Israel/Palestine: the Prince, the President, the Activist, the Pope and the Writer

December 4, 2018


In June the Duke of Cambridge – the first senior member of the royal family to make an official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – was asked by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to take a “message of peace” to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Rivlin has made a point of reaching out to Israel’s Arab minority, saying that they form a “bridge to peaceful coexistence” with the Palestinians. He is a popular figure who enjoys cross-party support though his outspoken opinions have led to a series of disputes with key figures in the Israeli government.

He said to Prince William: “I would like you to send him a message of peace. And tell him it is about time that we have to find together a way to build confidence.

“To build confidence as a first step to bring to an understanding that we have to bring to an end the tragedy between us that goes along for more than 120 years.” 

William said in a speech at the British embassy in Tel Aviv: “Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace.”

Uri Avnery, who died in October, was described in a Haaretz obituary as one of the first Israelis to extend a hand to the Arab minority.

He co-founded Gush Shalom (Hebrew for the Peace Bloc), a pressure group and published an English-language version of the column titled “Who the Hell Are We?” The group advocates the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, and describes itself as “the hard core of the Israeli peace movement.”

After fighting as a commando in Israel’s 1948 war of independence and being seriously wounded, he emerged with a conviction that the new Jewish state was part of the Middle East, not the West, and needed to live in peace with its Arab neighbours.

He was one of the first proponents of the “two-state solution”, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side with open borders and Jerusalem as their joint capital, which would become the basis of peace negotiations decades later: “The war totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established.”

In July 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he crossed the front lines in besieged Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel’s arch-enemy. It was allegedly the first time that Arafat had met an Israeli. They talked for more than two hours, filmed by a German television crew. Avnery joked that the unmarried PLO leader could solve the Middle East conflict in an instant by marrying an Israeli woman.

He then returned to Israel to face the inevitable accusations of treason. Even his mother disowned him, cutting him out of her will and complaining: “He did not take care of me and instead went off to visit the murderer Yasser Arafat.”

  • He exposed atrocities by Israeli soldiers.
  • After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war Avnery urged Israel to withdraw from the territories it had gained and set up a Palestinian state.
  • In 1975 he co-founded the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
  • He acted as a “human shield” to prevent the Israel military shelling Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah during the second Intifada.
  • In 1965 Avnery created a political party in response to a defamation law that appeared to target HaOlam HaZeh. He won a seat in the Knesset that year and held it four years later, but the party disintegrated. He wrote a book about his tenure called 1 against 119: Uri Avnery in the Knesset.
  • Later Avnery developed secret relationships with some Palestinian officials and served on occasion as an unofficial back channel between them and the Israeli government.
  • He was one of a handful of Israelis to attend Arafat’s funeral in 2004.
  • He supported negotiations with the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas and a boycott of goods produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements.

His estate is bequeathed to peace activism.

Pope Francis welcomed the Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, to a private audience in the Vatican on December 3rd.

In a statement released after their meeting, the Vatican said the two leaders focused on “efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.”

They exchanged gifts and discussed the status of Jerusalem, underlining “the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the holy city for the three Abrahamic religions.

Writer Amos Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War.

In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. He is opposed to Israeli settlement activity and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. His thoughtful book How to cure a fanatic is a collection of Amos Oz’s lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Read more here.

He advocates the two-state solution, which he sees as the best answer to what is effectively a “real-estate dispute”

“The Palestinians are in Palestine because Palestine is the homeland and the only homeland of the Palestinian people. In the same way in which Holland is the homeland of the Dutch, or Sweden the homeland of the Swedes.

“The Israeli Jews are in Israel because there is no other country in the world which the Jews, as a people, as a nation, could ever call home. As individuals, yes, but not as a people, not as a nation.”

He draws a parallel between the experience of the Palestinian people and the experience of the Jews, stressing that both claims to Palestine are justified and right. Accordingly he concludes “What we need is a painful compromise.”

 

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The Myanmar peace process

June 20, 2018

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Welcoming our first reader from Burma/Myanmar in May, prompted an attempt to find out more about the search for peace in that country.

This picture of a stilt village in Myanmar is the only reference made on this site to several descriptions of social and environmental diversity found online.

Having only received news of the plight of the Rohingya refugees and the condemnation of Aung Suu Kyi’s lack of support for this minority, the writer’s search unveiled a far more complex situation than ongoing news bulletins have indicated.

The Panglong conference of 1947 between the Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minority leaders and Aung San, head of the interim Burmese government led to an agreement to join in a union government that would give equal status to all citizens and press for independence.

