Every year on May 15th we remember those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill, both in the past and today. Hundreds of people across the world are imprisoned or forced to flee their home countries for refusing to join the armed forces.
On May 15th we stand in solidarity with them, as well as celebrating the memory of all those throughout history who have resisted conscription.
Due to Coronavirus restrictions this year's National Ceremony will be online, with a live stream from Tavistock Square London, where the event usually takes place. Simply visit www.ppu.org.uk at 4.30pm on Saturday 15th May 2021 to watch the live stream. There will be a minute's silence, songs and speeches from around the UK and beyond including:
- Israeli conscientious objector Atalya Ben-Abba (pictured)
- Natalia García Cortés from War Resisters' International in Colombia and
- Actor Michael Mears live from the stone in Tavistock Square.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson writes in May CND Campaign magazine with an update on the talks which are deciding the future of the Iran nuclear deal and will have a wider impact on peace in the Middle East.
AS TALKS CONTINUE in Vienna to restore the Iran Nuclear Deal, it seems clear that some progress is being made, no matter how slowly. German news agency Deutsche Welle refers to ‘cautious optimism’, and at the weekend, Russia’s top diplomat Ambassador Ulyanov tweeted favourably, saying "The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants noted today the indisputable progress made at the Vienna talks on restoration of the nuclear deal." Describing the talks as serious and focused despite ‘outside turbulence’, a source representing France, Germany and the UK said that success wasn’t guaranteed but was certainly not impossible. 'Outside turbulence' was most likely a thinly veiled reference to the recent cyber-attack on the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran, thought to be perpetrated by Israel, which is opposed to the resumption of the Nuclear Deal. In fact, the Israeli media reported at the time that the sabotage operation was an Israeli military and intelligence action. It certainly fits into a wider pattern of Israeli extra-legal action, ranging from the Stuxnet computer virus a decade ago to the assassination of the Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November. The recent attack led to Iran enriching small amounts of uranium even further.
Reports suggest that President Biden wishes to restore the Deal, but progress is being hampered by the fact that the US does not have a representative at the meeting as the US is no longer party to the Deal, owing to Trump’s withdrawal in 2018. So a US delegation is in Vienna but it can only take part in the talks indirectly. The key roadblock is the sequencing of events: Biden wants Iran to roll back its nuclear programme before it lifts sanctions, and Iran wants the US to lift sanctions before it starts its roll back. The good news is that two working groups have now been established, one looking at what the US must do and the other at the steps for Iran to take. But resumption of the Deal will not solve the most serious nuclear problem in the Middle East – namely Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Israel’s arsenal is outside of any international monitoring, yet no sanctions are placed on it, or punitive action taken as a result.
Successive nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conferences have called for a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, and the international community must now take steps to ensure the negotiations to this end are a success. There can be no peace in the Middle East while those weapons of mass destruction remain.
Atalya Ben Abba (see above) was a guest speaker at a recent online webinar organised by ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions), entitled Critical Young Israelis speak about the future. She first refused to be called up aged 16 and spent 121 days in military detention. She said " I couldn't imagine myself being part of the oppression, anything within the military system would be unethical".
She was asked about her parents: "they are better now, and proud of me, they had to explain to their friends". Her brother is also supportive, and has produced a film 'Objector'.
Another participant in the webinar was Haggai Matar from Tel Aviv, now a refusnik, and journalist. He started to protest in the West Bank when a teenager. He had a left-wing upbringing and a supportive teacher. He has spent over 2 years in different prisons. He regards this as an opportunity to talk to other inmates. "In military prisons, most soldiers don't like the occupation".
The third speaker was student Uri Agnon, who protests in Jerusalem against the planned eviction of Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, for settlers to take over homes they have been in for generations, The police are quite violent "they deal much more brutally with Palestinians than with us Israelis".
You can read more about these protestors and see the film "Objector" by searching for "ICAHD webinar Critical Young Israelis speak about the future."
From the lone traveller targeted on the Kabul highway, to Yemenis killed by BAE bombs
It’s often suggested by military strategists and journalists that the use of drones in conflict provides some kind of clinical precision without collateral damage. The ‘bad guys’ are eliminated by a surgical strike while other folk can get on with their lives. Of course drones also have the huge advantage that the operators - rich developed nations - don’t have to risk the lives of their own service people who are sitting thousands of miles away. And they’re cheap. So drones can be seen as making war more ‘acceptable’ to the general public of those rich developed nations. At Stop the War’s Conference on The Threats of War, peace campaigner and drone expert Chris Cole gave a very different and I’m sure more realistic picture.
Blurring the line between war and peace: KPN readers will be well aware that drones, as described, enable wealthy developed countries such as the UK to wage low level conflict in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq with little in the way of downside - for us. No need for soldiers and vulnerable military bases on remote hillsides. Chris, though, pointed out a fact which I think gets too little attention, that drone warfare transfers the threat from armed fighters to the whole civilian population. So that every member of the target population feels they are vulnerable.
Precision? Recently three drone operators in the USA have decided to speak out about their concerns on this score. One of these operators said that the screen pictures they use for identification were often so poor that she couldn’t clearly distinguish men from women or adults from children let alone the faces of particular individuals. She would be struggling to make a life-or-death decision while the commanding officer shouted at her to act quickly.
No collateral damage? By definition drones usually operate in far away places about which we have decided to know very little. There are no journalists or even military authorities to report back on what has happened or if school children or wedding parties are accidentally targeted. We really have no idea of the number of deaths or whether those killed were fighters or civilians, adults or children.
Eliminating the bad guys or just murder? Senior Iranian General Qasem Suleimani, one of the most powerful people in Iran was deliberately killed in Baghdad, together with nine colleagues by a US drone strike in 2020. This was described as a likely violation of international law by authorities at the UN. How can the West then claim to believe in a ‘Rules-based global system’? Drones certainly make such acts easier and therefore more likely.
New developments in drone technology: autonomous drones, protector drones and proliferation: At present the UK doesn’t have autonomous drones and the thought of drones programmed to make their own decisions is scary but arms companies believe they will be developed. Protector drones which can form a swarm around aircraft to combat attacks on the aircraft are being developed. And drones are proliferating. Currently Chris Cole said about 20 countries had drones but he believed this number would soon increase to 40 countries. The drive to increase the use of drones and widen their scope of action continues all the time.
Andrew Feinstein, author of Shadow World and relentless campaigner on the arms trade reminded us of another aspect of the arms industry. Huge sums of money swirl round the trade and corruption is everywhere. It’s reckoned that 40% of the corruption in world trade is accounted for by corruption relating to the sale of weapons.
Also the cost of military equipment continues to spiral upwards. Feinstein suggested ordinary people find it hard to think rationally about these enormous sums. The UK’s latest aircraft carrier cost over £3 billion. Even if you believed in ‘Global Britain’, could one large ship (which must be a target from outer space) be a sensible way to spend so much money?
Eisenhower spoke about the military-industrial complex but as Andrew Feinstein pointed out a wider group profits from the billions involved. This money also helps fund political parties, politicians, and an army of accountants and lawyers involved in contracts and deals. Media voices are, in general, warm in their support for the British military and the British arms industry. These various people and interest groups form a closely linked network as politicians leave parliament for jobs in the arms industry, and UK foreign policy with its close links with Saudi Arabia turns a blind eye to the catastrophe in the Yemen.
As Covid moves more to the background in the UK there are still huge problems with the pandemic in India and other countries and we could, and in my view should, do much more to help. In this country too young people will need a lot of support and we have to find money for the NHS and its staff. As peace campaigners we should always remember that not only do weapons kill in conflict but they also kill because money is diverted from dealing with health issues, climate change and other major problems.
Thanks to Mary Holmes, who attended a recent Stop the War conference with Chris Cole and Andrew Feinstein
(held on zoom on 24th April)
This was a very well attended and comprehensive meeting. Many resolutions were discussed and voted upon, including one very interesting to our members submitted by Norwich and Brighton PSC groups, entitled Israel and Nuclear Disarmament. This welcomed the recent coming into force of the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while regretting the fact that Israel has never signed the non-proliferation treaty nor allowed weapons inspectors access to the factory at Dimona. It asked the AGM to resolve to mandate PSC officers and encourage all members and branches to support ICAN and work to raise public awareness of the dangers to Palestine and us all of the Israeli government’s fundamental military nature.
I'm glad to say this was carried by a very large majority of members.
There were also resolutions dealing with the lack of vaccinations being made available to Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, as should be required by the occupying power, and another welcoming the recent historic TUC resolution describing Israel as an Apartheid State.
Future campaigns will include The Big Ride fundraiser and publicity and support for Zaytoun products and Palestinian farmers.
There was a lunchtime Oud performance by Saied Silbak and a Palestinian cookery class.
Report by Rosemary Addington, delegate.
Since this AGM, PSC has been awaiting a Human Rights Watch report* examining Israeli Government policy, which has now been published. [*A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution. For the full report see www.hrw.org.] It includes detailed accounts of the different elements of Israel’s apartheid regime, including but not limited to demographic engineering, movement restrictions, land confiscation, forcible transfer of the indigenous Palestinian population, the denial of basic civil rights, the illegal settlements and unequal access to resources.
PSC notes that the report echoes the long-standing warnings from Palestinian civil society and the solidarity movement that Israel’s racist and discriminatory policies amount to the crime of apartheid. It also welcomes Human Rights Watch’s conclusion that urgent action should be taken in order to bring an end to Israel’s persecution of the Palestinian people.
As Palestinians have demanded time and time again, it is essential that the international community, including the UK Government and all political parties and public bodies hold Israel to account through ending all agreements, trade and funding that supports the commission of these serious crimes. Likewise, as this report makes explicit, “businesses should cease activities that directly contribute to the commission of the crimes of apartheid and persecution.” This statement carries serious implications for companies like JCB, which has already been identified by the UN as complicit in violations of international law. The report also carries implications for public bodies such as Universities and Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) funds that invest in such companies, and by doing so make themselves complicit in supporting crimes against humanity.
This must be a watershed moment. In the face of its forensic analysis and unanswerable case it is time for Western leaders to change the direction of their polices and make the necessary moral and political leap that would see them begin to hold Israel to account for these crimes.
The water will be treated and diluted so radiation levels are below those set for drinking water. But the local fishing industry has strongly opposed the move, as have China and South Korea.
Tokyo says work to release water used to cool nuclear fuel will begin in about two years.
The final approval comes after years of debate and is expected to take decades to complete.
Reactor buildings at the Fukushima power plant were damaged by hydrogen explosions caused by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down.
More than a million tonnes of water have been used to cool the melted reactors, and the water stored in tanks, some of which have leaked into the surrounding soil.
Environmental groups like Greenpeace have long expressed their opposition to releasing the water into the ocean. The NGO said Japan's plans to release the water showed the government "once again failed the people of Fukushima".
The country's fishing industry has also argued against it, worried that consumers will refuse to buy produce from the region.
The industry was hit extremely hard after the 2011 disaster, with many countries banning the import of sea food caught off Japan's north-eastern coast.
The decision has also prompted criticism from Japan's neighbours. Ahead of the decision, South Korea's foreign minister on Monday expressing "serious regret" and the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also urged Japan to "act in a responsible manner". Mr Zhao said "To safeguard international public interests and Chinese people's health and safety, China has expressed grave concern to the Japanese side through the diplomatic channel".
The US appears to support Japan's decision, however, saying it seemed to have "adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards". Scientists argue that the elements remaining in the water are only harmful to humans in large doses. With dilution the treated water poses no scientifically detectable risk, they say.
While the tritium is radioactive, it has a half-life of around 12 years, meaning it will disappear from the environment over a period of decades rather than centuries.
Radiation from tritium can be ingested, however, which is why fishing industry groups are concerned about the risk of it getting into the food chain and being consumed through sea food.
The risk of this happening is not zero, but the scientific consensus is that it does not pose a threat to human health. The plan has the backing of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Scientists also point out that vastly more radiation has been released into the Pacific by nuclear weapons tests carried out by the US, UK and France during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
What happened in Fukushima?
On 11 March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the north-eastern coast of Japan, triggering a 15-metre tsunami.
While the back-up systems to prevent a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant survived the initial quake, further damage was inflicted by the tsunami.
As the facility's cooling systems failed in the days that followed, tonnes of radioactive material were released. The meltdown was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Around 18,500 people died or disappeared in the quake and tsunami, and more than 160,000 were forced from their homes.
Editor's note:- this report comes from the BBC website.
From the New European, Feb 18th 2021:-
An Austrian Jew who was hidden by residents of a small town in southern France during World War Two has left its 2,500 inhabitants 2 million Euros in his will.
Erich Schwam who died in December 2020 aged 90 asked for the money to be spent on youth projects and development in Chambon-sur-Lignon, a haven for Jewish refugees during the war. Schwam, who arrived in 1943, was one of around 4000 fugitives who were sheltered by locals in private homes and farms in the remote mountainous area.
A group of the world’s most powerful politicians are coming to Cornwall in June. Tony Staunton from Plymouth CND explains why protests are being arranged.
As if announcing a 40% increase in the number of the UK’s nuclear weapons isn’t enough, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hosting a jamboree of the West’s most powerful politicians to further carve out global domination. The ‘Group of Seven’ is a routine meeting of the Prime Ministers and advisers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States of America, and the UK. This year, Johnson has invited far-right nationalist Prime Minister of India, Modi, and the racist climate denier, Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, as well as the leaders of South Korea to come to Cornwall.
Their agenda is simple: plans to build economic growth through neoliberal free-market competition and exploitation of the Global South; to reassert the ‘Great Reset’ plans for making profits out of the deepening climate catastrophe – peddling the myth of net-zero carbon emissions; and fast-tracking the rising military tensions with China and Russia towards a hot rather than cold war.
Johnson’s announcements on action for the climate emergency amount to far too little, far too late: reliance on net-zero and Negative Emissions Technologies promoting false solutions of nuclear power, carbon trading, biomass and carbon-capture-and-storage which cannot and will not meet the scale of the challenge.
In the same way, the G7’s plans for strengthening NATO and developing new and ‘usable’ nuclear warheads offer nothing other than increased military spending, tensions and flashpoints towards all-out war. For those of us campaigning for peace, the G7+ represents a threat to the future of the environment and human societies.
Johnson’s choice of Cornwall as the site for the G7+ is another ideological assault on campaigners for progress. The delegates will stay at an exclusive hotel whilst Cornwall is one the of the very poorest regions in Europe, with an economy heavily reliant upon seasonal tourism of the type that creates low wages, housing shortages and high rates of poverty. As in many of the world’s most beautiful locations, tourism impoverishes local populations.
G7 delegates will use Newquay Airport, Cornwall’s primary air link, passing by the groundworks being laid for one of the UK’s new Space Ports, scheduled by 2022 to launch rockets carrying, amongst other things, military satellites as part of the USA’s Space Force. The militarisation of space is well under way with every intention of ensuring the continued domination of western imperialism.
Locally we have formed the Resist G7 Coalition to organise camp sites for convergence for protest actions, meetings and cultural events to expose the plans of the G7 and call for action for peace and the climate.
Due to the pandemic, we are asking those who cannot come to Cornwall, to protest in their community, town or city on Saturday 12th June. There is every reason to protest against the G7 and their plans – join us. Find out more at www.resistg7.org
EDF said that significant progress has been made on the site, but electricity generation is now expected to start in June 2026, not 2025, as previously estimated. The corona virus crisis led to a number of changes on the site, including a reduction in the number of workers to enable social distancing, concentrating on the most critical areas of construction.
Morning Star, 26th February 2021
I hope this will allow more time to campaign against this wasteful and dangerous construction and start-up. Ed.
(Of course this is an American organisation, but I am printing this message here as I think it is encouraging to know that all over the world there are people, many Jewish, who see and campaign against what is being done to Palestinians in Israel)
"The horrors on the ground in Palestine/Israel are devastating and increasing by the moment. The Israeli government is encouraging and enabling the imminent settler theft of homes in Sheikh Jarrah, bulldozing homes in Silwan, storming Al Aqsa mosque to attack Palestinians at prayer, and protecting rioting mobs of settlers as they accost Palestinians. And today, the IDF launched a barrage of airstrikes into Gaza, killing at least 20 people, including 9 children. The bombing is ongoing—the government stated that it would continue for “days, not hours.” My heart is shattering.
We need to meet this moment together with everything we have, in alignment with the steadfast resistance of our Palestinian comrades. This is why JVP exists.
Mohammed el-Kurd, a key leader on the ground in Sheikh Jarrah, says it clearly:
“You can help us by placing political pressure, boycotting, divesting, being with us in person or protesting abroad. You can help us by understanding that Sheikh Jarrah is a microcosm of Israeli settler-colonialism in Palestine.”
We’re working closely with our Palestinian partners and cementing plans to apply strategic pressure in the coming days. Today, you can make an impact by pressuring Secretary of State Tony Blinken to act now in support of Palestinian human rights. Our coalition petition has collected almost 165,000 signatures, but we need to be even louder.
(To campaign here in UK - www.caat.org.uk and www.palestinecampaign.org )
First a disappointment - we have just heard that Sutton Environmental Fair will not take place this year. This is a pity as it is a wonderful event - many stalls of campaigning and environmental groups. We still await news of New Malden Fair in July, and hope that Ham Fair in September will go ahead.
However we have already had one garage sale this year and will have another on 31st May Bank Holiday Monday (at Maggie's garage in Lower Ham Road Kingston, at the rear of her house, 289 Richmond Road). And we have also been to Apps Court car boot sale once and plan to go again on Sunday 23rd May, weather permitting.
Maggie, our fund-raiser says "Unfortunately my tomato plants are growing very slowly due to the cold weather despite the fact that they are in my conservatory. I am hoping that some will be ready for the car boot planned for May 23rd and for the next garage sale on 31st.
I have already potted on 157 plants and have another 40 coming along. I also have a few healthy looking cucumber plants. I will be charging £1 each for tomatoes this year.” So please come along on 31st May, there will be many more plants, books and bric-a-brac. (Due to Covid we now have a one-way system in the garage, and request social distancing be observed.)
BUT if you can't get to us and want a few tomato plants we might be able to deliver some to you if you are local -'phone or email me -Rosemary.
David Sheldon died peacefully in hospital on Thursday 4th February, aged 100.
He was a member of KPC/CND until 2017, as well as Epsom and Ewell CND and London Region CND. I remember him and his wife, but no details, and I cannot yet find anyone else who does remember more of them. If YOU do have memories of David or his wife, please send a letter/email to Phillip Cooper for our next newsletter in July.
David Porter remained our member until his death, on 23rd December 2020, aged 91.
He was a dedicated campaigner for Friends of the Earth and a keen cyclist. I remember him in the days of the Green Fair, and I am pretty sure he came on the big Iraq War march. He lived in Thames Ditton and continued to pay our subscription and receive our newsletters.
Newsletter Editor for this issue: Rosemary Addington
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this edition are not necessarily those of Kingston Peace Council/CND