When Dorothy Hayball, longstanding member of Kingston Peace Council, died last year, £280 was donated in her memory to KPC (as well as an equal amount to the Greenham Commemorative Fund). At our July meeting it was decided to use some of this money to buy several copies of Remember War, Make Peace, by David Adam, Nick Fawcett, Ray Simpson and Christine Titmus. This book is a collection of suggestions for services, reflections, prayers and readings for Remembrance Sunday, with an accompanying CD. It was devised not as a substitute for the traditional commemorations, but to make them more resonant, more aware of the reality of war and all its victims, so that remembrance gives rise to a genuine determination not to repeat the same mistakes. As it says in the introduction, if the millions of dead ... could speak to us, their message would be simple: 'If you really want to remember and honour us then work for a world from which war and its horrors have been abolished'.
We shall then pass on copies of the book to some local clergy who are likely to be sympathetic and make use of them. This seems appropriate, as Dorothy herself was a committed Christian who surely would have approved.
We have some ideas of suitable recipients, but would like to hear from you if you know of local clergy who would be likely to use these ideas in a constructive way. We would send the book, or even deliver some of them personally, with an accompanying letter.
A copy of the book is available for anyone who would like to look at it – please contact Hilary.
KPC will have a stall at this fair in Carshalton Park, Ruskin Road, Carshalton, on Bank Holiday Monday, 29th August. It is a large fair with lots of stalls and entertainment, so it’s a great day out.
To get there:
By Bus: There will be a FREE bus service will be provided to and from the fair on three routes throughout the borough of Sutton.
By Train: The nearest railway station is Carshalton Beeches. Wallington and Carshalton Stations are further away but within 10 to 20 minutes walk. The 157, 154, 127, 407 and X26 (fast from Kingston) all stop nearby. Trains will not be serving Carshalton or Hackbridge stations due to bridge works. There is a rail replacement bus, but if you get out of the train at Sutton you'd be better off waiting for the FREE Fair bus service which stops outside the station and takes you to the park.
We have done very well at our garage sales and stalls at other fairs earlier in the year, so we need to replenish our stock. If you have GOOD QUALITY bric-a-brac – unwanted gifts and undamaged goods, please give Maggie a ring on 020 8549 0086 or email her on Maggie at galdor.co.uk. If necessary, she will collect within the borough of Kingston and if you live further away we’ll see what we can arrange. Please have a good search and declutter your homes.
Also, if you are able to help on the stall for the morning or afternoon, Maggie would be pleased to hear from you.
In the July newsletter we reported the text of a letter about the arms trade from Jim McCluskey to Vince Cable, who as Business Secretary is responsible for the UK Trade and Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI-DSO).
Dr Cable passed this letter to Paul Spencer of UKTI-DSO, who responded. Jim also had a response from Lord Green, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, to an earlier email that he had sent to Vince Cable. The two responses overlap somewhat, but they are summarised below, with comments made by Jim in his replies to the two letters.
UKTI: ‘Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, coutries are entitled to defend themselves’
JMcC: This is not in dispute, but the question then arises, who did UKTI-DSO think that Libya was arming to defend itself against up to 3rd March 2011 (when an arms embargo was implemented into domestic law)?
UKTI: ‘As not every country either has or wants to have its own defence industry, some level of international trade in defence goods will be essential’
JMcC: This clearly does not explain the licensing of arms to such countries as Israel with a well developed arms manufacturing industry.
UKTI: ‘The government takes its defence export responsibilities extremely seriously and operates some of the most rigorous export controls in the world’
JMcC: This does not address my concerns. Furthermore a comparison with export controls in other countries is less than reassuring since the international arms trade notoriously fuels the world’s wars to the advantage of the arms manufacturers and their aids but to the detriment of all others.
UKTI: ‘Under the Criteria, a licence will always be refused if there is a clear risk that the export will be used for internal repression’
JMcC: This appears to be contradicted by Lord Green’s letter which appears to acknowledge that UKTI-DSO has been awarding export licenses for items which could be used for internal repression to dictators with well known abysmal human rights records: ‘...we have reviewed licences and moved swiftly to revoke licences for items that could be used for internal repression’. I note also the admission in Mr Green’s letter that licenses have been granted to the repressive regime in Bahrain for items which could be used for internal repression’; ‘Licenses revoked for Bahrain cover equipment that could be used for riot control’.