The term ‘federalism’ was construed by many in Burma as being anti-national, anti-unity and pro-disintegration.

When the non-Burman ethnic groups pressed for autonomy or federalism, as incorporated in the 1947 Constitution, at a time when there was a weak civilian government, the military leadership staged a coup d’état in 1962, moving towards democracy gradually in the 90s.

Following the democratic election of the Thein Sein government in 2010, the government embarked on a series of reforms to direct the country towards liberal democracy, a mixed economy, and reconciliation, includes the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, the granting of general amnesties for more than 200 political prisoners, new labour laws that permit labour unions and strikes, a relaxation of press censorship, and the regulation of currency practices.

By 2011, the government accepted the concept of federalism, one of the core principles of the ongoing peace process with the country’s ethnic armed groups.

            Map of Myanmar and its divisions, including Shan State, Kachin State, Rakhine State and Karen State.

The government allowed the use and discussion of federalism and the drafting of a Constitution by individual states and regions and international approval included:

• ASEAN’s approval of Myanmar’s bid for the position of ASEAN chair in 2014;
• a visit by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2011 – the first in more than fifty years,
• and the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the 2012 by-elections.

However, there were ongoing conflicts in Myanmar:

• The Kachin conflict between the Pro-Christian Kachin Independence Army and the government;
• a civil war between the Rohingya Muslims, and the government and non-government groups in Rakhine State;
• Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces have resulted in the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict had forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border
• a conflict between the Shan, Lahu, and Karen minority groups, and the government in the eastern half of the country.
• A widely publicised Burmese conflict was the 2012 Rakhine State riots, a series of conflicts that primarily involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State—an estimated 90,000 people were displaced as a result of the riots.

The recent violence in Kachin State, where thousands have been forced from their homes because of renewed fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that was reached under former president and retired army General Thein Sein. And despite this agreement, even groups that signed the deal are regularly having to fend off incursions by government soldiers into their areas.

Armed conflict between ethnic Chinese rebels and the Myanmar Armed Forces led to the Kokang offensive in February 2015. The conflict forced 40,000 to 50,000 civilians to flee their homes and seek shelter on the Chinese side of the border.

The army has stepped up its campaign while global attention focuses on the Rohingya crisis, which has seen some 700,000 people flee to Bangladesh.

General elections in November 2015 gave the National League for Democracy (NLD) an absolute majority in both chambers of the national parliament and Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed that peace with the ethnic minority groups would be her top priority. However, she has not continued with the talks initiated under the previous administration and it is reported that some negotiators who had championed her cause have been sidelined. Ethnic groups now say that the government team charged with finding peace rarely travels to their part of the country to see or hear at first-hand what the issues are.

The Myanmar Government does not include the Rohingya as a Burmese minority group

They are classified as stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh since 1982—on the government’s list of more than 130 ethnic races and, therefore, the government states, they have no claim to Myanmar citizenship.

Wayne Hay reports that in 2012, there was a series of Rakhine State riots, conflicts that involved the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist people and the Rohingya Muslim people in the northern Rakhine State, displacing an estimated 90,000 people.
The Myanmar government’s Nationwide Ceasefire now has eight ethnic armed groups as signatories which could participate in the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. The third meeting of the conference in the second week of July will discuss fundamental principles on federalism in Myanmar.

The Diplomat reports that the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) continues to insist that there should be a single army under the new federal arrangement. The ethnic armed groups, however, prefer having a federal army, which could allow them to keep their respective armed forces:

“Essentially, the Tatmadaw deems that the ethnic armed groups will be a threat to territorial integrity if they are to retain their weapons and personnel. It is also concerned that the union government would have little authority or control over the regional governments if there is a federal army.

“On the other hand, the ethnic armed groups argue that their forces have to be retained to serve either as a deterring factor or as a counter in the event of unexpected or unprovoked attacks from the Tatmadaw. Any conflict settlement arising from the process will not be sustainable if there is an element of mistrust between the negotiating parties.

“Trust cannot be built if attacks by the Tatmadaw continue alongside the civilian government’s efforts to conduct the peace process. Early this year, the Tatmadaw launched attacks on the Kachin and northern Shan States, triggering renewed clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The Tatmadaw’s actions also strengthen the case for retaining the ethnic armed forces”.

Serving in the Kachin Independence Army

However, preservation of the union has been a longstanding belief of the Tatmadaw and its uncompromising stance could trigger the ethnic armed groups to maintain arms and continue the fight, providing justification for maintaining military operations against these armed groups.

Eugene Mark, a Senior Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, ends:
“Immense challenges lie ahead for the peace process in Myanmar. However, if the peace process is to have any chance of succeeding, one should look at building trust between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups as the starting point. Perhaps the best solution is for the two sides to listen to each other’s concerns and be ready to compromise in the larger interest of the country.

“Conflicts that are political in nature require political consensus”.

Those who want to read more about Burma’s complex and eventful history during these years, with one ference to CIA/USA intervention, can do on these sites:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Agreement
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panglong_Conference 47-62
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1962_Burmese_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-43933332
http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-06/20/c_137267461.htm
https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/myanmars-challenging-path-to-peace/
https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2018/05/struggles-myanmar-peace-process-180502064233955.html

 

 

 

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Ireland protests: the EU Talking Peace – Preparing for War

January 26, 2018

As noted on this website, Ireland has a traditional policy of military neutrality defined as non-membership of mutual defence alliances, but in the midst of the ongoing controversy regarding Brexit and the fate of the Irish border, a very significant move by the Cabinet has gone almost unnoticed. This is the decision to give the go-ahead for Ireland to take part in EU plans for closer cooperation on ‘security and defence’ matters.

This plan, to establish permanent structured cooperation, is known as PESCO:

“Article 42 (6) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) according to which those “Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a “view to the most demanding missions” shall establish permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) within the Union framework” – read more here.

The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), and the Peoples’ Movement are organising a Conference on PESCO in Dublin on Saturday 17th February 2018, 12pm-5pm.

PESCO is justified under the catch-all excuse of combating the growing threat of terrorism, and comes with the ritual assurance that this poses no threat to Ireland’s traditional and highly-regarded policy of neutrality.

One of the consequences of joining PESCO is that Ireland would be asked to increase spending on weapons and military affairs, requiring a leap in defence spending from the currently planned €946 million for 2018 to an estimated €3 billion+ annually by 2020, constituting a further abandonment of our traditional non-aggressive foreign policy.

The single greatest action that Ireland can take to combat terrorism is to withdraw the facilities of Shannon airport from the US military for use in their wars of aggression, wars which have played a major part in increasing the global terrorist threat in the first place. Read more here.

Demonstrators have held regular marches to protest the use of Shannon Airport by the US military: read more here.

Rather than joining military structures which proclaim the efficacy of military ‘solutions’ to complex political problems the experience of Ireland’s history should be used to offer solutions to such problems through dialogue and negotiation.

With the ever-increasing numbers of homeless people on Irish streets – and unprecedented numbers of refugees seeking safety on European shores, many forced from shattered homes as a result of Western-backed wars and weaponry – it is scandalous that the government plans to spend more money on militarism, further destabilising an already impoverished and war-weary world.

Opening address:
Ardmhéara Mícheál MacDonncha

Contributions from:
Lynn Boylan MEP, Lave K. Brock, People’s Movement, Denmark, Dr. Karen Devine, Luke Ming Flanagan MEP, Seamus Healy TD, Senator Alice Mary Higgins, Gino Kenny TD, Eamon Ryan TD

The Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Conference on PESCO

Saturday 17th February 2018, 12pm – 5pm

 

 

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The journey into world disorder: 14 years later – a downward spiral?

January 23, 2018

Extracts from the introduction*: Martin Bell writes

“This is a time for storm warnings if ever there was one. Some of those storms, of war and terrorism, are already breaking over us. We worry ourselves to bits about little and local issues ­footpaths, flight paths, career paths and the like, as if the conditions of peace and freedom, on which our societies depend for their normal functioning, are natural entitlements, which can safely be taken for granted  . . .

It is when war becomes a local issue that we really will have something to worry about. And it is worth remembering that in the end war always is a local issue, claiming individual lives in specific places. It is the trench or cellar or street or field where its victims, soldiers or civilians, breathe their last. It is the pilot who says, `I didn’t know who was there. I really didn’t care. You fall totally into execute mode and kill the target‘ . . .

“If we don’t blow ourselves into oblivion the quest for regime change, or whatever other military adventures attract our leaders, and if we don’t continue to go to war for its own sake, then future generations will look back on life in the Western democracies at the start of the twenty-first century, at least until 11 September 2001, as a sort of golden age, or fools’ paradise – depending on the strength of the hostile forces ranged against us.

From where I have been and what I have seen, my antennae tell me that the fools’ paradise theory is very much nearer the mark. The Second Gulf War, an exercise of raw power that applied the values of the Wild West to the relations between states, has sharpened the edge of the argument . . .

“We share with creatures who are in every respect less destructive than we are. With a few exceptions, the fiercest predator or venomous reptile kills only one at a time, for food or in self-defence, and is benign in relation to man.

“We kill our own more than any other species on earth, and we do it to the point of genocide. In the ratio of civilian to military casualties, the wars in the collapsed states of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have mocked the Geneva Conventions and victimized the innocent to an unprecedented degree.

“Weapons of mass destruction proliferate – and not only those in the hands of sovereign or rogue states. A passenger jet flown into a skyscraper is as much a weapon of mass destruction as a nuclear warhead. So is a sea mine rolled downhill into a village, or a 500 pound aircraft bomb bolted to a rocket and fired into a crowded city centre, or a mortar bomb aimed at a market place. These are not imagined examples. I have seen their effects at first hand  . . . 

“The Cold War was safer than this . . .

“Our way of life is defended by new and ever more ingenious ways of death. The sole remaining superpower seeks out its enemies and blasts them with the firepower of its missiles, drones, long-range bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By answering terror with counter-terror, it bids for the status of the world’s most hated nation. Too bad about the collateral damage and the needless taking of life. The higher the warplanes fly, the harder it is for their pilots to distinguish between a friend and a foe, an allied and an enemy reconnaissance vehicle (Iraq), a tank and a tractor (Kosovo), a terrorist cell and a wedding party (Afghanistan). The mark of Cain is upon us . . .

Language is another casualty

“When we speak of degrading an enemy’s assets, what we actually mean is killing people – the unarmed and the armed, the innocent and the guilty, blown to bits in the same high-explosive inferno. The same applies to `blue on blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ – the code for attacking our allies. Power and ignorance, like officers and maps, are a dangerous combination . . .

“The United Nations, the last best hope of mankind, is a forlorn cave of winds on New York’s First Avenue – invoked (when it is convenient to do so and bypassed when it isn’t

“The most vital issues of war and peace are resolved in something close to a state of anarchy. The rule of international law is whatever the White House, with an obedient echo from Downing Street, says that it is in the New American Century. ‘If we need to act we will act,’ said President Bush, `and we don’t need the approval of the United Nations to do so’ . . .

The war in Iraq, waged without a specific or sufficient United Nations mandate, was the sort of imperial enterprise that, in the sweep of history, belonged more to the nineteenth than the twenty-­first, century. It was gunboat diplomacy, conducted not with ships’ cannons, but with all the weapons of mass destruction that at the science of the new millennium can procure . . .

Our media, which should be informing us, are instead turning out the light and joining the stampede from reality in the blind and mad pursuit of commercial advantage, of profit without honour.

“The culture of celebrity, like an army of ants, has colonized the news pages both tabloid and broadsheet . . . Television is the god that failed . . . It has not yet become the worst that it can be, but it is working hard on the project and is still on a downward trajectory. Just when you think it has hit the bottom, it finds new depths to plumb.

“The outcome is that it serves us less as a window on the world than as a barrier to it. Its screen is only a screen in the original sense – something that blocks our view of what lies on the other side of it . . . and then, because we find these things strangely unreal (and they have already been censored by the `good taste brigade’ of broadcasting to stop them upsetting us too much), we take refuge in `reality TV’ and the bromides of Big Brother.

“Our reach has exceeded our grasp. Something is seriously out of joint. We are left with no heroes, but only celebrities. We need a survival strategy, but seem to lack enough of what it takes to put one together: understanding, courage, compassion, common sense, connectedness, care for each other, steadiness under fire and memory. 

“What follows is a journey through the new world disorder Better fasten your seat belts. This could be a rough ride.”

 

 

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*THROUGH GATES OF FIRE – A journey into World Disorder, by Martin Bell, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003


In Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury: a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war

November 11, 2017

Photograph by Valerie Flessati, who designed two peace trails, one through central London and one from Tavistock Square to the Imperial War Museum

This news came from Peter van den Dungen, who attended the unveiling of a plaque for Joseph Rotblat, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who worked to avert the threat of nuclear war.

It was placed on the large building in Museum Mansions, Great Russell Street, Blooms­bury  where the Pugwash organisation – of which he was a founder – has an office, in which Professor Rotblat worked for many years. About 90 people were there and afterwards attended a reception in the Polish embassy.

The embassy’s website:

“The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS), a charity dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Poles in the UK and their contribution to British life, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom and the British Pugwash”.

The Camden New Journal adds that the plaque was funded by money given to residents and civic groups to thank them for ‘accommodating’ the shooting of part of the film Wonder Woman in Bloomsbury, which – appropriately – had an anti-war message.

Joseph Rotblat, who described himself as “a Pole with a British passport”, was born in Warsaw on 4th November, 1908, and carried out his initial research into nuclear fission there, moving to Britain just before the outbreak of Second World War.  Read on here.

In 1944, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in the US as part of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the development of nuclear weapons.

Shocked by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, Rotblat was determined that his research should serve only peaceful ends and devoted himself to studying the medical and biological uses of radiation. In 1949, he became Professor of Physics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. 

Rotblat became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race. In 1957, he chaired the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organisation that brought together scholars and public figures from both sides of the Iron Curtain and around the world to work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats, particularly those related to nuclear warfare.

The Nobel Peace Prize 1995 was awarded jointly to Joseph Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms”

From our archives:

  • Professor Joseph Rotblat (CBE) was one of 32 signatories of the CHARTER FOR ‘JUST DEFENCE’.
  • In 1998 Peter van den Dungen met Professor Rotblat in London and had a long discussion about the peace museum, which Rotblat wished to support – but based in London, initially perhaps in the Dome. . .
  • Rotblat’s voice may be heard briefly in this podcast and in the powerful video War No More, with Bruce Kent, Martin Bell, Caroline Lucas, and Desmond Tutu, who spoke about the defensive defence policies of Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand.

And the latest word this year comes from his close friend and colleague Bruce Kent:

“Let’s return to Joseph Rotblat, who years ago took us back to fundamentals. In his ‘A World without War’ speech in 2002 he said: ‘getting rid of nuclear weapons is not enough. To safeguard the future of humanity we have to eliminate not only the instruments of waging war, but war itself.’

“Time to write to your local paper explaining what a lot of dangerous nonsense is today passing for defence”.

 

 

 

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Jeremy Corbyn prescribes a security and foreign policy with integrity and human rights at its core

July 25, 2017

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Professor Paul Rogers’ reference to the Corbyn’s Chatham House speech in May, in his recent article: ‘Corbyn’s Labour: now look outwards’ prompted a search for a transcript, found on The Spectator’s website.

In his Chatham House speech, Jeremy Corbyn set out how a Labour Government he leads will keep Britain safe, reshape relationships with partners around the world, work to strengthen the United Nations and respond to the global challenges we face in the 21st century. Edited extracts follow, added emphasis and links.

In his final televised 1950s address to the American people as President, Eisenhower gave a stark warning of what he described as “the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex.” “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry”, he said, “can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

You are either for or against what is presented as “strong defence”, regardless of the actual record of what that has meant in practice.

Too much of our debate about defence and security is one dimensional. Alert citizens or political leaders who advocate other routes to security are dismissed or treated as unreliable.

My generation grew up under the shadow of the cold war. On television, through the 1960s and into the seventies, the news was dominated by Vietnam. I was haunted by images of civilians fleeing chemical weapons used by the United States. At the end of the cold war, when the Berlin Wall came down we were told it was the end of history. Global leaders promised a more peaceful, stable world. It didn’t work out like that. Today the world is more unstable than even at the height of the cold war. The approach to international security we have been using since the 1990s has simply not worked.

Regime change wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Libya, and Syria – and Western interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen – have failed in their own terms, and made the world a more dangerous place.

This is the fourth General Election in a row to be held while Britain is at war and our armed forces are in action in the Middle East and beyond. The fact is that the ‘war on terror’ which has driven these interventions has failed. They have not increased our security at home – just the opposite. And they have caused destabilisation and devastation abroad.

Last September, the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that the Libyan intervention led to political and economic collapse, humanitarian and migrant crises and fuelled the rise of Isis in Africa and across the Middle East. Is that really the way to deliver security to the British people? Who seriously believes that’s what real strength looks like?

We need to step back and have some fresh thinking. The world faces huge problems. As well as the legacy of regime change wars, there is a dangerous cocktail of ethnic conflicts, of food insecurity, water scarcity, the emerging effects of climate change. Add to that mix a grotesque and growing level of inequality in which just eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people and you end up with a refugee crisis of epic proportions affecting every continent in the world, with more displaced people in the world than since the Second World War. These problems are getting worse and fuelling threats and instability. The global situation is becoming more dangerous.

