You will have heard about the current increased unrest in the Occupied Territories. As we go to press (25 Oct) at least 52 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza since 1 October. Nine Israelis have been stabbed or shot dead by Palestinians
KPC’s Rosemary Addington is a member of a group from south west London which has been helping with the olive harvest in Burin, on the West Bank. One of her colleagues sent news of an alarming incident.
A Barnes resident and Quaker, David Amos, was attacked by illegal settlers on the West Bank while acting as part of the UN Protective Presence body. The volunteers accompany local farmers during the olive harvest to help and support. The attack happened in the middle of the day, as settlers invaded Palestinian land from the hilltop settlement of Yitzhar. This settlement has a reputation as being one of the most violent in the Occupied Territories.
The settler attacked David who was sitting on the ground, beating him viciously with a rock. He was taken to Rafaedi Hospital in Nablus with head wounds but has since been discharged.
David said, 'we told them we were here as observers and that we were British citizens, but they took no notice'. Jenny Kassman, from North London, said the men were masked and mad with rage. They ripped her camera from her neck and also stole her backpack.
During the attack the tinder-dry hills were set alight. Palestinian firefighters arrived but were prevented by Israeli forces from putting out the blaze. In the past few weeks, as the olives ripen, settlers have started a number of fires in the area destroying many groves.
Settlements are illegal under UK and International law but there has been little attempt to restrain the continual settlement expansion.
The group, who have worked in this area for many years, have experienced constant attacks in the past. Although Israeli police say they have arrested several settlers few are ever brought to court. Palestinian farmers receive no compensation for loss of land and crops due to settler incursions.
Burin, Occupied Palestinian Territories, 14 October 2015
The Palestinian BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) National Committee has issued a statement, a summary of which is reproduced here:
Whether the current phase of Israel’s intensified repression and Palestinian popular resistance will evolve into a full-fledged intifada or not, one thing is already evident—a new generation of Palestinians is marching on the footsteps of previous generations, rising up en masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.
In this latest round, Israel has fanned the flames of Palestinian grassroots resistance by stepping up its attacks against al-Aqsa mosque compound, the Noble Sanctuary, located in the heart of the Israeli occupied Old City of Jerusalem. Fanatic, government-backed Jewish fundamentalist settler groups have persistently desecrated the compound, often verbally insulting worshippers with vile racism and openly calling for the destruction of the mosque. This has triggered widespread anger and protests in Jerusalem and among Palestinians everywhere in historic Palestine.
This ongoing rebellion is also a response to Israel intensifying its ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians. In recent months, Israel has sped up its theft of Palestinian land and demolition of Palestinians houses, tightened the siege on Gaza and implemented new racist measures against Palestinians.
In a typical so-called “period of calm”, Israel enforces its medieval siege of Gaza, conducts incursions into Palestinians cities, confiscates Palestinian land, including in the Naqab (Negev), destroys Palestinian property, and builds illegal Jewish-only settlements. In its ongoing attempts to entrench its system of apartheid and colonial rule, Israel denies Palestinians their full spectrum of rights in the most banal of ways, from a child’s right to education to a mother’s access to health care, to a farmer’s ability to reach his/her land and to the right of a family to even live together in one home.
In light of the apathy or direct complicity of world governments and the UN, and as a result of Israel’s impunity in perpetuating this system of injustice against Palestinians, in historic Palestine as well as in exile, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has made great strides in redefining Israel’s positioning in the world stage as a pariah state.
More needs to be done, however, to hold Israel to account and shatter its still strong impunity. Complicit governments must be exposed. Corporations that are enabling and profiting from Israel’s human rights violations must pay a price in their reputation and revenues. Israel’s military machine, including its research arm, must face a comprehensive international military embargo, and all Israeli leaders, officers and soldiers who are involved in the commission of the current and past crimes must be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court as well as national courts that respect international jurisdiction.
Read the full statement here:
• Find out ideas on products to boycott and campaigns to support
• Build awareness about Palestinian rights under international law and support for BDS
• Pressure parliament to impose a military embargo on Israel
• Campaign against Israeli military companies such as Elbit Systems
• Support boycott and divestment campaigns against complicit companies, such as G4S and HP, that are most blatantly complicit in Israel’s infrastructure of oppression
The BBC’s reporting of events in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza during October has been consistently one-sided, favouring Israel, and portraying the occupier solely as a victim.
However, in the last two weeks people power has been shown to make a difference to reporting.
On the morning of Saturday 10th October, two Palestinian boys - Marwan Barbakh, 12, and Khalil Othman, 15 – were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The BBC failed to report the killings. Instead, the BBC Online headline for the day was “Jerusalem attacks: Israelis hurt in two Palestinian stabbings”.
That evening, this extraordinary bias was highlighted on social media, particularly Facebook, and people were asked to send complaints to the BBC. An hour later, the BBC had changed the headline to “Israeli-Palestinian violence continues” and began the article with news of the killing of the two Palestinian boys.
Days later, on 14th October, the BBC’s Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, called Jerusalem “Israel’s capital” during a broadcast on BBC2’s Newsnight. Again, this enormous error was highlighted and people complained. On 16th October, the BBC issued a clarification on its website and on Twitter.
The BBC is notorious for its misreporting, its politically skewed narrative in the name of "balance", and one-sided stories which further dehumanise Palestinians.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign has written a guide – How the BBC constructs its biased news reporting (http://bit.ly/PSCBBCBiasGuide) – to help unpick the BBC’s bias and make an efficient complaint. You may also find their guide – How to complain to the BBC (http://bit.ly/1McpYeG) – helpful.
On 25th September the US told the UK that Shaker Aamer would be released and returned to his family in the UK. By US law, Congress had to be given 30 days to consider the decision. In the meantime Shaker has gone on hunger strike, protesting constant and ongoing abuse. It is feared that in his weakened state he won’t live to see his family again.
Campaigners re-enacting the force-feeding of a prisoner
An organisation called ‘We Stand With Shaker’ has been holding demonstrations outside Parliament, and since 15th October campaigners, celebrities and MPs (including Twickenham’s Tania Mathias) have pledged to go on hunger strike for a day in support of Shaker.
Saturday 24th October was the 5000th day of Shaker’s incarceration in Guantanamo. A demonstration was held in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, and those present signed a letter which was then delivered to 10 Downing Street calling for action from David Cameron if Shaker Aamer wasn't returned from Guantanamo the following day, when the 30 days would be up.
We now know that Shaker was not released on 25th October. Apparently the visit of three Republican senators, on a 'fact-finding' mission to the base, once again delayed his long-awaited flight to freedom.
Let us hope that by the time you receive this newsletter Shaker will have been released. If not, and you would like to join the supporters who are pledging to fast for Shaker, see http://www.fastforshaker.org.uk
Noel Hamel, our Chair, has been campaigning tirelessly for Shaker Aamer’s release for years.
We do hope at last Shaker will be released after almost 14 years. His situation has been so closely scrutinised by six US security agencies, including the CIA, numerous times, that he must have a higher security clearance status now than any of us!
You may all be familiar with the 'mug-shot' of Shaker beaming when first handed over to US custody - because he felt relieved that he would be fairly treated, assessed and released. This was based on his understanding of 'western justice and values'. What a rude awakening he has had. Many young men were attracted to Afghanistan because there was a mood of euphoria after 30 - 40 years of constant war in Afghanistan and a belief that the coming of the Taliban heralded relief, tranquility and the establishment of a benign truly Islamic state. Shaker was one amongst many who was motivated by idealism and wanted to help make Afghanistan a success. He, his family, Moazzam Begg and his family volunteered to build a school for girls since in many Islamic cultures girls and boys are supposed to be educated separately. His 'sin' was that he had and has a burning desire to make life better for others.
The US kidnapped about 800 people without evidence and rendered them to Guantanamo. Most have been subsequently let go for lack of evidence though there was an accelerated programme of torture and inducements to try to finger the prisoners, get them to 'grass' on others and agree to invented stories which the US military tried to pin on their helpless prisoners. The whole enterprise was supposed to be an election winning strategy by the George Bush regime, claiming to have rounded up and secured the "worst of the worst", and made the US safe. Scare stories about a global network of jihadi terrorism were fictitious since even the world's most radical activists were so sickened by the destruction of the World Trade Centre that Osama bin Laden got the 'cold shoulder' even from political associates in Afghanistan. I have repeatedly written to MPs and others, making pleas for action for Shaker's release, pointing out that inaction in this regard is very harmful to Muslim opinion. Subsequently I have done much reading, including by Scott Atrim, which confirms what I said but also blames much mindless violence by western militaries over recent years for stirring unrest. A characteristic of radical thinkers is that they can not agree. Action under the heading of the "War-on-Terror" has for some given them a shared interest in uniting against a common enemy and nowadays jihadi terrorism is far more widespread than formerly.
I sincerely hope for Shaker's release without incident and I shall continue to support London Guantanamo.
“One of the most interesting talks we have ever been to” said a visitor who came to Ben Griffin’s talk at October’s KPC/CND meeting. And who could have thought otherwise? Ben mesmerised his audience for over an hour and it didn’t seem a moment too long – certainly an exception to the usual 20-minute attention span rule.
His story started with a childhood fascination for his grandfather’s hidden war medals, and memories of films depicting Britain as a good and noble country with its army overcoming the forces of evil. In his teens the army cadets offered great opportunities for him and other young people to prove themselves through physical prowess (swearing and smoking tolerated!), with summer camps which included weapons-handling – all exciting, grown up stuff. Then followed a seamless transition to an army career – a far more tempting prospect than higher education.
