By Stephen Hensel
I cannot understand how those who push the buttons don't get it. Bombing causes destruction, death and famine. Complicity by the British and Americans is written all over Yemen.
CAAT campaigners spoke to the March meeting of KPC. Their efforts to stop the selling of weapons to Saudi Arabia by the UK is to be applauded. A Judicial Review was granted—1 day for CAAT to present its case; 2 days behind closed doors (security!) for the Government. At present CAAT is waiting for the results.
When will the penny drop?
Those affected by that disaster are determined to stop nuclear in all forms. I went on the 6th anniversary march. The leafleting along the main streets of London was extensive.
The latest decision by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) is to ask citizens to move back to areas where the dose of radiation is similar to what a nuclear plant worker receives (all being well). This decision is one more knock against those who have suffered.
Without seriously evaluating the Japanese disaster, Britain wants to build Hinkley Point C using EDF unproven technology that seems riddled with problems, putting the French project years behind with massive cost overruns. See http://stophinkley.org
East Mendip Green Party will pay you to switch from EDF to Ecotricity or Good Energy – see http://switchedfoff.org.uk
Germany has learned lessons from past disasters. They are saying No to Nuclear.
There are many tensions for Somalia. There are men with guns. There are men with drugs.
There are those hawking both for profit. However in the main there are suffering people. The one resource they have is fish.
The international community sailed into action to stop ship takeovers and hostage taking.
How about swinging into action to stop the foreign industrial harvesting of fish in Somalian waters?
Somalian fish for the Somalis.
Thanks to Stephen for the above. Also please see longer reports on CAAT and Fukushima below.
[At this point in the paper version of Kingston Peace News, there is an article by Pressenza about a poll revealing the level of support among people in the UK for participation by the UK government in the UN nuclear ban talks -- see https://www.pressenza.com/2017/03/75-brits-support-un-nuclear-ban-talks/]
Asked by Caroline Lucas MP (Brighton Pavilion) on 3 March 2017:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether the UK ambassador to the UN in New York, the UK Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, officials from the UK mission to the UN in New York or other officials of his Department attended the first organisational meeting on negotiating a ban on nuclear weapons in New York in February 2017; and whether he plans to monitor the (a) working papers produced by participating states and (b) negotiations.
Answered by Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 13 March 2017:
The UK did not participate in the organisational meeting on negotiating a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons on 16 February and will not attend the substantive negotiations starting on 27 March. We do not believe these negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament. The best way to achieve this goal is through gradual multilateral disarmament negotiated using a step-by-step approach and within existing international frameworks.
Please support us in our fundraising this year. We shall be holding the first two of this year’s
in Maggie’s garage in Lower Ham Road, Kingston at the rear of 289 Richmond Road KT2 5DJ. They will be held on
from 11 a.m. to approx. 4 p.m.
(Free parking in Lower Ham Road as it is a Bank Holiday)
We have many, many books, but good quality bric-a-brac or unwanted gifts would be very welcome especially for our stall at HAM FAIR which is on 10 June.
Come, browse and buy – free tea or coffee for KPC members!
If you have any good quality Bric a Brac to donate please contact Maggie at galdor.co.uk or telephone 0208-549-0086.
Please note we cannot accept jumble or 2nd hand clothes (unless designer!)
We were delighted to welcome Joe and Kirsten to our well-attended meeting at the Quaker Centre, Kingston.
First to speak was Joe, who gave an update of the recent Judicial Review taken out by CAAT, confronting our Government over their huge ongoing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, in view of the use of these to devastate Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.
All recent British Governments have been actively promoting these sales. Some readers may remember the media reports in 2014 of Prince Charles, dressed in Arab costume, taking part in a sword dance. Joe reminded us that the next day a contract was signed for 72 fighter jets. This to a country listed as 2nd out of 10 in the Economist Democracy Index.
Joe then spoke of the situation in Yemen; according to Unicef one child dies every 10 minutes due to mass starvation and war. The situation is so bad that Yemen is the subject of a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, but still the 'Coalition' (of Saudi Arabia, UK and others) continue to bomb.
Joe told us that the Judicial Review was heard by two judges during February. They are now considering whether the government’s decision to continue licensing arms sales to Saudi Arabia which may be used in Yemen is legal, and the result is expected towards the end of March.
Kirsten went on to talk about the arms trade in general, focussing first on the huge expenditure world-wide, around £1.7 trillion. She explained this is very largely a transfer of money from the poor to the rich, the biggest arms producing countries being USA, Russia, China, UK, Israel and Germany, while the purchasing countries are generally poorer, such as India, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Burundi.
Most of this trade is legal, although illegal trade often results from it, in spite of supposed embargoes. She also mentioned that half a million people a year (one every minute) are killed by small arms, such as those sold by Heckler and Koch.
Another point she highlighted is the fact that we sell CS gas to Egypt, Turkey and Hong Kong, where it has been commonly used against pro-democracy campaigners.
Our sales to countries on the Foreign Office list of "countries of human rights concern" have now risen to £3 billion a year. Egypt, before the 'Arab Spring', was spending £6.28 million on arms, now it is £69.76 million (not necessarily all from UK).
You don't approve of all this? Joe mentioned there will be a Parliamentary Lobby on 19th April, and Kirsten reminded us it is the DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) bi-annual Arms Fair this year, at the Excel Centre East London, from 4th - 9th September 2017. Be there! For more information see https://www.caat.org.uk
Thanks to both Speakers.
This Report was published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on March 15th 2017.
It states that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime of racial discrimination on the Palestinian population, and finds it "beyond reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law", and condemns the "systematic regime of racial domination" over the Palestinian people and their exclusion from all levels of society. It urges member states to work together to bring such regimes to an end.
This will please but not surprise those who have read the article in our March Newsletter "Haneen Zoabi talk in Richmond."
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called it a 'historic breakthrough', saying 'Our South Africa moment is nearing.' This new UN report is a stark indicator that Israel's apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa's did.
However, it is important to understand that UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that the report did not reflect the views of the Secretary-general. He stated that ESCWA - a UN agency made up of Arab states - did not consult with the UN Secretary-general before publishing their findings.
In the Report Israel is accused of "Demo-graphic engineering" to maintain a Jewish state including control over immigration, land use and public development planning, also around 1.7 million Palestinians living as citizens of Israel suffer oppression on the basis of not being Jewish. They suffer discrimination through inferior services, restrictions on jobs, and are legally prohibited from challenging legislation that maintains the racial regime. While Palestinians are entitled to Israeli citizenship only Jews are entitled to Israeli nationality.
1. It has been reported that UN undersecretary Rima Kalaf has been forced to resign after refusing to accede to demands by UN Secretary-general Antonio Guterres that she withdraw this report. He has rejected it and ordered it to be removed from UN websites.
2. The US State Department has announced that it will boycott the United Nations Human Rights Council's entire discussion about Israeli rights abuses and will vote against any resolutions that come out of it.
"The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the existence of the UN human rights council's agenda item 7:- Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories" said their spokesman Mark Toner. (This item is a permanent fixture requiring the council to discuss three times each year abuses of human rights committed by Israel against Palestinians.)
Thanks to Morning Star for information in this report.
March 2017: This could be good news!
The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) requested the pause until it established whether “a notification under the Espoo Convention” was useful. The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of countries to “assess the environmental impact of certain activities.” The UK has failed properly to consult neighbouring countries over the potential environmental risks of building the new nuclear reactors in Somerset. For more details see http://stophinkley.org
The great white hope of nuclear weapons’ abolitionists is Jeremy Corbyn, twice overwhelmingly elected Labour Party leader. Carol Turner’s book examines Labour’s fluctuating relationship with nuclear weapons over 70 years. Her impressive CV with CND, Labour CND, Stop the War, work as a university lecturer, policy advisor to parliamentarians, and broadcaster gives her ample qualification.
At her book-launch at Portcullis House - which actually wasn’t a launch ('House rules!') Carol, John Edmunds and others spoke. Carol thanked her helpers in the task, notably Walter Wolfgang, Bruce Kent, and surprisingly the Conservative MP Julian Lewis. Most of the sad story of Labour governments’ duplicity and UK involvement in early development is familiar. Nye Bevan’s 1957 conference speech, begging that there be a nuclear bomb with the Union Jack on it and he not be sent “into the conference chamber naked”, was a turning point against the anti-nuclear tide, and was an interim antidote to the narrative of the UK as an erstwhile imperial colossus in terminal decline.
Carol's book is useful in that it puts the historical facts that are familiar to many into the context of how the same half-truths and misinformation are being used again now by those who defend the right-wing Labour MPs who seek to disparage Jeremy Corbyn and to undermine his opposition to Trident renewal. Public discussion about nuclear weapons policy is mostly absent and/or ill-informed and this isn’t surprising when real information is scarce and filtered through tight ‘national security’ screening.
John Edmonds of the GMB Union welcomed the book, and spoke of two opportunities when we had the chance to achieve nuclear disarmament. These were firstly when under Harold Wilson we successfully refused to assist the USA in their misguided war in Vietnam, and again at the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately we failed to convince the British public that we can be more secure without nuclear weapons that with them, and this continues today. The public fail to believe that other countries would follow us if we gave them up.
Some also cling to the importance of the seat on the UN security council - politicians fight to conceal the diminishing importance of the UK in today's world.
We need to start from where the public is now:- for instance how does the threat to wipe out cities in other countries help with the kind of threats we face now?
He also stressed that the costs are always understated - we need to focus on the fact that more money is needed for other military requirements, though this is unpalatable to many in the peace movement. He thought that campaigning on the moral issue is unfortunately not a strong enough factor for the general public - better to stress they are not good value for money and might not even work!
Report compiled by Noel Hamel & Rosemary Addington (let us know if you would like to borrow this book)
The absurdity, danger and irrelevance of nuclear weapons in the UK of the 21st century are not well known or understood. Field Marshal Lord Carver, once head of the British Army and Chief of the Defence Staff, summed up nuclear defence policy excellently: “either bluff or suicide ...”
Can Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition translate into a narrative appealing to a general audience? Can Labour succeed electorally so the story goes viral and gets the hearing it deserves at last?
Very sad to learn of the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, June 1930 to 26 February 2017.
He was born in Leeds, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. After a distinguished university education he briefly became a journalist and then was elected to Parliament. He was a junior minister in the Labour 1974 government and held several shadow ministerial posts during Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Although he was critical of Michael Foot's leadership he was a true friend of Palestine and spoke in the strongest terms against the Israeli war on Gaza. He said "My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town. A German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza."
The ‘clash of civilisations’ is a powerful concept but one that writer, Chris de Bellaigue, who spoke recently at Cafe Diplo, finds profoundly unhelpful and destructive as a guide in the modern world. The ‘clash’ concept was the idea of a British American academic, Bernard Lewis, back in 1957. It has been taken up by those who believe there is total opposition between the West and the Islamic world. This view also implies that the globe’s two billion Muslims can be seen as a homogeneous group. For de Bellaigue the world is much more complex.
‘Clashists’, as de Bellaigue describes individuals who believe in the clash hypothesis, tend to suggest that Muslims remain locked in a culture that hates the modern world and the Enlightenment values that we in the West hold dear. For clashists this culture of hostility to the West not only spreads across the Muslim world now, but characterises Muslims in previous centuries.
De Bellaigue says this reading of history, in particular the history of the Middle East, just shows our lack of knowledge. He contends that during the 19th century and until the First World War, countries including Egypt, Iran and Turkey were changing significantly. Education was spreading, there was increased access to ideas and scientific discoveries and women were taking on new roles. Western concepts and methods were usually valued and admired rather than being viewed with hostility.
It was what happened after World War 1 that changed Muslim attitudes.
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed Britain and France seized the opportunity to benefit from the situation. The Ottomans’ former Arab possessions were parcelled out as ‘mandates’ under the new League of Nations: France took Syria and Lebanon while Palestine, Iraq and Transjordan went to Britain. Britain also continued to control the Suez Canal. Oil was becoming increasingly important to the Great Powers - self-determination for the countries of the Middle East rather less so, it seems.
In Turkey, Kemal (later called Ataturk) was able to get rid of the allies’ forces and establish himself as a nationalist, secular ruler. Iran remained independent for a time. Throughout the Middle East rulers, even puppet rulers, often adopted authoritarian methods similar to those of the Western powers and were hated and despised by their subjects.
It was these disgruntled subjects who felt humiliated by the West and by the way their rulers collaborated with the West who provided a fertile environment for Islamism. Al-Banna, an Egyptian teacher, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s in response to this feeling of humiliation. Initially he believed a return to basic Muslim values of piety and solidarity would liberate people from the servitude into which colonialism and materialism had forced them but he was not hostile to aspects of modernity. Banna, though, came to see even what appeared positive aspects of Western progress as irrevocably linked with colonialism and exploitation.
De Bellaigue thinks Banna’s ideas are the foundation of what he describes as ‘the Islamic counter-Enlightenment'. The counter Enlightenment that was spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood eventually spread throughout the Middle East and has had an enormous political impact. De Bellaigue’s whole idea though, is that this is not some throwback to a medieval past but a response to Western colonialism and predatory behaviour following World War 1.
Of course those who subscribe to some degree of Islamism are a minority. Western leaders though - Trump and others before him - have been able to gain votes with anti-Muslim rhetoric and so the whole ‘clash of civilisation’ theory has been valuable to them. Equally for Islamist groups Western hostility has been important in supporting their whole raison d’etre.
How should we respond to this dark view of our current world? Perhaps the first step should be to try and understand a little more of the history that underlies the problems and conflicts of today’s Middle East. “The question” Chris de Bellaigue says “for anyone concerned for the overall health of society is a more complicated one. . . . . .We need to revive the dimming faith in the possibility of inclusive, multi-ethnic liberal democracy.”
* * * * *
Christopher de Bellaigue has recently published: The Islamic Enlightenment: The modern struggle between faith and reason, Bodley Head (well worth reading), also see Trump’s dangerous delusions about Islam - The Guardian, 16 Feb 2017
Report of Parliamentary Meeting on Fukushima, 15th March.
The first speaker was Dr. Ian Fairlie, Independent Consultant on Radiation in the Environment.
His first comment was that our media are still avoiding covering it 'like the plague'.
He described the disaster briefly:- a 130ft tidal surge where a maximum of 80ft had been planned for; 4 explosions over the next few days, 3 of which caused meltdowns; 120,000 workers exposed to radiation and 160,000 people evacuated. Pollution quickly spread to the edge of Tokyo and around the world in the sea within around 9 days. Generally the world-wide media failed to cover it in any detail.
Moving on to the present day, there are massive leaks still going into the sea, and ever-increasing amounts of water in very insecure storage - basically in black plastic sacks. The amount is equivalent to 5,000 olympic swimming pools, and rising.
130,000 people are still evacuated, there are many illnesses and have been many suicides. The government is trying to get people to move back into some "less polluted" areas.
8% of Japan is contaminated, and he estimates there will be 5,000 fatal cancers in the next 60 years and economic losses of £300 billion. The Government refuses to learn from it.
The next speaker was Margaret Ritchie, SDLP MP for South Down, Northern Ireland. Understandably her main concern was Sellafield, 65 miles across the Irish Sea from her constituency. She told us there is a geological faultline from Sellafield to the Mountains of Mourne - and there is continuous discharge of waste from the inadequate storage facilities. Recently the Eire Government assessed four scenarios of a possible accident (economic damage only) - 4 billion Euros for a minor accident, 161 billion for a serious one.
She then quoted a BBC Panorama programme last year which showed considerable risks from the waste which passes up and down the Irish Sea to the Thorpe reprocessing plant - waste from all around the world. The British Government met this with denials, and she has called for an independent enquiry - no result yet.
Lis Fields then spoke about her recent visit to Fukushima, and her exhibition now on at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square (see details at the top of the page). She told us that strenuous efforts were being made to return people to their homes, even though dose levels are above what many people would consider safe, and there are few attempts to monitor hot-spots, except by ordinary people themselves, especially mothers with small children who are very vulnerable. In many areas topsoil removed to reduce radiation readings is still stored in plastic bags - meant to be temporary - 6 years on. One reason people suspect for this haste is the Government's desire to "get it sorted" before the 2020 Olympics.
A film was shown made by a young Japanese woman, Chieko Uozumi, showing her Group of young Japanese mothers, Mamademo, who campaign against nuclear power, nuclear weapons, war and injustice. It was a beautiful, colourful film showing their banners and demonstrations.
The penultimate speaker, Prof. Stephen Thomas who works in the area of energy policy spoke about the UK's pursuance of nuclear power. He was asked why our Government is so wedded to it - is it to get plutonium for bombs? His answer to this provided about the only laugh of the evening "NO - we have about 150 tons of it - we could blow up the solar system with that! He admitted he couldn't really answer this question - possibly psychological! He describes himself as a nuclear sceptic. He spoke of various planned power stations here and abroad, but concentrated on Hinkley Point C. The cost is now estimated at £125bn, (about £2,000 for each of us!) To do this we need to borrow about £100 billion and this can't be done without a guarantee from a sovereign government. This will mean Sizewell and Bradley builds will have to be put on hold. It is also unlikely that Hinkley can start unless there is good evidence that Flamanville will come on-stream by 2020 - this is by no means certain. It is 3/4 years late and well over budget, as are all others currently being built.
The last speaker, Prof. Andy Blowers, Chair of "Bradwell Against New Nuclear" spoke movingly of the nuclear wastelands we have created, the worst being Hanford in Washington State USA, covering 600 sq. miles, where the Manhattan project was developed. First Nation tribes were thrown off the land and it will never recover - we should not create any more such wastelands.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND