45 Groups Join to Hail Gandhi Peace Honorees

Stanley Heller, Administrator, Promoting Enduring Peace

With a mixture of art, music and film, Mayson Almsiri, a Syrian White Helmets leader, and Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of MedGlobal, were honored with the 2020 Gandhi Peace Award.  Forty-five groups joined with Promoting Enduring Peace in publicizing the award.  They ranged from Syrian groups, to Muslim organizations, to Left activist groups to bodies supporting human rights for Rohingya to Uighurs.

The renowned artist and journalist Molly Crabapple contributed many of her Syria drawings as did Akram Swedaan, an internal refugee in Syria.  The latter artist takes exploded ordinance and paints on them.  “Art on Death” as he calls them.  Both their works were accompanied by music from Palestinian performer Tamer Sahouri of Beit Sahour.

CT native Dylan Connor performed his “If Only You’d Listen” which has received viral attention on Facebook. Syrian Wasfi Massarani contributed two powerful songs, one dedicated to the White Helmets.

Mayson Almisri was introduced by Orlando von Einsiedel, the Academy Award-winning director of “The White Helmets” and PEP President James van Pelt added his reflections. Almisri talked about working  for Syrian Arab News Agency [SANA], giving out government propaganda which she combined with attending protests of the tyrant.  After her brother was shot dead by a government sniper she said she fell apart until she heard about the White Helmets and joined in their work.  She herself was not a rescuer but helped with first aid and civic education.

The famous Palestinian-Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour introduced Dr. Sahloul.  Sarsour is best known for her leadership of the 2017 mammoth Women’s March in DC.  She complimented PEP on giving the Gandhi Peace Award some years ago to Palestinian Omar Barghouti for his BDS work and lauded Dr. Sahloul not just for his work for Syrians, but for his treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and victims of warfare around the world.

In his address, Sahloul warmly embraced the Palestinian cause before talking about the terrible toll barrel bombs and other indiscriminate weapons were taking on the Syrian population and Syrian doctors. Dr. Sahloul dedicated his award to physicians he knew who were killed in attacks on hospitals and ambulances.

We in PEP were gratified that Palestinians and Syrians were standing together at the event despite efforts by the dictator’s agents to divide them.  To see the whole ceremony and hear how Syrians themselves describe the carnage go to PEPeace.org.

Gandhi Peace Award presented to two via Zoom

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, co-winner of the Gandhi Peace Award with White Helmet Mayson Almisri, holding his medallion made from “peace bronze,” metal recycled from nuclear weapons facilities. The award was given Nov. 21, 2020 via a Zoom program and was recorded. A link to the event is at the Promoting Enduring Peace website pepeace.org.

From Sahloul’s Twitter page:

I will be dedicating the #Gandhi peace award to the doctors and nurses who were killed in #Syria while on duty including Dr. Hasan Alaaraj, Dr. Majed Bari Dr. Wasim Moaz and 930 other healthcare workers @PEPeace #Gandhiaward @P4HR @hrw @MedGlobalOrg @UNOCHA

Stanley Heller talks about the Gandhi Peace Award ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 21 which this year was given jointly to Syrian-American Dr. Zaher Sahloul of Chicago and Mayson Almisri of the Syria Civil Defense, honoring the brave work of Syrian medical and rescue workers. The public worldwide could view the ceremony on Zoom without charge. The link to register is at the website PEPeace.org.

Source: 2020 Gandhi Peace Award Honors Syrian Humanitarian Aid Workers – BTL

Gandhi Peace Award Ceremony, Nov. 17

by Stanley Heller, PEP Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace has been holding back on its ceremony for this year’s honorees, Dr. Zaher Sahloul and Mayson Almisri, in hopes that we could have a big event in an auditorium, but since the pandemic shows no sign of letting up the PEP Board decided to hold the event online. It will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17, exactly two weeks after Election Day. The time has not yet been decided.

This year we’ve chosen two people of Syrian origin to hon-or the work of Syrian doctors and Syrian rescue workers.

Syrian-American Zaher Sahloul was a longtime Senior Advisor to the Syrian American Medical Society, SAMS. He is currently the president of MedGlobal which sends teams of doctors and nurses to war and disaster zones from Ecuador to Lebanon. He works as a pulmonary specialist at a hospital in Chicago and is involved in treating COVID-19 patients. He himself fell victim of the virus and suffered from it for weeks. He’s been to Syria many times and has worked with the doctors whose medical facilities were bombed with abandon by Assadist and Russian forces.

