On Saturday 24th January members of Kingston Peace Council/CND joined thousands of people encircling the entire Ministry of Defence and other government buildings with an amazing peace scarf - knitted by over 5,000 activists from around the world. They were telling the government to ‘Wrap Up Trident’! With the general election approaching, the message to all political parties was clear: if you want our vote, commit to scrapping Trident and cancelling its monstrous £100bn replacement.
Protesters then marched down Whitehall to Old Palace Yard, to hear from speakers including Kate Hudson (CND General Secretary); Jeremy Corbyn MP; Rebecca Johnson (Action AWE); Ben Griffin (Veterans for Peace) and Angie Zelter (Action AWE).
Photo: Thomas James Drysdale Banks
Our Chairman’s report to the KPC Annual General Meeting
There were feelings of anticipation and dread as the clock ticked towards the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. It seemed the myths and legends were most memorable, like the grizzly stories of healthy young men eager to fight for “King and Country” only to be mown down mercilessly by machine guns seemingly pointlessly in the twinkling of an eye. There was disbelief at David Cameron’s insensitive suggestion we mark the anniversary almost as a celebration of Britishness to rival the recent Queen’s Jubilee. How could such senseless carnage possibly be ‘celebrated’? In time more discerning reflections offered some perceptive views. It was dire failure by governments and sovereigns that unthinkingly precipitated the carnage which, once started, proved virtually impossible to stop like a runaway train. We learned of brave and courageous souls who tried to impart sanity and stood against the tides of jingoism and nationalism which stole the minds of the masses. Leaders and politicians obsessed with empires and status behaved like delinquent gangsters with lethal weapons, using their subjects as pawns in a game of thrones. Like a gangland shoot-out no one actually won. Animosities were subdued, brooding subliminally to be resurrected in 1939. Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi gave us an illustrated talk about “lessons learned” which showed us how just a few key individuals, brave enough to speak out and endure assaults of visceral hatred, were the only ones right when they advocated non-violent conflict resolution against a backdrop of Armageddon and madness. The utter madness of the First World War stimulated peace activity, ancestors of movements which endure today. Would that Cameron might celebrate that.
We were delighted that the Kingston Library liaised with Ben Copsey of the Peace Pledge Union to produce an impressive display with guided tours for school parties. Kingston was no hotbed of anti-war revolt but it is believed that around 40 Conscientious Objectors were from the area. The exhibition was important to publicise the CO alternative to the jingoism and warmongering that engulfed all at the time. There were stories too of ordinary people who selflessly did their level best to help the cause which everyone was told was essential for the survival of Britain and its empire.
There is no budget for war. Borrowing and debt simply falls on the shoulders of ensuing generations. Today’s government imposes austerity cuts whilst sparing the military from the harshest cutting, continuing funding of Trident replacement, honouring commitments in Afghanistan, and launching yet more bombing in the Middle East. With this in mind KPC members continue to press the case for scrapping Trident and joined the peace section of a big anti-austerity march in London in June. We joined a brilliant CAAT and Pax Christi demonstration on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending handing out ‘cheques’ to various spending departments for money that could be saved by cutting military spending. At seven members we outnumbered other groups! Rosemary joined a huge international anti-NATO demonstration in South Wales. Our “gluttonous Trident” banner shows the monster consuming our social fabric and services. Some KPC knitters joined the national campaign to produce seven miles of gorgeous pink scarf used in a magnificent demonstration linking Aldermaston and Burghfield on 9th August, Nagasaki Day. Maggie even got Andrew involved, resurrecting a decrepit knitting machine. The scarf itself was given another outing around Whitehall and the MOD on 24th January. It is to be reconstituted as blankets for refugees.
Partly with the disastrous outcome of the Libya campaign in mind we contacted local MPs to try to dissuade them from supporting yet more bombing of Iraq, without success. The costs of our numerous bombing campaigns will bear down on future taxpayers. The outcome is unlikely to be peaceful or pretty. It will certainly provoke negative reaction. Members thought it would be better to support humanitarian need, and help stimulate positive reaction.
We had a ‘special’ in the market place to mark the International Day of Peace, September 21, and our team of speakers spoke at 15 school assemblies about the values of cooperation, dialogue and peaceful resolution of dispute. Local MP Zac Goldsmith attended an assembly. I informed him that the International Day and the organisation Peace One Day was a Richmond initiative by an inspired constituent.
We supported Maya Evans and Voices for Creative Non-Violence, peace campaigners in Afghanistan, with internationally coordinated kite flying. Some members supported Maya’s Afghan Legacy Conference including Skype communication with Afghans. British soldiers have withdrawn but drones still threaten and Afghan government and stability are fragile.
On Hiroshima Day we assembled as usual at the Thames-side and were joined by the Deputy Mayor with stories of family connections to UK bomb tests on Christmas Island in the 50s & 60s that exposed military personnel/guinea-pigs to radiation. Jim McCluskey particularly spearheads letter writing campaigns to national newspapers about nuclear weapons and about Fukushima which continues to leak radiation and contaminate the environment.
Israel blitzed Gaza again in August after protest rockets had been launched from the territory. The Israeli goliath laid waste to large swathes of densely populated Gaza killing 2,000, including 500 children. Essential services, schools and mosques were decimated. Israel blamed Hamas for using civilians as ‘human shields’, forgetting that the civilians just live there, including refugees from the 1948 Palestinian exodus caused by Israeli terror. Despite the ‘sins’ of Hamas, Israel’s was a pyrrhic victory as the slaughter and devastation provoked outrage around the world. Even Israel realised the public relations damage and banned mention of the dead children on Israel TV. We joined three street demonstrations and locally we publicised the names of dead children. Blitzing Gaza simply stores up hatred and trouble for the future. There was a lively exchange of correspondence over several weeks in the Surrey Comet. Four KPC members’ letters were published. Other Zionist correspondents remained anonymous. Someone had pasted a paper saying “child killers” on the Synagogue door, which the Rabbi thought was anti-Semitic; I thought anti-Israel. We met later but didn’t come to blows.
There is a wider campaign about selling arms to Israel which several members supported, taking the message to Vincent Cable’s constituency. We support the ongoing campaign by Twickenham, Richmond And Kingston Network against the Arms Trade (TRAKNAT) for greater transparency in arms trading, more conformity to the rules and better monitoring of ‘open’ licences. Obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty require systematic improvement to records and monitoring. We have widened our campaigning to include other MPs. It’s work in progress.
Some actively campaign for the return of innocent charity worker Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo to his home in Battersea. After seven years’ campaigning there is now more activity with newspapers and TV taking up the cause. We keep fingers crossed. There was an influx of several hundred entirely innocent eager young men curious to experience what was supposed to be an authentic Islamic state under the Taliban – not everyone’s taste I grant you. They were mostly harmless but were scooped up and horribly tortured in retribution for 9/11 with which they had no connection whatever. Shaker Aamer was one of them. He has served 13 years in the notorious prison without charge or trial. With London Guantanamo I campaign against the whole caboodle which has helped spread the dreaded Jihadi Terrorism very effectively. I have written a paper on it.
We must thank all our active members for their invaluable contribution, for donations and for fundraising which enable us to pursue and support causes we care deeply about. Harry is leaving for Australia after many years and has made us a very generous gift. We shall miss him. In remembering and thanking all those who have contributed so much this year we should also recognise that around the world and in the UK there are many thousands who campaign against violence and war too. It is the voices of all and everyone that sustain and promote the peace movement.
Our rotating newsletter editing produces a lively and varied output and Maggie’s garage serves as a base for disseminating stalls at the various events where we show our public face and raise the money we give away in a good cause. A core of staunch activists man our twice monthly market place stall in all weathers and we have returned to our natural home at the new Quaker Centre which has welcomed us back for our meetings free of charge.
Noel Hamel, February 2015
The Government plans to replace Trident when the submarines reach the end of their service life in 2028. The new submarines will be designed to be in service for a further 30 years. The design is now underway. According to the January 18 edition of the Observer, a Ministry of Defence report “The UK’s future nuclear deterrent: 2014 update to Parliament”, slipped out over Christmas, reveals that this year £206m will be spent on new facilities at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness and that more than half a billion pounds – some £1.4m a day – was spent on the project in the last financial year. It is estimated that £1.24bn has been spent on the project so far, the same amount as chancellor George Osborne pledged to find in new money for the NHS. According to the report the total cost of the project’s assessment phase will rise to £3.3bn.
The final decision on whether to proceed with the replacement is due to be taken in 2016, so the composition of the next parliament is crucial. We must send a clear message to MPs and candidates standing for election in May: Trident must be scrapped, not replaced.
You are urged to take the following actions, details of which can be found on CND’s website
On our stall on 21 March, between 11am and 2pm, KPC will be asking Kingston shoppers to complete a printed model ballot paper. We shall also have a simple Trident quiz sheet, an easy way to start a discussion. If you can help, please contact Angie Cooper via anyone on our contacts page.
KPC, with other local groups, is planning a series of hustings in Kingston, Twickenham and Richmond, where we shall be able to question local candidates. Look out for further details in the April edition of Kingston Peace News. [Update: see the Hustings 2015 page]
Several KPC members came along to this year’s AGM of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), the biggest AGM ever, with around 400 people in attendance. It was a mixed day. There were some really inspiring and encouraging reports, but also some really depressing ones, in particular related to the current situation on the ground, described by several speakers, as desperate, and this applies to the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as to the situation in Gaza.
Following the Israeli massacres in Gaza last summer there has been a seismic shift in public opinion evidenced by the following:-
However, the situation in Palestine generally is extremely serious:-
Gaza---there has been hardly any reconstruction------Israel is still tightly controlling the territory, and very little is being allowed in------the Egyptians have destroyed huge numbers of buildings/homes in Northern Sinai to create a buffer zone-------the Rafah crossing is opened rarely.
The Al Aqsa Mosque----this is soon expected to be a mass of rubble, as the Israelis are tunnelling underneath it, in an attempt to locate a previous Jewish temple.
Meanwhile, arrests, killings, destruction of properties, illegal settlements etc progress at an even more alarming rate.
With reference to all of the above some specific campaign targets were formulated for the future:-
Trade Unions------to extend TU support down to regional/branch level
Local Authorities-------to extend the successes achieved with some LAs, in relation to ethical procurement and pension fund divestment, to others
General Election in May-----to co-ordinate a mass campaign and provide tools to enable supporters to contact their MP and ascertain his/her views on Palestinian issues-----to ensure that MPs know that these issues are of great concern to the electorate----to ensure that any information gathered is followed up after the election
Media Bias-----to continue to challenge this
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)-----to continue the campaign against Sodastream, G4S and HP and to identify other targets------- eg JCB?
Military Co-operation with Israel-----to continue to campaign to persuade the Government to suspend its two-way arms trade with Israel and to work to target companies that invest in this arms trade
EU Association Agreement with Israel-----to continue to work to have this agreement suspended and to ensure that no settlement goods are traded in the UK
Cultural and Academic Boycott-----to continue to advance these boycotts, and in particular to campaign against the treatment of Israel as a European country-----allowing it to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest and European football tournaments, for example
Twinning-----to target twinning with Israel, but to try to extend twinning with Palestine
The anti-terrorism legislation currently going through parliament
The Lords vote (29th January) on recognition for Palestine
Progress for Palestine at the ICC
For years Kingston Guildhall has hosted an annual event to mark the Holocaust; I almost wrote Jewish Holocaust because that is how it is often understood. This year’s event on Sunday 1st February was exceptional and should be an inspiration for many.
The main Council Chamber was packed, literally, with standing at the back. Rabbi Charley Baginsky, who has long been one of the main drivers behind Kingston’s events, introduced 2015’s theme: “Keeping the Memory Alive”, followed by a line up of speakers including the Deputy Mayor, Reverends Andrew Williams and Mandy Beck, Josh Whatsize, Youth Ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust, Rabbi Landau of Kingston’s Orthodox Synagogue, and Rashid Laher of Kingston Mosque and much else.
This year’s event had a distinctly different feel, partly because it featured a borough wide art competition that produced some startling and powerful results and helped draw in a wider audience, provoking participation of a greater cross section of our local community, broadening appreciation and understanding. Rabbi Landau lit a Holocaust Memorial Day Trust candle and everyone had a candle which was lit from their neighbour’s and so it spread round the room. We had a minute’s silence for contemplation.
The Holocaust was at the time seen by the perpetrators as a solution to an entirely spurious problem. Fascism and Nazism built upon the totally discredited theories of eugenics that ranked human beings according to an arbitrary evaluation of worth backed up by perverted pseudo-science. Lower-ranked, “Untermensch”, were undesirable and ultimately disposable. First to be dispatched by gassing were the disabled, including WW1 veterans, and the mentally retarded. Communists, prisoners of war, homosexuals, political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Romany and Slavic peoples were disposable; but it was Jews who were the greatest number targeted for mass killing in the “Final Solution”. Mass shootings and gassing in death camps are grimly remembered, including the millions of villagers shot in cold blood by Einsatzgruppen in Russia.
For many hundreds of years Jews had suffered prejudice and discrimination, pogroms and persecution entirely arbitrarily because of their faith. Others also suffered bigotry and prejudice. Nazism simply built on this and took it to a whole new level – a horribly unimaginable level. No Holocaust memorial event could possibly ignore the Jewish Holocaust but the Holocaust isn’t only a Jewish problem – it is a problem for everyone. Bigotry, prejudice and discrimination, wherever found and whoever its victims, isn’t just wrong - it is dangerous and harmful to all, with potential for escalation to harassment and persecution. The Holocaust remains the wickedest and cruellest event in history. It must never be forgotten that its foundation lay in narrow-minded bias and prejudice; something which many may be prone to, to a greater or lesser extent. The Holocaust booklet reminded us of subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Hitler wouldn’t know where to begin with modern multi-cultural societies. Nowadays very few give credence to eugenics. Most accept that societies devoid of diversity are less liberal, more monochrome and insular, and risk becoming more isolated in our global society. In short, diversity is a strength, not a weakness.
This year’s Holocaust event particularly had a feel of greater diversity and participation, and greater involvement of a wider cross section of Kingston’s community. Long may it continue and long may it continue to teach us and remind us that xenophobia and narrow mindedness may ultimately spell disaster for the perpetrators as well as the victims.
Members of Kingston Peace Council/CND joined others from Twickenham, Richmond And Kingston Network against the Arms Trade (TRAKNAT) outside the Twickenham Rugby stadium, which was playing host to an international conference on armoured vehicles between 3rd and 6th February.
The conference guest list included delegates from many repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In 2011 the Saudi government used (British made) armoured vehicles to enter neighbouring Bahrain and help its rulers suppress protesters calling for more democracy. Armoured vehicles are weapons and TRAKNAT believes that the UK should not be helping repressive regimes to upgrade their stock.
Twickenham Rugby Stadium is a world famous sporting venue and the arms industry loves to hold its events in such prestigious locations: as well as purchasing a “unique and exclusive” venue, by buying into public institutions it is also buying itself the appearance of public respectability.
Campaigners engaging with local people found they agreed that the stadium should not be used to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the arms trade, and called on the stadium chief executive not to hold arms trade events there in future
Photo: Roger Joiner
Fukushima - The world famous physicist Helen Caldecott said that if Fukushima had happened during the night when minimum staff were on duty Japan would have been lost.
Renowned American investigative journalist William T. Vollmann has been visiting Fukushima and talks about the horror of the polluted areas. Wild boar are seen parading on the deserted streets. They try to decontaminate the towns but, he points out, they can’t decontaminate the forests and mountains. This is a key form of sustainable energy for the UK government. They have licensed the Chinese and the French to come here and build nuclear power stations in spite of the world’s worst ever industrial disaster and against the wishes of the majority of the people.
There are several events on the occasion of the 4th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster – see fukushima2015.com.
Nuclear War – On 16 January Spiegel Online International published a conversation with Gorbachev. In it he warns that the crisis in the Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. ‘Such a war today [another major war in Europe] would inevitably lead to a nuclear war. But the statements from both sides and the propaganda lead me to fear the worst. If one side loses its nerves in this inflamed atmosphere, then we won't survive the coming years’.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND