“We Teach Life, Sir.”

I have just discovered this wonderful, and very moving poem, by Rafeef Ziadeh.   It deserves to be widely heard.  Pass it on.

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Deja Vu – Death, Gaza, and The BBC.

I am struck by a horrible feeling of deja vu as I watch, once again, Israel’s ultra-modern war machine pound the besieged civilian population in Gaza.  Yet again the death and suffering falls mostly on the Palestinian side – Israel killed more Palestinians in one day this week than Hamas have killed Israelis in 3 years – and once again the mainstream media, exemplified by the not-quite-impartial BBC, take great pains to obfuscate and lie by omission about the causes of the conflict.

The story, as provided by the BBC etc, acting as a mouthpiece for Israel, is that Israel is defending itself from rocket attacks.  Because only Israel is allowed to defend it’s citizens.  Palestine is not allowed that right.  It is noteworthy that the BBC and others say that “relative calm” prevailed before the recent upsurge in violence.  This “relative calm” is when Palestinians die quietly.  For Palestinians, every day is oppression, with shortages of water, food, medicines, the freedom to move, to travel, and just about every other thing you and I take for granted.  Gaza has been described as the world’s largest prison, as a refugee camp, and as an open-air concentration camp.  “Relative calm” for Palestinians is daily humiliation and death.  We, in the West, only notice when they dare to resist.  And that is only to tell them to stop, to, in effect, die quietly.

But the context is nearly always missing from media reports.  The history of the Israel/Palestine conflict did not start last week, or even last month.  It didn’t even start last year, or the year before.  Neither did it begin the last time Israel blitzed Gaza in 2008,  killing thousands, and nor did it start when the people of Gaza elected Hamas to be their government.

The occupation of Palestinian land by Israel has been going on for decades.  And they are taking more and more every year.  This ongoing criminal and immoral theft of land is the context that is regularly missing from media reports.  For example, when was the last time you saw this map on the BBC?

See how much land has been taken from the Palestinians?  They are being squeezed continuously into a smaller and smaller patch of land.  Their ever diminishing borders  and skies are controlled by Israel.  Israel controls how much food etc goes into the Palestinian territories.  Much is spoken about Israel’s ‘right to exist’, but rarely, if ever, will you hear about Palestine’s right to exist.  Palestine is slowly but surely being ‘wiped from the map’.  It is not going over the top, I think, to call it ethnic cleansing.  What else would you call what you see on the above map?

Israel occupies, blockades, settles, evicts, invades, destroys, brutalizes, bombs and kills.  Yet somehow our media always seem to pain it as the victim.  It is perverse, and an absolute travesty of the truth.

The incursion and bombardment of Gaza is not about destroying Hamas.  It is not about stopping rocket fire into Israel, it is not about achieving peace.

“The Israeli decision to rain death and destruction on Gaza, to use lethal weapons of the modern battlefield on a largely defenseless civilian population, is the final phase in a decades-long campaign to ethnically-cleanse Palestinians.

“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army… and calls it a war.  It is not a war, it is murder.

“When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing.  You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land.  That’s not defense.  Call it what you like, it’s not defense.
Chris Hedges/Noam Chomsky.   Quote widely attributed to Chomsky, but turns out to be splice of Hedges and Chomsky.  The point remains.

Further reading –

Dissecting IDF Propaganda – The Numbers Behind The Rocket Attacks.

Analysis/Background from Jews For Justice.

Who is Jonathon Sacerdoti, the BBC’s ‘neutral’ expert on the Middle East?

Gaza Blitz – Turmoil and Tragicomedy at the BBC.

Latest Israeli Offensive Aimed at Destroying Chance of Peace.

Siding With the Powerful – UK Media Coverage of Assault on Gaza.

TIMELINE – Israel’s Latest Assault on Gaza.

Chomsky on Gaza.

We Don’t Want No Radiation.

Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth is where the UK’s Trident nuclear submarines go to be refitted.  This dangerous and dirty work is done in close proximity to 250,000 Plymouthians, and within a matter of a few hundred yards of at least one primary school.  The ‘reward’ of a couple of hundred jobs is a poor return for the risk the whole city runs of cancers and leukemia.  Never mind that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(N.P.T.) the UK is meant to be working “in good faith” towards complete nuclear disarmament.  But sadly the UK is intent on building bigger and more destructive weapons of mass destruction, while lecturing the world on the perils of having weapons of mass destruction.  Such hypocrisy, you could hardly make it up.  Trident Ploughshares activists today took a simple message to the base.

What would your message be?

Poppy Pride and Prejudice.

It never ceases to amaze me at this time of year how bigoted, ignorant, and intolerant people can be to those, such as myself, who decide to wear a white poppy instead of a red one.  Just this week for example, someone I know very well posted a picture on Facebook that had the caption “if the red poppy offends you pack your bags and Fuck Off!”  Rational and civilised discussion are just not on the agenda it would seem.  There are none so deaf and blind, or dangerous, as those who willfully refuse to see or hear an opposing point of view.  We are not allowed to be heard.  It is their way, or the highway, which is sorta reminiscent of the fascism our ‘heroes’ apparently vanquished some 70 years ago, funnily enough.

As a long time anti-war activist, I have often heard variations on the theme, “but those soldiers died for your right to protest/freedom of speech”.  If I had a pound for every time I had been told that, I would be a very rich man indeed.   More than once I have been told, in effect, that “these soldiers died for your right to speak, so shut your bloody mouth…”

Though, of course, the Freedom of Speech claim is utter nonsense, especially in light of recent cases in the UK, where a man was prosecuted for something he had written on a T-shirt, disabled women are having their doors knocked at the dead of night by Police over Facebook postings, people being arrested for Twitter postings, and folk being arrested for heckling the Prime Minister.

Freedom?  Aye, for the rich and their peado friends maybe.

Lest we forget, Remembrance Sunday was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of The Great War, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Those who fought and died in the trenches thought they were fighting ‘The War To End All Wars’.  The Great War was supposed to be the Last War.  And this war was so horrific, so brutal, so pointless, that the general sentiment afterwards was of NEVER AGAIN.  That we have done it again, and again, and again and again, is a huge slap in the face to the millions who thought they were fighting in the last ever war.   Those that died in the mud of Flanders Field did not do so in the belief that their war was the first in a sequence.  The last 100 years have shown that they fought and died for nothing.  And that is not something to be proud of.

It seems obscene to me to take “pride” in events that have left millions dead and injured, and whole nations crippled and scarred.

Remembrance Sunday glosses over the details of various British military adventures, as if there is no distinction between WW2, Iraq, Kenya, WW1, the Falklands, Afghanistan or Ireland.  Ironically, Remembrance Sunday is not about remembering that our politicians regularly lie about war, or that war is mostly unnecessary, and evil.  It is only about remembering what is termed the “glorious dead”.  Details like causes and consequences can be forgotten.

And it is phrases like the “glorious dead” that also make me refuse to wear a red poppy.  Calling the dead ‘glorious’ serves only to glamorise and romanticise dying in war to our young.  It says, in effect, that it is a great, noble, and honourable thing to die in war.  Wilfred Owen railed against that thinking in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est, and Harry Patch, the last UK survivor of the trenches, went further, calling war nothing but “legalised mass murder”.

I wear a white poppy to show my distaste with war, with the misery it causes, with the lies that cause it, with it’s utter futility and pointlessness.  War is terrorism writ large, and nothing about it should ever generate pride.  I shall wear my white poppy with sorrow, sadness, and a fair grasp of what war has meant for generations, from World War One to Iraq.

… The white poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war, not just one nation’s dead, or one nation’s fallen soldiers; but all deaths in all wars, civilian and soldiers, past conflicts and present. The death of one individual in conflict has the same worth and sadness attached to it as any other, and the white poppy promotes that.

The red poppy does not. It promotes one nationality, it promotes one profession, it ignores civilians, and worst of all it encourages collective silence in questioning British involvement in current conflicts that continue to see casualties week in week out, from all sides.

And if you don’t like that, argue with me, politely 😉

Further reading –
Lest We Forget 2012, by John Andrews.

The Cult of The Fallen Soldier by Matthew Vickery.

White Poppies Are For Peace.

Thoughts on October 20th Anti-Cuts March, by John Frugal Lakey.

A posting by John Frugal Lakey.  Re-posted with permission.

“A couple of thoughts on yesterday in London.
Although it was a great day out, it was also a long day.  Up at 4am , drive to Plymouth to pick up Steve, and blag a free lift on the union bus to London.
The bus…, well, I think they sussed we weren’t union members, but put up with us, as we were there to support the protest and oppose the cuts.  They handed out blank banners and pens so we could make our own protest signs with prizes for best designs.   Needless to say we won the prize with our “yes Dave .. the peasants are revolting”  sign.  The prize was a xxl purple unison / union tee shirt.  Ah well, at least i can use it to wash the car.

Once in London we arrived a little too late to meet up with UK Uncut – as this was the plan – and a shout-out on Facebook for info didn’t return anything, so we went along with the march, and it was massive!!  I was quite impressed and easily 150,000 people attended.

The problem was, well, they seemed happy…?  And i questioned myself why they were there ?  It all seemed like a, well , a sponsored walk.   All the signs seemed to be the same.  Everyone seemed to dress the same,  all the same chants from the last few years, lots of use of the word `comrade`, `brother`, `sister` etc.  No one smoked, everyone was polite.  Even the police ??!!??   And, to be honest, it was a little, may i say, boring.. ?
We searched in vain for a little action, someone to do something a little out of the norm.  Maybe just a little little naughty, but, zip, nothing.  No-one stept out of line.   No sit in protests – nothing – it all seemed robotic.

As soon as they got to the end of the march at Hyde park, they turned around and went back to the buses.  Some stayed to listen to a few speeches from the likes of  Ed Miliband( who attended an austerity speech in a Rolls Royce !! i shit you not !) – but to be honest of what little i caught of the speeches it was more of the same, comrade, brother sister speeches going over recycled crap with no real positive outlook to the future.

Now, I like what the unions have done for the working person in the past, but i honestly think if they seriously want to be a voice in the future they need top step things up,  and BIG.  This government and the Labour party are not listening to you, they think you are pussies.  And yesterdays  march proved that to them.  While you marched the Tories held a day out at Ascot for the boys.  Ed rubberband turned up in a Rolls-Royce and you allow this shit to happen???  I think someone is taking the piss.

What I did come away with was a bigger understanding of apathy.  At the end of the day, people don’t really give a shit until it effects them personally, and then it will be too late.  We have 3 main parties in the UK and, well, there is no real difference in any of them.   All 3 will fuck you over in the interest of the corporates that pay them.

Would i go again??  Well maybe.   Just in the hope that a few of the people there might actually be a little pissed off and inspired enough to do something other than a sponsored walk.
In fact,  I’m tempted to try and go up for the 5th November action, so if anyone is looking for car-share and is up for it, give me a shout…..”