July 24, 2014


The Dalai Lama speaks out on violence in Gaza. Max Zahn

Seventeen days have elapsed since the Israeli Defense Forces began air strikes on Gaza, and seven days have passed since the onset of its simultaneous ground invasion. As of Wednesday evening, 700 Palestinians and 35 Israelis had lost their lives—not to mention an additional 4,600 wounded Palestinians.

The international response has ranged from a wave of anti-semitic demonstrations across Europe to a pro-Israeli press conference on the steps of New York's City Hall to a slew of Palestinian solidarity protests. UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon delivered a clear exhortation to both Israelis and Palestinians: “stop fighting, start talking, and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year.”

Religious officials have also voiced their discontent. Pope Francis phoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, reportedly telling them to “bring an end to hostilities” and “make efforts for peace.” On Tuesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama called the violence “unthinkable,” criticizing religious actors on both sides:

All major religious traditions—Islam, Christianity, Hindu, of course, Jainism and Buddhism, all major religious traditions—teach us the practice of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance. So then, for a person who believes in a certain faith, why do you involve [sic] in such violence? It is really very, very sad. 

But this is not a call for religious people to remove themselves from the international crisis altogether. The Dalai Lama has previously said that people of faith need to help resolve social and political ills: “When faced with economic or any other kind of injustice, it is totally wrong for a religious person to remain indifferent." “Religious people," he said, "must struggle to solve these problems.”

It goes without saying the Israeli-Palestinian violence—over many decades—has proven immune to such resolution. Yet the Dalai Lama beckons Buddhists to enter the struggle anyway. Religious people who refuse to tolerate injustice and mass killing will consider this conflict directly relevant to their faith.

—Max Zahn, Editorial Assistant

Image: Flickr/Al Jazeera English 

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kfh123's picture

Well, the story of the two monks sounds all very fine in good Buddhist vernacular but these are real people really suffering and trying to sweep it away with a sentence about emptiness will not do in my book.
Of course if would be better if both sides recognised all this madness as an illusion but for a start they are not following Buddhist doctrine and secondly and most important this is a one sided war, as other contributors have said. People on both sides of the Atlantic need to be demonstrating, complaining about poor coverage and paucity of context and history in the media, and writing to MPs. As HHDL has said religious people should not ignore these injustices or as Desmond Tutu said " if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor".

dr_flow_er's picture

Thank you for this excellent article and the many wise replies to it. May World Peace prevail soon, in our lifetime. No one benefits from war except criminals and the war industry. Peace is the common goal of all human beings and we can achieve it by focusing on all that unites us and not on the things that separate us.
I am a lapsed Catholic and a fervent admirer of Pope Frances, whose kindness and tolerance of diversity have encouraged me to go to church and start praying again after many years.

Tonight I walked through much of Bucharest, slowly because it was hot and I was a little bit tired. I passed many churches and other beautiful places and I stopped for a minute at kilometrul 0. This is where much of the Romanian revolution was played out on TV and where many innocent people were shot. there is a cros outside the National Theatre, at kilometrul zero so I knelt there and prayed for a minute. And then I decided to leave my pink tall lily-which I had bought around 10 p.m. from a 24/7 florists. i left it by the stone monument of Vali Sterian, the singer/composer and the soul of many post-1989 protest gatherings....Let us keep praying and/or working for peace.

With faith and understanding and love
Florina/(fleur) Tufescu
Florina.Tufescu@gmail.com/skype.com, dr_flow_er@twitter.com

anthonydenselow's picture

The war has been terrible. The outrage against the slaughter of so many innocent Palestinians is completely justified. And I do not think that most demonstrations in Europe were anti-Semitic at all.

Susancsj's picture

I have to wonder in an era of global climate change in which the species faces extinction, will any of our historical/geo-politics matter?

william allred's picture

Twenty seven hundred years have passed since the Jews were led off in captivity by the Assyrians. The Babylonians and Romans later had their turn at persecuting and scattering the tribes of Israel. Spain in the 15th century and Nazi Germany in the last, tried their best to eliminate a small band of familial tribesmen from the face of the Earth. A political favor recompensed the Jews for all they had given and all they had suffered. And those who remained of exiles, slaves and imprisoned millions returned to the only home we have.
The world was not a safe place for the Jews of the Diaspora. Theirs was a return to historical homelands. Where they might form a battlement around their women and children and lives. The world persists in it's unrelenting effort to wipe us from the map and history. Why, is no longer a relevant question. The goyim make accusations of Zionism and genocide to justify their animosity(Genocide is a word coined by a Jew, to cover the holocaust and all such mass murders). The land of Israel is the last stand for my mother's and father's lineage. It has been a near constant struggle for survival. Seventeen Empirical masters have ruled the region since Babylon. Seventeen Arab Nations surround Israel, none friendly; none can be trusted as allies. We care not if you understand or approve. And we understand that Peace in our Time is a moment to moment luxury.

ronhatch's picture

It is not difficult to empathize with the Jewish people and their tortured history or to understand how that history impacts the policies and collective psyche of modern Israel. That said, the degree of destruction, the massive loss of civilian life, the bombing of schools, hospitals, UN facilities in Gaza by the Israeli military is totally inexcusable. And the struggles of the Palestinian people in Gaza even before this operation began also cannot be ignored. The description of the Gaza Strip as the world's largest outdoor prison seems apt - blockaded by both Israel and the current Egyptian government, unable to get critical supplies.

