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Video Special In Memoriam: David & Priscilla Atwood
David & Priscilla Atwood Memorial Service @ Houston Mennonite Church
In Thanksgiving for their lives, many activists David and Priscilla worked with honored them with memories, dances, and music.
David and Priscilla Atwood were long time members of HPJC’s Board of Directors, as well as being peace and justice advocates. They were an inspiration to us by their dedication and persistence in working to make the world a more peaceful and just place, in many different ways.
Here’s an obituary for Peggy: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/houston-tx/priscilla-atwood-11276319
Here’s a 2010 story, about David’s work on abolishing the death penalty, from the University of Rochester, where both he and Peggy went to college: https://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V72N4/05_gazette02.html
HPJC signs on to the Organizational Letter Calling on States to Support South Africa’s Genocide Convention Case Against Israel at the ICJ
The HPJC Executive Committee agreed, with no objections, to sign on the the letter that over 1500 organizations have already agreed to, asking nations to submit Declarations of Intervention to the International Court of Justice in support of South Africa’s excellent case invoking the Genocide Convention against Israel.
Here is the complete text of the letter:
We, the undersigned organizations, commend South Africa on its Application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) invoking the Genocide Convention against Israel.
We now urge other countries to reinforce this strongly worded and well-argued complaint by immediately filing a Declaration of Intervention with the ICJ, also called the World Court.
Many countries have rightly expressed their horror at the State of Israel’s genocidal actions, war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against Palestinians. Israeli Occupying Forces have bombed hospitals, residences, United Nations refugee centers, schools, places of worship and escape routes, killing and injuring tens of thousands of Palestinians since October 7, 2023. More than half of the dead are women and children. Israeli leaders have made brazenly genocidal statements openly declaring their intention to permanently and completely displace Palestinians from their own land.
South Africa is correct in charging that under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Israel’s actions “are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.”
Parties to the Genocide Convention are obliged to act to prevent genocide; therefore, action must be immediate. A Declaration of Intervention filed with the ICJ in support of the South African case against Israel is one way to ensure that all acts of genocide are stopped and those responsible are held accountable.
Israel’s killing, injuring, traumatizing, and displacing large numbers of Palestinians and denying water, food, medicine, and fuel to an occupied population meet the criteria for the crime of genocide. If a majority of the world’s nations call for a ceasefire, yet fail to press for prosecution of Israel – what is to stop Israel from ethnically cleansing all Palestinians?
For that matter, what is to stop other nations from repeating a horror of this magnitude?
We urge national governments to immediately file a Declaration of Intervention in support of the South African case against Israel at the International Court of Justice to stop the killing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
More information, including a list of the many organizations that have signed on to this letter, is at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSckfVUjnsu-ypbFsbczDRc6XxUoQ-5sVJPLQcVLnfRkkLpiyg/viewform and at https://znetwork.org/znetarticle/international-coalition-forms-to-demand-end-to-genocide-in-palestine/
Statement about Gaza and Israel
from Global Exchange:
The horrendous Hamas led murders and kidnapping of civilians in Israel last weekend do not give Israel the right to inflict collective punishment on the 2.3 million people of Gaza – half of whom are under 18 – who are unable to escape, are suffering constant bombing, dwindling supplies of food and water, and the threat of imminent invasion.
Yes, we need a long-term solution to this generations old occupation to bring peace by finally ending Israel’s brutal domination and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state; but the immediate issue is stopping a genocidal attack on Gaza that will inevitably result in the death of thousands of Palestinians as well as the hostages taken by the Hamas fighters.
All life is sacred and civilians – whether they be Israeli youth shot at a music festival or Palestinian children blown up by rocket fire – deserve protection. We must talk about ending the military occupation, stopping the building of settlements, and to question the pernicious role of U.S. aid to Israel, but now is a moment to mourn the dead and to stop a massacre foretold in Gaza.
We call for an immediate ceasefire on all fronts and liberty for all hostages. We’re joining the American Friends Service Committee in their call for opening humanitarian access to Gaza now.
We agree with Win without War and their call on President Biden to de-escalate violence and safeguard all lives.
Win Without War: Write President Biden
More, from Jaseem Pasha, MD, President/CEO of International Society for Empowerment, Enlightenment & Knowledge:
Desiring peace requires that all the parties involved in the dispute, as well as any arbitrator engaged in the peace process, have clarity in thinking in terms of what caused the dispute in the first place.
This approach is crucial for organizations associated with human rights and other issues about humanism.
Desiring peace requires reminding us that the founding principle of peace is based only on one fundamental concept: “Respect for inherent human dignity, without excluding anyone.”
This concept means:
- All human beings, without exception, are born with human dignity.
- All human beings are equal in their dignity.
- Human dignity is not acquired. Human dignity is inherent, innate, and intrinsic and is independent of what political and economic system, religions, traditions, or culture prevail.
- Human dignity is not a human right because human rights are acquired, subject to human-created laws, and can be taken away. Human dignity can only be respected or insulted, depending on whether the society is civilized or uncivilized.
- Only a genuine civilized mind and society are willing to embrace those ethics and moralities that respect human dignity without exclusions and double standards.
- Without excluding anyone, respect for human dignity is the only civilized, equitable, and impartial point of reference that must be used as a baseline criterion to initiate conflict resolution, regardless of how trifle or enormous the conflict is. This criterion is so absolute that even the dead body of a convicted mass murderer, a rapist, or a traitor retains the intrinsic dignity and must be given proper burial.
Coming back to appealing to President Biden, it would be helpful to ask to integrate the concept of respect for inherent human dignity as a suggestion, regardless of whether they are Israelis or Palestinians. An arbitrator cannot be a judge and a jury.
 Whether dead or alive, the human body—created by God in the perfect shape—must be given dignity and respect. Most religions expound on this principle.
The Houston Peace & Justice Center endorses the following Resolution from the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice
A Resolution to appeal for the Protection of our Democracy and Save and Embrace Culture Diversity In America
Whereas; the teaching of Ethnic Studies; Mexican American, African American, Native American, and Asian American Studies is crucial to the understanding of the rich historical culture of our diverse America;
Whereas; understanding the rich historical culture of Mexican Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans leads to an enlightened citizenry;
Whereas; the Texas State Board of Education has unanimously approved the curriculums of Ethnic Studies of Mexican Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans;
Whereas; an enlightened citizenry demonstrates increased tolerance and acceptance of the social differences between cultures;
Whereas; increased tolerance and acceptance of social differences between cultures leads to a reduction of hatred, bigotry, and racism;
Whereas; the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice’s mission is to defend the rights of all citizens to teach and read about the rich history of the different cultures interwoven in the fabric of the American tapestry; and
Whereas; Governors and legislators in Texas and Florida are denying high school students the opportunity to learn the rich history underlying the coveted idea of America by blocking the required teaching of Ethnic Studies; Mexican American, African American, Native American, and Asian American Studies in our public schools.
Now, therefore be it Resolved, that the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice respectfully request that Texas and Florida Governors and Legislators refrain from diluting the advancements made by the Texas State Board of Education by blocking legislation that promotes a better understanding of the beauty of our proud, culturally diverse states by making it required studies for graduation for all students.
Let it be Further Resolved that the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice appeal to all national, state and local elected officials to honor cultural diversity as codified in word and intent in our United States Constitution; with Justice for All.
By a majority vote of those present at its duly formed February 11, 2023 meeting, I do hereby set my seal affirming this action.
Johnny N. Mata, Presiding Officer
Greater Houston Coalition for Justice (GHCFJ)
Statement on Russia/Ukraine War
Uncategorized / February 28, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a deadly escalation of a long-simmering conflict. Russia is not solely responsible for the tensions, but they are the ones who have initiated a large-scale military action. Russian forces should immediately withdraw to the positions established in the Minsk II agreement of 12 February 2015.
But even as we condemn Russia’s initiation of the largest ground war in Europe since WWII we should remember that the United States and its allies have done much to fan the flames.
In 1998 when the Clinton Administration was expanding NATO, George Kennan, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and the architect of the Cold War “containment” policies told a journalist that growing NATO in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, “shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
Our mistreatment of Russia is not an excuse for this invasion, but as we search for peace and a negotiated way out of this deadly mess, it is important that we acknowledge that NATO expansion and the threat of Ukraine similarly joining the alliance is also wrong. But just as we have condemned many egregious U.S. violations of international law (Iraq invasion, murderous drone strikes, etc) we must similarly condemn Russia’s flagrant violation.
This is a statement by Global Exchange, and endorsed by HPJC. It’s at globalexchange.org/2022/02/24/russias-invasion-of-ukraine-is-a-violation-of-international-law-we-condemn-it
A Way Forward: A History of Racism in Law Enforcement
Recently The Center for the Healing of Racism examined the history of racism inlaw enforcement in the United States. Jeff Reese discussed the origins of the problem and how we got where we are today. Reese led the audience in seeking A Way Forward to dismantle institutional racism and mass incarceration.
During his 26 year career with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Jeff Reese worked as a hostage negotiator, suicide counselor, certified Mental Health Peace Officer, state-certified law enforcement instructor, and a front-line supervisor. After retiring from the Sheriff’s Office, he joined the Houston Peace & Justice Center (HPJC) and the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice. For the past three years, he served as president of the HPJC.
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