Democracy is for the Uncertain

More often than not, my best thoughts are not my own. This one came to me while reading Mark Martinez‘s book on free market capitalism called “The Myth of the Free Market”. He titled one of the sections “Democracy is for those that are not sure they are right.” This resonated with my thoughts on the importance of pluralism. I had been thinking this though, just never quite so succinctly.
As a pluralist, I am deeply suspicious of fundamentalists of any stripe.

I am thoroughly convinced that there are very few things in human experience that encompass only one correct truth. That is not to say that every idea and opinion is of equal validity, far from it. Rather, this means that, especially when you are passionately convinced of the validity of something you’re doing or believe in, it is important to entertain the possibility that you may be wrong. It is a certain skepticism that really gives out beliefs and values their worth. If you hold something to be true, test it, question it. If your belief is correct, it will hold up to scrutiny. If it proves to be false, you can disabuse yourself of the illusion, we all entertain illusions from time to time, and change your perspective.

Not questioning and not allowing questioning by others is the mark of an intellectual coward and someone who, deep down, is aware of the shakiness of their beliefs. Democracy, in my mind, is not meant to achieve a singular way of organizing ourselves as groups. 9 times out of 10, those offering “the way” will lead you to fascism, communist tyranny or some other fundamentalist, totalitarian dictatorship. Rather, it is a system that should force us to recognize our differences, accept that they will continue to exist and reach some kind of compromise that will leave the vast majority only somewhat disappointed.

Only through the recognition and acceptance of our diversity can we truly accept our responsibility towards one another. A society belongs to all of its members, not just to those in power. A healthy economy is the result of the efforts of all its participants and not just those making the most. A democracy does not just belong to those that are in the right but also those that are in the wrong.

-Bram Spiero

occupy Rothschild,occupy wall street

This summer I watched with envy as Israelis took back ownership over determining what society will look like. I had just moved to New York and spent countless hours watching streaming video from Israel, often tearful as I realized just how many people shared the ideas and values that I believe are so important. What impressed me most though was the change in the actual conversation being held. People where suddenly talking about how we live together rather than how I get ahead.

Two weeks ago a small group of people started a protest on wall street in New York City called Occupy Wall street (occupywallst.org). What started as a few individuals has changed into a few thousands camped out in a park in Manhattan. Once again there are people discussing how they want our society to look, what they think needs to be changed, why we cannot continue going on the way we have up to now. Once again, it’s the act of the conversation that impresses me most. What they want to achieve is clear, an end to the free market economic policies and the corporate dictatorship of our politics.

How to achieve this, on the other hand, is very unclear and the subject of countless, passionate discussions and arguments. This is the beauty of recent protest movements because they signal a change in the way we perceive our problems. We have tried working through the regular channels in order to affect change only to realize that everyone that makes it to power is enamored to the Chicago School of Economics, whether he is Netanyahu, Bush, Livni or Obama. It seems that the time has come to try something else.

No one really knows what this something else is exactly. News media here, just like in Israel this summer, keeps on insisting on getting a clear list of demands and some kind of idea when the protest will end. There cannot be a clear list of demands as what is being asked for is a change in the way we conduct ourselves and not just a change in this policy or the other.

It took conservatives 40 years to break down the welfare state, deregulate the financial industry and establish the consumer society. These protests aren’t going to change that within the space of a couple of months. What they are doing is reminding us that it is us that decide on the character of our society. It is us who allowed the corporate greed, the wholesale privatization of public services and goods, the monetization of everything we do to take place. It is us that will decide to put an end to this. This is our responsibility.

Bram Spiero

Green New Deal

by maayan kreitzman

This post is meant to introduce, briefly describe, and finally give a critical perspective on the economic and social plan that the Green Movement is rolling out this week. I hope it will be the starting point of a discussion in the party regarding this core aspect of our future policy, which these last weeks have proven to be so necessary and relevant.

The document צמיחה ירוקה לישראל – כלכלת המחר is the result of an in-depth project since 2009 to adapt the Green New Deal paradigm developed after the 2008 financial crisis to Israel’s politics, society, and natural resources. The project is not officially affiliated with the Green Movement.

As of the last secretariat meeting of the party, The Green Movement has adopted the summarizing paper of the Green New Deal project in full, and calls upon other bodies, including other parties and the current coalition, to likewise adopt all or any part of the recommendations. So, what is the project all about? The “green new deal” paradigm alludes to Roosevelt’s famous New Deal which was introduced in the depths of the great depression before WWII broke out. Roosevelt’s New Deal in fact provided the first massive public welfare funding in America in numerous sectors: employment, health, and stipends. It also enacted strict regulation of the banking sector, and commissioned massive public works to improve infrastructure and provide employment. This investment by the public sector in the welfare of citizens during a time of great hardship was a turning point in American society, and largely shaped its social policy for the subsequent four decades. Support of citizens in need had previously been the sole domain of private charities. The New Deal put responsibility for the welfare of citizens in the public domain. In this way, the legislation reflects a social democratic ideology.

The title ‘Green New Deal’ explicitly says two things: the most obvious one is “green” – this is supposed to be an environmentally responsible policy which looks to the long term and factors our descendants’, and our planet’s future into the equation. The “new deal” part hints at the method of reform: this proposal, like the original new deal, uses the power of government to enact and implement public social policy and planning to benefit all its citizens. The toolbox offered here to improve our society, economy, and environment are resolutely in the hands of the public sector: long-term planning, progressive and smart taxation, monetary incentives, and large-scale public works. This is not to say that private initiative and endeavor are not part of the solution – they are. But the driving engine behind the social and economic change called for in this document is none other than a democratically elected government.

The Israeli Green New Deal project is tasked with getting us out of a crises. Instead of a depression, this time it’s a crisis of excess. Despite sundry financial “crises” which rock the world’s markets every so often, let us not be deceived. The method remains the same, and it is in trouble for completely different, and much more fundamental reasons than those trotted out whenever stocks plummet and bailers bail. Our economy is unsustainable because it wastes and plunders natural resources faster than they can be replaced. It is also unsustainable because it often produces societies where human resources are wasted and plundered. This project attempt to address both these shortcomings.

The document produced by the Israeli Green New Deal project, צמיחה ירוקה לישראל – כלכלת המחר begins with its most important point: changing the measure of success. The most basic faulty assumption of a chiefly capitalist economy is that people’s chief motivator is their own benefit, and that this benefit is measured in monetary terms. Thus, everything must have a money value to be considered in the system. Those things that don’t have a money value, or are difficult to translate into monetary terms are not included (“externalities”), leading to the absurd situation in which the economy can be said to be “healthy” and “growing” while most of its participants do not benefit, and the world’s natural resources are annihilated. One solution to this problem is to attempt to give a price to everything. For example, great effort has been invested in pricing “ecosystem services” (things that the environment provides us like air cleaning, water, pollination, recreation, soil, etc) so that they can be included in economic decisions. The more basic solution, suggested here, is to change the measure. Instead of counting only money (GDP) as a measure of success, we can create a measure that recognizes value in the natural world and our society whether it has an obvious price or not. This measure is still an approximation of our total well-being, but it is based on additional data and better reflects the true health and growth of our economy.

The document goes on to outline policies in various areas: industry, employment, energy, construction, housing, and financial tools. Perhaps surprisingly, the strongest theme in all these fields is not environmentalism. The document does not set out specific goals to improve Israel’s air, water, and and land use, protect nature, and reduce the economy’s carbon footprint. These goals are implicit in the policies, however to my eyes, they do not take center stage. The strongest theme in the paper is in fact social justice. Narrowing gaps between rich and poor, affirmative action to increase equality, and proactive economic development for the middle and lower classes are points included that come up in many forms throughout the document. This emphasis is particularly relevant in the context of the last month in Israel. Ideally, we could capitalize on the current wave by supplying the concrete policy solutions to the notions of social justice and public welfare that are flooding the streets now. This is an ambitious and far-sighted document, economically, socially and environmentally. It outlines policies that are in many cases unprecedented in Israel and represent a deep change of consciousness. Our challenge is to find the audience that will seriously read, understand, and internalize its approach.

I have one major criticism of the document which you can align yourself on depending on how you answer this question: does it go far enough? If the Green New Deal project is, as I believe it to be, an attempt at deep and far-sighted economic reform, I think that a fundamental aspect is missing: a discussion of economic growth. I’m aware that the document has to toe a delicate line between being practical and understandable in the language of today’s economy, and introducing new values that have heretofore been considered antithetical to economic success: an unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability over the long term and to social justice. Nonetheless, I believe that the document as it is communicates a cheerful optimism of “everything is going to be OK,” which is no way justified by the facts. These facts compel us to acknowledge that even with the most progressive government, we are not out of trouble. An economy which continues to grow its participants, products and services cannot, by definition, be sustainable. Our planet is not growing, and neither are its natural resources. This inexorable fact cannot be changed by all the green-collar jobs, renewable energy generators, carbon taxes, and green technologies in the world. This document has bravely challenged one of modern capitalism’s erroneous assumptions – that humans are best defined by a dollar sign. I think that it needs to challenge an additional false idol: the growth economy.

Finally, I want to thank everyone that invested themselves in producing this impressive and important project. I believe it can be the key to the Green Party’s success, and a truly better future.

http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4110128,00.html

Green Movement Musical Night

Time
07 July · 20:00 – 23:00

Location
North Talpiot, Jerusalem צפון תלפיות, ירושלים

Caspi 21 כספי

Created by:

For התנועה הירוקה – Hatnua Hayeruka – הקבוצה להזמנות לארועים בלבד

More info

Rumi, the great Sufi mystic, wrote beautiful poetry which we can relate to now — 800 years later. His poetry has become greatly popular in the quest for higher consciousness around the world. Gabriella Tal and Mark Malachi have released a CD of Rumi poetry put to music called “I Won’t Hold Back Life”. Gabriella will sing songs from this release which include many beautiful duets, love-songs to God and wise words for any seeker.

