We hope that all our members have managed to keep safe and well in these difficult times. Obviously we have been unable to hold or attend meetings and commemorations, but those of you with internet access will have had ample opportunities to attend virtual meetings online, and will know that campaigning has not come to a halt. Some future such events are listed on the back page of this newsletter.
Meanwhile, we are very grateful to our members Maggie and Rosemary, who have been busy fund-raising, holding plant sales in Maggie’s garage (with suitable social distancing) and attending car boot sales to sell some of the goods left over from last year’s sales.
Unfortunately our main fund-raisers are our stalls at fairs, and both New Malden Craft Fair, part of Malden Fortnight, and Carshalton Environmental Fair have been cancelled. But at the time of going to press it is hoped that, subject to Council approval, Ham Fair can be held on Saturday 12 September (postponed from 13 June).
However, we have been invited by the organisers to contribute a video to a substitute for Malden Fortnight. They have created a Virtually Malden website www.virtuallymalden.com so you can visit us there. You need to click on the 'View Videos' button (https://www.virtuallymalden.com/videos) and then scroll down in order to see our video (it's the last one). The video is also on our Facebook page, so if you use Fb, please have a look and share it.
We were hoping to be able to hold our annual Hiroshima commemoration on 6 August as usual in Canbury Gardens, with suitable social distancing. But the latest Government advice still only allows meeting outside in groups of up to six people from different households.
If the guidelines change or if we decide on an alternative action we’ll let you know by email. Please ‘phone 020 8399 2547 for details if we do not have an email address for you.
See below for London CND events.
75 years ago the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated by atomic bombs, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
One of the victims of the bombing was a child named Sadako Sasaki. She was just two years old when the bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima. At the age of 12, she was hospitalised with leukaemia. Despite being gravely ill, Sadako managed to fold 1,000 paper cranes, hoping that an ancient Japanese legend was true - that this would grant her wish to be healthy again.
Tragically, she passed away within months, but her story has become a global symbol of peace, and a reminder of the human tragedy and unimaginable suffering that today's nuclear weapons threaten.
CND hopes to raise money to help its campaign for a nuclear-free world by asking supporters to get sponsored by family and friends to fold 75 origami peace cranes - one for each year since the bomb was dropped (or you can set your own target). You don't need any previous experience of origami - CND have a variety of guides available to help you.
If you're up for the Peace Crane challenge, then sign up here (or if the challenge isn't for you, you could make a donation instead):
CND Peace Education will be hosting a ‘School Vacation Creation’ event in the run up to Hiroshima Day and Nagasaki Day. They are inviting young people and their families to get creative in response to the 75th anniversary of the bombings, and to share their creative writing (including poems and short stories) and artworks (drawings, paintings, photography and/or film).
The submissions will be hosted on Peace Education’s blog, and shared via social media. This isn’t a competition, so there will be no judges, winners or entrance fee. Please send your creations to email@example.com with your name(s), ages (optional), and location.
Thursday 6 August 2020, 12 noon
Join London CND for an online event with...
- Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
- Maryam Eslamdoust, Mayor of Camden
- Bruce Kent, Vice-President of CND
and cultural programme including...
- Emma Dent Coad, poetry reading
- Michael Mears, actor and playwright
- Rev Nagase, chant and drumming
- Hugh Goodacre, song and acoustic guitar
Tickets and registration: https://london-cnd-hiroshima-2020.eventbrite.co.uk
Capacity is limited so all attendees must register in advance. Registration ends at 4pm on Wednesday 5 August.
Sun 9 August 2020, 9am to Mon 31 August, 5pm
Join London CND online in this commemorative exhibition, with photos from peace ceremonies taking place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, interviews with activists from across the globe, and family friendly how-to videos so you can make a paper peace crane from home.
We reported in our March/April newsletter that The Attorney General's office has been sitting on corruption charges in relation to arms deals with Saudi Arabia for nearly two years.
Now, as a further demonstration of its contempt for the rule of law, the government is resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a year after a 2017 High Court judgment allowing continued licensing of such exports was overturned. The Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that the government had acted “irrationally and therefore unlawfully” in licencing the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi forces for use in Yemen without assessing whether incidents in the conflict had amounted to breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL). In that judgment, the Court barred the government from approving “any new licenses for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen” until it had reviewed the decisions on existing ones and estimated the future risks in light of its conclusions about the past.
Existing licences have continued to operate, allowing for the export of fighter jet components and aircraft maintenance. British Aerospace confirmed in its 2019 report that it continued to fulfil its 2018 Typhoon support services contract.
But in a statement on 7 July, international trade secretary Liz Truss said British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in its war in Yemen would resume, following the completion of the court-ordered government review into military export licenses granted to the country.
Ms Truss admitted that the decision was being made despite the review finding that Saudi Arabia may have used British arms in incidents that breached IHL in Yemen. Although the review found “credible incidents of concern” that have been termed “possible” breaches of IHL, the government has classified them as “isolated incidents”.
She continued “Having now re-taken the decisions that were the subject of judicial review on the correct legal basis, as required by the Order of the Court of Appeal of 20 June, it follows that the undertaking that my predecessor gave to the Court – that we would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen – falls away. The broader commitment that was given to Parliament, relating to licences for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, also no longer applies.”
The statement was made only one day after foreign secretary Dominic Raab made a major speech that aimed to paint the UK as a defender of human rights and democracy around the world. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.
In March 2015 a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen against Houthi rebels, who are fighting the internationally recognised government and control large swathes of territory. But humanitarian groups and the UN quickly accused Saudi-led forces of breaching international humanitarian law, including bombing schools, hospitals, weddings and food infrastructure. Independent estimates suggest a Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for the deaths of more than 8,000 civilians in the last five years.
The UK has licensed the sale of arms worth over £5.3bn to Saudi Arabia since the Yemen campaign began, including £2.5 billion of licences relating to bombs, missiles and other types of ordinance.
The government decision has been condemned by Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade, who said: “The Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the government itself admits that UK-made arms have played a central role in the bombing. We will be considering this new decision with our lawyers, and will be exploring all options available to challenge it.”
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: “This is a deeply cynical move to restart business as usual … This seems like an attempt to rewrite history and disregard international law.” And Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam, said “Even before the coronavirus hit, Yemen was already facing the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis and had seen its hospitals and clinics decimated in the conflict. It’s nothing short of cruel that the government should take the decision to restart sales to Saudi Arabia at such a time.”
The Labour Party Policy Forum is holding a consultation (closing on 20 July) and welcomes contributions, from members and non-members of the Labour Party, so KPC/CND has made a submission. The commission is split into several sections of which the most relevant to us is International, considering policy relating to international affairs and defence, as follows:
The Consultation Paper states: “Labour wants to see the UK take a lead on tackling key issues like the climate emergency, sovereign debt relief, the refugee crisis and ending conﬂict.”
There must be a specific recognition that conflict exacerbates the climate emergency, and that selling arms that help perpetuate conflicts is unacceptable.
Labour continues to believe that the possession of nuclear weapons is fundamental to Britain’s ‘position in the world’ even though the main threats faced by this country are acknowledged to be terrorism and pandemic, neither of which can be removed by means of Trident.
In a post-Covid-19 world, divorced from the EU because of Brexit and facing massive climatic problems the UK can no longer afford nuclear weapons let alone vanity projects like the two new aircraft carriers and Labour should have the guts to say so.
The Consultation Paper states: “There has been a regression of international law and respect for human life such as the planned annexation of the occupied West Bank …”
Labour wants to see the UK taking a lead in key world issues and also strengthen the United Nations yet Labour has not in recent years been seen to be sufficiently proactive or vocal in its support of the Palestinian people whose lands are stolen, whose livelihoods are destroyed and who are brutally repressed by the State of Israel in direct contravention of United Nations resolutions.
The ongoing controversy concerning anti-semitism, both actual and imagined, within the Labour Party must not be used to silence critics of Israel’s actions in relation to the Palestinians. For some time now it has been apparent that official criticism of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians and other Arab peoples has been muted for fear of condemnation by those elements both within and outside the Party who have ‘weaponised’ allegations of anti-semitism for their own political aims. This must not be allowed to continue.
Labour must speak out loud and clear in condemnation of the Israeli Government’s mistreatment of the Palestinian people and act in concert with other nations in opposing Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian lands. The Party should also support the BDS movement and vigorously oppose the Israeli Government’s apartheid treatment of Palestinians as it once opposed South African apartheid and supported sanctions against the racist South African Government.
Our response to questions about: The international community, values, and creating more equality and opportunity for all
The United Nations: Labour should prioritise working with allies in support of the UN to achieve a more peaceful world. The UK is a member of the Security Council, the G7 and the G20 and should use these platforms to work on international issues so that the UN, and agencies like the WHO, get the backup they need. Of course there may be times when an individual nation needs to take the initiative to get such groups together but it is about working with others to achieve results.
The Labour Party has an effective Shadow Peace and Disarmament Minister and UN support should be included in his or her brief.
Young people: Labour should work with teachers to ensure that the UN, which is on the school curriculum, is studied and promoted in all state schools. All UK schools should be encouraged to teach pupils about the UN.
Civil society: The Labour Party should work with parallel political parties in other countries, and do much more to work with civil society groups in other countries for example: environmental organisations and women’s groups. In the last 30 years the UK government has allied with Saddam Hussein, Bashar Al-Assad and the current Saudi regime and failed to support citizens working peacefully for a better society during the Arab Spring. It may be necessary to trade with countries with which the UK doesn’t share common value systems but they should not be treated as allies and sold weapons if this conflicts with UK arms licensing criteria.
The Arms Trade: The UK is signed up to arms licensing criteria which say that weapons and equipment should not be sold if they will be used in internal repression or external aggression. If the Labour Party is to work for a fairer world where international law is respected that licensing policy has to have real meaning.
Our response to question: What should the values and priorities be, which will underpin our international development strategy and define our relationships with partner countries?
Department for International Development: The work of DfID was widely respected internationally. With Covid-19 needs worldwide are increasing rapidly with Oxfam saying 500 million more people face extreme poverty. Not only would any such increase in poverty be a humanitarian disaster but it would lead to conflict and increased numbers of refugees.
Before DfID was established overseas aid was used, on occasions, to pay British firms for unnecessary and costly infrastructure projects that tarnished the whole aid programme. It’s very likely too that, under the Tories, this will once again be the norm and aid funds will be diverted to promote UK diplomatic and commercial, rather than humanitarian objectives.
The Labour Party should ensure DfID is re-established as an independent body though obviously working with the Foreign Office as necessary.
When the Government announced the ‘Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and development’ in February 2020, it was described as the largest foreign-policy review since the Cold War: examining the UK’s objectives abroad, and aiming to establish the country as a “problem-solving and burden-sharing nation”. The Review would consider the UK’s strategic aims, its capabilities, the role of its allies, and the “necessary reforms” to the “systems and structures” of UK Government Departments.
The Government initially announced few details about the Review process, what strategic questions drive it, or how resources will be allocated to match the UK’s ambitions. So the Foreign Affairs Committee (a select committee of backbench parliamentarians) initiated an inquiry to examine the FCO’s contribution to the Review process, and ask what role and resources the Review should give to the FCO for UK foreign-policy strategy.
They invited interested organisations to submit evidence to this inquiry, and many have done so.
These submissions have been published on the Committee’s website:
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) have made submissions covering similar issues. The MAW submission states:
Today there are better ways of resolving conflict than by military means: through the UN and other international institutions, international laws and treaties, and skills of diplomacy together with tried and tested methods of conflict prevention and resolution. What is still needed is the will to utilise these resources effectively – a change of mind-set – a cultural change.
Given that many of the institutions, legal frameworks and skills necessary to increase international understanding and facilitate global co-operation are already in place, our submission focuses on some foreign policy areas where we believe that more effective use could be made of these existing tools. It is vital to strengthen such resources if we are to achieve peaceful co-existence. The starting point for this Review must be a careful re-evaluation of what is needed to provide genuine and sustainable security.
It continues by examining in detail the efficacy of the Review’s process and the priorities for UK foreign policy strategy:
The main review is being conducted by government departments and has restarted after delay due to Covid-19.
The Israeli Government has said that it intends to annex large swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank, starting in July, land which was militarily occupied in 1967. This would be the culmination of years of appropriation of land – through the forced displacement of Palestinians, settlement and the annexation of East Jerusalem. Annexation, illegal under international law, is the forcible and unilateral acquisition of territory over which it has no recognised sovereignty and to make it an integral part of the state – in this case, Israel.
It was expected that this would start on 1st July, but so far, as we go to press, no action seems to have been taken.
UN News reported on Monday 29 June that Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had warned Israel not to proceed along the “dangerous path” of annexing a swathe of occupied Palestinian territory, urging the Government to listen to its own former senior officials along with the “multitude of voices around the world”. She stated “Annexation is illegal. Period. Any annexation. Whether it is 30 per cent of the West Bank, or five per cent”, adding that it would have “a disastrous impact on human rights” throughout the Middle East. She maintained that “the shockwaves of annexation would last for decades, and would be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians” adding that “there is still time to reverse this decision”.
The proposed plan has been widely opposed by vast sections of the Israeli public (by 46%, according to a recent survey compiled by the Israeli news outlet Channel 12), and thousands of Jewish and Arab Israelis protested against annexation in June, warning it would upend all future prospects for peace.
On 4 July Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz:
In light of the spread of the coronavirus and the worsening of the economic situation, there is no justification for insisting on advancing annexation of parts of the West Bank. … July 1st has been and gone but Netanyahu has not yet made his intentions public. He is still waiting for a positive response from the American administration, which insofar as is known, was not given to him during the visit by the president’s emissaries in Jerusalem this week.
Also in Haaretz on 4 July Chemi Shalev wrote:
Netanyahu’s scheme has run into a brick wall of coronavirus reality. He not only missed his own deadline, but is now hard-pressed to ensure that annexation will take place at all. Ministers who have spoken to him in recent days have come away impressed that his heart is no longer in it.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised a day of action against annexation on 4 July. They called for groups of up to 6 people, adhering to social distancing regulations, to demonstrate by holding signs with the slogans Stop Annexation, Sanctions Now and End Apartheid. Hundreds took part, all over the UK, and posted their actions on social media.
Rosemary Addington wrote to Ed Davey, her MP, about the annexation plans and received a long reply from him.
He said that he shares concerns about recent announcements by the Israeli government - the annexation of occupied territory violates the longstanding international legal principle of non-acquisition of territory through force, which is enshrined in the UN Charter and a number of UN Security Council Resolutions. The joint statement by the UK Government, together with France, Germany, Italy and Spain on 12th September last year made it clear that any unilateral annexation of the West Bank would be “a serious breach of international law”.
He went on to say that in their 2019 General Election Manifesto, Liberal Democrats expressed their commitment to “officially recognise the independent state of Palestine, condemn violence on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and support Israel’s right to security. We remain committed to a negotiated peace settlement, which includes a two-state solution.”
Mr Davey visited Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2008, and was shocked by how individual Palestinians and whole Palestinian communities were treated by the Israeli government. From the illegal settlements to daily humiliations at checkpoints, the evidence of gross injustice and the human suffering it brings was indisputable.
At the start of May he joined 148 Parliamentarians in sending a letter to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary demanding that the UK take intense action, including considering sanctions, in response to Israel in the event of annexation of occupied Palestinian territory.
He regards himself a friend of Israel, and this call for action against the current Israeli government is not taken lightly. But it is taken with the memory of the Palestinians whose oppression he witnessed and with a determination that fighting injustice and upholding international law must be central to British foreign policy.
There is a petition on the UK Government and Parliament website calling for the government to formally recognise the State of Palestine:
The government responded on 7 July: “The UK will recognise a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the objective of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot end the occupation. We need to see a negotiated settlement….”
On 26 June, Palestine Solidarity Campaign posted a statement on its website in response to the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Labour front bench. The statement can be read here:
In our June newsletter we reported on the dismal failure of the UN Security Council to agree a resolution backing the call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 23 March for a global ceasefire in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 193 members of the UN General Assembly were able collectively to agree a response in April. By late June, the call for a global ceasefire had been endorsed by 172 UN member states.
The Security Council did not even convene a meeting to discuss the pandemic until April. But at last, on Wednesday 1 July, Security Council members adopted unanimously a resolution demanding that all armed groups begin a “humanitarian pause” for at least 90 days to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations. It also demanded “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” on all conflicts it is currently discussing, such as those in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
ICAN has launched a website https://rise.icanw.org/ that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is the start of a campaign to remember and honour the victims, and to educate and bring new people into the movement to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Gill Hurle
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND