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The Peace News log

A Yemen-related nonviolent direct action near Birmingham.

People's Weapons Inspectors, Roxel missile components factory, 9 April 2018On 9 April, the People's Weapons Inspectors visited a Roxel factory which builds propulsion systems for missiles. Their aim was to carry out a 'people's weapons inspection', to find out whether parts built at this factory (near Kidderminster in Worcestershire) might be used by the Saudi military in the war in Yemen.

The inspectors believed that the factory was manufacturing components for Brimstone missiles that are due to be exported to Saudi Arabia for use on Saudi Tornado jets. Ekklesia reported: 'The People’s Weapons Inspectors, some from ecumenical Christian peace group, Put Down The Sword, decided that they had to act when on 12 March 2018, an order in progress for one thousand Brimstone missiles for Tornado jets appeared on the Stockholm International Peace Resaerch Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database.' Inspectors came not only from the Christian-Quaker direct action group Put Down the Sword, but from the London Catholic Worker

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Iraq is the forgotten war that continues to destroy lives, writes a long-time visitor to Iraq, US peace activist Cathy Breen.

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Building in Mosul, Iraq, decimated by bombing, March 2018. Photo: Abu Mohammed

 

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State. Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. In one of her poems after 9/11, entitled 'Blood,' she writes:

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilised?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

I myself tried to write something for the 15 year 'commemoration' of the US war against Iraq, but wasn’t able to complete it. It was too much for me. A couple of months ago I was invited to go to the Northwest to speak about 'Fifteen Years After the War.' It was too much for me emotionally, and somewhat shamefully I had to decline.

As I write, I have the phone next to me. I am texting a young Iraqi boy who is alone in Turkey. About 10 months ago, he was kidnapped in Iraq. Through a chain of events, he ended up in Syria. About two months ago, his father was contacted and was able to get his son smuggled across the border into Turkey. Last month, his son turned 18 years of age and was eligible to register as a refugee with the UN refugees' agency, UNHCR. But he will not get an interview for many months to come.

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Three Palestinian communities face immediate expulsion from their homes in the Jordan Valley and near Jerusalem, and two more in the coming months, warns the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem.

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On 22 November, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, issued a press release detailing the continuing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The release reported that over the previous month the state had informed three Palestinian communities, two in the Jordan Valley and one near Jerusalem that it intended to expel them from their homes and land, giving them eight days to leave. The notification was made by leaving orders on the roadside. The three communities, largely Bedouin, comprise 414 people, including 151 youths and children under 18.

Such expulsions of Palestinians from areas in the West Bank, especially in the fertile Jordan Valley, have continued for many years. In the past, efforts were based mainly on military orders concerning planning and building. However, the proceedings concerning such orders are protracted and require the precise mapping of the land and buildings, as well as the issuing of separate demolition orders for each building.

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Benjamin reports on the Open Rights Group's digital rights conference, ORGCon 2017

ImageORGCon, is a  high profile conference, featuring some of the worlds foremost speakers on digital freedom. This year's event on 4th November 2017, drew a mix of activists, academics and digital professionals to Friends Meeting House in London.

The conference organiser, Open Rights Group is the UK's only grassroots organisation working to protect our right to privacy and free speech online. Throughout the day, a stream of very engaging speakers kept the audience entertained, as well as enthralled as they outlined new dangers from digital technologies and what we can do to push back.

Last year the UK government passed the Investigatory Powers Act, the most extreme surveillance law found in any democracy. Even those who choose to remain, as far as possible, off-line are impacted by their connected neighbours, so ORG's work is increasingly important.

It has been three years since the previous ORGCon and the range of speakers brought debates up to date. The weekend left the audience with a strong sense of work to be done and of opportunities for action. Such a large gathering also provided opportunities for networking. Saturday's programme followed an auditorium format. But Sunday offered more intimate sessions, with more space for planning campaigns.

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Andrea Needham reports on the recent trial of Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse in Burnley

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Sam and Woody with supporters outside the court

Poor old British Aerospace. Not only were the first group of people to break in to their Warton site in Lancashire to disarm a warplane acquitted, now the second lot have also been found not guilty. It's curious how difficult it appears to be to convict people for acting peacefully to prevent war crimes.

The first such disarmament action took place in January 1996, when a group of women (myself included) broke in and disarmed a Hawk warplane being sold to Indonesia for use in their brutal war on the people of East Timor. Six months later, all of us were acquitted by a jury, having made the defence that we were simply using reasonable force to prevent crime, as allowed in British law.

The serial number on the casing was visible, showing that the bomb was made by Raytheon in Glenrothes, Scotland, after the war against Yemen started.

The second action took place exactly 21 years later (the date was a happy coincidence), when Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse broke in with the intention of disarming Typhoon, Tornado and Hawk warplanes which BAE is selling to Saudi Arabia. As we all know, Saudi Arabia is pursuing a brutal war in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths. The almost total destruction of the infrastructure of the country has caused the biggest outbreak of cholera in recorded history, and millions of people are on the verge of starvation. Yet BAE continues to sell warplanes, other British companies sell bombs, and the British government falls over itself to appease the fragile Saudi ego, touchy as the rulers are about accusations of war crimes.

