Our Chair, Noel Hamel has written on behalf of Kingston Peace Council/CND to the local MPs - Vincent Cable, Ed Davey and newly elected Zac Goldsmith & Dominic Raab. The text of his letter follows - we'll let you know about any replies we get.
Kingston Peace Council/CND is a group of local activists, many of whom are your constituents, and as Chairman I have been asked to write congratulating you on your re-election as MP.
We believe that violence and aggression are not constructive means of dispute and conflict resolution and that military action should be held in reserve as a last resort after all other methods have been exhausted. We are concerned that the arms industry is uncomfortably close to government and that the ready availability, and financial incentives associated with, arsenals of weapons and military equipment may adversely influence political judgement in favour of ill-considered military action. We are particularly concerned about nuclear weapons which we believe to be an outdated hangover from the cold war capable of such mass-destruction that a 'nuclear winter' and radioactive contamination would decimate areas of the globe not targeted, whilst areas targeted with weapons, some 1000 X Hiroshima would inevitably be annihilated. We can not understand the reasoning behind proposals to exclude consideration about proposed Trident renewal from both defense and government spending reviews. This seems to us completely illogical. If the aim is nuclear weapons' reduction then spending billions on more seems incomprehensible.
Whilst writing I need unfortunately to express our deep concern about the continuing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and blockade of Gaza which seems to offer nothing constructive if the Israeli aim is to help find a peaceful resolution to 60 years of dispute in the region. The latest incident when Israeli lethally armed commandos boarded vessels bringing security-cleared cargos of humanitarian supplies for besieged Gazans, in international waters, and shot unarmed civilians dead, does nothing to encourage a belief that Israel is serious about finding peaceful solutions to dispute. Israel, we believe, prefers to use military options even when situations do not pose any risk to the state, its citizens, or its military personnel. We are of the view that various exceptional commercial, political, and cultural links between Britain and Europe, and Israel do encourage unfairly a belief within Israel that UK and European citizens support Israel's actions and that we are not impartial and objective. The modern history of Palestine demonstrates that Palestinians have progressively suffered calamitously whilst Israel has flourished with political and economic support from western nations. Objectively this suggests that western taxpayers are actively supporting the repression of a whole nation; the defenceless losing side in the dispute.
Members, including some who are your constituents and electors, would appreciate your supporting a number of EDMs which address current concerns and attempt to slightly redress historic imbalances in our relations with the conflicting parties:
EDM 127, Israel and Gaza Flotilla,
EDM 124, European Union Relations with Israel,
EDM 125, European Sporting and Cultural Relations with Israel.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope for a continuing constructive relationship with local constituency MPs, yourself included.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said it is time to move on from the cold war but has also decided to exclude Trident - a symbol of the cold war - from the review. Kate Hudson, Chair of CND, pointed out the government's illogical jigsaw of policies on nuclear weapons on the Guardian website on 15 June.
[Update: KPC held a meeting with Vince Cable on 25 June 2010. See the photo above and the report on the CAAT web site.]
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)'s Stop the Arms Trade week (19 - 27 June) focussed this year, as last, on UK Trade and Investment Defence Services Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government department which exists to help (at tax-payers expense) arms companies sell their products worldwide. CAAT is pushing for this to be closed down and has contacted members in Twickenham and Kingston constituencies asking for help, since Vince Cable is Business Secretary in the new government and is therefore responsible for UKTI, and Ed Davey has responsibility for, amongst other things, the Export Credit Guarantee Department which steps in to help when overseas buyers default on payments. KPC is trying to organize meetings with Vince Cable and Ed Davey to discuss this. Members in other constituencies might like to approach their MPs or write to them and perhaps ask them to write to Vincent Cable. The simplest way of doing this is to email your MP via the CAAT website www.caat.org.uk where there is a basic letter which you can send or adapt.
There is plenty of information on the CAAT website about UKTI DSO - go to Issues, then UKTI Armed and Dangerous. CAAT has recently produced a new report 'Private Gain, Public Pain: the case for ending the Government's arms selling', which can be downloaded. There is also a lobby pack which, among other things, gives responses to the arguments most frequently put forward in defence of the arms trade.
The Kingston Peace Council stall on Saturday 19 June focussed on the same issue.
I am sure that you will have been shocked by the murderous attack by Israel on the flotilla of ships attempting to take much needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. KPC members took part in the demonstration on 6th June calling for the British government to condemnation the Israeli action.
