Everyone has strong views about the Israel–Palestine situation. My own can be summed up in two sentences: the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 was a mistake which has had disastrous consequences. And although Israel is not the only state which violates the rights of some citizens and oppresses an occupied people it is certainly one such state.
The United Nations has played a highly ambivalent rôle in the area. It was a UN General Assembly vote which set up the state of Israel. The beginning of UN peacekeeping was the Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in Palestine in 1948 — still in existence. And the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has supported Palestinian refugees in camps ever since. At the beginning of Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Security Council called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories (resolution 242) — but it has never acted to implement that resolution, or countless more on related lines. Three years ago, the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the Wall and the settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal — still they continue to grow. And the Palestinians continue to suffer collectively all manner of indignity, injustice and violence.
These views were informed and strongly confirmed at an Islamic Human Rights conference on May 4th, with Israeli peace activists (Meir Margalit from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Yehudit Keshet from Checkpoint Watch) and an Oxfam specialist (Michael Bailey, speaking on rights to water) among the speakers. Two websites worth a visit are http://www.ihrc.org.uk and http://www.palint.org — volume 2 issue 4 of the latter’s journal (June 2007) has articles by several of the speakers at the recent event.
Also worth a read, Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid”. He has described the Israeli/American refusal to accept the democratic verdict of the January 2006 elections in Palestine as “criminal”. When you know that Hamas offered a 10-year truce to Israel, and maintained an 18-month unilateral ceasefire with no concessions in return, what would you call it?
Faruq Ziada was formerly an Iraqi ambassador whom Paul Bremer appointed Minister, working with the Coalition Authority to create the new National Assembly structure. In November 2004 he quit in despair.
The latest series of United Nations Association workshops will take place on Tuesdays in June on the subject of the UN Global Compact. The United Nations is intended to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations for common aims, including decent living standards for all, and the UN Global Compact has grown from a proposal by Kofi Annan in 1999 to unite companies with UN agencies and NGOs to meet the challenges of globalisation in ways that protect vulnerable people and the planet. Workshop participants are invited to bring their own stories (positive or negative) of the impact of business on people.
All sessions will take place at 11 Wilberforce House, 119 Worple Road SW20 and will be facilitated by Alison Williams, Merton UNA Branch Secretary and former UN guide. Lunch from 12·30 (bring your own — tea and coffee provided); talk and discussion from 1–2·30pm. Sessions will be repeated at 8pm for those who find evening attendance more convenient.
RSVP to email@example.com or 8944 0574.
Bruce Kent gave a lively talk to Café Diplo on Monday 12th May, saying how people’s perceptions of nuclear arms have to be challenged as the nuclear threat did not disappear with the end of the Cold War. We have been sold two dogmas: nuclear weapons are safe and were the only way to end World War II — both untrue. “You cannot increase security by making other people feel insecure.”
He has coined the expression “the elephant in the kitchen”, the ignored elephant being the colossal cost of world militarism which has actually gone up since the end of the Cold War. It is such an extraordinary fact that it just does not seem to register! Even some good NGOs or popular campaigns, such as ‘Make Poverty History’ or the anti-arms trade campaigns, do not seem to emphasise this context. Yet all the social needs of the whole world, such as food, health, education etc. would only cost roughly one quarter of the total annual world military expenditure. Why not ‘Make War History’? He showed a dramatic chart published by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW — http://www.abolishwar.org) that illustrates this.
Bruce Kent was enthusiastic about the new Draft International Treaty produced by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN, launched in 2007 — http://www.icanw.org) and MEDACT — http://www.medact.org. It is a very detailed blueprint for starting a way of negotiating change. For example it includes clauses making it criminal to design nuclear weapons, and giving protection to whistle-blowers; as well as by-passing all previous old arguments about unilateral versus multilateral non-proliferation, for instance. Bruce Kent said it is important to be debating the whole issue now, leading up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in 2010. (To which Scotland had applied to be invited — as observers.)
