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Letter: A new generation for the peace movement

Stupid and ignorant old men start wars; young people and innocent civilians die in them. A new generation of the best and brightest among us has stepped up around the globe once again to oppose the madness of war. They are following in the steps of the Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Hannah Arendt, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. They are our best hope for our future, and we must support and protect them.

The blame for the current wars in the Middle East is on all of us – the murderous terrorists of Hamas and other groups willing to sacrifice their own civilians, the Israeli government and radical settlers who have held Palestinians under a brutal military occupation for more than 75 years and are guilty of the outrageously disproportionate slaughter of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and the United States government, which has flooded the region with deadly weapons and financed Israel’s war machine.

If we don’t stop this now, we are facing another world war which may be fought with nuclear bombs.

In my generation, young people rebelled against the Vietnam War. It was not an easy struggle, and it took a decade to convince the people and the U.S. government to end the fighting. We can’t afford to repeat that.

I am proud of the students at the University of New Mexico who I worked with and taught for more than 20 years, and I am proud of the current generations who are standing up for peace and justice. To those students, I want to say that the practice of nonviolence requires reason, discipline, empathy and compassion. You don’t win your opponents over with hatred and you don’t respond to violence with more violence. But you don’t back down either.

My generation learned a very important lesson. At the beginning of the anti-war movement, a few protestors vilified American soldiers fighting in the war. But most of us discovered that the most important and effective allies we had were the veterans and active-duty soldiers who came to hate the war through their own experiences.

When we joined with them and supported them in their opposition to their officers and government leaders, it turned the tide of popular opinion and forced the American withdrawal from the war.

To criticize the Israeli government and the war is not antisemitism, as some authorities would have you believe. There is a vibrant and powerful anti-war movement in Israel and among Jewish and Palestinian people worldwide, including in this country. Peace movements have for many years worked to bring Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, especially young people, together for dialogue and mutual understanding.

To build an effective movement, you must have allies and reach out to people of goodwill on every side of the issue. Don’t let the heat of the moment and the strong-arm tactics of police and authorities turn you into angry haters. The wars will only end when enough people have the wisdom and courage to stand up and demand the end of the madness.

There are millions of us who support what you are doing, and your actions can turn the tide toward a more peaceful world if you work together and stick with the values you hold most deeply. Thank you for stepping up.

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