The speech by Mark Bruzonsky follows:
University of Chicago Model United Nations
Keynote Address - Palmer House Hilton Ballroom
31 January 2002
Remarks by Mark Bruzonsky
You young people in this room are about to inherit a very dangerous,
potentially chaotic world.
Most of you are Americans, citizens of the most advanced, the most
And those privileges, coupled with your own interest in world affairs and
the United Nations, bring with them new and extraordinary responsibilities.
Thank you sincerely for this invitation to speak with you this evening as
you begin what I am sure will be a tremendously educational experience
at this very special University of Chicago Model United Nations.
Thank you especially as I am well aware my name is not Mary Robinson, or
Ramsey Clark, or Ralph Nader, and that few of you may have heard my
name before this evening.
Indeed, in past years usually persons working for or with the U.N. in one
way or another have spoken to this forum. And they have usually focused on
U.N. system itself, human rights issues, and very frankly matters not very
controversial; some might even say "safe".
But in many ways, including psychologically, the world of the roaring 90s --
which is all most of you have directly experienced in your own lives until
lately - also crashed on 11 Sept. And I expect there are other crashes of
various kinds now ahead of us all - political and economic, as well as
There are real and serious reasons our world is in such turmoil and danger
There are real and serious reasons there are "suicide bombers" in
city which represents the focal point of most of our religious faiths -
Jerusalem, a marvelous and unique city where I have spent much time.
There are real and serious reasons young people your age in other places are
choosing to become what Americans call "terrorists" and what they
call "martyrs" and "freedom fighters".
And there are real reasons, real grievances, real and profound struggles,
which lie behind 911. For we are not in a new war at all. Rather we are in a
new phase of an ongoing war in which millions of people in far away countries
have already been killed, in many cases by policies and forces and allies of
our own country.
And so, it is with these responsibilities and this new situation in mind
that I have chosen to diverge from the "safe" subjects and deal with
issues that will be crucial for your futures, and for our country's
future, and for our entire world's future.
This evening I want to speak with you not about general human rights but
about specific political and economic rights; not about the successes of the
United Nations but about its failures and the great challenges it now faces.
And most of all I want to speak with you about the subject I personally know
best and first-hand from over 150 visits to the Middle East region and 30
years of conferences and relationships since I was a student like you
- about the "Middle East Peace Process" and why it has exploded in
an orgy of even greater violence and despair than when it began.
Most of the human rights problems in our world really have deep political,
economic and territorial roots. Basic issues of power and wealth are
both at the national and international level. How we structure our society,
and who is really in control and why, are the truly crucial issues too often
not truly discussed.
The most challenging and basic issue of all is how our world's resources are
owned and controlled and distributed, because this is what determines crucial
things like how people are fed and clothed and housed; how people receive,
and in most cases do not receive, health care; how people are able, or
unable, to provide for themselves and their families and their futures.
And sadly, unlike for us who are so privileged, the majority of humans on
planet earth 21st century are in miserable and desperate circumstances.
In the wake of World War II the victorious powers created the United Nations,
just as they had created the League of Nations after the previous "War To
End All Wars", then renamed World War I. The U.N. quickly became
a world forum that in one way or another had to be. But it did not
have to evolve as it has.
For today's U.N. has not lived up to either the dream or the promise of its
founders. Most of all it has not fulfilled its primary responsibility to
the kind of independence, credibility, and assertiveness on behalf of all of
the people on Planet Earth, rather than on behalf of those most powerful and
· There have been far too many major Security Council and General
Assembly resolutions that have gone unheeded, unenforced, in many cases
· The major powers, especially the United States, have manipulated and
the U.N. far more than should have been either allowed or tolerated.
· There is a terrible misdistribution of wealth on our planet leaving the
of human beings in poverty and despair - the U.N. should by now have far
more seriously addressed this major dilemma in far more assertive and potent
· There is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe looming. Projections
from U.N. bodies warn that in the lifetime of most in this room our planet
experience unprecedented environmental change including as much as a 10
degree temperature rise leading to calamity on a tremendous scale.
