Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter December, 2002
Some years ago, there was a card which you'd often see in stores It read, "This is a non-profit organization. It wasn't meant to be, but that's what it is!" Similarly, this newsletter wasn't supposed to be a quarterly, although for the past half year it has been.
That's largely because we've been reworking the site pretty extensively. For some time, it wouldn't have been possible to post one of these given the amount of other construction. But for those of you on our mailing list who haven't seen the site, you might want to take a look. If you have any ideas or suggestions for us, we'd certainly like to hear them. We really do want to develop this site and this newsletter into a true dialogue. We've made some good starts at times, but technical glitches or changed responsibilities got in the way.
However, we'll try to persevere. Just now, we're still uncertain how often we should try to compile a newsletter. Most other internet newsletters seem to try to be either monthlies or quarterlies, although we're a little grateful to learn that most have their problems living up to their schedules. But we aren't stopping.
The distant ancestor of this site, the original "Matthew's Place", started in late October, 1998, as one of many which followed the murder of Matthew Shepard. Sadly, October 12 of this year made that date an occasion for another memorial. That was the day on which a bomb destroyed a discotheque in Bali, Indonesia. Although there were victims from all over the world, most were from Australia. Given Australia's size, that had as much impact on that country as the attacks on the World Trade Center had on the United States.
We haven't gone into the philosophical debate about where acts of war are to be distinguished from pure hate crimes. Certainly the perpetrators of the World Trade Center attacks seem to have though they were fighting a legitimate war, although there are millions who would disagree. Perhaps, logically, only diehard pacifists can get that one right, although, again, millions would disagree. Yet it remains. Most of us think there is a difference, but trying to define it is not at all easy. Perhaps that's why all the various international treaties and conventions matter so much: they are the best method for working out a working definition at any time.
The September 11 attacks, like the Bali bombing, demonstrate that the nature of war is not necessarily now between nation-states, and the various conventions and treaties are not well designed for it. But they are useful guides to this new situation as to what's what. In the end, the actions any of us do have implications for everybody else in this world, and these events remind us that nobody can afford to the extent to which all of us really are interdependent on each other.
Coming back to our roots for a minute, maybe that was part of Matthew Shepard's thinking in his wanting to become a diplomat.
An unhappy result of the attacks on the World Trade Center was a great surge of personal attacks on Muslims or, indeed, anybody who might look Asian. In September, we noted a story from the State of Florida which suggested just that, although there was otherwise something of a decline in other kinds of racial crimes. The FBI has now made the same observation, in more detail. They noted an increase of crimes motivated by hatred of Arabs or of Muslims from 27 in the year previous to the attacks to 481 in the year following.
And as too often happens, this becomes a reason for some of the persecuted to start reacting in the same way. There was an example of this at Concordia University in Montreal, when a number of pro-Palestinian students violently broke up a meeting at which Benyaminii Netanyahu was to speak. It wasn't hard for them to justify their actions, at least to themselves: they thought the present government of Israel had done much worse things. So indeed, they may well have done, but one does wonder whether it justifies a similar responses form the other side.
It is easier, of course, to lament a state of affairs than to do anything about it. As possible antidotes, we would respectfully draw your attention to two things in particular.
Specifically to the Middle East, there is the story of Daniel Pearl's father, Judea. Daniel Pearl, as many of our readers will recall, was the reporter who was taken hostage and killed in Pakistan last summer. In part, he was taken because he was an American, but more specifically because he was Jewish. At the time, Judea Pearl wrote an open letter to the people of Pakistan thanking hem for their hospitality to his son, and being careful to state that he did not think Daniel's death in any way reflected on Pakistan or its people.
Since his death, Judea Pearl has started a foundation whose website can be found at:
Daniel Pearl Foundation
which is devoted to creating better relations between Muslims and Jews. Speaking in Toronto on October 10, he said something which many parents and other family members have said after such tragedies:
"First, the mind cannot cope with the finality of it all. I have to find a way to keep the Danny as I knew and loved him alive. Second, the mind cannot comprehend the senselessness of the loss. I have to give it meaning. Finally, I owe something to the people living in the world.
"When Danny died, so many people told me they lost a piece of their innocence. I want to help them go beyond the feelings of betrayal and helplessness. Many believe that the world is an ocean of hate and goodwill is an island. I want to try to give people the sense that humanity is not losing ground to a rising tide of savagery, that there is an ocean of good will and that hate is an island."
The Foundation is supporting a number of Palestinian and Israeli families who are trying to continue to build normal neighborly relations in that part of the world. It's times such as are happening there that our real commitment to such things is really tested. There's much need for encouraging those with the moral courage to persevere.
A more concrete approach is buried deep in a Human Rights Watch report on hate crimes against Muslims. To some extent, this development could be predicted, and some places, particularly Dearborn, Michigan, had some policies ahead of time. As a result, a lot of crimes never occurred in the first place. Which is the purpose of the whole exercise, afterall. The whole report is worth reading. You can reach it from our links page, but a more direct link is:
Human Rights Watch
But we'd particularly ask you to look at what Dearborn's done.
The time of year which we've just come through seems to be a time for memorials. Perhaps it's an added reason for those of us in the northern hemisphere to find various ways of reasserting the return of longer days and more sunlight. In all the many ways which this time of year is marked, we naturally wish the best to everybody. And, if while we're doing it, we could be encouraged by the thought that small efforts put together make for large ones.
So we'd like to close this newsletter with a thought from another individual who is working to keep the bridges up between the Israeli and Palestinian communities, Shiva Herzog:
". . . I realize that theoretical analysis alone cannot touch the heart of the matter in any conflict. the deeper dynamic is found in the human drama. I believe that even dauntless political leadership does not suffice to resolve complex conflicts. Courageous citizens, inspired by vision and bolstered by faith and tenacity, can often sow the seeds of profound change."
Before closing, we've been asked whether there's any updates regarding Robert Drake. He was a gay man who was nearly beaten to death in County Sligo, Ireland, early in 1999. At the time, ther was some interets in North America because it seemed as if funds would have to be raised to fly him home to the United States. However, the Irish authorities came through with the funds, and interest here died away. His attackers were sentenced in February, 2000, and that's still the most recent news we had. At that time, Robert, who had been a writer, was making significant but very slow progress in recovering from the brain damage he took. He was able to write simple sentences, and was slwoly recovering the power of speech. There have been very different estimates of hopes for his full recoery: some have thought he won't get much further, and others thought his chances of a full recovery are pretty good. We haven't heard anything since, although we continue to keep a watch out for news about him.
In ending on this somewhat sad note, it's more important to return to our earlier point: the changes we do at our personal level remain a good way to change the world in general. With courage for our futures, then, we wish everybody a Merry Christmas, or whatever other seasonal celebration may apply!
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