A Labour Government will want a strong and friendly relationship with the United States. But we will not be afraid to speak our mind. The US is the strongest military power on the planet by a very long way. It has a special responsibility to use its power with care and to support international efforts to resolve conflicts collectively and peacefully.

No more hand holding with Donald Trump.

The new US President seems determined to add to the dangers by recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.

Waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic Trump administration will not deliver stability. When Theresa May addressed a Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January she spoke in alarmist terms about the rise of China and India and of the danger of the West being eclipsed. She said America and Britain had to ‘stand strong’ together and use their military might to protect their interests. This is the sort of language that led to calamity in Iraq and Libya and all the other disastrous wars that stole the post-Cold War promise of a new world order.

I do not see India and China in those terms. Nor do I think the vast majority of Americans or British people want the boots of their young men and women on the ground in Syria fighting a war that would escalate the suffering and slaughter even further. Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House.

A Labour Government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy – made in Britain

A Labour Government would seek to work for peace and security with all the other permanent members of the United Nations security council – the US, China, Russia and France. And with other countries with a major role to play such as India, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

Reverse the failed ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security

I am often asked if as prime minister I would order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s an extraordinary question when you think about it – would you order the indiscriminate killing of millions of people? Would you risk such extensive contamination of the planet that no life could exist across large parts of the world? If circumstances arose where that was a real option, it would represent complete and cataclysmic failure. It would mean world leaders had already triggered a spiral of catastrophe for humankind.

The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking peaceful solutions to the world’s problems 

Labour is committed actively to pursue disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we are committed to no first use of nuclear weapons. But to protect the safety and security of our people and our country, my first duty, I know I will have to work with other countries to solve problems, defuse tensions and build collective security.

I am not a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law and as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary. But that is very far from the kind of unilateral wars and interventions that have almost become routine in recent times. I will not take lectures on security or humanitarian action from a Conservative Party that stood by in the 1980s – refusing even to impose sanctions – while children on the streets of Soweto were being shot dead in the streets, or which has backed every move to put our armed forces in harm’s way regardless of the impact on our people’s security.

And as the security threats and challenges we face are not bound by geographic borders it is vital that, as Britain leaves the EU, we maintain a close relationship with our European partners alongside our commitment to NATO and spending at least 2% on defence. Deep cuts have seen the Army reduced to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars. From stagnant pay and worsening conditions, to poor housing, the morale of our service personnel and veterans is at rock bottom.

Working with our allies to ensure peace and security in Europe, we will work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia and the escalation of military deployments across the continent.

There is no need whatever to weaken our opposition to Russia’s human rights abuses at home or abroad to understand the necessity of winding down tensions on the Russia-Nato border and supporting dialogue to reduce the risk of international conflict. We will back a new conference on security and cooperation in Europe and seek to defuse the crisis in Ukraine through implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The next Labour Government will invest in the UK’s diplomatic networks and consular services. We will seek to rebuild some of the key capabilities and services that have been lost as a result of Conservative cuts in recent years.

A Labour Government will refocus Britain’s influence towards cooperation, peaceful settlements and social justice, while Theresa May seeks to build a coalition of risk and insecurity with Donald Trump. To lead this work, Labour has created a Minister for Peace (Fabian Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East) who will work across the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

The life chances, security and prosperity of our citizens are dependent on a stable international environment. We will strengthen our commitment to the UN. But we are well aware of its shortcomings, particularly in the light of repeated abuses of the veto power in the UN Security Council. So we will work with allies and partners from around the world to build support for UN reform in order to make its institutions more effective and responsive. And as a permanent member of the Security Council we will provide a lead by respecting the authority of International Law.

There is a clear choice at the next election

Do  we continue with the failed policy of continual and devastating military interventions, that have intensified conflicts and increased the terrorist threat, or be willing to step back, learn the lessons of the past and find new ways to solve and prevent conflicts. As Dwight Eisenhower said on another occasion: If people “can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

A Labour Government will give leadership in a new and constructive way and that is the leadership we are ready to provide both at home and abroad. In the words of Martin Luther King “The chain reaction of evil – hate – begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark days of annihilation”. I believe we can find those solutions. We can walk the hard yards to a better way to live together on this planet.

See the video here: Chatham House speech and/or read the full text with more on Syria, arms exports and nuclear weapons downloaded from The Spectator.

 

 

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As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

June 7, 2017

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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