For three days as survivors were held in captivity and unable to speak on their own behalf, Israel presented the massacre against civilian passengers on the Mavi Marmara as self defence against a "lynching." Now that the passengers have returned to their home nations, the global community is hearing a much different story, not just regarding the incident but also their treatment afterwards once in custody:
"(The attack) was a surprise, because it happened in the middle of the night, in the darkness, in international waters, because we knew there would be a confrontation but not in international waters. Their first tactic was to cut all of our satellite communications and then they attacked. All I witnessed first hand was the shooting. They came on board and started shooting at people. We expected them to shoot people in the legs, to shoot in the air, just to scare people, but they were direct," "Some of them shot in the passengers' heads. Many people were murdered - it was unimaginable." (Iara Lee, Brazilian Filmmaker (based in San Francisco))
"We had not prepared in any way to fight. We didn't even consider it because we knew very well that we would have absolutely no chance against soldiers like this. The Israeli government justifies the raid because they were attacked. This is absolutely not the case." (Norman Paech, Retired German Parliamentarian and Professor)
"The Israeli claim that its commandos acted in self-defence was 'ridiculous'. It was like war. They had guns, Taser weapons, some type of teargas and other weaponry, compared to two-and-a-half wooden sticks we had between us. To talk of self-defence is ridiculous. The scandal is that we have to fight the Israeli images only with words. The Israelis confiscated all the activists' cameras, computers, and mobile phones." (Annette Groth, German Parliamentarian)
"The Israeli forces handcuffed members of the activists' medical team who were sent to help treat the injured. It was terrifying...If you talked they pointed a gun at you. We wrote a sign in Hebrew saying, 'SOS! Need medical assistance. People are dying. Urgent' Hanin Zoabi, who's a Knesset member, an Israeli Knesset member, took that sign to the front-to the back of the boat, where the soldiers were pointing at her. They ordered her to go back." (Sarah Colborne, United Kingdom)
"The Israeli navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters." (Haneen Zuaby, Minister, Israeli Knesset) She also said Israeli forces ignored her when she said that they should treat two gravely injured people, who later bled to death.
"People were not allowed to go to the lavatories - they were made to soil their clothes." (Matthias Gardel, Acclaimed Swedish Academic) Gardel was especially horrified by witnessing the experience of a badly wounded man in his late 50s, who the Israeli troops forced to remain on the open deck. "Suddenly, his right eye exploded in a gush of blood - and a blob of something fell out of it."
"...as this attack started I was on the top deck and within just a few minutes there were live shots being fired from above the ship from above from where the helicopters were. The first shots that were fired were some sort of sound grenades. There was some tear gas that was fired as well as rubber coated steel bullets. They were fired initially and the live bullets came roughly about five minutes after that, after those initial shots were fired. There was definitely fire from the air because one of the people who was killed was clearly shot from above. He was...the bullet targeted him at the top of his head. There was also fire coming from the sea as well. Most of the fire initially from the sea was tear gas canisters and sound grenades. But then it became live fire. There is no doubt from what I saw that live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck." (Jamal El-Shayyal, Journalist from Al Jazeera)
"They started beating people. My head was smashed against the ground and they stepped on my head. They later cuffed me and put a bag over my head. They did that to everybody." On custody: "I asked them to at least give (my personal belongings) back to me, and they refused and forced me into a police van, literally, by pulling me up by my hair and my hands and feet and beating me in order to get me into the van. They drove me out of the port, stopped the car at some point - I'm not sure where because I was a little bit disoriented after being punched in the face and the jaw, and then they just opened the door and threw me out of the van. I think I must have passed out for a little bit, because the next thing I knew there was a medic taking me into an ambulance. I was taken to a hospital and checked and released just a few hours later." (Huwaida Arraf, American, Free Gaza Chair)
"We saw the helicopter come down and we heard the beginnings of the opening of live fire. I didn't fully take in that they were using live fire, but it began to sink in (that they were using live fire)." Referring to her boat, "Two women were hooded, they had their eyes taped." The Israelis used rubber bullets, sound bombs and tasers against them. "We stood and tried to obstruct the armed, masked men and maintained no other defence, and still they used violence." (Alex Harrison, UK)
You can read more testimonies at http://www.freegaza.org/en/testimonies-from-israeli-jail
The global outcry against the assault on the flotilla has made a slight impact - the Israeli government has announced small changes to the rules on the Gaza blockade, but for tens of thousands of Gazans, living in poverty and without proper healthcare or education, tiny changes to the rules just aren't anywhere near enough. By making tiny steps in the right direction, the Israeli government hopes it can get the rest of the world to drop the pressure. We need to make sure that isn't what happens. Email or write to your MP at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, asking him to urge the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to keep pressing the Israeli government until the blockade is lifted.
Peace campaigners are tremendously nice people so I'm sure all newsletter readers have lots of friends and acquaintances. I was wondering if any of you had any contact with local teachers or school governors? If so would it be possible to remind them about the UN International Day of Peace on 21 September? A letter has gone from KPC to all primary and secondary head teachers in the boroughs of Kingston and Richmond. In Kingston we also sent copies of the letter to the chair of the governors to see if this increased the chance of a response and we mailed some independent schools in the two boroughs.
Of course, though, head teachers and school governors get bombarded with letters and requests. I'm sure that a personal approach is what really counts.
What are we offering schools? One or two KPC members, with teaching experience, can meet teachers and tell them about the Day of Peace and Jeremy Gilley and discuss the resources available, at any time. We are happy to do a school assembly around the 21 September or the school may do their own assembly or event once they have the ideas and resources.
