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Overcoming the barrier of ... amnesia

Michael Randle, Shipley

ImageThere is one serious oversight in the otherwise good report by Milan Rai on the Coventry International Symposium in April, ‘Overcoming the Barrier of Fear’, namely that there was no mention of one of the principal organisers of the event, Carol Rank. She, along with the other key organisers, who were mentioned in the report, did an excellent job in ensuring the success of the event.

The symposium format provided an ideal opportunity for participants to get to know each other and to engage in informal discussions. It came close, indeed, to a symposium in its original sense, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a convivial meeting for drinking, conversation, and intellectual entertainment’.

It was also in this case, as Milan says, an inspiring event where one was able to meet people from different parts of the world and learn of their courageous activities in face of danger and repression.

Editor Response: 

Thank you Michael, for pointing out this horrible omission. I’m very sorry not to have recognised Carol Rank’s contribution as an organiser of the Coventry international symposium, and as host (she is associate director at Coventry University’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies). Please accept my apologies! - Milan Rai, co-editor

Scotland against NATO

David McKenzie

ImageBruce Kent says (letters, PN 2547-48) that in a recent speaking tour in Scotland he came upon no sign of the Nimbyism about Trident that I had mentioned (PN 2546).

I would not have expected him to do so, given that he was meeting with CND members and supporters. And, yes, as John Ainslie’s report so convincingly demonstrates, there is nowhere else in the UK for the horror to go.

Scottish National Party (SNP) defence spokesman Angus Robertson is to put before the party’s October conference a motion to change the SNP’s long-standing anti-NATO policy. He has SNP leader Alex Salmond’s full backing to do so.

I suggest two reasons for the change. One is the referendum on Scottish independence, and the attendant conviction that Scots will be more likely to affirm if the intention is to be in NATO. The SNP leadership see it as vital that a new Scotland lines up unequivocally with NATO and the US. The possibility of Scotland stepping back from the conventional alignment is regarded as the idealistic dreaming of, as George Robertson has put it, ‘a few oddballs, extremists and communists’.

In a coherent exposition of the pro-NATO stance, veteran political worthy Jim Sillars suggests that a government of a new Scotland will settle with a five- to eight-year interval for Trident’s removal.

The shortest independence timetable gives 2024 as Sillar’s year for a Trident departure – the same year as the current Vanguard boats are due for decommissioning.

That gives us a further 12 years in which the UK’s weapons of mass destruction are actively and threateningly deployed.

All of which rather explains why the SNP leadership and the Scottish government have been reluctant even to begin to explore the legality of Trident. There are SNP MSPs [members of the Scottish parliament] who will say it is illegal, but ministers remain tight-lipped.

They are aware that once you publicly accept the obvious – that Trident breaches international humanitarian law – you are committed to its urgent removal and therefore no longer have the wiggle room you think you will need when the hardball negotiations start.

Which is why Trident Ploughshares have taken the lead in forming a ‘No to NATO’ coalition with the aim of sharing and raising public concern about what NATO means, and to act in solidarity with the many SNP members (and surely some MSPs) who are opposed to the change.

Gilad Atzmon - don't bother!

Ed Hill, Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign

ImageI was shocked by your glowing review of Gilad Atzmon’s book (PN 2545). His Wikipedia entry, for example, shows he doesn’t deserve coverage in Peace News.

Gilad has been persona non grata with the left in the UK for many years, since his criticism of Israel developed into anti-semitism. His latest book, The Wandering Who, borrows ideas from Zionism and Mein Kampf, claims a Jewish conspiracy runs the world, includes a side-swipe at feminism, heaps vitriol on socialists, and hints at Holocaust-denial.

Unfortunately some people fall under his spell; identity politics is a sufficiently diffuse subject for him to slip his extreme right-wing views under points of common agreement and popular prejudice. His analysis leads nowhere useful. He claims that what Israel is doing to the Palestinians isn’t a colonial project. He also claims it isn’t apartheid. Furthermore, he opposes the boycott campaign.

For a comprehensive and scholarly analysis of Gilad’s book search out the review by Elias Davidsson on www.palaestina-portal.eu. Tony Greenstein’s blog and groups such as J-BIG maintain a watching-brief on Gilad. UK-PSC [Palestine Solidarity Campaign] has recently tightened its anti-racism guidelines to resist his divisive advances on local groups.

Palestine campaigning is gaining momentum and causing panic among Israel’s supporters. Their tactics are to nitpick, drag the debate off-target, to confuse new supporters or intimidate them by heated debate.Peace News readers would find their time better spent ignoring the mendacious voices of the likes of Gilad Atzmon and supporting the genuine campaign for human rights for the Palestinians.


Avaaz in Syria

Ian Sinclair, London

ImageThe May 2012 Peace News editorial on Syria (PN 2545) argued ‘western movements... should look to the massive internet-based group Avaaz, which has channelled hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of satellite phones and other communications equipment into Syria.’

On 21 July 2012, under the headline ‘Stymied at UN, US Refines Plan to Remove Assad’, the New York Times reported: ‘The United States would provide more communications training and equipment to help improve the combat effectiveness of disparate opposition forces in their widening, sustained fight against Syrian Army troops’.

Am I the only person to be a little confused by the closeness of Peace News and the US government on this issue?

Editor Response: 

Thank you, Ian. It does look confusing! As we understand it, the Avaaz contribution to opposition communications in Syria has been focused on supporting citizen journalists (documenting the war and getting the message out) and supporting nonviolent grassroots movements (moving medical supplies around and so on).

We may be wrong about this, but we think they’re pretty separate from the armed militias.

We think there is a world of difference between us as ordinary people giving logistical support to grassroots nonviolent movements in an oppressive country, and the US government ‘improving the combat effectiveness’ of armed groups, in order to overthrow a hostile regime and replace it with a more easily manipulated set-up. - eds

 

Social community centres

Chris Green, Coleford

ImageAll the crucial and active social centres that I can think of are: ‘1 in 12’ in Bradford; ‘Blackrose’ in Sheffield; ‘Autonomous Centre Edinburgh’; ‘Cowley Club’ in Brighton; and the ‘Sumac Centre’ in Nottingham.

And how about the invaluable community centres throughout the UK too? As it really shouldn’t be a case of us and them!

Topics: Activism