Jewish Voice for Peace

July 22, 2014

Following shared news that American Friends Service Committee joined with Nobel Peace Laureates to call for real peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Shafi Chowdhury from Surrey sent information about another AFSC initiative with Jewish Voice for Peace.

jewish voice for peace

On its website we read that Jewish Voice for Peace is the only national Jewish organization that provides a voice for Jews and allies who believe that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis.

With offices in New York and California, 100,000 online activists, chapters across the country and an Advisory Board comprised of numerous prominent Jewish thinkers and artists, JVP supports nonviolent efforts here and in Israel-Palestine to end Israel’s Occupation, expand human and civil rights, and implement a US policy based on international law and democracy:


  • conducting global campaigns to defend and free Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists
  • supporting the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement through divestment from companies that profit from the occupation and
  • working in coalition with others including Arab, Muslim, Palestinian and Christian groups to fight bigotry and end the occupation.


Read more here:


The brave, beleaguered Israeli peace movement

July 22, 2014

John Reed in Ashkelon reports that, as of Monday, more than 500 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed in Israeli shelling from the land, air and sea.

Israeli shelter2

Above (FT): Civilians take cover in a Southern Israeli air raid shelter as several rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip

 children palestine

Above: Palestinians have nowhere to hide

Members of Israel’s Peace Now and its pro-peace activist camp are increasingly being shouted down or physically attacked

At a demonstration in a ‘mixed city’ Haifa, counter demonstrators beat participants, including the city’s Israeli-Arab deputy mayor, a family physician, Dr. Suhail Assad and his son, chanting “Death to Arabs”. More detail in Israel’s daily, Haaretz.

On another march in Jerusalem on Sunday evening organised by parents at Hand in Hand, a bilingual school for Israeli and Arab children, participants were heckled by passers-by, one of whom shouted “Go to Gaza”.

In Tel Aviv last week, about 250 Jewish protesters video were set upon, punched and pushed by a well-organised group of rightwingers in an attack that left several people with bruises, black eyes, or other injuries. Another, which mustered about 1,000 people, was attacked by rightwing activists, who threw eggs and plastic bottles.

missile downed iron dome shield

The Iron Dome exploded an incoming rocket overhead as the two groups fought in what one participant called a “surreal” moment.



Israel will have no peace until Palestinians have a state of their own

July 17, 2014


So says the Financial Times editorial today with a sub-title: “Israel cannot remain oasis of peace in a region on fire”. Some extracts relating to this unequal conflict follow:

“The tragic scenario rarely varies much. Makeshift Palestinian rockets fly out of Gaza and Israel’s guided missiles and artillery shells rain in. The Israeli government vows to eradicate Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the teeming Gaza Strip. Hamas and its allies beat their breasts and vow eternal resistance. Hundreds of Palestinians, mainly civilians, die, until an international outcry calls a halt to the killing. Mediators manage to tweak the rules of engagement, and both sides reload for the next time. It is a desolate picture.

Strike on Rafah, southern Gaza

Strike on Rafah, southern Gaza

“Reaction to this conflict, the third in the past five years, has been muted. Syria’s savage civil war, the springboard for the lightning seizure by jihadis of swathes of Iraq, eclipses what for many looks like a new episode in a wearisomely familiar feud. That is short-sighted”.

A brief account of the background follows, recounting that the current conflict follows the kidnap and killing last month of three Jewish seminary students which Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s premier attributed to Hamas. It surmises that individuals from the powerful Qawasmeh clan in Hebron – with a record as spoilers of previous ceasefires – were responsible for the atrocity which was intended to break off the unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

A lose-lose situation

Hamas is described as being hemmed in and isolated; it refused to support Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict and lost its ally in Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. Israeli policy has left it discredited as its land is eaten away by construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. The editorial forecasts that Israel, in tacit alliance with Egypt, will now try to break Hamas, at a cost of many more lives.

The editorial concludes that Israel’s reputation in the world is eroding – a profound understatement – and that it is an illusion to think this country can remain ‘an oasis of peace and prosperity in a region on fire’, while the Palestinians have no prospect of a viable state of their own. Its advice:

“In this particular conflict, international actors need to mobilise countries such as Turkey and Qatar that have leverage with Hamas, and may persuade them of the ruinous futility of their rocket attacks.

“Ultimately, that should mean engagement with a Fatah-Hamas coalition government, conditional on an end to violence and a meaningful negotiating framework”.


USA readers again topped the list last week

July 11, 2014


Will those who seek a normal life of peace be able to end the ‘march of folly’?

July 7, 2014

Haaretz reports on a country split in two:

“One half is no longer willing to take part in the settlers’ march of folly, which is leading to a third destruction to follow the first two destructions of the Temple. These people are no longer willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of real estate. They’re the same people who seek a normal life of peace alongside their Arab neighbors, who also deserve a state of their own”.

Rachel Fraenkel, the bereaved mother of murdered Israeli-American teenager Naftali Fraenkel, welcomes visitors in her home.

Rachel Fraenkel, the bereaved mother of murdered Israeli-American teenager Naftali Fraenkel, welcomes visitors in her home.

Yesterday, Sigal Samuel reported in the Jewish Daily Forward that Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat wrote on Facebook about his visit to the family home of murdered Israeli-American teenager Naftali Fraenkel, and also his phone conversation with Hussein Abu Khdeir, to express pain at the “barbaric” murder of his son, Mohammed.

Abu Khdeir then agreed to speak to Yishai Fraenkel, the uncle of Naftali Fraenkel, who recently told the press:

“The life of an Arab is equally precious to that of a Jew. Blood is blood, and murder is murder, whether that murder is Jewish or Arab.”

In a separate visit organized by Rabbi Rafi Ostroff, chair of the religious council of Gush Etzion, Palestinians from the Hebron area came to the door of the Fraenkel family, looking to comfort the bereaved.

One said, “Things will only get better when we learn to cope with each other’s pain and stop getting angry at each other. Our task is to give strength to the family and also to take a step toward my nation’s liberation. We believe that the way to our liberation is through the hearts of Jews . . . They received us very, very nicely. The mother [Rachel Fraenkel] was incredible.”

The Palestinian visitors mentioned an initiative spearheaded by Jews and Muslims to transform July 15, the Jewish fast day known as 17 Tammuz, into a joint fast day for people of both religions who wish to express their desire to end violence in the region.


On the same day, the Times of Israel appears to represent the other half,  painting a very different picture.


Sadly, Japan ‘inches a fraction closer towards becoming a “normal” nation’

July 3, 2014


Following Japan’s formation of a national security council, enactment of a ‘secrecy bill’ and weakening of limits on arms exports, under a resolution adopted by the cabinet on Tuesday, Japan has “reinterpreted” its pacifist constitution. Article 9 of the constitution, adopted in 1947, states that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes”.

defence budgets us and japanThe Japanese are still “very attached to the principle of pacifism in the postwar regime”, says Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei University, who is among a group of more than 500 scholars opposed to the move. “It is reckless that [Mr Abe] rushed to decide on this very important issue without thorough discussions,” adds Shigeaki Matsuda, a 66 year-old exhibition curator who joined the protest on Tuesday. “There is no democracy here.”

The most recent version of the draft says that Japan would exercise the right to collective self-defence only when “clear dangers” exist to the lives of people in countries “with close ties” to Japan, according to the most recent publicly available draft. Military intervention should be “limited to the minimum amount necessary”, it added.

It goes on to say that Japan will “ensure that its history as a pacifist state will continue” . . .

Pilling notes that the US has tried to persuade Japan to ‘ditch’ pacifism almost from the moment the constitution was enacted: “After war broke out on the Korean peninsula, the US decided it did not want a toothless ally. . . US defence secretary Chuck Hagel has endorsed Japan’s new stance, welcoming the efforts by the most important US ally in the region to “play a more proactive role” in stability in East Asia.”

Supporters of the current constitution demonstrated outside the Japanese prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Monday evening. Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

Supporters of the current constitution demonstrated outside the Japanese prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on Monday evening. Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

However, since the prime minister started public briefings on the move last month, his cabinet’s approval rating has dropped to 45%, the lowest rating since it was formed in December 2012.

On Tuesday, anti-war demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo for a second successive evening of protests – and three thousand gathered in a Tokyo park (below).

japan art 9 protest park 2

A poll published by the Nikkei business newspaper on Monday 30th found that 50% of voters were against Abe’s ‘reinterpretation’ of the pacifist constitution, while 34% supported the change. Channel News (Asia) reports that the liberal Asahi Shimbun, on the other hand, held a poll of more than 2,000 adults nationwide showing that 63% oppose the concept of collective defence, up from 56% last year, with 29% supporting the idea.

japan art 9 immolation

The results were released a day after an unidentified man set himself alight in central Tokyo and remains in a serious condition in hospital. After shouting opposition to Abe’s proposals through a megaphone in front of hundreds of people for about an hour, while perched on a girder above a footbridge outside Shinjuku Station, he poured flammable liquid on himself and lit it – videoed by many onlookers and circulated widely in social media.

Pilling comments:

“Mr Abe appears to suggest Japan could help smaller countries, such as the Philippines, to protect their territorial interests against China. That may be comforting to Manila and Hanoi but could be incendiary to Beijing. It is hard to deny Japan’s right to a more normal defence posture. That does not mean we have to celebrate it”.

Makiko Matsuda, a 67-year-old housewife, comments: “Abe keeps saying that he is doing this to protect Japanese people in a critical situation. But soldiers might die, which is contradictory. I don’t see how this can create a more peaceful solution”.


Sources pilling


The image of a bomb as a seed should be taken to heart

June 27, 2014

Al Quaim town & market bombed

During a 10-minute video recording Russell Brand is reported to have responded to recent remarks made on-air by Fox host Jeanine Pirro, a former prosecutor, who said – during a broadcast of her program last weekend – that the United States should bomb Iraq en masse in order to eliminate the growing insurgency there that has cause an international crisis:

“When they do these bombings, it creates more insurgents, that’s what creates them. Don’t think of a bomb as going down there and destroying stuff, think of it as like a seed that goes into the ground, and grows insurgents out of it, it creates more terrorism, doing it.”


Picture taken in Al Qaim, 24th June.


Truth is said to be the first casualty of war . . .

June 24, 2014


As Blair attempts to justify the ruin of Iraq, alarm is caused by the publication of evidence from Afghans

An Intimate War, by Dr Mike Martin, offers a very different view of the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan – seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and so exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent.

Captain Martin gathering evidence

Captain Martin gathering evidence

To the local inhabitants the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power “water, land, blood feuds and fights over their grandfather’s inheritance”- a tribal civil war, rather than a fight against the Taliban.

It has been praised by senior military figures and MPs. Major General Andrew Kennett, who commanded Dr Martin’s unit, said: ‘I think he has done the Army a great service by writing this.’

Martin argues that Nato’s ISAF troops failed to understand they were getting and that the Taliban were not the ‘main drivers of violence’. Conflict was driven by Helmandi individuals, including local politicians and tribal chiefs, and their personal motivations. It was more of a civil war between clans than a clash between the ‘good’ government of Afghanistan and the ‘bad’ Taliban. He comments:

“But we were not set up to understand that. We were set up to fight an ideology and find weapons dumps. We were completely unequipped mentally and conceptually to understand the type of conflict that we were engaged in. It was a micro civil war, rather than an insurgency, and how you deal with that is completely different”.


mike martin afghanistan coverIn April, the TA captain, who was commissioned by the MoD to research the UK’s conflict in the province, said that the study had been freely available in King’s College library and he had informed MoD officials of his plans with proceeds of the publication going to charities Combat Stress and the Afghan Appeal Fund, sending it to various people in the Army and the MoD.

He heard nothing until February when the MoD said that he was banned from publishing the book as he was a serving officer. He then resigned his commission and planned to forge ahead with the book’s release.

Officials stepped in to block its publication, claiming it breached the Official Secrets Act because of the inclusion of Wikileaks material and “other classified material”.

Dr Martin from east London, said: “I do believe the Army needs to really look at how it does its business because there’s been such an intelligence failure in Afghanistan”.




Last week: visitors from 31 countries

June 4, 2014















‘Wars in Peace’: book launch today at Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall

May 27, 2014


malcolm chalmersToday Radio West Midlands interviewed Professor Malcolm Chalmers Research Director and Director (UK Defence Policy) at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and Special Adviser to the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy.

An online search revealed that the interview related to the launch of a new RUSI book, Wars in Peace, published in April, which audits the last quarter-century of military intervention.

At 6pm today in the Institute, two of the book’s authors, Professor Michael Clarke, Professor Malcolm Chalmers and other panellists, will discuss the key findings of the book and, looking ahead, their relevance to the future of British military intervention. The event is open to the public.

rusi logoRUSI’s summary: “As combat operations in Afghanistan draw to a close, and defence cuts and war weariness threaten to bring an end to an era of interventionism, the question now needs to be asked: have Britain’s military endeavours made it, and the world, a safer place – and at what cost?”

It continues: “Wars in Peace considers the impact of British military operations on domestic security” – we summarise:

  • the legacies of UK interventions
  • their strategic outcomes;
  • the link between public and elite opinion on intervention;
  • the financial costs of and industrial contribution to operations;
  • the conduct of British strategy; and
  • the UK’s alliances and alignments.

richard norton-taylorRichard Norton-Taylor, editor, journalist, playwright and Member of Council of the Royal United Services Institute reviewed the book in April (click on the last link to see a large and detailed graphic of the costs of war, country by country, based on information in the study).

Points made included:

  • the bulk of the money has been spent on interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan judged to have been “strategic failures”;
  • “there is no longer any serious disagreement” that Britain’s role in the Iraq war served to channel and increase the radicalisation of young Muslims in the UK;
  • estimates of 100,000 Iraqis killed, with 2 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries;
  • “largely discretionary” operations – the failed interventions in Iraq from 2003, and in Afghanistan after 2005 – accounted for 84% of the total cost of British military interventions since 1990.

wars in peace coverMost of the study’s figures have been collated for the first time from responses to freedom of information requests to the Ministry of Defence.

The figures are net additional costs of the operations –on top of what the armed forces would have spent on running costs such as fuel, training exercises, and salaries.

Britain’s military operations since the end of the cold war have cost £34.7bn and a further £30bn may have to be spent on long-term veteran care.

RUSI asks – as many do – if Britain’s costly ‘military endeavours’ have made it, and the world, a safer place.



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