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Articles from the Peace News log: International Solidarity

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

Pippa Bartolotti writes about her experience of the Gaza "Flytilla" on 7 July when solidarity activists flew to Israel to attempt to openly visit Palestine.

The grating sound of metal on metal as the reverberating CLANNGGG of the heavy prison doors closing on you for the first time cannot be forgotten. The smell of prison; the malicious looks of the guards; the claustrophobic feeling of a cell which distorts your intestines and bleaches your thoughts bare before you even see it.

“I am here for no reason. I have not been charged with anything. Does anyone know I am here?”

My crime was to say I was going to Bethlehem. There were 11 of us on the Easyjet flight from Luton, and we were all to be incarcerated in Givon Jail, Ramla, about 30 km south east of Tel Aviv.

The press dubbed it the “flightilla”, and Netanyahu had unilaterally announced we were hooligans and dangerous provocateurs about to undertake violent demonstrations against Israel. In reality we were a bunch of middle aged men and women who had been invited by 14 Palestinian civil society groups to join them in a cultural tour, which would include theatre and arts groups dedicated to helping young people to live under occupation and channelling their energies towards passive resistance. To me this way of dealing with the psychology of living under an apartheid system was important and fascinating, and I was eager to learn more.

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Pippa Bartolotti writes about the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

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Pippa saying goodbye to the van she used on a previous trip to carry goods to Gaza from Wales

Going to Gaza

As September approaches, a potentially momentous political event looms before us: the admission – or not – of Palestine as a member state of the UN. There are diverse opinions on whether this is a good or bad thing, but the discussion must be held, and quickly. Those of us concerned with the upholding of human rights and fair play in this world know that we cannot ignore this complicated issue which deserves serious and detailed consideration. The fate of the Middle East, so long confused and befuddled by meddling outside powers is on the brink of a breakthrough.

The latest Freedom Flotilla, fifteen boats carrying activists from more than twenty countries, will attempt to break the illegal Israeli siege of Gaza. The last flotilla ended with 9 deaths and many injuries. Six young men were summarily executed by gunshots to the head at point blank range. The event was grossly manipulated by the news press and Israeli propaganda, to the point that the BBC eventually had to make a public apology for breaches of accuracy and impartiality in their report “Death in the Med”. The Israeli government has already called on the UN and the international community to stop the current flotilla despite the fact that it is carrying badly needed humanitarian aid.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

One of the most poignant moments of the conference so far was Samarendra Das’s cry to the audience: “We do not want your research! It is not useful to us. We have simple questions, such as: what should the price of bauxite be?”

The interesting things here are “useful research” and “we – you”. What is that polarity?

Before talking about that, I should explain about the pricing question.

Bauxite is often found on mountain tops; it’s the raw material for aluminium. In India, these mountains are for some reason often in tribal areas, and are sacred mountains. The bauxite has the capacity to retain water and release it gradually (Samarendra told us), so that there are perennial streams even in the hot season. After the bauxite has been mined, this capacity is lost, and whatever water does run in the streams is polluted (I think he mentioned arsenic).

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

On the second morning (the third day) of the Triennial, we had our first “reflectors” session. The reflectors were five people who had been chosen to give their reaction to the conference so far. There were four women (all English-speaking, one African, one Australasian, one European, one North American) and one man (Spanish-speaking, Latin American).

Incidentally, this reminds me of something Jai Sen said about the book he co-edited: World Social Forum: Challenging Empires. They set themselves a very difficult standard in terms of contributors: achieving balance between continents and genders. (For more about the book, and other valuable publications on the way: http://www.cacim.net)

Two of the women (I didn’t catch their names, but later found out one was Vanessa Boaz of the International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict) said that we had so far had a lot of “the problem”, but not a lot of “the solution”. One said that we had not lived up to the “nonviolent livelihoods” element of the conference. The other said we had not been sharing the many successes of small movements, no exchange of strategies and tactics. At the moment it felt like the problems were so big, there was no impossible to succeed by nonviolence.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

What was the “breaking news” I promised at the beginning of the last posting? Well, yesterday I sat in on a discussion group that decided to put forward a major proposal to the council of War Resisters International, suggesting an investigation of the feasibility and desirability of WRI addressing the extent to which climate change, and in particular the threat of runaway climate change, affects the anti-militarist and social justice struggles it is currently involved in, or supporting.

The peace movement, by and large, operates on the assumption that the basic fabric of life will continue to be much as it is, with perhaps some deterioration or some improvement. (I only know of the British and US peace movements, but my impression is that this is a more general phenomenon.) We assume a continuing stable climate framework within which our opponents and ourselves will continue our struggle.

This is not a tenable assumption.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

Can international conferences like this be justified? Lots of my friends think not. I have breaking news from Peace News on this score – the survey they dared not print. Well, no one has not dared to print it, actually, but it dramatises the story.

Earlier today, in the morning plenary session, we had a searing moment which really made the whole thing worthwhile. We had two plenary speakers. One was Samarendra Das, who has been working for 16 years with poor communities facing displacement and pollution and brutal repression from the mining industry. The other was Elavie Ndura (her name is actually much longer – she said a paragraph-long name – but this is what is printed in the programme), a peace-oriented scholar from Burundi now based in the USA. Elavie made general remarks about the need for collective struggle, though she said that for herself she was not one for street protests or arrests (“prison would kill me”).

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