Of Ben’s cohort of 35 recruits into the Parachute Regiment, eight completed the training – not necessarily the most physically fit but those who conformed to the military ethos. These were the ones who had learned to follow orders without question – ‘learned’ through constant physical and psychological punishment, group pressure and humiliation – and acquired an over-whelming loyalty to their own ‘gang’. Crucially, too, the barrier to killing had been successfully removed.
After five or six years with the Paras, including service in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, Ben joined the Special Air Service and after six months of extra training was sent to Baghdad. It was there that he began to question what he was being asked to do. He told of how payment was made to local informants for intelligence about their fellow citizens – but in a country of high unemployment, scarce goods and high prices, how reliable was such intelligence? Then photos of ‘suspects’ were given to army surveillance teams who had no reason to distrust the ‘possible dangerous terrorist’ description, and went on to misconstrue innocent activities carried out by these ‘suspects’. Doors were broken down in the middle of the night to arrest the ‘suspects’ in front of their traumatised wives and children. Ben’s task was to ransack the invaded home, taking all papers and money away. By this time, the ‘suspect’, taken from his bed in the middle of the night, handcuffed, and perhaps with a bag over his head had been dehumanized and looked like a ‘baddy’ and therefore deserving of the treatment he went on to receive.
Ben believes that ‘compartmentalisation’ explains how service personnel can be willing to participate in atrocities. In the sequence described above, no one person sees the whole process from beginning to end – each carries out one small part which, in itself, seems at the time justifiable. Ben believes, too, that this helps to explain how Nazis could commit genocide.
Gradually, Ben came to the realisation that he could no longer continue with what was expected of him and applied for discharge from the army on grounds of conscience. At his mandatory interview with the army chaplain, the assumption was that he was ‘scared’ and he was asked how he could be a Conscientious Objector when he was of no faith. Further, he was told he would be dead within a year if he left the army. Rather to his surprise, he was eventually granted an honourable discharge with no penalty and went on to form Veterans for Peace UK, now with around 190 members. In his spare time, he gives talks in schools and to public meetings in an effort to deglamourise the military and counteract the subtle ways in which our society militarises its young people.
This was a powerful and thought-provoking talk and our gratitude goes not only to Ben but also to his supportive wife and young family.
A video of Ben’s talk can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tHvtFibhic
The CND Annual Conference of 2015 was held at the Arlington Conference Centre in Camden on 17th - 18th October. The theme was 'Scrapping Trident: Strategising for Success in 2016'.
It was very well attended but by more grey hairs than pony tails. A chap sitting beside me remarked that looking around he reckoned the hall would be empty in five years if there is no new blood. Trying to ignore what this said about my own prospects I was inclined to agree with him.
The great boost to the cause by Jeremy Corbyn's recent triumph was in evidence outside the main door which was surrounded by eager photographers. Being assured that Jeremy was not coming on the first day made no difference. They stayed outside the door anyway.
'Trident Replacement', ‘Trident and Scotland', 'Direct Action', 'Nuclear Risks', ‘The Humanitarian Pledge’ and 'Missile Defence' were among the many policies debated.
KPC's Resolution headed 'Informing the Public' was passed unopposed. However my impression is that CND is fighting an uphill battle because the public is not being informed about what is going on and the concomitant dangers. This is primarily because the newspaper barons have their own agenda as do politicians. The BBC is a compliant part of the establishment and, on the whole, it simply regurgitates the views of politicians, cautious pundits and a motley crew of hand-picked talking heads.
Following the close of conference business on the Saturday, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) showed their film “These Dangerous Women” and hosted a reception. The film was about the British and other women from warring and neutral nations who met in The Hague in 1915 in an attempt to find a way towards peace.
The waiting photographers were rewarded when Jeremy Corbyn turned up to the reception and delegates who had not had to get away were able to hear an encouraging call to action from him.
The message that our time has come was repeated throughout the conference. On the Sunday we heard from many speakers, including Catherine West MP, Shadow Foreign Minister, who attended in place of the Labour leader who was originally scheduled to speak.
All speakers were of course opposed to Trident renewal, but a few of the points made were:
There was a choice of well attended workshops. Perhaps the most popular was that chaired by Peter Burt and Trish Whitham from the Nuclear Information Service under the heading 'Using the Legal Arguments Better'. There was not room to accommodate all those who wished to be present.
We all went home with a determination that we must make the most of the opportunity to campaign against Trident renewal before the parliamentary vote which is expected to take place in 2016.
There will be a Stop Trident march and rally in London on Saturday 27th February 2016 (not 20th February 2016 as previously announced).
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND