We reported in our last newsletter on the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on 10 December.
Of course, you will not have read about this in the mainstream media, so at our stall in Kingston marketplace on 16 December we attempted to publicise it to passing shoppers. We distributed leaflets and awarded ‘medals’ to interested members of the public.
The leaflets explained that 122 countries of the United Nations resolved in July 2017 to ban nuclear weapons as a result of ICAN’s ground-breaking work in drawing attention to the catastrophic consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, but that our government refused to participate in the multilateral negotiations leading to the treaty and the Prime Minister is refusing to consider signing the treaty or to outline a timetable for disarmament.
People are urged to contact their MP and ask them to support this important treaty.
Stratford Magistrate's Court, 389-397 High Street, E15 4SB
Stop the Arms Fair had huge success in September, with hundreds of people taking action to block the set up to the DSEI arms fair. Over 100 people were arrested during the week of action, and Campaign Against the Arms Trade needs your help to support them as they face charges.
Join them outside Stratford Magistrates Court to support the defendants at their plea hearings – there will be court cases being heard throughout February 2018. ’Phone or email CAAT to find out the dates: www.caat.org.uk
‘What is Liberal Democrat policy on Palestine?’ was the question asked by five Twickenham members of Palestine Solidarity Campaign of their MP Sir Vince Cable. The meeting had been planned as part of the national Palestine Lobby of Parliament in November 2017 but had been delayed till 5 January this year. PSC members had been asked to raise two issues:
Information was provided for Vince Cable on child prisoners and in particular the case of Ahed Tamimi which has rightly received, and continues to receive a lot of publicity. It was pointed out that Israel had been criticised by the UN for its uniquely bad and unsuitable treatment of children because if they are arrested they are dealt with by the military, rather than civilian, authorities. Further info on this was sent to Vince Cable after the meeting.
In relation to Israeli settlements Sir Vince was asked if the Lib Dems would come out firmly against buying settlement goods. His reply was that while he himself would not buy such goods he thought it should be up to individuals to make their own decision as long as goods were clearly labelled. So, no the Lib Dems would not endorse the boycott of settlement goods.
A third issue raised was the terrible situation in Gaza. Graham Livingstone, who grew up in South Africa, pointed out that - even in Apartheid South Africa - Soweto had not been bombed because the government knew there would be a world outcry. Whereas the Israelis have bombed Gaza on several occasions knowing the world would not take action or impose sanctions. This parallel seemed to make an impact on Vince Cable because of his past commitment to the Anti-Apartheid movement.
Back to the original question about Lib Dem policy on Palestine. In the view of the PSC members at the meeting the answer was disappointing. Sir Vince seemed very concerned that his party’s policy should be ‘even handed’ between Palestine and Israel so that ‘both sides’ could agree to it. Even if he didn’t absolutely spell that out, that was what he meant. In contrast the PSC members at the meeting stressed that they believed the Lib Dems should stand up for human rights and international law and be prepared to speak up when these principles were violated.
Sir Vince said he was concentrating on domestic policy but the group could contact Jo Swinson, the Foreign policy spokesperson, or Layla Moran, who speaks on education and whose mother is Palestinian, and take up issues on Palestine in more detail.
The PSC group also pointed out that members are finding a significant shift in public attitudes on Palestine when running stalls and some very successful, fully-booked public events. There is a lot of support for Palestine. The group wants to see the Lib Dems speaking out for justice and human rights in Palestine and to see Sir Vince joining others at the next local PSC event.
Mary Holmes, January 2018
Rosemary has asked Sir Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, for a meeting to discuss the issue of child prisoners. He has promised to sign EDM 563 - Military Detention of Palestinian Children by Israeli Authorities, and has already signed EDM 616 about the proposed Israeli demolition of the Palestinian village of Susiya.
Ed has also accepted an invitation to come to our KPC/CND meeting on Wednesday 14 March 2018, to discuss the Global Ban on nuclear weapons and to update us on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
Wednesday 14 February 2018, 7.45pm
See separate page agm-notice.html.
On 13 January London Region CND held its 2018 conference on the theme 'Living in interesting times: how the world's shaping up under President Trump.'
We began the day with a live skype call from Washington with Brian Becker, national co-ordinator for the ANSWER coalition. This was set up three days after 9/11 and has 30 branches across USA, and is also an umbrella group for many organisations. The interesting website (www.answercoalition.org) was showing about six events and protests during the first half of January. Brian spoke of the worrying and unpredictable aspects for nuclear security under Trump. Both Republicans and Democrats have endorsed modernisation in contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and have embraced the concept of more "usable" weapons. By 2020 both parties propose to have 60% of military forces engaged in the Asia/ Pacific area - Brian wonders whether for confrontation, for war, or just to threaten for economic ends?
Our first plenary took the theme of 'the shape of things to come', and we heard from Costa Rican Ambassador Jose Enrique Castillo Barrantes, Jim Hoare, first British representative to North Korea and Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. Our speakers discussed the seismic changes to the global order which are beginning to emerge. Costa Rica (one of the countries with no army) had chaired and facilitated the recent UN nuclear ban treaty. Ambassador Barrantes acknowledged it will be a very long struggle to bring the nuclear nations into this; power in the world is going in the wrong direction at present. But we have made a start, after 70 years!
Jim Hoare set up the first British embassy in North Korea. He is a historian and spoke of the huge destruction suffered in all areas during the Korean war, and both parties ended up more or less where they started. Both sides would like unification but not much has been done towards this. Crises happen often along the de-militarized border zone - but the consequences of war are too awful to contemplate. He thinks Trump is beginning to realise this - there are 20,000 US military personnel in South Korea, and their families. The leadership in North Korea knows what happened to Saddam Hussein and Gadafi. So Jim is cautiously optimistic.
Catherine West MP has a Masters Degree in Chinese studies. She is glad Trump is not visiting here at present - she has had many messages from her constituents opposing him. She thinks he makes outrageous remarks as a distraction from really difficult issues. She is worried about the number of right-wing people coming into Government in countries such as Austria, Poland and Germany. She is also very worried about displaced people, arbitrary imprisonment being widely used, and does not think the use of sanctions against countries such as North Korea is the right way forward.
The second plenary, on 'facing the challenges', featured two excellent speakers, Sami Ramadani from the Iraqi Democrats and Kim Sharif, a lawyer from Human Rights for Yemen, who both spoke with passion about the situation in the Middle East and how we should be responding. Sami spoke of the US hostility to Iran, and denied it is really to do with the nuclear deal. They want Iran to change its policy of support towards Palestine and towards Hamas in Lebanon and stop military supplies to Syria. Sanctions are designed to push for this. The genocidal war in Yemen is blamed mostly on Saudi Arabia but they couldn't do it without US support. Under Trump the USA is a very unreliable state that does not accept the realities of the Middle East.
Kim Sharif was a most inspirational speaker, although her subject, Yemen, is heart-breaking. She spoke of airstrikes using cluster and chemical weapons (both illegal), and had photos of birth defects which are most likely a result of depleted uranium tipped weapons. The war is illegal as Yemen has not attacked any other country, and the blockade is illegal as it uses hunger as a weapon of war. 22 million people are dependent on aid. Over one million people have cholera due to contaminated water supplies and now there is also diphtheria. She spoke of hearing reports of jets coming over and not bombing but spraying "something" - maybe biological? She complained of a virtual media blackout, even the Guardian and the Parliamentary Group on Yemen chaired by Keith Vaz go easy on Saudi Arabia, and quote the "restoration of the legitimate government" line to justify all this. She asked if CND could investigate the possible use of DU?
We ended the day with a rousing session on 'action for change' in which our speakers Bruce Kent, Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato and Stop the War Coalition chair Murad Qureshi gave their suggestions for practical actions that individuals, campaigning groups and politicians can take to move towards a nuclear-free world. For example, Bruce Kent suggested we should write letters to papers much more often, and make the connections:- nuclear weapons don't keep us safe. He also wondered if we should appeal to Catholics in our Groups - the Pope has expressed support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty - could Catholic members put up a leaflet in their church?
Murad Qureshi warned that even if Trump does not stand again, there will still be the military/industrial complex to campaign against, likewise the confrontation between two nuclear-armed States, India and Pakistan, over Kashmir is an ongoing acute danger. Thirdly we must continue to campaign against Nato and point out these dangers whenever possible.
Asked for a short slogan, Molly Scott-Cato suggested "Nuclear weapons are not defending us against any risks that exist in society today" and Bruce Kent's was even shorter "Why waste billions on International suicide?"
As well as thoughtful and inspiring ideas from our guest speakers, we also had some wonderful comments and contributions from the audience, so thanks to all who attended and made the day such a success!
At this point in the print version of Kingston Peace News, there is a copy of an article which was published in the Huffington Post. The full text is available here: An Inclusive, Emotionally Supportive British Army? Not Yet by Rhianna Louise of ForcesWatch.
ForcesWatch and Quaker Peace & Social Witness have worked together to produce a resource pack ‘Take Action on Militarism’. The pack is downloadable from www.forceswatch.net or can be ordered by post.
And at this point in the print version of Kingston Peace News, there is a copy of an article which was published in Sojourners, the magazine of an American Christian organisation. For copyright reasons it is not reproduced here. The full article is only available to subscribers.
The article is an interview of Daniel Ellsberg by Catholic peace activist James W. Douglass. Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst for the Rand Corporation when, in 1971, he leaked top-secret Defense Department documents (the Pentagon Papers) about the Vietnam War. He has written a new book about secret plans for nuclear weapons, which he speaks about in the interview.
On 11 January Guantanamo Justice Campaign, supported by London Guantanamo Campaign and others, held a vigil on the concourse in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, marking the moment when prisoners first arrived at Guantanamo Bay maximum security prison sixteen years ago, on 11 January 2002.
Since then, the prison has held a total of 780 prisoners. 731 of these detainees were released without charges; fifteen of them were children under the age of 18; and nine of them have died by suicide or other causes. According to Human Rights Watch, of the 41 detainees that remain at Guantanamo only seven, Abd-al-Rahim al-Nashri, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, and five 9/11 co-defendants face any formal charges.
Set up by the Bush administration, the prison is notorious, a symbol of injustice: a place known for torture, abuse, and indefinite detention, where prisoners are denied their human rights. Now President Trump has stated he wishes to send more prisoners there.
Guantanamo Justice Campaign holds regular vigils, normally on the second Wednesday of the month from 1pm-3pm. The next one will be on Wednesday 14 February 2018 opposite Parliament Square, Westminster. Contact GJC by text on 07756493877 for advance notice (or confirmation) of 2018 vigils.
Suspended is an installation artwork by artist Arabella Dorman being displayed at St James's Church, Piccadilly until 8 February. It seeks to highlight the plight of refugees, with particular emphasis on those who are now stranded in cities and detention centres across Europe.
Composed of hundreds of items of clothing that have been discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos, a stilled explosion has been created over the nave at St James’s Church inviting the viewer to contemplate the violent fragmentation experienced by the inhabitants of these garments.
This is a sequel to Arabella’s installation Flight, displayed at St James's two years ago. Since then, thousands more refugees have continued to flee war, persecution and famine for the hoped-for safety of European shores, deepening what has become the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.
Today one in every 113 people in the world is forcibly displaced. Whilst Europe struggles to come to terms with this, human trafficking networks are becoming brutally efficient at exploiting and making profit from the vulnerability of migrants – especially the almost 100,000 unaccompanied minors.
The clothes used in this installation were collected by volunteers working with The Starfish Foundation, a grassroots group formed in response to the growing need for coordinated refugee support in Lesbos, from its beaches and roadsides. Suspended is raising funds to support the ongoing but often forgotten work that Starfish carries out in the face of what Pope Francis has called the “globalisation of indifference”.
See http://www.sjp.org.uk/suspended.html and http://www.asterias-starfish.org/en/.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND