Poetry of World War I
Wednesday 8th July 2015, 7.45 pm, Kingston Quaker Centre, Fairfield East, KT1 2PT
David Polden, the worker for London Region CND, will be speaking at our July meeting.
Today when we think of First World War poetry we tend to think of the great anti-war poetry of Owen, Sassoon and others. However there is another strand of WW1 poetry, much more popular at the time, that presents fighting in the war as a noble act.
The aim of this talk is to examine examples of both strands, the poets who produced them, to see how they relate and perhaps also think about how they are reflected in attitudes to war today.
After David’s talk there will be a discussion, finishing by 9.30pm.
Our monthly business meeting will follow this.
All are welcome (press the buzzer for the Large Meeting Room) but please arrive promptly at 7.45pm
Thursday 6th August 2015, 8.30pm, Canbury Gardens, Kingston
This year is the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima (on 6th August) and Nagasaki (on 9th August).
Please join us in Canbury Gardens to remember the victims of the first nuclear bombs.
Bring white flowers, night lights and boats (bio-degradable ones such as half-grapefruit skins are good) to float on the Thames.
The annual conference of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) was, as usual, very informative and with some positives, although many negatives.
Jeff Halper, Co-Founder and Director of ICAHD in Jerusalem, was very clear about how he sees the current situation on the ground and what, if anything, can be done about it, but from my point of view the most interesting part of the day was when he explained his current thesis on ‘how Israel gets away with it’ covered in his new book ‘War against the people’ due out on 20th September. His opinion, which I hope I am summarising accurately, is as follows.
Guilt over the holocaust, lobbying groups etc. play a part, but only a small part. It is important for the US to have a friendly state in the Middle East as a bulwark against the hostile Arab states, but again, although this is a factor, it is not the most important one. The most important factor is the way in which Israel has insinuated itself into the West’s military/industrial complex and what a big player it is in international arms trading – two thirds of its economy is military and it has more global reach than any other country. Israel sells arms to 130 countries and has two military bases - in Eritrea and Azerbajan. It is the second largest arms supplier (after Russia) to China and India. It is heavily involved in Africa and trains police forces all over the world. It is involved in the immigration systems and prison systems of many countries and its techniques and weapons are used all over the world, not just against the Palestinians. The Palestinian territories are effectively a testing area and Israel often sells weapons and systems as ‘field tested’ or ‘combat proven’. G4S is the biggest security company in the world. Germany is supplying Israel with 9 nuclear carrying submarines (what for? - because it is an associate of NATO and because it is the West’s Middle Eastern arm) and also missile boats to protect its gas fields. Israel receives 50% of NATO research funding.
It is clear from the above that Israel holds a pivotal position in the international community. Elites have to control and pacify the rest of the world, otherwise their elite system would collapse. Israel is pivotal in helping them to do this, and this is why it has almost universal hegemonic support.
The UK has quite a small arms trade with Israel, although this has increased from £5 million to £20 million. The UK has regulations in place to govern the export licence system. Unfortunately these regulations, as we know, are not implemented as they should be.
The Palestinians have asked for a two-way arms embargo and the public is sympathetic - agitation does work, but we must keep this up, even when no major attacks are taking place. Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) will be issuing a report in July of this year entitled ‘Stop arming Israel’, and a day of workshops to plan action was held on 13th June in Manchester, being run by the Boycott Israel Network in association with PSC, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and War on Want.
More generally Jeff talked about the death of the two-state solution. It is his belief that after the comprehensive failure of the Kerry initiative the situation became clear to all, but where does that leave everyone and what now can be the way forward? The Palestinians are not yet ready to accept this situation, as it would mean the end of their liberation struggle, and the transformation of this into a civil rights struggle. Major problems are the Palestinian Authority, still in place but basically a collaborationist regime, and of course, as explained above, the paralysis in the international community.
ICAHD is mounting a stop-gap campaign until the Palestinians change their perspective - this campaign is called ‘Judaizing Palestine’, basically explaining that the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River has been turned, by Israel, into a single state. The campaign will document the current one-state reality and begin the process of viewing the country as it is and will be, a single polity. Israel has eliminated the two-state solution and since apartheid/warehousing is not acceptable, a bi-national democratic state is the only option that Israel has left us with.
Khalil-Al-Amour is a Bedouin living in one of the unrecognised villages in the Negev. He gave a comprehensive report about the current situation there, where the Israeli aim is to have all the Bedouin in internal administrative areas with no constitutional rights at all.
The Bedouin have been, and are being, systematically expelled, moved into special villages, (there are seven at the moment), kept away from their lands, pushed into ever smaller pieces of land, whilst the Israelis build settlements, military airports, forests/recreation areas etc. Two thirds of the Negev is reserved for Israeli use. 85% of the Bedouin are internally displaced people (IDPs).
There are 46 unrecognised villages - only 11 are about to be recognised. The Prawer Plan wanted to get rid of all of the unrecognised villages. The state provides no facilities for the Bedouin and, as usual, controls the water supply. The villages basically have to look after themselves.
Salma Karmi Ayyoub is a criminal barrister and consultant for the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq. She explained why she considered use of international law valuable in furthering the cause of justice for the Palestinians, even though there is little political will to enforce it and the Israelis simply ignore it. International law helps us to win the legitimacy contest and gain the moral high ground. It helps us to define objectives and aims and put human rights law at the centre of the argument. It is important for true reconciliation and for providing redress. We should keep pursuing universal jurisdiction cases - they come closer to success every time - and the International Criminal Court might launch some investigations, although it is not realistic to expect it to bring any cases.
There was some discussion as to the merit of Governments continuing to ‘recognise Palestine’, when they believe that the 2-state solution is dead. It was decided that this is still a valuable thing to do, simply as a political act of solidarity.
Stop the War Conference, 6th June 2015
I was very happy to attend the STW Conference at the TUC offices in London.
It was well organised at a fine venue. The speakers were dynamic and stimulating.
There were 15 plenary sessions, held 5 at a time, giving one 3 chances to go to different discussions.
Topical issues from ISIS to the Ukraine and from Palestine to Saudi Arabia had panel presentations and then questions from the floor.
The main message was clear: intervention in foreign lands with weapons is wrong. The more interventions and the bigger the weapons used, the larger are the unpredicted negative consequences.
No to the production and flogging of weapons.
No to Islamophobia
No to the restriction of civil liberties
Thank you STW for running your campaigns.
May common sense prevail.
Less is More
To those of us campaigning for local south Londoner, Shaker Aamer, his release from Guantanamo and the relief of his family, recent months have seemed full of optimism. After almost eight years campaigning the end seemed close. The epetition of over 117,000 signatures did eventually get our House of Commons debate with resounding support for the US to return him. Four MPs agreed to go on a delegation to Washington to pursue enquiry: David Davis, Andy Slaughter, Andrew Mitchell and Jeremy Corbyn.
Successive UK governments have diplomatically requested Shaker’s return. All US security agencies have declared him to be pointlessly detained. There are no charges or evidence of wrongdoing. Even the Guantanamo guards want rid of him as he is inclined to play irritating games to relieve his boredom. Obama says Guantanamo is counterproductive and should be closed since it provokes Muslim feelings of persecution and anger. What on earth is the holdup?
The cross-party back-bench delegation was primed and briefed and a line up of meetings with the great and good, some with genuine influence potential, was arranged. Glad-handing and sweet words were exchanged and a mood of great optimism pervaded. Sadly however, in the cooler light of day the reality check suggested that Washington mechanisms are largely dysfunctional and Guantanamo is yesterday’s news. Guantanamo was part of the Bush strategy to combat a supposed global terrorist threat so we could all sleep safe in our beds. Nowadays it seems no one is in control and there is no plan other than to resist closure and resist discharging everyone. Some however are released to Kazakhstan or Uruguay – why not a British man to Britain. Logic? Common sense?
If those contacted by the delegation – who seemed interested and a little surprised at the news the delegation brought – do pursue enquiries and if those enquiries produce results then Shaker could again be scrutinised by all the top security agents on the planet and confirmed as a totally benign charity worker. If that happens a process could be put in train which, if successful, would result in a declaration of release being tabled for Congress scrutiny, allowing 30 days for possible objections. Then, and only then, could he be released from torture and military detention. Then there is just the flight home and security checks by the UK agencies before he is reunited with Battersea and family. Wow!
The delegation reports that there is “simply no reason ... for the United States to keep Mr Aamer in custody.” They conclude: “The scourge of terrorism will never be defeated unless we can win the hearts and minds of those who might be receptive to the terrorists’ message. And respect for justice and the rule of law is essential in that battle.” The latter is something I have asserted in correspondence with Foreign Secretaries, Prime Ministers and other Ministers, MPs, Government Committees, including COBRA and the Intelligence and Security Committee.
How can a society be at ease with itself if it preaches integrity and justice for all and turns a blind eye to torture and arbitrary injustice? I have campaigned many years for Shaker and the closure of Guantanamo but failed to ‘set the world alight’. It’s seemed like a nerdy closet preoccupation, like building Westminster Abbey from matches. Maybe this cross-party group of MPs will help promote the message I failed to. Perhaps we can really believe that Shaker will eventually appear. I do hope so.
Thank you to all those who have been supportive. Sometimes the issues seem daunting but we have to start somewhere. We aren’t called a “Peace Campaign” for nothing.
The four MPs of the delegation wrote to the New York Times. The article is reproduced in the paper version of this newsletter. Online readers can see it at www.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/opinion/obamas-slap-in-britains-face.html.
We who support the ideals of the UN are only too aware of some of the urgently needed reforms which would allow the UN to pursue more effectively its founding aims, and members may have seen the excellent little booklet of concrete reform proposals produced by The Dag Hammarskjold Foundation in co-operation with UNA Sweden which can be downloaded at
Now YOU have the chance to make a difference by supporting the 1 for 7 Billion campaign to find the best UN Secretary-General when the next appointment is made in 2016. The UN has had some excellent leaders but this has been despite, not because of, the selection process. There are virtually no formal established rules for selecting the Secretary-General: no proper selection criteria, timetable or scrutiny of candidates. Candidates are nominated by governments, after which the Security Council agrees on one final nominee – usually the result of secret bargaining among the five permanent members and subject to their individual vetoes. Thus, the P5 are able to choose candidates who suit their short-term interests. The General Assembly then confirms the final nominee by a majority vote.
A more open and inclusive selection process would improve the chances of finding the best person for the job, give him/her a stronger mandate and so help revitalize the UN, enhancing its effectiveness and credibility.
Do visit www.1for7billion.org and give your support to this campaign. There is scope for change: much of the current informal system has evolved over time and does not require an amendment of the UN Charter.
Saturday 11th July
Twickenham & Richmond UNA have organised a pub lunch at The Adelaide, 57 Park Road, Teddington TW11 0AU (5 mins walk from Teddington Station). Order your food at 12.15 at the bar. From 12.30 Rodney Mantle, who lived, worked and travelled widely in China between 2003-2012 and has returned several times since, will show sides of that country not well known in the west. Lunch will be served at 1.15pm.
More info available from Hilary.
The ninth review conference of parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) took place in New York from 27th April to 22nd May 2015.
The following is an article by Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It refers to ‘the pledge’, an outcome of the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Vienna in December, which ‘calls on all states parties to the NPT to renew their commitment to the urgent and full implementation of existing obligations under Article VI, and to this end, to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons’.
As the conference ended, over 100 states had endorsed the humanitarian pledge, committing to work for a new legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons. The pledge reflects a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament over the past five years. It is the latest indication that a majority of governments are preparing for diplomatic action after the Review Conference. The wide and growing international support for this historic pledge sends a signal that governments are ready to move forward on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, even if the nuclear weapon states are not ready to join.
But for the nuclear-armed states, none of this seemed to matter. Barely any of them mentioned these new revelations, and in absurd statements, some (and their nuclear dependent allies) refuted any mention of the risk of or the catastrophic humanitarian impact of a nuclear detonation. “There has been no new information” on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons “in decades,” the French ambassador claimed repeatedly, rejecting the evidence that existing nuclear arsenals pose an increasing risk. Researchers, journalists, whistleblowers, UN agencies and the presenters at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons assert the opposite.
While the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada declared failure over the Middle East, the draft outcome document was deeply flawed on disarmament. It contained no meaningful commitments on nuclear disarmament, rolls back on previous agreements and was not negotiated amongst states parties. The closing plenary showed a wide range of governments from all regions highlighting that the text fell dramatically short of making credible progress.
But more significantly, with the nuclear weapon states continuing to defend their possession, no possible outcome document can tackle the fundamental problems around nuclear weapons. The use of a nuclear weapon on a major populated area would immediately kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of people – mothers, fathers and children. Hundreds of thousands more would be alive, but injured – blinded, burned and crushed. The effects of just a single nuclear weapon are shocking and overwhelming enough. They go far beyond what can be considered acceptable. The blinding flash leaves people sightless, the massive blast will level cities, the searing heat and spreading fires will melt steel, engulf homes and can coalesce into a firestorm that will suck the air from anyone still breathing, and the survivors of these effects may yet be poisoned by radioactive fallout – that breaks down their bodies over the days and weeks that follow. The long-term consequences would significantly harm the environment, development, and the economy across borders and generations. These weapons fundamentally violate the principles of humanity. They are morally unacceptable, illegitimate instruments of terror that must be banned.
A ban on nuclear weapons is not just about implementing article VI of the NPT. It is a necessary precondition for preventing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. It has been made clear that the nuclear weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament, so now it is up to the rest of the world to start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons. The humanitarian pledge is the basis we need for these negotiations to begin.
Beatrice Fihn, 23 May 2015
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has just celebrated one hundred years of campaigning for peace and justice. WILPF was born as a women’s international peace organisation in 1915 when the First World War was well underway.
It seems remarkable now that at least 1,200 women managed to come together in The Hague in neutral Netherlands for a Women's Congress while war was raging across Europe. They came from 12 countries, some of which were fighting each other, as well as non-combatant states, like the Netherlands, where they met. Those women did not appear from nowhere. They were experienced campaigners for votes for women, and active trade unionists. They did not have the vote so their voices were not being heard. Some had already made a painful choice to break from their friends and colleagues in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies because they were not prepared to support the war.
Aletta Jacobs (the first woman doctor in the Netherlands) offered to host a Congress in the Hague. They had just two months to plan - much less than we would need to organise such an event today, even with all the technology which we now have.
Yet there would have been even more women present had they all been free to travel. 180 British women applied for passports and all were refused. Even when they lobbied and 25 passports were granted to the most eminent and respectable women, Winston Churchill closed the North Sea to shipping and they waited at Tilbury throughout the Congress in the hope of being allowed to travel. The three British women who were present in the Hague were already in the Netherlands helping to organise the event, or sailed with the American delegation.
The meeting agreed 20 resolutions on war and its causes, which you can still read on WILPF’s international website. At the end of the Congress they decided that they had to take their proposal for “continuous mediation” to the warring and neutral leaders of Europe, and to the US President.
Delegations of women visited 21 heads of state including the King of Norway and the Pope. They astutely made sure that women from countries at war only visited neutral governments and that neutral women visited the belligerents. But - just like now - no one was ready to stop fighting when they thought that they might still gain an advantage. When those amazing women came home in May 1915 they had an organisation of vibrant active branches up and running within a few months.
WILPF has interesting archives in the LSE, where they have been researching the lives of the pioneer women for a film and a booklet.
The minute books of the Manchester branch go back to 1916 and show what the WILPF women were doing during the war.
As the benevolence of what is now pejoratively called welfare is being eroded for us today, it is inspiring to read of the women one hundred years ago who were advocating for a society that would create a humanitarian structure for everyone - a structure which we had to wait for until 1945 to be established.
WILPF has a great history of which it can rightly be proud, but it is not just history. WILPF’s holistic approach to peace, to national and international issues is as important now as it was in 1919. We still have a patriarchal society based on militarism, so we have a long way to go.
Some WILPF members have recently returned from a great centenary Conference in the Hague with women from 80 countries, including 4 women Nobel Peace Prize winners who shared their wisdom with the Conference. One message which resonates is: We now have many international agreements and instruments in place - the building blocks for peace, BUT THEY ARE NOT BEING IMPLEMENTED - so that is our work - the work of Civil Society - to hold those with power to account.
This article was taken from a speech given by Sheila Triggs of WILPF at the ceremony in Tavistock Square, London to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on Friday 15th May 2015.
Many thanks to all who have contributed in any way to our fundraising this year. Since the first Monday in May we have raised over £770 from two garage sales, one car boot and Ham Fair.
What is more important is that we have reached many people, talked to them, given them our leaflets and newsletters and let them know that we are still campaigning against nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
I have never had so much space in my garage! Although this is very good in some ways, it does indicate that we are rather short of stock for our other sales this year which are New Malden Fair on Saturday 11th July and Carshalton Environmental Fair on 31st August (Bank Holiday Monday).
Any unused gifts, unchipped crockery or ornaments would be most welcome. We still have lots of books to sell and are unable to sell electrical items and clothes. Now is your chance to get rid of many of the things you no longer need in your homes.
If you are able to help at either of these events, please get in touch. Just an hour of your time is a great help to those of us who are there most of the day and need a break.
Please contact Maggie at galdor.co.uk to request collection of goods or with offers of help.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND