Should The Peace Movement Align Itself With Forces Involved in Armed Struggle

An article by Don Butler, CanWest News Service in the National Post on May 8, 2007 reports that:

“Canadian activists were out in force at a recent conference in Cairo that sought to forge closer links between the international anti-war movement and Islamic resistance groups, including several on Canada's terrorism list.

About 20 Canadians attended the March 29 to April 1 Cairo Conference, the largest delegation from Canada in the event's five-year history. According to one report, it was also one of the largest delegations from outside the Middle East.

In total, as many as 1,500 delegates from the Middle East, Europe, South Korea and the Americas attended. Many of the Canadian delegates were from the Canadian Peace Alliance, the country's largest umbrella peace organization, and some of its 150 affiliated groups, said peace alliance coordinator Sid Lacombe, who attended the conference.”

We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. In many ways terrorists are like war criminals, they are never on the winning side.

Indeed, by the current definition of terrorist put forth by the United States and adopted by most “western countries” I have financially supported a terrorist organization in the past. It was the National African Congress whose leader Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize. Indeed the American revolutionaries, whom the United States celebrates as national heroes, would be considered terrorists by the current definition.

So we are not going to try and judge who is or is not a terrorist but simply look at whether the peace movement should be allied with any groups that believe armed struggle is necessary or appropriate.

There are a couple of simple answers.

● The peace movement believes in peace, not war. It should not be supporting violence of any kind.

● There will not be peace as long as there is oppression and the peace movement must support all struggles against oppression.

While the second option may be true, it may be impractical. How do you decide which struggle to support without allying yourself with actual terrorists. Do you support anyone who declares themselves anti-imperialist or do you have a bunch of hard core left wingers around the table arguing the fine points of ideology to decide who is a freedom fighter. Either approach is going to limit considerably the ability to build a mass public anti-war and peace movement.

That is not to say that there is not a place for solidarity movements with oppressed peoples. The question is whether it is appropriate to consider them part of the peace movement and whether doing so limits the broad public support of the peace movement,.

The first option my seem naive, in that it may seem to assume that armed struggle is never necessary or appropriate. But actually it does not. It just says that it is not appropriate for the peace movement to support armed struggle.

The first option is the only option capable of building a mass publicly supported peace movement. As that movement grows the ability to find alternatives to armed struggle increase exponentially. It is the role of the peace movement to build that momentum and find new ways to bring people together.

While the idea of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Muslims, building a peaceful Middle East together may seem hopelessly naive, at one time the idea of blacks and whites building a new South Africa together seemed equally as naive. And yes the armed struggle played a role, but inevitably peaceful reconciliation became the only alternative. We are seeing the start of that same process now in Northern Ireland.

The peace movement must be devoted to peace, not war.

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968), "Strength to Love".

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