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The full references for the Peace News double-pamphlet 1917: The Nonviolent Russian Revolution / 1917: The Grassroots Working-Class Revolution that Lenin Crushed

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These are the footnotes for the double pamphlet written by PN editor Milan Rai in October 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

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Esme Needham reflects on her experiences at FiLiA 2017

ImageThe conference formerly known as Feminism in London is scheduled to start at nine thirty, and to make sure they get everyone there on time, the organisers have booked Cordelia Fine as their keynote speaker. We are told that she has come all the way from Australia specially to tell us about her new book, Testosterone Rex.

But it's not Feminism in London any more- the world is changing, and the UK's biggest feminism conference now bears the name FiLiA, a word meaning 'sister'. Ticket prices are changing, too, which probably accounts for the four hundred attendees who don't quite fill the thousand-seat auditorium to the brim. Not, however, to cast blame on FiLiA- because apart from anything else, it's amazing to share such a huge space with so many like-minded people. It could be a meeting of stick insect collectors, for all that it matters: it's that feeling of unity.

And yet, it does matter. After all, there are almost four hundred women here, and about twenty men. It's a size disparity that feels almost strange; after all, in many situations, it would be the other way around. What the conference does, among other things, is grant all these women the liberty to look how they want to look and say what they want to say without being judged. That's because there's a simple thing everyone here has in common: we all believe in basic gender equality (or at least, I assume this is the case, because not many people who aren't sure where they stand on a subject are willing to pay fifty pounds to go to a conference about it. Just saying.)

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Ian Sinclair talks to George Lakey, Matt Kennard and Alex Nunns

ImageIan Sinclair writes: My new Peace News article ‘The biggest fight of our lives’ includes comments from George Lakey, Matt Kennard and Alex Nunns. Due to space considerations I could only include a small portion of the commentary each of them sent me in the article itself. Below are their full comments.

Why is Jeremy Corbyn seen as such a threat to the British establishment?

Matt Kennard, author of The Racket: Corbyn is seen as such a threat to the British elite and establishment because he is a major threat to their interests. They are not stupid. They understand when a political figure and movement endangers their ability to retain domination of the economy and political system. Never in the history of Britain has an anti-imperialist socialist ascended to the position of leading any of the major parties. It's huge moment in British history - and arguably world history. If he becomes Prime Minister it will be the first core capital country ruled by an anti-imperialist socialist. They have every right to be fearful. Corbyn is the real deal, he can't be assimilated into the state-capitalist elite's framework on either end of their spectrum. Because of that they have to turn to unconventional warfare, which we've seen over the past two years every day.

The threat Corbyn poses is that he shows that Another World Is Possible. His vision is optimistic about what we can achieve as a species and upends all the useful ideology that has been built up over the neoliberal period that says we have to cut public spending and to eliminate any idea of collectivism. Corbyn has shown that it doesn't have to be like that, and not only that, but these policies are popular amongst the electorate. He has put to bed for generations the idea that left ideas can't win elections, the idea they've been beating us with ever since 1983 and Michael Foot's 'longest suicide note in history'. Now, we find out that actually it was the policies themselves that the Labour right didn't like, not that they won't win elections. The 2017 elections changed everything.

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US author and Quaker activist tours UK

ImageUS author and Quaker activist George Lakey is touring the UK mainly to talk about his new book Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can too (about how mass nonviolent struggle won radical changes).
George is also the author of Toward a Living Revolution: A five-stage framework for creating radical social change

Wednesday 4 October
NOTTINGHAM NG1 5JD
Viking Economics. Hosted by Five Leaves Bookshop in association with Nottingham Quakers as part of national Quaker Week. £3, incl refreshments. 7pm–8.30pm. Friends Meeting House, 25 Clarendon St. Booking essential: fiveleaves.bookshopevents@gmail.com. www.tinyurl.com/GLakeyUK4Oct

Thursday 5 October
HUDDERSFIELD HD1 4TR
Huddersfield Quaker Peace Lecture: ‘A divided Britain: what can we learn from the Nordics?’ Hosted by Huddersfield Quakers. 7.30pm–9pm. Huddersfield Quaker Meeting House, Church St, Paddock. More info: 01484 664 290; www.tinyurl.com/GLakeyUK5Oct

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CND marked the opening of the nuclear ban treaty for signatures in New York with an event in Downing Street, central London.

On 20 September, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) handed in hundreds of letters from citizens across the United Kingdom at No 10 Downing St in London. The United Nations had started to accept signatures for the nuclear arms ban treaty earlier the same day.

'British democracy has happened this afternoon. The public have made their voice heard, and we hope that the prime minister will take notice,' said Kate Hudson, CND general secretary. 'There’s a big multi-signature petition to Mrs May getting her to take the ban treaty seriously.'

Prior to the delivery of the letters, CND read its own letter outside the gates of Downing Street. The campaign encouraged the prime minister to sign the treaty the 'start of a long struggle'. 'Nothing is going to happen instantaneously… this is the first step today,' said Hudson. The general secretary also discussed public opinion polls from British citizens have shown their desire for the prime minister to show support of the treaty. 'We have to do the best we can to translate that public sentiment into political top-level sentiment,' Hudson said.

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