But this country is committed to two completely contradictory things: the NPT and the decision to renew Trident. During the post-talk discussion it was clear people were disgusted by the latter, particularly given that probably all the current New Labour ministers were originally on record as being against nuclear weapons.
Café Diplo always invites interesting speakers. It is run by the Friends of Le Monde Diplomatique (English edition) and there are similar groups around the world — http://www.mondediplofriends.org.uk. They do gently encourage guests to subscribe to Le Monde Diplomatique† as the English edition needs financial support. Café Diplo has a pleasant new venue at The Gallery, 70/77 Cowcross Street, EC1 (2 minutes from Farringdon tube).
† Le Monde Diplomatique is an intelligent newspaper covering international politics from a broader European viewpoint.
Our big annual fund-raiser on May 17th was possibly our best ever, and we took well in excess of £1,500 on the day. It is getting increasingly expensive to run such an event (hall fee £150, newspaper advert £60...) but we are left with a clear profit of more than £1,200 with additional monies still coming in. All the stalls exceeded their last year’s totals and there was a buzz of activity right through until closing time. Our thanks go to everybody who baked cakes, raised plants, donated books, bric-à-brac and raffle prizes, and to the kitchen staff, stallholders and publicity team who worked hard all day. The massive transport operation went smoothly with the help of vehicle owners generous with their time and petrol.
As a veteran of many Fêtes in the past, I should like to offer an especial vote of thanks to the clearing up team who sprang into action as sales ceased at 3pm and had the hall empty within an hour. It was a massive team effort and WDC/CND can feel proud of itself.
“Almost every country in the Middle East has announced nuclear energy plans in the space of less than a year, in response to Iran’s dramatic progress towards nuclear power.... Between February 2006 and January 2007, twelve Arab states and Turkey declared their interest in developing nuclear energy. A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said the resurgence of interest brought with it the risk of a ‘proliferation cascade’ of nuclear arms across the region”: The Guardian, 21st May 2008.
And our governments still claim that nuclear power has nothing to do with nuclear weapons!
From June to the beginning of October 2008 Dods (http://www.dods.co.uk) are running an interactive exhibition in Westminster Hall all about the ways in which you can engage with Parliament. The exhibition is free of charge; come to St Stephen’s Entrance on weekdays to gain entry.
Subjects that may interest members of the peace movement include:
Recently the Renoir cinema in London showed a programme called ‘CND Shorts’, including two related films from MadMovies — http://www.madmovies.co.uk — “Faslane365” and “Aldermaston 50 years on”, versions of which can be seen on YouTube:
Di McDonald of the Nuclear Information Service has sent us the following message:
The Nuclear Information Service case against the government’s decision to replace Trident and its failure to carry out a promised consultation comes before the High Court on 10th June. This is a ‘permission’ hearing when the court will decide whether or not to grant leave for a Judicial Review.
Please come to support the case, either outside the court with banners, in court to hear the case, or both. This case is taken ‘in the public interest’ so we do need the public to show an interest, to add weight to our case and make the judges more wary of writing it off!
The Judicial Review of Trident will take place at 10am on Tuesday 10th June 2008, High Court, The Strand, London.
BASIC, the British American Security Information Council which has been producing valuable briefings on international nuclear matters for many years, announces that it is “embarking on an ambitious new program to help leaders take the necessary steps to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons”. To this end, their regular Washington Nuclear Update has been replaced by a new briefing “Getting to Zero”.
George Schultz, former US Secretary of State, and Sam Nunn, former Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, addressed a meeting of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation (clerked by BASIC) on February 28th in London. “The meeting was packed, an extraordinary situation for a Thursday evening on a quiet day, when most parliamentarians would be expected in their constituencies. Members attending included several high-profile former cabinet members. The session was lively, and parliamentarians showed a keen interest”, according to BASIC’s March bulletin.
BASIC is funded by the Ploughshares Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and Rockefeller Family Associates, and their UK address is The Grayston Centre, 2nd Floor, 28 Charles Square, London D1 6HT, tel. 020 7324 4680.