Japanese people are proud that their defence forces have not killed one citizen of any other country for seventy-four years

July 25, 2019

 

During the recent election, Japan’s ruling coalition fell short of a two-thirds supermajority in the upper house of parliament. This means that the prime minister Shinzo Abe would not be able to revise the country’s pacifist constitution – his lifelong ambition, according to the FT’s Robin Harding.

Earlier in May, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited regional security concerns as one reason to revise the country’s war-constitution. He spoke at a rally on Constitution Memorial day, the national holiday marking the 70th anniversary of the US-drafted and imposed document that has shaped Japan’s domestic and international politics since 1947. He hoped to effect this change by 2020, when the Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo.

As we noted earlier, in 2015, when changes were made to Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) by laws passed permitting the force to fight overseas for the first time since the second world war, there were reports of 100,000 protesters in the streets outside Japan’s parliament (below). An estimated 25,000 people also gathered at the Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo. The most recent polls on the issue, conducted by Nikkei, showed 46% against change versus 45%.

Yuki Tatsumi, a senior associate and director of the Japan program at the Stimson Centre in Washington DC says that “Japanese people have been proud that their defence forces have not had to fire a shot to kill the citizens of other countries up to this point, even with their participation in UN peacekeeping operations. I think they would very much like to continue to keep it that way.”

The editor of Japan’s Asahi Shimbun emphasises that Article 9 in no way bans the government from using armed force to protect the lives and freedom of its people from foreign attacks, which is its most important responsibility, according to the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution.

 

 

 

o


Israel’s annexation of Judea and Samaria (West Bank): “reaching the point of no return”?

April 11, 2019

o

A radio commentator recently said. “Annexation is the name of the game now” and an article by David Gardner (Financial Times), expands on this statement.

Gardner reports that following the US president’s recent statements, Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12 News at the weekend that he ‘will not uproot anyone [among the Jewish settlers], and will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians’. He said Israel would take the big clusters of Jewish settlements, mostly around Jerusalem and the settler outposts deep inside the West Bank, built illegally under international law.

See https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-settlers-who-didn-t-know-they-were-settlers-1.6157541

His biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, writing in the newspaper Haaretz, predicted the victory. Netanyahu, he wrote, “will do anything to stay in office. Stoke Israelis’ darkest fears, appeal to racist demons and undermine the pillars of Israel’s incomplete and limited democracy to fend off the charges of his rank corruption”.

Last year the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud party — whose charter expressly repudiates a Palestinian state — voted unanimously to extend Israeli sovereignty and law to “all liberated areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]”.

Mr Netanyahu, elected despite impending corruption charges, is now forming a coalition with groups that advocate the paid “transfer” of Palestinians to neighbouring Arab countries.

President Donald Trump, after recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, called last month for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, annexed in 1981, though both decisions were declared illegal by the UN Security Council in resolutions 478 and 497. Gardner ends:

“This story, seen by Arabs as the colonisation of the Palestinians by Israel, is reaching the point of no return”.

He appears to reserve his pity for future generations of Israeli Jews condemned to ”the instability of living in a single state with Palestinian Arabs as second-class citizens — who would eventually outnumber them in the cramped and combustible space between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean”.

137 countries officially recognise the state of Palestine, according to the Palestinian mission to the United Nations. Currently, the UK – like the US – only recognises the state of Israel. Would a Labour government act on MP John McDonnell’s proposal to convene an international conference with the stated aim of creating a viable Palestinian and Israeli state?

 

 

 

 

o


Cross-party coalition of Scots urges Britain to uphold the rule of law and recognise the state of Palestine

March 30, 2019

 

Thousands of Palestinians gathered today in several locations across the Gaza Strip

They were marking the one-year anniversary of the weekly border protests, coinciding with the annual commemoration of Land Day which Palestinians worldwide have commemorated since 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Israeli Arabs who were protesting against the expropriation of Arab-owned farm land in northern Israel to build Jewish settlements.

The Times reports that a letter signed by Scots, including MPs, MSPs and peers from all parties, said the “dismally familiar pattern” of rockets and reprisals must be broken.

It added: “Two million people are imprisoned in Gaza, an integral part of Palestine. The UN says Gaza will not be ‘a liveable place’ by next year. It is unbearable now”.

It was signed by:

  • Lord Ancram
  • MP Alistair Carmichael
  • Lord Purvis
  • Lord Bruce
  • MP Ian Murray
  • MSP Claudia Beamish
  • MSP Pauline McNeill
  • Baroness Kennedy.
  • MP Tommy Sheppard
  • MP Philippa Whitford
  • MSP Sandra White
  • MSP Ross Greer
  • Rev Iain Cunningham
  • Sir William Patey
  • Professor Graham Watt

Egyptian diplomacy:

Haaretz reports that, according to Palestinian sources, factions in Gaza have reached understandings with Israel ahead of the protests, following talks with a delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials. This included an agreement on the part of Hamas to prevent protesters from approaching the fence separating Israel from Gaza, while Israel responds with restraint to minimize civilian injuries.

