I read with interest Joanna’s excellent report in the November Newsletter of the visit to Stephen Hammond by her and Alison Williams. The part about nuclear accident reminded me of a piece in “The Nuclear Threat” by Jim McCluskey which I think should be read by everybody.
“Accidents happen. However hard we try they cannot be entirely avoided. We gauge the risk we are willing to take by the seriousness of the consequences if things go wrong. If the consequence of an accident happening is total annihilation as would be the case with an accidental global nuclear war, then we need to take total precautions against the accident happening. That means not having nuclear weapons. The only way of avoiding the possibility of the accidental use of nuclear weapons is by ensuring that there are none.”
That, so far as I can understand, is what I would call a 100% certain argument, totally independent from all the stuff about deterrence where there are not any certainties, at least I don’t think so.
This passage expresses well something I have felt for years, which is an important part of the energy behind my efforts towards nuclear disarmament and peace and it is a total reason to support the new global treaty. Let’s remember too Tony Blair’s comments on Trident in his book A Journey: “giving it up [would be] too big a downgrading of our status as a nation”.
“Brian Haw & Co Parliament Square SW1” is the English-language version of a documentary film by Japanese film-maker Yumiko Hayakawa, filmed in London over the course of 18 months and including interviews with Brian and his supporters, Tony Benn and UK/Japanese peace campaigners. WDC/CND friend Kazuko Furuhata brought copies with her when she visited in October and it will be fascinating to see Brian Haw’s one-man vigil for peace through Japanese eyes in a film that we are told “also sheds light on how freedom of speech is threatened in the UK and on people’s imaginative and unrelenting ways of defending their rights”.
Please join us at the William Morris Halls on February 2nd (or apply to borrow a copy if you can’t make the date).
The concert at St James Piccadilly on November 24th was an evening of classical elegance. The Musicians for Peace and Disarmament chamber orchestra’s programme of 18th century music was perfectly suited to Wren’s 17th century church; a reminder that this was the clear acoustic in which such music would first have been heard.
UK conductor Jane Glover is now chiefly based in the US and it says much for her dedication to MPD that she was prepared to find space for the concert in her busy international schedule. And in addition we were treated to no less than six distinguished soloists, all of whom were likewise donating their services. Pieces by Bach and Handel were brief and enjoyable but the two major works on the programme were both by Mozart: the well-known Sinfonia Concertante in E$ for violin and viola and the less well-documented but very lovely Concertante for four wind soloists (K297b) which seems to have had its origins in a concerto for four musicians that Mozart had met in Mannheim.
The interval speaker was Green MEP Jean Lambert who contrasted the darker things happening in the modern world with work at community level to counter the “loud voices of hate” with the “strong voices of peace”. People opening their homes to refugees and travelling to help in the camps, taking action on climate change, campaigning against arms sales and in support of nuclear disarmament all gave us hope. The evening was dedicated to the memory of MPD patron Nona Liddell (leader of the orchestra for many years), members of whose family were in the audience.
Our Barn Dance at St Andrew’s on November 3rd was a huge community occasion with about 150 people crammed into the church. The Wandle Ceilidh Band and their caller Crys Rothan generously donated their services and the St Andrew’s premises were of course free so we were able to send a cheque of more than £1500 to the charity ‘Médecins sans Frontières’, chosen by ourselves and the St Andrew’s congregation in memory of their late vicar Rev. Andrew Wakefield.
Photos by Auriel Glanville are available on our website: see http://www.wdc-cnd.org.uk/Photos/BarnDance/index.html
The centenary of the Balfour Declaration (2nd November 2017) was marked by many public events and much journalistic comment. This fateful promise by Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” (followed by the less well-remembered rider: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”) and its consequences continue to reverberate in the Middle East and around the world.
Meetings in Wimbledon (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and Kingston (KPC/CND) helped greatly to further my knowledge and understanding of the historical context. In Wimbledon on October 4th Bernard Regan (visiting Research Fellow at St Mary’s University) confronted popular misconceptions about Palestinian history (“the UK holding the mandate”, “a land without people for a people without a land” etc.) and demolished the myth that the British were acting in a dispassionate way. UK strategic interest in the retention of its empire was always the dominating factor, with the Suez canal (a fundamental strategic asset) uppermost in the minds of the UK wartime cabinet.
This is not speculation: cabinet papers now released show what were the practicalities being discussed at the time, and those things included the need for an alternative ‘landbridge’ to India (in the event of the closure of Suez), the perceived expansionary ambitions of Czarist Russia and an awareness of the increasing importance of oil (the recent conversion of the navy from coal to oil had increased its range by 50%). All this was combined with a profound distrust of the French (despite their being wartime allies). At its crudest, “endorsing Zionism gave the UK a right to be involved in negotiations about the post-Ottoman future of Palestine”, said Bernard Regan.
In Kingston on October 6th David McDowall spoke about the social and economic life of the pre-WW1 Ottoman Empire before going on to examine the post-1918 politics of ‘divide and rule’ pursued by both the British and French, which resulted in the fragmented national borders of today. If Palestinian loss of land becomes a “classic story of imperial domination”, Israel can be seen as just the most recent of all the Middle Eastern nation states created by external powers for their own ends.
David McDowall concluded by saying that this imperial past is now history and “these people now have to live together productively — Jews, Palestinians, Christians and Arabs: flag-waving doesn’t do it”. In his view religious identities of the Middle East are much older than the “very lightweight” modern national identities of the region and may turn out to have greater endurance.
Geneticist Professor Qumsiyeh had carved an academic career for himself in the USA before deciding to return to Palestine and work for the future of his people. One is used to hearing passionate denunciations of one side or the other by Israeli and Palestinian politicians but here was somebody taking an entirely novel approach; Prof. Qumsiyeh is combining his work for human rights in Palestine with the science of environmental protection and believes that the future lies in education.
The museum and botanical garden which he founded in Bethlehem in 2014 not only celebrates the richness of the natural history of the region but also helps educate the next generation of young Palestinians. The museum motto is ‘Respect’ (“for ourselves, for others and for nature”) and he sees his students as the future leaders of Palestine, empowered by an understanding of their own natural environment.
When human tribes began their northward migration from Africa this region of the Middle East saw the origin of farming, architecture and the written alphabet. Jericho is the oldest continuously inhabited town on earth and Palestine is potentially a rich and productive land impoverished by colonialism and strife.
Societies based upon injustice have in the modern era proved short-lived (Nazi era in Germany, South Africa’s Apartheid era, Jim Crow laws in the US). In Prof. Qumsiyeh’s view the extremism displayed by the current Zionist régime (the wall, the settlements, the violence etc.) is a reaction to their knowledge that the separatist philosophy is already defeated. In nature, diverse ecosystems are the strongest and he sees a parallel for human sustainability: an end to environmental injustice and a shared future in a common land.
Reports by Joanna
All of us in the peace movement can still savour our delighted surprise when the award of the Peace Prize to ICAN† was announced at the beginning of October but media coverage was sparse. Many people are still not aware of the significance of the Ban Treaty agreed at the UN in July: the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to which 122 UN member states acceded. (As soon as the treaty has been ratified by 50 states the ban on nuclear weapons will enter into force and be binding under international law.)
† International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
“We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “It is [our] firm conviction that ICAN more than anyone else has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.
“[We] are aware that an international legal prohibition will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon and that so far neither the states that already had nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapons ban treaty.
“The Committee wishes to emphasise that the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states. This year’s Peace Prize is therefore also a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.”
(Oslo, Oct. 6th 2017)
CND will be celebrating the Peace Prize as publicly as possible during the weekend of the presentation and we are organising a Peace Table on December 9th, bigger and better than usual. We shall be inviting the public to sign up to the Ban Treaty as individual citizens in defiance of the UK government which has announced that “the UK will never sign, ratify or become party to the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons”.
The Pope made a powerful address to the international disarmament symposium organised by the Vatican on November 10–11, condemning both the threat and possession of nuclear weapons: a clear shift in his position.
“The escalation of the arms race continues unabated... [while] the real priorities facing our human family are relegated to second place.
“Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of accidental detonation.... the threat of their use as well as their very possession is to be firmly condemned.
“They exist in the service of a mentality of fear... international relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction create nothing but a false sense of security.... weapons that result in the destruction of the human race are senseless even from a tactical standpoint.”
This interfaith and ecumenical symposium was attended by diplomats from several NATO and nuclear weapons states, weapons experts, Nobel laureates and peace activists.
Last month’s Newsletter gave brief notice that we have now booked a room in the William Morris Halls on March 9th for a playreading: “Common Women” by Jill Trueman, herself a former Greenham Woman. Last year Alison Williams hosted a preliminary reading in Wilberforce House (chiefly memorable for Zulema’s brilliant encounter with herself as she enacted two roles!) The cast is huge so you can have a big, small or multiple parts. Inevitably there are rôles for more women than men but men are needed too (army, police etc.) If all goes well on March 9th Alison hopes to stage a public reading in the Wimbledon Library Arts Space later in the year.
March 9th will be a ‘scratch’ performance without rehearsal but we can e-mail the script in advance to anyone who is interested (and the script is well worth looking at). All we need is lots more readers so please reserve the date and get in touch with Alison if you are at all interested (even if not yet able to make a firm commitment).
email@example.com or 020 8944 0574