· The international arms race is terribly out of control, propelled in fact
very powers in charge of the U.N. through the Security Council - an
military-industrial complex is fueling future warfare and potential
· And even if these terrible weapons of mass annihilation are controlled and
actually used human kind is squandering the best of its talent and wealth
new generations of ever more frightful weapons; rather than schools and
hospitals and food for all.
· Nor has the U.N. and its many agencies properly prepared
to seriously fight international disease and starvation - two plaques now
ravaging the African continent and threatening much of humanity.
By now you may have realized that I have not included any jokes or one-liners
enliven my talk with you this evening. Frankly, the situation we are all now
in is simply
too dangerous and too tragic for jokes or for pointing fingers at individual
What we need urgently to do is to focus our greatest attention on the big
political and economic issues and institutions - and to find ways to
manage them for the common good. That in fact was the original United
Nations vision and dream. That is what you are challenged to be discussing,
debating, and learning from each other about for the next three very intense
We need to focus on resuscitating a United Nations which itself is in a
difficult predicament desperately needing to find a way to be independent
and potent Though it is an organization of member states it is urgently
important it also become a far more democratic forum, and thus a far
more respected forum, representing the peoples of our world, not just
their often corrupt and self-serving, repressive and deceptive governments.
Very frankly, the world's only superpower has done far too much controlling,
manipulating, and badgering. And when it doesn't get its way far too much
Just a few months ago, before 911, the U.S. was nearly totally isolated at
the important U.N. gathering in Durban South Africa - blustering and
bullying everyone nearly about everything relating to history, racism,
and basic economic and political rights.
And since 911 the U.S. has once again vetoed a Security Council resolution
rightly seeking to provide some protection for the Palestinian people, whom
it declared way back in 1947 should have a state of their own immediately.
Indeed, let me turn directly now to that most controversial of issues, the
one the U.N. itself midwifed, and the one the U.N. has spent more time and
energy and anguish dealing with than any other.
Of course I am referring to the situation in what many still call "The
Land", the area that was Palestine until 1947, the area now called Israel
and the "occupied territories".
It is this very region which also has given birth to modern-day
to airplane hijackings, suicide bombings, truck bombs, and political
kidnapping. And today, because of the past wrongs for which the
United Nations and the United States are considerably responsible,
it is now more fractured and divided and blood-soaked than it has been
since Biblical days and then the period of the Crusades.
But that was a world of swords and crucifixions. Ours is a world of nuclear
and biological bombs.
Your own schedule of sessions and debates at this Model United Nations has
this situation in the Middle East more prominent than any other. And rightly
Many of you may find what I will now outline troubling. Many of you, young
Americans, will wonder how can what he is saying be true in view of what is
usually said about these issues in the popular mass media in our country.
Indeed, I still remember when I was in graduate school how upset and
disbelieving I was when Professor Richard Falk at Princeton first used
such concepts as "racism", "war crimes", and
discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Then I was a student like you are today. Then I had not yet had a chance to
travel the world, meet so many new people, hear so many new views, and
ponder these great issues for myself.
Now, more than 25 years later, when I have personally been so lucky to have
had such opportunities, what I have to try to do is squeeze these 25 years
into less than 25 minutes - now half gone already!
All I can realistically do in the next few moments is share with you my own
conclusions; and then encourage you to start reaching your own. And in fact
in just a few minutes when I have finished, I encourage you to start with
the most difficult and important questions you can come up with to ask of
Today the situation in the Middle East is immensely worse than when I
represented the International Student Movement for the United Nations at
U.N. Headquarters for three years. It has been made worse precisely by the
"Middle East Peace Process". And the basic reason is that all along
than a true peace process it has been, and it is, a domination and
subjugation and repression process...and we have all been taken for a ride!
Let me try to explain in the following way: If you had invited any of the
following much more distinguished speakers, most of whom I am fortunate
to have as personal friends, here is what they would have told you about
the realities of the "Middle East 'Peace Process':
If you had invited Professor NOAM CHOMSKY: "The agreements incorporate
extremist version of U.S.-Israeli rejectionism...and are closest to the
Sharon Plan of the early 1980s.....[They] should be compared to the
that monstrous system of Apartheid in the former South Africa...(upon the
If you had invited Professor EDWARD SAID: "There is a wanton murder of
language evident in the phrase 'peace process'... At a time when people
are suffering and shabby leaders are reaping Nobel Prizes that only enable
more exploitation, it is crucial to bear witness to the truth... Far from
bringing peace [the agreement] will bring greater suffering for
Palestinians and an
assured threat to the Israeli people.... Every leader involved with the Oslo
process - Palestinian, Israeli, American or European - has acted without
and without anything remotely resembling vision and truthfulness. Worse, large
intellectuals, scholars and experts have betrayed their vocations, to say
nothing of their
expertise and knowledge, and this betrayal has contributed to the amazingly
compliant attitude of the American media in particular, who have celebrated,
extolled, saluted and rejoiced, where there has been neither occasion nor
cause to justify such excessive handclapping and jubilation."
If you had invited DR. EYAD SARRAJ - Dr. Sarraj, a distinguished
Palestinian, who has his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard by the way,
made these remarks at a Georgetown University forum:
" We are not against the rule of law, in fact we want the rule of law. We
want fairness and equality before the law. We want to feel that the people
have rights, and they are dignified; after so many years of brutality and
repression and humiliation at the hands of the Israelis. This is what the
people here are longing for - dignity, and pride...
Dr. Sarraj wrote an important essay titled "Why We Have All Become
Bombers" five years ago now. It was widely published throughout the
except in the US. In it Dr. Sarraj wrote: "the struggle of Palestinians
today is how not to become a bomb and the amazing thing is not the
occurrence of the suicide bombing, rather the rarity of them."
If you had invited ROBERT FISK - the Western correspondent longest in the
Middle East region, writing for The Independent in London for the past quarter
century: He made these remarks in an interview with me also five years ago
now, long before recent events proved him right:
"I put 'peace process' in quotation marks when I write about it in my
newspaper, it is an American expression, it is definitely not a Middle Eastern
expression... All one can say about the 'Peace Process' now is that it is
dead, it is
finished, it is over, and the most remarkable thing I find in coming now to
the States is the degree to which people do not realize that. I have to live
reality of the Middle East and I have not met anyone in the past two to three
including those who originally, wrongly in my view, believed it would work
who does not now believe that it is dead, and finished completely."
If you had invited HAIDAR ABDUL-SHAFI - a most distinguished secular
Palestinian who was Chairman of the Palestinian Delegation at the Madrid
Conference and all subsequent international negotiations until Oslo - and by
the way, he
refused to attend the White House ceremony in 1993 predicting what was to
"How do we view the acts of resistance by Hamas and the Islamists?
Palestinians are entitled to resort to all sorts of measures including
struggle to try to rid themselves of occupation. The Israeli position, which
is based on Israeli military power and with heedlessness toward legality,
and legitimacy, and United Nations resolutions, is actually a cause for
violence... Israel in the recent time killed so many Palestinians in cold
Palestinians that it apprehended and could have arrested, but it preferred
to kill them... The world is going to realize that this peace process is not
a peace process, it is hopeless...."
If you had invited PROFESSOR CHARLES BLACK* - one of America's most
respected scholars of Constitution and International law who taught his entire
at the Yale University Law School. And yes, here too, no one would publish
these views in the USA, the first time in his life Professor Black could not
find a publisher for his essay about the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians:
"They are imprisoned under obscene conditions, after kangaroo trials, or
trials at all. They are regularly shot at; enough of them are killed to make
death ever-present... Many are maimed; many are disfigured for life. Yet
they come out in the streets again and again, these young people... What name
shall we give to the trait of character that produces conduct like that? Why
you hesitate? You know what the word is. Do you hesitate because that word
just never happens to be spoken in American in application to these young
Palestinians people? Or is it because you fear that a revolution in your
feeling will have to follow your pronouncing the word? Well, you're very
likely right about that last. That makes you nervous? So let me help you. I'll
start things off by saying the word for you the first time. The word is
And finally, though I could go on and on in this vein, had you invited
ARUNDHATI ROY - Winner of India's most prestigious literary prize - and
again published throughout the world, except in the US. Here she is writing
about the World Trade Tower/Pentagon attacks:
"Could it be that the anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not
American freedom and democracy, but in the US government's record of
commitment and support to exactly the opposite things -- to military and
economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry
and unimaginable genocide (outside America)?"
