Interventions 1950s style

IssueDecember 2000 - February 2001
Feature by PN staff

MP urges UN peace force for Arab-Israeli border

In a letter to the Manchester Guardian last week, outlining several methods whereby the United Nations might police the borders between Israel and its Arab neighbours, Henry Usborne, MP, has called for the use of a corps of 10,000 unarmed men. He advocated the use of an unarmed cosmopolitan corps of some ten thousand men under General Burns to be recruited on a voluntary basis by the UN Secretariat. This would be a UN peace force equipped only for passive resistance and designed to ensure that the present border is not violated by force. Its tactics would be essentially those of satyagraha.

If this could be accepted, no veto would apply because no military force is involved and no military action could therefore ensue Nevertheless, the existence of this large corps of unarmed and dedicated men encamped along the hundreds of miles of the two-kilometre-wide border strip might, I think, give some assurance to both Israelis and Arabs (who would each have then withdrawn the suggested kilometre from the present demarcation line) that this neutral belt would not be forcibly reoccupied. The subsequent lessening of tension might thereafter make sensible readjustments more easily negotiable.

If disaster is to be averted

It is possible, nay probable, that neither Jew nor Arab could agree to this idea; but surely something fresh must now be thought out if disaster in the Middle East is to be averted. Henry Usborne, Labour MP for Yardley, Birmingham, is founder and hon. Secretary of the Parliamentary Group for World Government.

A Student of Non-Violence writes: Before World War II and the development outside India of the use of nonviolent techniques on a large scale, a small group of British pacifists, members of a small Peace Army, went to Palestine with the aim of improving Arab-Jewish relations. Hugh Bingham, one of two members staying in Jerusalem with an Arab family, was shot. He died four months later, being buried in the Anglo-German cemetery on Mount Zion. A memorial service was held in London by the Peace Pledge Union and the Peace Army.

Today there are tens of thousands of conscientious objectors in Western Europe, the USA and other countries with an elementary knowledge of non-violent techniques. Smaller numbers have had practical experience in projects in many countries, notably in Montgomery, Alabama, in South Africa, South Italy, Wales and in those parts of Europe occupied by the Nazis.

India has thousands of experienced satyagrahis; followers of Gandhi who used nonviolence in the face of British troops.

Given a fraction of the financial resources used by the military there would be no expenditure on armaments a peace force could be recruited for the purpose Harry Usborne suggests.

Recruits might be found among the members of the Historic Peace Churches (Quakers, Brethren, Mennonites), the War Resisters International, the International Fellowship of reconciliation and the Sarvodaya (Gandhian) Movement. All these bodies have members in a number of countries, with some national groupings running into thousands.