons. Iran is full of, well, Iranians. Real people who value education, use gadgets, share photoshopped memes and wear jeans; people who have collective efficacy and, realistically, more capacity to rein in any disruptive behavior (especially when it comes to the mutually assured destruction of even one ‘tiny’ nuclear war) as any Westphalian-inspired model. ISIS is full of empowered people too, but its overreaching violence will inevitably be its downfall when Syrian and Iraqi people take control (if the U.S. would stop bombing them, of course.)

Kissinger should, but fails to, realize the irony that borders – whether those of a regional or geographic nature or those along identity or political lines – are collapsing in the MENA region for one major reason: the people who live within those borders know they had no part in drawing them and are continually recognizing that they can now take part. This makes the Westphalian world order model of elite border drawing even more unrealistic. When will Western-European elites learn that people aren’t going to continue to just follow orders, to build the walls and live within them that the elites desire?

Advocating international governance and respect for law is fine if we take consensus, cultural sensitivity and civil society needs into consideration. But if world leaders want real peace and order, borders and sovereignty, they need to recognize their real dependence on civil society and that they cannot achieve either order or peace without our full and valued consent. That’s the new realpolitik.

Erin Niemela is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and Editor for PeaceVoice.

Myth Busting 7/30/14

Insidious Myth Prevents Peace in Gaza

by Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

Media frame violent conflict to reinforce certain biases and myths, emphasizing some facts and omitting others to produce compelling narratives. Good guys and bad guys are crafted and re-crafted in media discourse, and this is especially the case with the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict. Unfortunately, many of these myths enter the public discourse, on both sides, to the detriment of peace.

What’s even worse, well-intentioned authors hoping to dispel these harmful myths also degrade peace efforts by perpetuating harmful assumptions. Chiefly, that violence could be justifiable, depending on who the real victim is. This myth is dangerous, perpetuates violent conflict and seriously hinders peacemaking efforts on both sides.

Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, addressed five myths about “militant Islamist organization” Hamas in a July 18th Washington Post article. Brown argued that although Hamas may have some capacity to provoke fear in Israel leadership, it is “absolutely true that Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel.” The existential threat of Hamas: myth-busted.

Kim Sengupta and Khan Younis, Belfast Telegraph reporters, exposed the myth of Hamas’ human shields in Gaza in a July 21, 2014 article. They wrote, “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organization to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” The use of human shields by Hamas: myth-busted.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America published a report July 21st on the “top nine Gaza media myths” in current circulation. Among them, in a chicken-and-the-egg analysis, that Hamas’ rockets are not simply responses to Israel’s embargos: “Missiles are not the answer for the embargo, they are the cause for the embargo.” Hamas rockets as retaliation for Israeli blockages: myth-busted.

The problem with these and many other myth-busting analyses, from both sides, is that they impose some under-the-radar assumptions on readers that may seriously hinder conflict resolution and peace processes. If Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel, as Brown argued, then Israel’s actions in Gaza are not justified. In other words, if Hamas did pose an existential threat, Israel’s actions would be justified. The Sengupta and Younis argument is similar: If Hamas isn’t actually using human shields in Gaza, then Israel’s actions aren’t justified. Therefore, if Hamas did use human shields, Israel’s actions would be justified. Per the Committee, if Hamas is firing rockets as a response to Israel embargos on Palestine, then Hamas may be justified. Get the picture?

There’s really only one myth that needs busting around here and it’s this: “Violence is justifiable.” Violence is never justifiable.

That’s the only myth that needs dispelling right now. The philosophical tradition of “Just War,” which serves to perpetuate this myth, is an additional fallacy that needs further dispelling. However, what we have to immediately address, if we want to prevent another 666 human deaths and sleepless, fearful nights for children, is the practical limitations of the “violence is justifiable” myth on conflict resolution processes.

If the authors of myth-busting analyses, as well as the original myth-perpetuating journalists, had a foundation in conflict resolution – practical or theoretical – they’d know that arguing over violence justification – who’s good, who’s bad and who “deserves it” – is devastating to peace. It’s the direct violence from both sides, no matter the proportion, that perpetuates the conflict and degrades peace efforts in Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and beyond. Unless the direct violence ends, civil society may not be able to address the actual issues or create a sustainable resolution. Violence only creates additional grievances on all sides and perpetuates a conflict spiral.

Furthermore, what many analysts call “myths” are actually perspectives. These perspectives – such as who the victims and aggressors are and when violence may be justified or legal – are held by people all over the world and, most importantly, by people on the ground coping with the violence on a day-to-day basis.

Myth-busters need to know what conflict scholars already know: Everyone believes their in-group is the real victim, and everyone is correct. Trying to convince someone that their reality is false, that they should adopt the reality of their perceived enemy, is conflict resolution-suicide. In peace processes, accepting multiple realities by listening to one another through sustained, mediated dialogue is a more productive force for resolution than any violence, ever.

We must demand that both Israel and Hamas immediately cease all violence (even if one side isn’t very effective in this regard). At the same time, we must reject this assumption that violence can be justifiable. Peacemakers in Gaza need our support in breaking the cycle of violence – listening. Listening leads to dialogue, dialogue leads to transformation, transformation leads to sustainable peace, and it’s really, really hard to hear over the sounds of rocket fire.

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, specializing in media framing of violent and nonviolent conflict.

War & Peace Journalism 7/23/14

War Journalism Leads the Bleeding in Gaza

by Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

As Israel’s boots hit the ground in Gaza, Operation War Journalism rages on. Both Arab and Israeli war journalists weaponize rhetoric: False dichotomies (do we bomb or do nothing?) and a pro-violence worldview, among other deadly bullets. War journalism sells violent conflict – “if it bleeds, it leads” – and we’re buying it. The violence in Gaza is partially a result of decades of media-distributed war products made from state-provided materials. War journalists escalate and prolong violent conflict. Their reporting choices, whether conscious or not, are harmful to citizens on all sides of violent conflicts, the Gaza crisis included.

Fortunately, violence isn’t the only product on the market. “To say that violence is the only thing that sells is to insult humanity,” Prof. Johan Galtung said his 2000 essay, “The Task of Peace Journalism.” Peace journalism, Galtung’s conception of the 70s, is defined as “when editors and reporters make choices – about what to report, and how to report it – that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value nonviolent responses to conflict.” Peace journalism insulates journalists from war propaganda by avoiding false dichotomies, highlighting nonviolent options and making other positive peace reporting choices. For the immediate cynics: Peace does, in fact, sell. Conflict & Communication Online studies in 2005 and 2006, by Wilhem Kempf and Monika Sphors, respectively, showed audiences accepted peace journalism articles no less, and even more, than traditional war journalism articles on the same issues. Nevertheless, war journalism continues, and Gaza is the perfect battleground.

The photo: A grieving Palestinian woman, wailing toward the sky. The headline: “Gaza Under Siege: Naming the Dead.” Al-Jazeera’s regularly updated webpage lists the names and ages of the now-285 Palestinian victims in Gaza. In a 2013 study on Arab news framing of the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict, author Mohamad Hamas Elmasry and colleagues found that some Arab news networks regularly framed Palestinians as victims of Israeli aggression, showed images of Palestinian grief and included names and ages for Palestinian victims more than that of Israeli victims. In fairness to Al-Jazeera, two Israeli victims’ names and ages – the only Israeli deaths, so far – sit below the list. But the names aren’t meant to provide balance or personalize those deaths. They’re meant to dichotomize between good and evil and provoke the question: Whose side are you on? With victimization comes demonization – the “evil” side is implied and violence against evil is culturally justified.

For Israeli news, it’s the same story. In an extensive 2004 study on audience effects from news of Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, “Bad News from Israel,” Greg Philo and Mike Berry observed that participants identified more with the side where violence was presented as justifiable. Words like “retaliation” for Israel’s military operations provided this justification. Palestinians were presented as having “started it.”

A July 18th article from The Times of Israel on the Gaza invasion is a case in point. The title: “20 Hamas fighters killed, 13 captured in first hours of ground offensive.” With violence in the headline, the lead justifies: “IDF says soldiers in Gaza destroy 21 rocket launchers, find several tunnel openings; Eitan Barak, 21, from Herzliya, is first IDF fatality; 80 rockets fired at Israel.” Dangerous weapons, nefarious tunnels and an Israeli death are just the facts on the ground and they happen to provide justification.

Yet, there are other facts, such as in a curious blurb near the bottom: “Gaza health officials said at least 20 Palestinians have been killed since the ground operation began, including three teenage siblings killed by shrapnel from a tank shell attack. It was not immediately clear if the 17 terrorists killed by the IDF were among the casualties reported by Gaza authorities.” Peace journalism refrains from emphasizing our facts while marginalizing their facts, and names “evil-doers” on all sides.

War journalism gives us two sides to choose from, but it only offers one option for resolving conflict: violence. As media often frame the Israeli government and its citizens, and Hamas and Palestinians, as one and the same, we get to choose the violence of either Hamas or Israel.

But violence is never the only choice for dealing with conflict. Peace journalists report nonviolent options from Palestinians, Israelis and any other stakeholders. Not because we don’t recognize claims to victimhood, but because we recognize that emphasizing violence as the only conflict management option only produces more violence.

Reporting nonviolent options means sourcing peacebuilders, like the Christian Peacemaker Teams that work with locals to build nonviolent, Palestinian-led, grassroots resistance. Or Gush Salom – Jewish-Israelis using direct action to stop the occupation. Insight on Conflict and Peace NGO Forum host a long list of peacebuilding organizations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Any respectable reporter can find a peacebuilder to quote, and a balanced, impartial report on Gaza depends on including the voices of peace.

Traditional war journalists support perpetual violence – their bread and butter. Yet, reporters could choose to support perpetual peace and still maintain journalistic integrity. Peace journalism practices deflect war propaganda, provide actual balance and fully inform democratic audiences. We need more peace journalists in Gaza, America, Israel and every country suffering through violent conflict. This isn’t advocacy, public relations or advertising – these are the goals of war profiteers. This is simply good journalism by good journalists with a commitment to democracy, accountability and the wellbeing of global society.

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, specializing in peace journalism and social movement media.

No Funds & Weapons 7/9/14

Before the Next ISIS, We Need Nonviolent Counterterrorism Strategies

by Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

Erin Niemela

A relatively new group engaging in non-state political violence, ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, recently called for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria and a continuation and strengthening of jihad during Ramadan, according to a video that emerged through social media. ISIS, born of Al Qaeda members in Iraq and matured in the Syrian civil war power vacuum, is so radical that Al Qaeda “disowned” it. As if its goals of coerced dominance aren’t bad enough, Al Qaeda criticized ISIS for its brutality against civilians and Muslims. Repeat: Al Qaeda criticized ISIS. For brutality.

Enough is enough. All violent counterterrorism-intervention policies have completely failed. We’re sowing and reaping perpetual tragedy with this violence machine and the only people benefitting are sitting on top of a mountain of cash in the conflict industry (I’m looking at you, Lockheed Martin.) It’s time for a major shift in conflict management strategies. Can we finally start listening to the numerous scholars and studies with scientifically supported strategies for nonviolent counterterrorism? Here is a three-step strategy all sensible persons (and politicians) should advocate:

First, immediately stop sending funds and weapons to all involved parties. This is the easiest of the three. Ten years of terrorism-making and we still think our guns aren’t going to fall into the “wrong” hands? The hands they fall into are already “wrong.” If you need a good example, take a look at our darlings, the Free Syrian Army, and their blatant human rights violations, such as using child soldiers, documented by Human Rights Watch in 2012 and2014.

Second, fully invest in social and economic development initiatives in any region in which terrorist groups are engaged. In his 2004 book, “Nonviolent Response to Terrorism,” Tom Hastings, Ed.D., professor of conflict resolution at Portland State University, questions: “What if the terrorists – or the population base from which they draw – had enough of life’s necessities? What if they had secure jobs, decent living standards, drinkable water and healthy food for their children? Do we seriously think they would provide a recruiting base for terrorism?” Harvard lecturer Louise Richardson, author of the 2007 book “What Terrorists Want” makes the same argument, and Kim Cragin and Peter Chalk of the Rand Corporation drew the same conclusion from their 2003 study on social and economic development to inhibit terrorism. ISIS gained some of its current strength from economically providing for the families of fallen fighters, promising education to young boys (and then handing each a weapon), and capitalizing on grief and anger in Syrian communities. If we want to weaken ISIS and any other group engaging in terrorist activities, we have to start focusing on the needs they fill in those communities. Local communities in the region should be self-sustainable and civilians should feel empowered to provide for themselves and their families without taking up arms or using violence.

Third, fully support any and all nonviolent civil society resistance movements. Whoever is left – give them whatever support is needed the most. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephen, in their 2011 groundbreaking study on civil resistance, “Why Civil Resistance Works,” found that “between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were nearly twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as their violent counterparts.” In addition, successful nonviolent resistance campaigns are less likely to descend into civil war and more likely to achieve democratic goals. We should have fully supported the nonviolent Syrian revolution when we had the chance. Instead, we gave legitimacy to the violent rebel factions – those same groups now fighting alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS. If we send our unconditional support to whatever nonviolent civil society actors are left on the ground in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, we might just find that the best remedy for terroritis has been right in front of us the entire time – civil society.

These are three easy paths any rational politician could advocate that will decrease hostilities, prevent the emergence of new terrorism recruiting environments and empower local communities to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution strategies. We’ve had centuries to discover that violence doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and won’t work. It’s time to try something different. Global leaders need to get on board the logic train and put some serious and sustained effort into nonviolent counterterrorism strategies. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before ISIS starts criticizing the next group for wanton violence and human rights abuses.

Erin Niemela (erinnpdx@gmail.com) is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, PeaceVoice editor and PeaceVoiceTV channel manager.