"Now Bush and Bin Laden have even begun to borrow each other's rhetoric.
Each refers to the other as 'the head of the snake'. Both invoke God
and use the loose millenarian currency of good and evil as their terms
of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political crimes. Both
are dangerously armed - one with the nuclear arsenal of the obscenely
powerful, the other with the incandescent,
destructive power of the utterly hopeless... The important thing to keep in
mind is that neither is an acceptable alternative to the other."
"With all due respect to President Bush, the people of the world do not
to choose between the Taliban and the U.S. government. All the beauty of
human civilisation - our art, our music, our literature - lies beyond these
fundamentalist, ideological poles. There is as little chance that the people
of the world can all become middle-class consumers as there is that they
will all embrace any one particular religion. The issue is not about
good v. evil or Islam v. Christianity as much as it is about space.
About how to accommodate diversity, how to contain
the impulse towards hegemony every kind of hegemony, economic, military,
linguistic, religious and cultural."
Please let me conclude with a startling poem, one which contains the seeds
of possible salvation rather than future cataclysm.
For if you had invited Israel's very well-known and respected Israeli
playwright and television host DAN ALMAGOR he might have
recited this poem to you. He wrote it during the first Intifada after
visiting the Palestinian city of Nablus for the first time.
Before writing it he went back a second time to make sure,
this time accompanied by his close friend, then the Defense Minister of
Israel,none other than General Yitzhak Rabin, with whom he then parted ways.
And this poem is not just about Israelis and Palestinians, it's about all of
us, especially now.
WE SHOOT CHILDREN TOO, DON'T WE
Most of these people truly desire
To harvest their olive trees
As they have for hundreds of years.
Most of these people truly desire
To raise their kids
Not to throw stones
Or Molotov cocktails;
But to study in peace
To Play in peace
And raise a flag.
Their own flag.
And facing that flag, to cry,
As we did, that night, then, excited as we were.
And we have no, have no, have no
Right in the world
To rob them of this desire,
This flag, These tears,
These tears which always, always
Come after all the others.
Let us start preparing our defence.
We will need it soon enough;
Those who actually did it.
And those who still do.
And those who hushed it up
And those who still do.
And those who said nothing
And those who clucked their tongue, saying
"Something must be done really;
(But not tonight, I have a concert.
A gala event.
Indeed, we'll all get our summons one day
For the Colonel's Trials.
The Colonels' trials are coming.
Their time will come, it must be so.
The trials of the generals, the colonels,
And the division, the battalion,
And the platoon commanders.
There is no escaping it.
This is how history works.
What shall we say then?
What will the colonels, the captains, the corporals say?
What will they say -
Of those terrible beatings, The Brutality.
Of houses blown up.
And most of all, the humiliation, That humiliation.
Of patients forced to wipe off the writing on the walls.
Of old men forced to take down a flag
From an electric pole
Who got electroducted, or fell
And broke their legs.
Of the old water carrier
Whom soldiers ordered off his donkey
And role on his back, just for fun.
We turned a deaf ear.
We turned a deaf heart.
Mean, arrogant, and dumb.
Who do we think we are
To be so deaf, so dumb?
Ignoring the obvious: They are as human
As we are, as we are.
At least as we used to be.
Only forty one years ago.
No less diligent, no less smart
As sensitive, as full of hope.
They love their wives and children
As we do, no less.
And our children now shoot theirs
With lead, plastic bullets, and gas.
The Palestinians State will come to pass, it will.
Not a poet wrote this. History will.
And seasons will come and seasons will go
And life goes on as we very well know.
Weddings and birth and death all the same.
But just the shame of it. The shame.
Thank you again so very much for inviting me and for so politely listening
to me. Now it is your turn.
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