Gabriella’s visit to Israel offers an opportunity for her to
play music with her brother – Alon Tal — who will sing and accompany her on a number of instruments. In their early years the two performed in a variety of venues and combos in their native North Carolina. Today Alon is chairman of Israel’s “Green Movement”, an exciting new Israeli political party which works to bring some of that harmony to the people of Israel and the land of Israel. The concert will include several songs of social and environmental change that were part of their repertoire in the days after the 1960s when the brother-sister
team grew up singing

ofek.birnholtz@mail.huji.ac.il

Council of Europe Peace Camp: Call for Applications

The Council of Europe invites young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo(1), for participants coming from both the Albanian and Serbian ethnic communities, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, who are engaged in youth or community projects and motivated to implement youth initiatives for peace building within their own communities to apply for youth Peace Camp 2011.

Youth Peace Camp builds on the long standing work of the Directorate of Youth and Sport on human rights education, intercultural learning and conflict transformation for young people. This project provides a safe space for the young people from different conflict struck regions to learn together about conflict, to share their experiences in approaching them with other young people and to build their capacity to engage and/or develop future conflict transformation projects and initiatives. The Youth Peace Camp project together with the Youth Peace Ambassadors project also enables the Council of Europe’s youth sector to identify and document challenges faced by young people in conflict regions and to improve its ability to support youth projects in those regions.

The project combines a residential seminar with distance learning.

You can find attached detailed information about the project background, aim and objectives, profile of the candidates and selection procedure.

Please note that the deadline for submitting applications is 26th April 2011. Only duly completed applications, made on the online application form, will be accepted for consideration. The link to the form is http://courses.opencontent.it and is also given in the attached presentation document.

Presentation document (add link to work file)

Meet Racheli Tidhar-Caner, co-chair of the Israel Green Movement

 

Racheli Tidhar-Caner was recently voted co-chair of the Israel Green Movement, alongside co-chair Alon Tal.

Co-Chairperson Racheli Tidhar-Caner

For those in the environmental movement, Racheli is a familiar face. Not only is she a founding member of the Israel Green Movement, she has participated (and led) many of Israel’s most prominent environmental campaigns. Chief among them are the campaigns to improve public transportation, protect Red Sea coral reefs from fish farms, preserve the Jerusalem Forests, improve air quality in Haifa Bay, protect the Nitzanim coast from development, and prevent construction of new coal-fired energy plants. Further, she has been active in promoting legislation in Knesset for recycling, clean air and coastline protection. Racheli volunteered, worked and was a member of the governing council of the student environmental organization, Green Course.

Racheli is trained as strategic advisor for social and environmental change, working with a broad variety of social and environmental organizations. She serves as chairwoman of Re’em Association, a volunteer organization advocating for anthroposophic (Waldorf) education in Rehovot, and is a project manager for the Shatil environmental justice program. She has consulted for women’s rights, educational, and accessibility organizations, and assists communities to increase public participation in local government. Her latest writing on strengthening the role of women in politics (in Hebrew) is available here.

Racheli holds a dual bachelor’s degree in geography and Hebrew literature from Ben Gurion University of the Negev and a Master’s degree in organizational behavior from the New York Polytechnic University (Israel branch). She is a graduate of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and was a member of the Moshav Movement’s Garin Oded. She is married to Niv, and mother to Ayelet, Neta and Omri.

Green Movement – the Next Generation

If you weren’t among the 180 party members voting on the new leadership list last week… Or if you haven’t been following the drama around the appointment of Israel’s new Chief of Staff… Or if you are unaware that there is – for the first time – a party in Israel that guarantees equal representation of men and women… Then you are not following the most optimistic signs of life in an otherwise dismal political scene in Israel.

Green Movement Members Vote

First and foremost, party members meeting last week approved a policy that the Israel Green Movement will be led by one female and one male leader.  The model, introduced by the German Green Party and approved overwhelmingly by the party membership, aims to facilitate the advancement of women into the political system.  The Green Movement doesn’t just talk about equal representation, we act.

The new leadership will be led by long-time Green Movement activist and leader Racheli Tidhar-Caner, alongside Professor Alon Tal.  The leadership team is rounded out with party founder Eran Ben Yemini, Professor and Tel Aviv city councilman Noah Efron, executive director of the Israel Energy Forum Yael Cohen-ParanAvi Dabush (Coordinator of Shatil’s Environmental Justice program), Sagit Porat (Paths To Sustainability Coalition Coordinator), Ahmed Amrani (Director General of the Office of the Mayor of Rahat), and Dr. Sarit Oked (community and environmental activist in Arad).

The movement meeting followed closely behind the decision of the Israeli government to retract the appointment of Major General Yoav Galant to the post of Chief of Staff.  Their decision was a direct result of the Green Movement petition to the Supreme Court questioning the ethical behavior of Galant and the faulty process by which he was vetted for the position.

Chairperson Alon Tal

Chairperson Racheli Tidhar-Kaner