None of that excuses the actions of the terrorists in Gaza. But the apparent indifference of the Israeli government to the lives of Palestinian people in Gaza I find really shocking. And it takes quite a bit to shock me! The current state of affairs really reflects so poorly on the Jewish people and I really hope that right thinking Israeli citizens speak out and demand that their government take a better course.

reblev155's picture

"We care not if you understand or approve". I guess this attitude of yours includes Pope Francis AND His Holiness the Dalai Llama?

tomanderson's picture

my 2¢

The now-called Palestinians have lived at the east end of the Mediterranean since before Roman times. They are the descendants of the Jews who called the Kingdom of David home and monotheism their religion. Many Jews before and after the destruction of the Temple travelled to other lands and became the Askhanazi and the Sephardi. Meantime, many of the Jews of the homeland converted to Islam and Christianity. Gasp, eh? Now the Askhanazi and the Sephardi have come home and because of our old friend devisive-religion we see problems - yet, all three peoples who are really only one people claim to be monotheists. ᅳ One recalls the American Civil War, and more recently, Vietnam, where brother was literally fighting brother, and that certainly wasn't anything new. Although Israel looks a lot like "District 9" these days, until humans learn the simple medical model used by the Buddha, that there is a problem and the problem arises from a cause and the cause can be examined (it is impermanent, it is unsatisfactory and it is especially NOT a permanent ego), treated and dispensed with, well, until then, we will continue to live in our own simulation of "District 9".

Marys's picture

This is one of the most (if not the most) lucid response regarding this issue I have read thus far - anywhere.
And yes, thank you for bringing Buddhism into the conversation!

lsbromer's picture

Actually, many Jews also never left the homeland -- didn't convert either... Just for clarity's sake. Sephardim come from all over the Middle East, in addition to "Spain" from whence the appellation comes: this includes the area currently the nation of Israel, as well as Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, etc. Thanks!

budman's picture

Wow !
Finally a voice of clear headed reason with actual knowledge to back it up.
We should all pray for all that have suffered no matter what side on the fence the dead and injured lie on no matter where the fence is , and there are many.
Thank you for bringing Buddhist wisdom back into the picture .

johnmcclaf's picture

Muslim fanatics have no boundaries when pressing thier "truth". This conflict in Israel is noteworthy in as much as the Israelies have the will and the means to resist. Throughout much of the rest of the world the brutality of Muslim assault does not get the attention because the victims do not have the press and are not able to mount a vigorous and effective resistance. I think the jews in Israel have decided against suicide and am impressed by thier restraint.

Kesho's picture

Whoever said give peace a chance might also have meant that survival and nationalism must be examined. Fighting any where among humans is an inside problem and has consequences for all humans. Giving my own peace a chance begins with me.

beverlyrudolph's picture

The Israelis have tried again and again to have peace in the region. They have tried to limit casualties,
but the Palestinians have used their own people as human shields. The Arab world has done nothing
to help and/or provide financial assistance to the Palestinians, who are brought up to see Israel as the
enemy. What are the Israelis to do? They need to defend their people. It is very easy for the Dalai Lama
and others to give speeches about peace, but what are they doing to help? Talk is cheap, as they say.

jpw23's picture

"What are the Israelis to do?" you ask ?

Get out of the occupied territories and end the siege.

As long as your fist is in the hornets' nest you can't complain about getting stung.

buddyone's picture

Well said!

buddyone's picture

As Thich Nhat Hahn says," Peace begins within"...as Buddhists we need to be aware of our own suffering and the suffering of others...with compassion we can see where the Israelis are experiencing PTSD from the horrors of WWII, and the Palestinians have been arbitrarily robbed of their ancient homeland by the establishment of Israel after that war.
Both sides have suffered much, but only compassion can bring a change of heart and situation. This is not just a spat in a schoolyard between two kids...this mutual hatred and violence can bring us to the brink of another world war. You say "what else can we do?" And "what are they doing to do to help?" Some awareness would show that just by leaders speaking out is a way of doing something to help. To blame one another just perpetuates the cycle of violence. As Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye keeps the whole world blind." There have been many people and groups that have tried to help the Palestinians but they are in a virtual prison, with walls and the Israeli military surrounding them. Wouldn't you be angry in that situation? Israel has the upper hand here with money, help from the US, nuclear weapons, while the Palestinians have nothing. Violence is not an answer for anyone...we can help and pray and raise awareness by speaking with compassion...it is NOT easy for the Dalai Lama to give speeches about peace...that is his calling...what do you want him to do...send arms and money, go there himself and stand between the two sides? We can each do something, however small...write to our leaders, make public statements, show compassion for other points of view. Any effort towards peace will further the cause for peace. We are here to understand and help and love one another...however difficult that may be.

Emmet's picture

Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism, and the milquetoast language of "Israeli-Palestinian violence" in the article is an obscene false equivalency when Israel is perhaps the world's 4th most powerful nuclear power, with a modern fully mechanized infantry with over 6,500 APC's and 4,000 tanks, the largest fleet of F-16's outside of the US, and an $11 million a day subsidy, versus the world's largest concentration camp, with no aircraft, no air defense artillery, no armor, no AIPAC, and no blanket UN veto from a permanent member of the Security Council.
This isn't a defensive war; it's a premeditated massacre of a defenseless and captive population, and it is incumbent upon all of humanity to rise up and say so.

neil.friedman3's picture

I am reminded of the story about the two monks who were arguing about a flag that was blowing in the wind outside their meditation hall blow. They might have stayed there arguing until the day they died if it hadn't been for their teacher "who reminded them , the flag and the wind do not exist. What will it take for Palestinians and Israelis alike to to recognize that the focus of their argument is just an illusion that keeps them from knowing their true hearts and minds.? I am not suer what the leaders of the world's religions can do but maybe it would be worthy of them to go to Jerusalem and try. . .

Dominic Gomez's picture

The 3 poisons of greed, belligerence and ignorance prevent both sides from realizing that the focus of their argument is an illusion.

tshannon's picture

I could not agree more...