Israel has offered to:

  • re-open border crossings into Gaza,
  • expand the fishing zone in the waters off the coast of the enclave
  • ease restrictions on the entry of goods.
  • And permit the entry of money from Qatar to provide fuel for Gaza

As the letter ended: “There is a better way than waiting for President Trump’s ‘deal’, a way that does not subordinate the right to self-determination of one people to the security and territorial ambitions of another. We back the Balfour Project’s call for an independent Palestinian state. Israelis need to co-exist securely with their Palestinian neighbours, not deny legitimate free movement. Britain must take a lead. We urge the government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside Israel and uphold the rule of law, embodied most recently in UN security council resolution 2334”.

 

 

 

 

o

 


‘Special relationship’ led to cycle of revenge and counter-revenge

March 22, 2019

.

Documents newly released and placed in the National Archives in Kew, show the prime minister was deeply troubled by UC President Reagan’s request to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Libya.

The Times reports that the US president wanted to respond to an attack on a nightclub used by US servicemen, writing: “Because the evidence we have on direct Libyan involvement in the Berlin bombing is so convincing, and our information on their future plans is so threatening, I have reluctantly taken the decision to use US forces to exact a response.”

Margaret Thatcher outlined her concerns in a series of letters:

“Dear Ron . . . as you know my instinct is always to stand beside the United States, but what you say in your message causes me very considerable anxiety. My worry is that this risks getting us into a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge in which many more innocent lives will be lost . . . “.

“Given all we know of Gaddafi’s nature, a military attack on Libya seems all too likely to lead him to step up terrorist attacks against civilian targets, resulting in the death of more innocent victims — some of them yours and some of them mine . . .”

Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she wrote: “I have to live with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic across which terrorists come daily. We have lost 2,500 of our people in the last ten years, but we have never crossed that border to exact revenge.”

Reagan wrote:

“You should not underestimate the profound effect on the American people if our actions to put a halt to these crimes continue to receive only lukewarm support, or no support at all, from our closest allies whom we have committed ourselves to defend.”

She responded: “You can count on our unqualified support for action directed against specific Libyan targets demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activities.”

Tragically, the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ gave way

Days before ordering airstrikes against Libya, which led to the deaths of more than 70 people in April 1986, she decided to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. US F-111 jets launched raids on Tripoli and Benghazi from RAF bases in Suffolk and Oxfordshire.

*Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in 1988 and a Libyan national, was convicted of the atrocity in 2001.

FT journalist Jim Pickard, though a persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, has pointed out that Corbyn has linked terror attacks to foreign wars and, since becoming Labour leader has apologised for the joint US-UK action on behalf of his party. He has opposed most western military interventions of modern times, including action in Afghanistan and Syria.

 

*This sentence corrected in April thanks to a vigilant Wimbledon reader.

 

 

 

 

o

 


Bruce Kent reviews the first 2018 Reith Lecture

February 20, 2019

From the BBC website: Professor MacMillan went on tour recording her Reith Lectures – entitled The Mark of Cain – in June 2018, beginning in London and concluding in Canada.

The BBC Reith lecturer and Bruce Kent have in Canada in common. In his (English) school in Montreal, he was enrolled in the Cadet Corps at the age of 12, wearing uniform and blowing a bugle – an unforgettable image.

Bruce Kent reviews the first lecture in Peace News, from which these extracts are taken:

Though Professor MacMillan’s first lecture was very interesting, from his perspective, it left out some very relevant factors of the history of war.

She credits war with too much social progress. Yes, women, or some of them, did get the vote as a result of the First World War. But was that the only way? The Boer War actually delayed the creation of a British national old age pension scheme.

Professor MacMillan seems to suggest that the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine which came with nuclear weapons had a stabilising effect. Perhaps, but for how long? Robert McNamara, at the end of a life devoted to promoting US policy, said that we were saved from nuclear disaster, not by good judgement but by ‘good luck’.

My main difficulty with this lecture comes from what it leaves out – and I know it was just the first of several in the Reith series.

The experts I have come to accept – such as the scientists behind the Seville Statement on Violence (1991) or the late professor Robert Hinde, an eminent biologist much involved in Pugwash – do not conclude that we are biologically programmed for violence and war. (The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs are international gatherings of scientists concerned with disarmament and peace; they started in 1957.)

From my perspective – and I guess that of many Peace News readers – wars are perpetuated by the vested interests of nationalism, militarism and money. I did not pick up much hint of this.

US president Eisenhower warned us, long ago, about the power and influence of the military-industrial complex. Anyone who has been to the annual London arms sales exhibition will know exactly what he meant.

Ours is a military culture educationally and culturally. To appreciate that, one only has to see the members of the royal family in various military uniforms on the Buckingham Palace balcony watching the RAF fly-past.

From my perspective, the ideas, movements and people that have created the protocols and institutions to prevent war are much more significant than Macmillan suggested. Though they do get a mention in the question and answer session afterwards, her first lecture makes no reference to the creation of the League of Nations in 1920 or of the United Nations in 1945. Whatever its failures, and there are many, the preamble to the UN Charter could not be clearer. It was created to ‘… save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….’

One reason for the UN’s failure to achieve such an ambitious aim is that the people of the world know so little about it or about its many successes in the fields of public health, education and literacy and labour conditions.

(Ed adds: these successes are recorded in the late John Ferguson’s book Not Them But us: in praise of the United Nations, left.)

Very few could even name the person or persons representing their country at the UN security council or the general assembly. In all the discussions about the European Union, mention is hardly ever made of its first purpose after the horrors of the Second World War – to end wars between its members, as MacMillan acknowledges.

The biggest omission in the lecture was any reference to those many heroic people who have promoted wider ideas of internationalism and constructive peace.

The conscientious objectors of the First World War are only now beginning to get the respect they deserve. Henry Richard MP, the 19th-century peace apostle of Wales is now emerging from the shadows. Pope Benedict’s opposition to the First World War is now better known but how strongly he was rejected by ‘right thinking’ people at the time. This is a good time to remember Sylvia Pankhurst bravely speaking peace in London’s Finsbury Park in the middle of a bloody war in front of hostile crowds.

I end with a positive suggestion. Get a copy of professors Rotblat and Hinde’s excellent book War No More – Eliminating Conflict in the Nuclear Age (Pluto 2003) and read it after reading the first Reith lecture. They make a useful constructive pair.

Bruce Kent is a co-founder of the Movement for the Abolition of War.

Margaret MacMillan’s first Reith lecture, ‘War and Humanity’, was recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre at Old Broadcasting House, London, on 4 June and broadcast on 26 June 2018. A transcript and recording are available at: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews3192

 

 

 

0

 


Russia: innumerable headlines and reports of diplomatic tensions

January 15, 2019

 

As references to the ‘New Cold War’ abound, it is refreshing to read the analysis in Issue 49 of the Nato Watch Observatory, page 3:

“Based on the available evidence, a more accurate portrait of Russia would depict a more or less normal great power pursuing its own interests, sometimes in concord with the West and other times not, but usually in alignment with at least some Western countries.

“The Russian establishment’s views both of international order and of what constitutes national interest do not differ fundamentally from those of the harder-headed members of the West’s own security establishments….

“The red lines on both sides have been clear at least since 2014, and possibly as far back as 2008. It is understood that NATO will not defend any country that Russia might attack, and that Russia will not attack any country that NATO might defend. This leaves both sides—unlike the great powers before 1914—free to employ the rhetoric of confrontation without running the risk of actual catastrophic war…

“Nurturing a fear of Russia does not merely distract attention from the problems that are weakening and dividing the West, but by doing so helps to make them worse”.

*

In The National Interest, Doug Bandow writes: “President Donald Trump entered office with praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and support for improving Washington-Moscow relations. A year later President Trump surprised even his aides by congratulating Putin on the latter’s reelection and suggesting a summit meeting between the two leaders . . . President Trump has stood by, mostly silently, as bilateral relations continued their slow-motion collapse and though there are diplomatic tensions there is no new Cold War”.

Bandow points out that Russia’s foreign policy is essentially conservative and restrained, though not pacifist and in contrast, “America’s is unconstrained and frankly militarist, determined to transform the world in its image, or at least in its interest. The Russian government’s greatest concerns are maintaining control, gaining respect for Russia’s interests and safeguarding its boundaries.

May 31, 1990 on the White House lawn, formal greetings from President Bush for Mikhail Gorbachev, later president of the USSR.

Declassified diplomatic records which may be read here, showed the security assurances given in 1990 against NATO expansion to Soviet leaders from Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner. Bearing in mind these assurances, Moscow considers the incorporation of Ukraine, expanding NATO activities up to Russia’s borders as a security threat and a violation of the West’s commitment not to expand the transatlantic alliance eastward.

In It’s Nato that’s empire-building, not Putin, Peter Hitchens asks, “Two great land powers face each other. One of these powers, Russia, has given up control over 700,000 square miles of valuable territory. The other, the European Union, has gained control over 400,000 of those square miles. Which of these powers is expanding?”

 

 

 

o

 


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.”

 

]

 

 

 

oo