Mayson Almisri is a member of Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets. The group started informally as people who rushed to bombed-out buildings to try to save the injured and to recover bodies. As the years passed the group became more organized and received training and funds from foreign NGOs and governments including that of the U.S. The White Helmets try to video and photograph their rescues as a way of alerting the world to the viciousness of the regime, its allies and their militaries. For that they are demonized by the Assad regime and slandered as “terrorist supporters.” The rescue workers have rescued some 100,000 people during the last 9 years of war and have been the subject of several films.

In addition to the acceptance speeches, we hope to have art, music and song to entertain and inspire. Holding it on Zoom allows for more international participation. If you’d like to work on the project contact office@pepeace.org or call (202) 573-7322.

Awarding Syrians the Gandhi Peace Award

Stanley Heller, PEP Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP) will give its 2020 Gandhi Peace Award to two people born in Syria. One is Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian-American, the other is Mayson Almisri, a refugee living in Canada. The award has been given out since 1960 by PEP, a peace and environmental organization. It comes with a medal made of peace bronze forged from the metal of retired nuclear weapons and with a $5,000 cash prize that will be shared by the two honorees.

The Board of PEP decided that our best contribution this year would be to give the prize in hopes it would help reorient the peace movement and the Left on an issue where many progressives have gone astray. It’s said that most generals prepare for their last war. Most of the peace movement has done the same with Syria, making simple-minded comparisons with the U.S. war against Iraq. Most have ignored the agency of Syrians and their efforts for a democratic uprising. Our award this year is to the medical workers and rescuers of Syria.

Dr. Zaher Sahloul is past president of the Syrian-American Medical Society which has built and rebuilt hospitals in Syria, in recent years underground or in caves. He’s now president of Medglobal which helps not just in Syria, but in 14 countries. He’s a pulmonary specialist in Chicago where he’s currently helping treat patients with the COVID-19 virus. He caught the virus himself, but after weeks of isolation is back at work.

Mayson Almisri is from Deraa, where the mass demonstra-tions began in Syria in 2011. She is a leader in the Syrian Civil Defense, known in the West as the White Helmets. They are the heroes who dig out survivors and bodies from under the rubble of Assad’s or Russian bombs. They have enraged the Assad regime by making videos of their work, showing devastation caused by the barrel bombs. During the recent ceasefire, they work at disinfecting, hoping to ward off the virus inside the remnant of Idlib province.

We always present the award in a big public ceremony, but because of the coronavirus we cannot make plans for the date or location of the ceremony.

Gandhi Peace Award to Jackson Browne

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace is giving its Gandhi Peace Award this year to singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. He will receive the award on Friday, Sept. 14, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent St., New Haven. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Starting the program will be two speakers: Frida Berrigan, who has worked for years warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and Chris George, Executive Director of IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. Singers Ben Grosscup and Luci Murphy will provide entertainment. Tickets can be reserved online for a donation. The Eventbrite link is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gandhi-peace-award-2018-tickets-48315261247.

Jackson Browne is the first artist ever to receive the Gandhi Peace Award. The award recognizes Browne’s extraordinary contributions of time and talent to the inseparable causes of world peace, environmental harmony, and social justice. The award comes with a cash prize and a medallion forged from “peace bronze” composed of metals salvaged from the control systems of U.S. nuclear missiles. Consistent with tradition, Browne has been invited “to present a message of challenge and hope” to those present. A reception will follow.

The Gandhi Peace Award, named after Indian anti-imperialist and nonviolence advocate Mohandas Gandhi, derives its international renown from those who have accepted it over the years. Among the 54 awardees are Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin Spock, Dorothy Day, Daniel Ellsberg, César Chávez, Amy Goodman, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth, Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader.

Browne has organized or participated in thousands of benefit performances to support the environment, social justice, and human rights as well as causes such as music and arts education in public schools and has worked with two former Gandhi Peace Award recipients, Amnesty International (1978) and the Children’s Defense Fund (1990). Browne has composed and performed songs widely regarded as among the most literate and moving songs in popular music, defining a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion, and personal politics. In 2004 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Barghouti and Nader Accept Gandhi Peace Award

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace

Hundreds gathered at Yale’s SSS building on April 23 to celebrate the Gandhi Peace Award being jointly given to Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader. The award has been presented since 1960 by Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP).

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti was introduced by Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She decried his Israeli arrest on March 19 as “politically motivated.” She called him a “charismatic speaker, a brilliant writer, savvy campaign strategist, and a principled thinker.”

Barghouti began his talk by noting Palestine “lingers on in colonial chains.” He dedicated his award to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israel. He asked that his $2,500 prize money be given in equal shares to Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Friends of Sabeel North America. He talked about the “striking similarities” between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and that of blacks in the days of apartheid South Africa. He noted the recent decision of Barcelona, Spain, which ended its complicity with Israeli settlements and explicitly defended boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). He also listed many other BDS victories.

Ralph Nader was introduced by activist and mediator Charles Pillsbury, who said he was inspired to be a lawyer by Nader and wanted to be one of the activists dubbed “Nader’s Raiders.”

Ralph Nader said he was a student of Gandhi’s thinking that “open non-violent disobedience be active and not passive.” He said, “Peace is desirable not just on philosophical, religious or argumentative grounds, but a survival mechanism which transcends cultures.”

He talked about terrorism, and said the worst terrorism was “state terrorism” which “is always legitimized as in the ser-vice of national defense.”

At the end of his talk, he mentioned Palestinians and Israelis.

He denounced settlements as “illegal colonies.” He talked about breaking the grip of the lobby AIPAC on Congress and categorized some of the resolutions it advances as “bloody beyond belief.” He asked “Who has killed more than 400 times the number of innocent men, women, and children than the other side? The answer is the Israeli government.”

The talks were warmly received with standing ovations.

For more on this year’s awards, visit http://www.pepeace.org/gpa-2017-video-and-photos.

Arrest of Omar Barghouti Complicates Gandhi Peace Award

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

At 4 p.m. on April 23, Promoting Enduring Peace is to hold its 46th Gandhi Peace Award ceremony, honoring consumer activist and Pentagon critic Ralph Nader and Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activist Omar Barghouti. On March 19, Israeli authorities arrested Barghouti supposedly for “tax evasion.” (Download the event flyer here)

A special meeting of the Board of Directors of Promoting Enduring Peace reaffirmed its choice of Omar Barghouti as co-winner of the Gandhi Peace Award despite the arrest. The Board has full confidence in Omar Barghouti and assumes that Israel is carrying through on its threats to harass and silence Palestinian activists. Barghouti is being honored for his leadership in the BDS movement, which uses the peaceful tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure the Israeli government to respect Palestinian rights.

The Gandhi Peace Award has been awarded for over fifty years. It was first given to former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Other laureates include Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Amy Goodman, Rabbis Arik Ascherman and Ehud Bandel, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth and Kathy Kelly.

Promoting Enduring Peace was originally founded in 1952 to foster world peace, in particular to help prevent a world war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and has since embraced efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change and species extinction. Its motto is: “Peace on Earth, Peace with Earth.”
The award ceremony this year will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23 in New Haven at the Strathcona Hall, 1 Prospect St.

In the past year the Israeli government has threatened BDS activists and Omar Barghouti in particular. At a conference in Jerusalem one Israeli minister called for Barghouti to be denied residence rights in Israel. Another called for the “civil targeted elimination” of BDS leaders. Last May Barghouti’s travel permit was revoked. Now he’s been arrested (though released on bail).

You can sign a petition urging the Israeli government to drop the gag order Omar Barghouti’s case, dismiss the charges, and restore his permission to travel abroad and to return to his home.

We could use your help in gaining Barghouti’s ability to come to the U.S. for the award and for the ceremony in general. Contact PEP at office@pepeace.org.

Seeking Your Help to Protect Next Gandhi Peace Award Winner

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

Promoting Enduring Peace has set up a “Freedom to Travel” committee to pressure the Israeli government to allow one of its Gandhi Peace Award winners to travel to the United States. At a telephone press conference the 64-year-old peace and environmental group announced the Gandhi Peace Award will be given jointly to Ralph Nader (pictured on the left) and Omar Barghouti (right) at a ceremony in New Haven in April 2017.

nader-and-barghouti-620x330

Ralph Nader is known for over five decades for his consumer and civic activism and for being among the first nationally known figures to criticize Israeli abuses and to speak up in support of the Israeli peace movement. Omar Barghouti is one of the best-known leaders of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which calls for economic pressure against Israel until it withdraws from the land it occupies, gives full civic equality to Palestinians citizens inside Israel and allows Palestinian refugee families their right to return to their homeland and homes.

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, talked about Omar Barghouti. He said the Palestinian was a “central player in the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.” And “Omar’s voice has been a crucial one in the past several years and one that should be increasingly amplified to all those asking about Palestinian non-violence.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said she first met Barghouti in 2009 and that’s when Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) starting working on BDS issues. She hailed Barghouti’s leadership and “impeccable ethical framework” and his continued work “at great cost and risk to himself.”

The Israeli government has refused to renew Barghouti’s travel document and he is effectively banned from leaving Palestine/Israel. Vilkomerson said JVP would be working with PEP and other groups to restore Barghouti’s ability to travel and to come to the U.S. to accept the award.

Those interested in working on the “Freedom to Travel” committee should write to office@pepeace.org. A recent TSVN You Tube interview with Barghouti can be heard by going to http://www.pepeace.org.