If you feel there is someone you might approach contact me: mary dot holmes at phonecoop.coop or 020 8892 3271 and I will send you a copy of the original letter that went out to schools at the beginning of the summer term, or follow up in whatever way is appropriate. Any time from now till 21 September is fine if you have an opportunity of speaking to teachers or school governors, and it makes planning easier for us if we can get dates fixed early. However even the start of the autumn term, when people feel full of energy and enthusiasm, can be a good time to approach teachers.
Thoreau's famous essay, which retains its relevance 160 years later, can be found at http://thoreau.eserver.org/civil.html printed in three parts, part 1 of which is summarised below.
Civil disobedients are protesting against state violence. They are disobedient, not violent, themselves. Violence has no part in their plans or actions. When the state orders them to take part in violence, in wars they consider unjustified, they refuse. They may also refuse to pay for such wars and withhold taxes, as Thoreau did, and go to prison. They have a large bump of conscience, and prefer to keep their conscience comfortable, even at the expense of some discomfort to their body. Countless protestors have deliberately and openly broken the law of trespass, for example, seeking arrest and some time in a prison cell. Sometimes this form of protest is taken to an extreme. Franz Jagerstatter, in steadfastly refusing to join Hitler's army, after fruitless attempts at persuasion, was finally executed. In the time of the Colonels in Greece, conscientious objectors refusing to join the army were also executed.
(There is a kind of protest that eschews violence against the person, but countenances damage to property. The suffragettes had their day breaking windows in central London, and anti-nuclear protestors have thrown military computers into Loch Foil, destroyed missile silos, etc. These protestors, too, have a strict non-violence code. They constitute an important force in promoting reform, but theirs is something different from civil disobedience presently being considered.)
Civil disobedients obviously have a lot of self-confidence, and tend to be democrats, being suspicious of centralised power of the state, whether in a democracy or a dictatorship. In advocating minimalist government, they sound right-wing politically, but their position stems from a distrust of what government might require them to do, rather than from ideas concerning economic laissez-faire.
Now for Thoreau. Everything below is a direct quote from his essay.
That government is best which governs least.
Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war.
... this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.
.... A government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice. . . . Must the citizen, ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator?
I think we should be men first, and subjects afterwards.
A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers . . . marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences. . .
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines . . . In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense.
I cannot for an instant recognise that political organisation as my government which is the slave's government also.
There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, yet who in effect do nothing to put an end to them. . . . They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret.
There are nine hundred and ninety nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.
Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it.
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it and . . . not to give it practically his support.
Part 2 next month
As in previous years, Kingston Peace Council/CND will be gathering beside the Thames in Canbury Gardens, Kingston, on 6th August at 8.30 pm, to commemorate the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and to remember the hundreds of thousands of victims.
Please join us. Bring white flowers and biodegradable lanterns to float on the river. For details, 'phone Hilary (020 8898 4850) or Noel (020 8395 2656).
'After the Bomb Dropped: How Hiroshima and Nagasaki Suffered' is an exhibition that explores the destruction of the two cities by nuclear weapons through photographs and artefacts recovered from the wreckage. Transported from Japan and on display in London for the first time, the exhibition coincides with the 65th anniversary of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The programme will include a series of events to explore further the realities of nuclear warfare, and this will include a chance to hear from a survivor of the bomb, plus talks, music, and events for children and young people.
The exhibition is organised by CND working with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, who are kindly providing the materials for the exhibition.It runs from 10am to 5.30pm between Monday 2 August and Thursday, 12 August 2010 at Friends House, 173 Euston Road London NW1 2BJ
CND is looking for volunteers to help with stewarding the items that are on display during the opening hours of the exhibition. If you are interested (a minimum commitment of one day if possible) please contact chris at cnduk dot org or call on 020 7700 2393 for more information about how to get involved.
It would be nice to have contributions to the newsletter from a greater number of members. If you would like to send us something for inclusion in the next issue, please see the contact details on the contacts page.
Would you like to receive an electronic version of the Kingston Peace Council/CND newsletter and/or information about KPC matters, topical peace issues, meetings in the London area, links to interesting websites, petitions etc. by email? If so, please email gill at gillhurle dot plus dot com and I'll contact you to confirm which of the above you would like to receive.
And now, a gentle reminder about subscriptions. The expiry date is indicated by the code at the top of the label on your Kingston Peace News - the year followed by the month (so 201005 - membership expired at the end of May 2010). Subscription rates are £8 annually, £10 family membership, £3 unwaged. Cheques should be made payable to Kingston Peace Council/CND and sent to the treasurer (contact details on the contacts page). If you receive your KPN electronically I'll send a reminder by email.
Cesspit, corrupt corporate capitalism;
Coercion, killings, torture disappeared exploitation;
Communal subterfuge, media - layers, lies;
Global blinkered indifference - humanity dies.
Glan Jenkins, Port Talbot
Newsletter Editor for this issue was Gill Hurle.
Disclaimer: It is the nature of a newsletter like KPN that views cannot be sought on everything that appears herein, so views expressed are almost never the agreed opinion of the group.