Peaceful resistance

October 24, 2017

 Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store has withdrawn Israeli settlement products

The American Herald Tribune reports that earlier this month, the hundred year old store was scheduled to host an event featuring Israeli wines, including wines made in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen land – see United Nations’ reaffirmation in 2016. After Japanese civil society raised concerns, Mitsukoshi shortened the event and removed all wines which Palestine Forum Japan activists indicated were made in Israeli settlements. A spokesperson for Japan’s Palestine Forum said:

“We warmly welcome this principled decision by Mitsukoshi department store to pull products made in illegal Israeli settlements from its shelves. By refusing to sell these products, the store is complying with international law and Japanese foreign policy. It is also respecting human rights and advancing justice and peace.

“Mitsukoshi’s action serves as a model to other Japanese companies trading with those in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied land. Japanese companies must immediately end their complicity in Israeli violations of human rights by stopping all trade and cooperation with Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid, or increasingly face both reputational damage and financial losses”.

Simulation of an Israeli checkpoint outside Muji store

The Jerusalem Post recalls that the first protest of this kind was held in 2010, when civil organisations in Japan, including the Palestine Forum Japan, campaigned for seven months against the plan of Muji, a Japanese retail chain, to open stores in Israel – a plan which was eventually cancelled.

Last year the Israeli embassy in Japan had been planning to hold an Israel Wine Seminar at the Osaka Office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). Some of the Israeli wineries attending were located in or used grapes from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights.

Palestine Forum Japan sent a fax to JETRO about providing their facilities for the promotion of illegal settlement businesses and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry informed Palestine Forum Japan that the Ministry had advised JETRO of the significant legal and moral risks associated with promoting illegal settlement businesses as outlined by the United Nations Human Rights Council. JETRO staff called Palestine Forum Japan and informed them that they would be withdrawing from the event which would not be going ahead at JETRO’s facilities.

In July 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a warning on its website, advising that “settlement activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are in violation of international law, and one must be aware of the financial, reputational and legal risks when involved with economic activities in these areas.”

In September the Boycott, divestment and sanctions website reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was beginning to send letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Japanese BDS activists are calling on the Japanese government to implement sanctions against Israel until the military occupation is ended, Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights and Palestinian refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land.

 

 

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Britain’s global role: fantasy vs reality

October 15, 2017

Paul Rogers opens: “The UK’s government and military are trapped in a futile search for greatness, thus missing the country’s true security challenges”. 

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivering his speech at the Conservative party conference at the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester.

Several recent events at the heart of Britain’s state and government suggest that the country’s failure to come to terms with its post-imperial position in the world is turning critical.

A prime exhibit is foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whose position and high profile make him a leading symbol of the United Kingdom’s current status. His fixation with empire was reflected in a crass suggestion, during a visit in January 2017 to the Shwedagon temple in Yangon, Myanmar, that he might recite lines from Rudyard Kipling’s colonial-era poem “The Road to Mandalay”. This was thankfully parried by the British ambassador. But nothing stopped him from addressing the Conservative Party conference this week in Manchester on the theme of “let the British lion roar”.

The embarrassingly dysfunctional Conservative gathering seemed in other ways to embody the desperate search for national purpose in the wake of Brexit, even as its language and attitudes aspired only to repackaging the past.

There is much wider evidence of a move into an era of “The (British) Empire Strikes Back”. A significant example is the launch of two huge new aircraft-carriers. The lead ship of the pair, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has already been handed over to the Royal Navy for sea trials, and is now followed by the 65,000-ton supercarrier, HMS Prince of Wales. These are by far the largest warships to be deployed in Britain’s history. With so much of the navy’s power focused around such ships, it is ever easier to press the idea that Britain’s way forward is the return to a global role.

A speech delivered on 11 September by the navy’s senior admiral, Sir Philip Jones, reinforces the point. He argues precisely that carriers such as these now enable the UK to resume its old role in Asia and the Pacific, one largely abandoned in the 1970s after the military’s withdrawal from “east of Suez”. This is already happening: a small naval base has been constructed in Bahrain, the port of Duqm in Oman is being adapted to support the aircraft-carriers, and a defence office has been established in Singapore where the Royal Navy has berthing rights. Moreover, the UK is also preparing to help defend South Korea at a time of rising tensions in the region. Interestingly, the admiral linked this reorientation directly to Brexit and the UK’s need to develop new trading partners outside Europe.

There is a catch, though. Warships of the size and complexity of the Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales will never operate on their own. The norm for these carriers will be, at the very least, a fleet comprising an air-defence destroyer, one or two anti-submarine frigates, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply-ship, a tanker, and a nuclear-powered attack-submarine. In recent months the navy has been able only to deploy frigates and destroyers in very small numbers – six or seven out of the nineteen theoretically available. This is unlikely to change any time soon because of long-term shortages of crew and a host of engineering problems. Certainly the navy will not have the resources to have more than one carrier at a time operational.

The challenges here are steep enough. In addition, though, the Royal Navy is responsible for Britain’s submarine-based nuclear force. Since that requires “deterrence support” in the form of surface warships and attack-submarines, there is a real sense of Britain being reduced to a two-ship navy – able to deploy one carrier strike-group and one strategic nuclear-missile submarine, but not much else (see “Britain’s deep-sea defence: out of time?“, 3 March 2016).

Thus, the navy-led shift towards a revived global posture – analysed in depth in Global Britain: A Pacific Presence?, a new briefing by Richard Reeve for the Oxford Research Group – is accompanied by a great overstretch of resources and commitments. In this sense the fate of the Royal Navy is emblematic of the UK’s deep-rooted desire for the status of a great power, or at least a pretty big power.

This is a delusion. By the mid-2020s, the UK will be able to kill many millions of people in a nuclear war and to deploy a single supercarrier – largely as an appendage of the United States navy when it next goes to war. That will be about it as far as the Royal Navy is concerned, suggesting that the reality behind the pretence of a major power is merely a “bigger than average little power”.

As well as a delusion, Britain’s military direction is a lost opportunity – for it is already made irrelevant by the evolving global-security challenges that will dominate the 2020s and 2030s. On present trends, the world will by then have moved more fully towards extreme economic division and marginalisation, where millions experience accelerating climate disruption and an increased risk of irregular war. In face of all this, supercarriers and thermonuclear weapons really aren’t much use.

It would be possible to design a foreign policy that was far more focused on conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and economic and environmental reform – all of which could begin to offer leadership in meeting these challenges. That option is a far cry from the current outlook, but it is there for the asking. If it were taken, Britain might at last replace fantasy with reality, get rid of its imperial shackles, and discover a truer form of “greatness”.

Source: https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/britains-global-role-fantasy-vs-reality

 

 

 

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School cadet forces: ambush or support?

October 7, 2017

 Felicity Arbuthnot draws attention to an article by Rhianna Louis, the education and outreach officer at ForcesWatch summarised below.

A report commissioned by Veterans For Peace UK draws on veterans’ testimony and around 200 studies from the last half-century to explore the effects of army employment on soldiers, particularly their initial training.

It finds that young people with experiences of childhood adversity, who exhibit violent behaviour at a young age, or have mental health problems, are not for the most part “rescued” by a military career. They are likely to leave early and face unemployment due to a lack of transferable qualifications after leaving education to enlist.

Their early difficulties leave them more susceptible to mental health problems triggered by training and in service. They don’t need a cadet force to mould them into controlled, obedient and patriotic young citizens but proper and sustained mental health support in a supportive learning environment.

However, another interim report on the social impact of cadet forces, recently published by the University of Northampton, said that cadet units can improve attendance and educational achievement, supporting children in ways that schools cannot. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon praised the report while announcing 31 new cadet units in state schools. It extols the benefits offered by cadets for socio-economically disadvantaged and emotionally troubled young people — in fact military service can be highly damaging to such youngsters.

The University of Northampton report, and Fallon’s dream of cadet units blossoming up and down the country, herald the cadet forces as the solution to struggling children, mixing child development aims with defence aims such as savings, recruitment and PR for the armed forces.

The cadet expansion programme is funded by part of nearly £90 million that has gone into military programmes in education since 2012

By contrast, non-military services and facilities for young people have been decimated in recent years, and education is facing a funding crisis. Teaching and support staff posts are being cut, along with Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision and spending on books and equipment. Funding for education of 16-19 year olds has been devastated and should be restored.

While the cadet forces offer benefits to many young people, so would any well-funded youth programme with excellent resources

Outside the classroom, the picture is equally bleak. Youth clubs have been so badly hit that they are closing up and down the country and may become once more reliant on Dickensian philanthro-capitalism. Children’s mental health services have also faced cuts, with funding falling by nearly £50m between 2010 and 2015.

Two years ago Tim Bevan, producer of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and co-founder of Working Title Films, commented on Nicky Morgan harking back to the days of national service, by investing millions in funding for military boot camp type projects to instill discipline and build “character, resilience and grit” in young people.

The funding was going to organisations such as Commando Joe’s, Challenger Troop and Skillforce. Tim thinks that the lure of additional funding into cash strapped schools masks the intention to raise a public willing to pay for the military, make recruitment easier in to armed forces and stifle opposition to unpopular wars and asks:

“What will be the effect of this approach on children, already identified as disadvantaged? What will they learn? To follow rules without question, to do as they are told and not think for themselves, to respond to aggression and to conform through fear. How will this develop the creative, problem solving, free-thinking, decision makers of the future?” And ends:

“We do not need a public service focussed on war to turn around the lives of disadvantaged young people. Those facing hardship need meaningful opportunities to secure employment, not to develop resilience to the pain and frustration of inequality”.

 

 

 

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Will Japan be ‘reset”, maintaining the pacifist principles enshrined in its constitution?

September 29, 2017

Following Shinzo Abe’s dissolution of the Japanese parliament for a snap election on October 22, Seiji Maehara, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, announced to his MPs that he would not field any candidates. He encouraged them to apply instead to run for a new party established by the governor of Tokyo only two days ago.

Tokyo’s governor,  Yuriko Koike, has announced the formation of the Party of Hope (Kibo no To) to contest the election She  laid out her party’s vision: to “reset” Japan, operating free of the interests of the political establishment and maintaining its pacifist principles, which are enshrined in its constitution.

Maehara’s proposal to shift allegiance to Koike’s movement was unanimously approved at a general meeting of DP MPs the same day. Under the plan, all DP candidates for the general election have been asked to abandon party membership and apply to join the official ticket of Kibo no To.

“I made this proposal after thinking about what would realize a change in power again,” Maehara told DP MPs during the meeting.  According to Maehara’s plan, the DP will give “full support” to Koike’s party in election campaigns, including financial support for former DP members running on the Kibo no To ticket.

During a TV interview on Wednesday, Koike said her party will choose applicants from the DP after close consideration of their views on constitutional revision and security issues.

 

 

 

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NATO Watch: Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue  

September 18, 2017

NATO Watch is an independent think-tank which examines the role of NATO in public life and advocates for more openness, transparency and accountability within the Alliance. Its news briefs cover a range of NATO-related news items from around the world. See http://natowatch.org/links

The NATO Watch Media Centre includes:

News Briefs deliver NATO-related news items from around the world.

The founding director of NATO Watch is Dr Ian Davis, an independent human security and arms control consultant, writer and activist with over 30 years’ experience in government, academia and the NGO sector. He was Programme Manager for Saferworld 1998 – 2001, co-executive director of BASIC, 2001 – 2007, publications director at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 2014, executive editor of the SIPRI Yearbook from November 2016 and Associate Senior Fellow Armament and Disarmament. See https://uk.linkedin.com/in/iandavisconsultancy.

NATO Watch has a free syndicated news feed which allows readers to stay up to date with the latest news and features by adding the feed address to a news reader programme, or to their own website.

There are various ways to subscribe, including:

  • Signing-up to receive it by email – click here;
  • Dragging the orange feed button () or URL of the feed into your news reader software; or
  • Cutting and pasting the URL of the feed into your news reader.

The latest paper disseminated is Breaking the US-Russia Impasse: Keeping the Door Open to Dialogue, by Hall Gardner, 4 September 2017.

It opens:

Relations between the US and Russia appear to be almost at the point of no return. Whether justified or not, each side has accused the other of interfering in their respective election processes. Moscow has accused the United States of backing protests that opposed the results of Russia’s parliamentary elections in 2011, and of directly interfering in the Russian presidential elections in March 2012 that brought Vladimir Putin to power. Washington has also accused Moscow of interfering in the November 2016 presidential elections that brought Donald Trump to power. Read on: http://natowatch.org/default/2017/breaking-us-russia-impasse-keeping-door-open-dialogue

 

 

 

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The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.

 

 

 

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The Business Plan for Peace: Making Possible a World Without War”: Dr Scilla Elworthy

August 16, 2017

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2nd October, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL: 7.00 pm for 7.45 – 9.45

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Dr Philip Webber (chair), on behalf of the Martin RyleTrust, has given early notice of the second lecture in its annual series, presented jointly with Conway Hall Ethical Society, to be given this year by Dr Scilla Elworthy.

In 1982 Dr Elworthy founded the highly respected Oxford Research Group. Among her many other achievements, she set up Peace Direct, co-founded Rising Women Rising World, and has written numerous books on peace and related subjects. She is a member of the World Future Council and an advisor to ‘The Elders’. Dr Elworthy will draw on research for her forthcoming book to explore the forces that drive armed conflict and by contrast show what is already effective in building peace at both local and international levels.

She will detail a fully costed Business Plan for Peace. Finally she will reveal the impact that ordinary people can have in making a peaceful world possible, and how they can do it.

The Martin Ryle Lecture series is dedicated to maintaining Martin Ryle’s legacy in science, justice and peace. Sir Martin Ryle (1918-1984), FRS, Astronomer Royal, Nobel Laureate, was a physicist and radio astronomer, who played an important part in the development and use of radar, working mainly on countermeasures. From the mid-70s his concerns about the nuclear arms race and the misuse of science came to the fore. Towards the Nuclear Holocaust was published by the Menard Press in 1981. It combines factual information, analysis of the social and political condition of the world and a passionate call for rectification of this incredible situation. Ryle considered that nuclear power was irredeemably connected with nuclear weapons, via the production of plutonium. He used his engineering skill to analyse, develop and promote wind power.

Those who arrive early often spend time in the Red Lion Square Gardens, featured in Bradshaw’s interesting historical survey of the area, with photographs of  two peacebuilders: Fenner Brockway (above) and Bertrand Russell.

Booking for this year’s lecture is now open.

Tickets are available at
https://conwayhall.org.uk/event/scilla-elworthy/

Phone: 020 7405 1818

Website: https://conwayhall.org.uk

 

 

 

 

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