UKTI: ‘In 2009 …… there was no embargo on promoting defence goods to [Libya] and the export of any equipment would have been considered in accordance with UK licensing criteria’
JMcC: With regard to your comments about Libya it seems surprising, in view of your claims about the stringent controls adhered to by the government, that it waited for a UN Security Council Resolution before curtailing arms exports.
UKTI: ‘The Foreign Secretary has commissioned a review of Government policy and practice’
JMcC: I applaud this news and trust that this will take due consideration of the fact that, as pointed out, the international arms trade fuels the world’s wars and in recent years the UK arms industry has been one of the world’s largest exporters, massively aided in its sales efforts by the UK government. I trust that the outcome of this review will be widely publicised.
UKTI: ‘Our Coalition Programme clearly states –“We will support defence jobs through exports that are used for legitimate purposes, not internal repression”.’
JMcC: Making a statement does not make it so. Furthermore the jobs plea is long since established as threadbare since only 0.2 percent of jobs in the UK are created by the manufacture of weapons. This workforce could easily be redeployed to life-enhancing occupations, for example in the sustainable energy industry.
UKTI: ‘UKTI DSO offers support to the defence and security industries to maintain and improve the UK’s leading position in the global marketplace’.
JMcC: The ‘leading position in the global marketplace’ is not a posture which the citizens of the UK are likely to support if asked since the appalling pernicious effects of the global arms industry is now very well known.
UKTI: ‘The value of UK arms related exports in 2009/10 was 1.5 billion pounds’
JMcC: This emphasises the vast gulf between the government’s posture in this matter and that of the citizens.
UKTI: ‘The value of contracts identified which were concluded for the sale of defence exports and services amounted to £7.2 billion’.
JMcC: This is a matter of shame and anger for many citizens. The fact that the government seems to consider it a matter of pride is indicative of how much the government is out of touch, in these matters, with those it is elected to serve.
In his reply to both letters Jim also said:
In my letter I list 10 facts regarding the arms trade which I suggest require explanation. I ask for an explanation of each of these facts. This has not been forthcoming.
I would also refer you to the highly critical report of the Committee on Arms Export Controls. This report is titled ‘The Report: Scrutiny of Arms Export Controls (2011)’.
The committee found that,
‘both the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression’.
The huge number of licences which have been revoked recently does not support your statement regarding the rigour of the UK governments export controls.
As the Report states,
‘...their number, 156 by the time the Committees concluded their Report, reflects the degree of policy misjudgement that has occurred’ [para. 134]
Garry Ettle, national Representative for Amnesty International on Israel/Palestine & an ex-member of Kingston Peace Council, came to speak to us at our June Meeting. Garry said Amnesty does not take a political perspective but is concerned with human rights in every situation. He showed us a video and spoke about Amnesty’s priorities re. Israel/Palestine, which are:
i) Gaining accountability for violations of international law during the 2008/09 conflict in Gaza The UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, giving evidence of war crimes which needed investigation, was presented in September 2009 and has been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The Israeli Defence Force investigated itself and virtually no soldiers were prosecuted and no victims received compensation. Hamas did no investigation.
Goldstone subsequently recanted from the strong criticism of Israel in the report but the other three authors remained firm. The demands of the report are yet to be acted upon. The living conditions in Gaza are totally unacceptable & violence by both Israel and Hamas continues, so the conflict had no positive results. Amnesty says ‘Crimes against humanity are crimes against us all’.
ii) Ending the Blockade of Gaza The blockade continues with terrible consequences: supplies greatly reduced, damage to water supplies & sewage system, and farming and fishing rights reduced. However there have been some positive developments since regime change in Egypt with the Rafah Crossing opened at times, for all but men of ‘military’ age.
iii) Ending discrimination over housing and the distribution of water Settlement expansion continues but Palestinians are virtually never allowed to build new houses, nor even extend or improve existing property, in spite of pressing need. In East Jerusalem settlers forcibly take over Palestinian homes with impunity. Palestinian homes are demolished in the Jordan Valley.
Water discrimination means settlers have swimming pools and Israelis use 20 times as much water per capita as Palestinians. (Palestinians have the same daily allowance as the minimum UN recommendation for emergency situations.)
iv) Stopping & reversing the building of ‘settlements’ As described above the housing situation is discriminatory & settlement expansion continues. This is accompanied by numerous movement restrictions for Palestinians, Israeli-only roads and the Wall.
v) Ending the impunity for human rights violations by all parties Amnesty continues to campaign on extra judicial executions, administrative detention, child prisoners, Palestinian villages in Israel which don’t get recognition and other issues.
Amnesty International works with Amnesty Israel.
Asked about the future, Garry said he thought Palestinians showed great resilience and understanding in the face of adversity. In answer to another question, he mentioned the Israeli legislation aimed at stopping human rights activities by organisations and individuals in Israel. One questionner had been told by a contact that moderate Israelis were leaving Israel, but Garry said that there is hope, and it lies with the spirit of the people when you meet them - they are not leaving!
Garry was thanked for his excellent talk & presentation.
Freedom Flotilla 2 was the latest and largest attempt to break the siege on Gaza. Activists from around 20 countries, including Canada, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and the USA planned to sail in May to commemorate the first anniversary of the Mavi Marmara's fatal voyage.
The latest flotilla was about more than taking in humanitarian and medical aid; it was about breaking the siege itself, in all of its forms, including restrictions on the free movement of people. Nowhere else in the world are people herded into such a small strip of land and denied the right to leave or to have people visit them. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on the planet and the only place in the world to endure such a barbaric medieval-style siege. It remains almost completely isolated from the outside world and the flotilla activists hoped to bring some normalisation to the situation by visiting the territory.
The embarkation was delayed, but in June with two weeks to go to the rescheduled departure, Israel was stepping up the threats, threatening to sue people who were taking part, threatening to sue the satellite phone company if they provided them with service, threatening to kill and maim them if they wouldn't stop, then saying, "I told you so...we said we would kill you."
On 14th June, as part of its 17th Session, the UN Human Rights Council held discussions on the status of implementation of the conclusions contained in the report of the independent international factfinding mission on the attacks on the Freedom Flotilla 1. The Freedom Flotilla 2 Steering Committee submitted a statement to the Council, calling upon it to stand up to these Israeli threats, to defend their right to intervene in the long-standing tragedy which is Gaza and to expose and put an end to Israel’s illegal behaviour, which has too long been tolerated by the international community.
However, the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General has not yet made public its report, and Ban Ki-moon tried to persuade member governments to do their best to prevent ships from joining Freedom Flotilla 2, purportedly to prevent the recurrence of violence.
In the weeks leading up to the flotilla, Israel took a number of steps to try to address the concerns raised in the public eye by the Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human initiative. However these steps were symbolic at best, falling far short of Israel’s obligations under international law, and insufficient to meet the needs of Palestinians in Gaza. In addition to the authorization of a limited amount of construction materials, Israel also permitted 19 trucks of medicine to be delivered by Palestinian sources from the West Bank to Gaza. This was in response to an emergency announcement from health authorities in Gaza that crucial medicines had run out due to Israel's illegal blockade. Prior to that, Israel increased the number of aid trucks entering Gaza to between 210 and 220 per day. However, this still falls 35% short of what is required by Gaza Strip residents.
As the sailing date of the Flotilla neared, Israel increased efforts to allow humanitarian goods into Gaza, including previously banned reconstruction materials. This proves three important things:
(1) the Flotilla was effective in generating changes, even if they are insufficient, on the ground;
(2) the ‘normal channels’ for delivering aid exist, but are useless without pressure on Israel to allow them to function; and
(3) Israel’s standard excuse for preventing reconstruction material into Gaza is rendered baseless, given the approval to allow 1,200 homes and 18 schools to be constructed.
Greece forbade the vessels from leaving its ports, but offered instead to send any humanitarian aid to Gaza in its own vessels, under United Nations supervision. Greece's offer was supported by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the United Nations, but rejected by the flotilla activists. The response to this offer from Gaza was clear -- FREEDOM NOT CHARITY!
On July 1st the US boat the Audacity of Hope disobeyed Greece's orders and set sail, but was intercepted by the Greek coast guard, brought back to shore, and dozens of activists were arrested. The Audacity of Hope was imprisoned at the US Embassy/Greek Coast Guard dock, near Piraeus, and on July 12th the shore electricity was cut off leaving the boat with no power, and temperatures of over 100 degrees inside the boat, with a neighbouring Russian ship loading its cargo and spewing grain and dust over the entire area.
Only the French boat Dignité managed to approach Gaza, having sailed from Corsica on June 25th, evading the Greek blockade on more than one occasion. 10 representatives of several delegations of the humanitarian coalition were on board, including French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Vangelis Pissias, the coordinator of the Greek delegation, Swedish-Israeli musician Dror Feiler and actor Guillermo "Willy" Toledo, representing the Spanish delegation. Also on board were renowned Israeli journalist Amira Hass, reporting for Haaretz, and a team from Al-Jazeera TV.
On July 19th the Dignité was about 50 nautical miles from the shore. At about 1 p.m., a few commando boats sped toward the Dignité from the west. From the south and north, three missile boats appeared. Two long, greenish missile boats with commandos on board, black masks hiding their faces, were aiming all sorts of weapons at the orange-clad activists. The commando boats came closer; alongside them were two gray inflatable rubber boats. Later, three more appeared.
Israeli expatriate Dror Feiler, now a Swedish citizen, played a tune he had composed, with Jewish cantorial motifs, on his saxophone. Just as he stopped playing, the commando boats began to slow down and pull back. The activists joked that the tune had done the job. But around 2 p.m., seven commando boats came within a few meters of the yacht on both sides. Water cannons were aimed straight at the deck. The rubber boats also came closer, and the Dignité’s crew began to come down wet from the upper deck. The engine stopped and the soldiers, with their black masks and their pointed guns, ordered everyone into the cabin.
The activists were crowded into the cabin, and the deck filled up with masked men who ordered them one by one into the rubber vessels, which had border police markings, where they were given water. They were transferred onto the huge missile boat Kidon, and taken down to airless cabins where they were given water and fruit. Someone checked their pulses and asked whether anyone was in pain. That was the extent of the medical examination.
Four hours later they arrived in Ashdod, their heads aching from the suffocating cabins. They were transferred to a retention centre in the city of Holon near Tel Aviv. Non-Israeli passengers were arrested and were not allowed to see their lawyers. The Israeli authorities took them to Tel Aviv airport where they spent the night before being expelled from Israel.
The rest of the Flotilla’s ships have been detained in different Greek ports, through bureaucratic obstruction, sabotage, sudden restrictions and withdrawals of flags. Despite this, the flotilla has managed to highlight the vicious nature of Israel’s policy towards Gaza. Israeli leaders showed their willingness to use intimidation, lies, economic blackmail, threats of violence, and sabotage to stop boats that Israeli military officials admitted would not be carrying weapons. This clearly demonstrates that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not based on “security”, but is meant to punish the Palestinian people, denying their freedom and keeping them cut off from the rest of the world.
As long as the illegal blockade of Gaza remains in place, ships will sail to confront it; as long as Israel continues its occupation, colonization, and violent repression of Palestinians and our governments are silent about it, the global solidarity movement will mobilize to challenge it.
On 29th June 2011 Liam Fox announced in a written statement a reduction in the number of warheads deployed on one of the UK’s Vanguard class submarines. This was as ministers from the US, Russia, UK, France and China (the P5 countries) were holding talks on nuclear disarmament in Paris. They were following up on the commitments they made at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the UN last year. At the conclusion of the 2010 NPT meeting, the five original nuclear weapon states agreed to "accelerate concrete progress on...steps leading to nuclear disarmament". The conference on ‘Confidence Building Measures towards Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation’ discussed what mutual steps might be taken by the five countries.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said “This is a welcome step towards Britain living up to its commitment to disarm itself of nuclear weapons and we urge the government to rapidly expedite the reductions on all four submarines. However, this is only a small stage on the way to fulfilling our disarmament obligations. Even when the current reductions are completed in the 2020s, Britain will still have 180 of these city-destroying bombs.
Kate Hudson continued, “International agreements to ban other weapons of mass destruction - chemical and biological weapons – have been rapidly negotiated once governments committed seriously to ridding themselves of them in parallel. A nuclear weapons convention – ridding the world of all nukes held by the P5 and others – is a necessary and achievable goal. We strongly urge the UK government to put such a plan on the P5 conference agenda and to make a major contribution towards achieving this by cancelling the replacement of Trident entirely.”
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.