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Rights, not speech

Clare Bonetree, Manchester

ImageVery sadly, I am writing to tell you I intend to cancel my subscription, after deep consideration, because of my disappointment at the newspaper’s coverage of transphobia as a ‘free speech issue’.

The final straw, for me, was the article ‘Anarchists barred from bookfair’ (PN 2618–2619), which reported that two people had been ejected from Liverpool’s anarchist bookfair, one ‘for circulating an offensive anti-trans leaflet’ – so far, so clear.

Yet despite this clarity, the last sentence of the article declares this ‘anti-trans leaflet incident’ to be a seemingly ‘free speech issue’. These two things contradict each other!

This is transphobia and it – obviously – causes great distress and fear for trans people.

It reminds me very clearly of just a few decades ago – the 1980s – when I was coming out as a young bisexual woman.

Back then, it was common for heterosexual commentators, speakers, writers to question what made a person homosexual, and whether their homosexuality was real. What is a ‘real lesbian’ vs a ‘pretend lesbian’ (guess which category they put women like me into).

Now cis (non-trans) people are doing it to trans people. I am sure that Peace News would not defend racist speech, questioning the existence or right to exist of Black or Muslim people, as a free speech issue. So it should be with trans people.

Allyship begins with, and is grounded in, recognising someone’s existence and dignity. Understanding another person comes from empathy – simply opening to another’s humanity, regardless of whether you understand them. For me, this is the foundation of nonviolence, and the starting place of revolution.

Yes we desperately need to talk about how to ensure that recognition of trans people’s rights is not used by the patriarchy (in the form of the state) to override the hard-won rights of women raised as girls.

Better still we need to go further and together work out how we can work for the recognition and protection of all people’s rights, and how to ensure that our rights support each others’ protection. None is free until all are free, and safe. But this is not a free speech issue. Please stop perpetuating this narrative.

Where there’s a will

Shan Barclay, Norwich

ImageFor all the monarchy’s traditional links to the military, I would like on this occasion to commend prince William’s recent statement that he wishes to make achieving peace in the Middle East his main mission and priority during his tenure. Peace in the Middle East means peace in the whole world, so this is all the more laudable.

For too long peace has had to take a background role while war, jingoism and conflict have been allowed to dictate the agenda, aided and abetted by the media, incompetent governments and regimes.

This anniversary year of the ending of the First World War, and official end to all war forever, could not be a better one for the current madness and addiction to end. The economic benefits alone, not to mention all the others such as ending poverty, fear, injustice, inequality and the refugee crisis, indicate that peace is the only wise and sensible course to follow.

To quote Tony Benn, ‘All wars are a sign of failure of diplomacy’. I for one, for all my reservations about the palace, wholeheartedly endorse the prince in his intention.

Peace is achievable.

 


Missed opportunity

Palestine Solidarity Campaign, London

ImageToday, 25 June, prince William will arrive in Israel and the occupied West Bank as part of a regional trip.

This visit is the first since the creation of the state of Israel, 70 years ago, and breaks with British foreign office policy that the royal family should not make official visits to Israel due to its historic and grave violations of human rights, international law and UN resolutions

Palestine Solidarity Campaign is deeply concerned that prince William’s visit, like other international and diplomatic visits, is being used by Israel to mask its human rights abuses against Palestinians, including its recent premeditated killing of 128 Palestinians and the wounding of some 14,000 others in Gaza, including journalists, medics, and children.

In the aftermath of the killings, Israel has continued to refuse demands for an independent investigation. This visit by prince William reinforces the UK government’s historic policy of turning a blind eye to gross violations of human rights when they are committed by the Israeli government.

It is, therefore, crucial that all attempts to use this visit by prince William to normalise Israel’s continuous and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law are resisted. It is clear that the Israeli government will use the trip to achieve just that.

It is concerning that prince William is already the target of pressure by the Israeli government not to refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory. This amounts to asking a member of the royal family not to recognise and endorse international law.

Having organised the visit, putting the prince in an invidious position, it is now crucial that the UK government makes a clear statement condemning the killings and calling for an investigation.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign continues to urge the UK government to end the bilateral arms trade with Israel; impose sanctions against Israel; and to apply meaningful pressure on Israel to end its unlawful occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, its siege on Gaza, and its apartheid practices and policies against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

We hope that during the course of his visit, the prince will spend time meeting with civil society organisations and human rights defenders who are constantly subjected to punitive measures for their advocacy work; refugees denied their right to return and living in UNRWA camps while Israel continues its unlawful settlement expansion; and Palestinian citizens of Israel who are denied the right to full equality under a legal system that discriminates based on ethnicity. [UNRWA is the ‘United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’ – ed]