I've just been reading an Amnesty International report about the continuing and frequent shooting into refugee (yes - REFUGEE) camps of barrages of teargas canisters and the incredible suffering this is causing to the thousands of vulnerable and defenceless displaced Palestinians by Israeli government military forces.
It is unbelievable that any country could consider that another group of human beings should be subjected to such cruel and inhuman treatment, especially a nation that has, in the past, been subject to that themselves. And, remember, this is being perpetrated upon cramped, heavily populated camps provided for the Palestinian refugees by Lebanon and Jordan
I am providing you with a link to this report at the end of my post but I must warn you that it is an upsetting read.
After reading it you will no doubt ask yourself, among other things, how can this happen in today's world? What can we do? What can I do? How can the community of nations witness such atrocity and crime and allow it to continue?
It is certain that there are no easy answers to these deep and disturbing questions.
In the above case, it is principally the government of Israel which is, at worst, instigating, at best, allowing, these injustices to continue.
Then, of course, those questions remain.....
Let's look at those aspects about which a country's regime may be most sensitive: One of the most important ones will be its image - its international reputation - among the family of nations. This is where technology, the internet, social media, can exert an influence. If a regime can operate behind closed doors, abusing or discriminating against a group of its people - and no-one knows or finds out about it, it can carry out such crimes with impunity - without critcism or sanction. If, on the other hand, other nations, governments, find out about them, there can potentially be strongly detrimental effects. These can be in the form of international criticism in the media, reluctance by people to want to travel to, emigrate to, work in, trade with, share research, technology with, and buy produce or goods made in that country.
Such criticisms can have a very significant impact upon the economy and political health of the country in question and cause it - in the best case - to change the way it behaves towards the people it is oppressing or abusing.
So when you or I, as bystanders or observers, are confronted with such disturbing examples of the abuses of government power, and ask ourselves what we, either individually or collectvely, can do to address them, it is good to remember that there are approaches and strategies that do and can have effects on the seemingly impenetrable and invincible powers of national governments.
I want to provide a link to the Amnesty report I referred to at the beginning and I urge you to have a good look at it. Although it pulls no punches, I'm sure you will feel indignant and motivated by it to think of what may be done to shed a light on the deplorable situation the people of Palestine have endured for so long.
The link contains the word nakba, a commemoration by the Palestinians, of the 1948 war which led to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Saturday, 2 May 2020
As those of you who follow my rantings will know I've agonised for ages about the plight of the people who live in the land of Palestine.
When I discivered that the new Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, had in the runup tp the LP leadership contest, accepted a significant donation from a prominent lobbyist for the Israeli government, I felt I had to challenge him about it. Hence, I've enclosed a copy of my letter to him. I don't know if he will turn out to be an apologist for the atrocious way in which the government of Israel and its sophisticated military machine have acted towards the people of Palestine but I sincerely hope not. It's heartening to see, on social media, increasing calls for the Israeli government to be held to account for "crimes against humanity" in regard to Palestine. Just as the crimes committed against civilians in the Balkan war in Bosnia-Herzegovina were exposed and adjudicated in the International War Crimes Court in The Hague in the Netherlands, so should the many examples of Israeli atrocities in Palestine and those who sanctioned, planned and perpetrated them be similarly brought to book.
As a songwriter, I have sought to address some of these difficult issues through the medium of songs I have written about them. Many people will, understandaby, consider that writing a song about a complex and serious issue such as this one runs the risk of trivialising it - and I can understand that point - it's challenging to strike the precarious balances between being forthright and truthful, while at the same time raising the awareness of the listener without alienating him or her. It's my conviction that the combination of music and words has a unique way of finding a path into people's hearts, that makes me persevere and continue to put my feelings and conclusions across in song.
I'l try to keep you posted about Keir Starmer's response - if I get one - here's the letter:
28 April 2020.
Sir Keir Starmer,
Labour Party Leader
As a Labour Party member, I was a strong supporter of your bid for leadership of the party after Jeremy stood down. However I’m afraid I have been very disappointed since the revelation that not only did you accept a large donation from a pro-Israel lobbyist but you kept that fact from us during the leadership election. One could be forgiven for suspecting that such lack of transparency suggests that you felt acknowledging the donation may have prejudiced the leadership campaign result.
I must admit I cannot be certain about your position as regards Israel’s attitude and treatment of Palestinians. Perhaps you are deliberately maintaining an ambiguous one so as not to offend? If that were the case it would not chime with the impression of someone with the courage of his/her convictions.
I read yesterday, in a report about increasing attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israeli civilians and soldiers, including incursions onto Palestinian land where crops were being grown and using these incursions to increase settlement areas and, further, causing serious injuries to the Palestinian civilians requiring their hospitalisation. Often these incidents include the Palestinians being shot at, injured and maimed with Israel authorities doing nothing to prevent such harassments and human rights violations.
It is widely known that your work as a lawyer included human rights issues. While I would accept that in your work as a politician you are subject to powerful pressures and influences which make standing up for your beliefs in justice and equality more difficult, it also makes upholding those principles more important.
You have made much of the fact that you intend to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as a priority, now that you are Leader. Please remember that, in spite of vested interests claiming otherwise, actual anti-Semitism is nothing more than discriminating against a person for no other reason than that that person is Jewish. It is not anti-Semitic to express criticism of Israel for the many crimes, human rights violations and injustices the Israeli government and authorities have perpetrated and continue to inflict on the Palestinians.
That is the issue that has dogged and confused this debate from the start. You would be doing the matter and the confusions it has generated a huge service if you could have the courage to be forthright about it and finally lay it to rest, even though I accept that may entail some political risk.
In closing may I say that I continue to view the future with you as leader of our Party with hope and optimism. Needless to say it would give me huge satisfaction and pleasure if I knew you had personally read my letter.
I wish you well in your new job and success in your efforts to make this a better world and a better country.
Needless to say, I would be thrilled if Keir Starmer were to respond positively to my letter.
I'm afraid, though, that I would then have to raise with him the issue of the suffering of the Uighur Muslims, an ethnic group who are enduring unbelievably cruel and unjust treatment at the hands of the CCP -the Chinese Communist Party and government in China. It has been likened to (and, in my view, fairly) the treament of Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis during WW2. Those of you who would like to know more, should find a document called
the "Fleet Street Letter" , monthly alert, issue 2510, recently published. It's a harrowing read, I warn you, and difficult to believe that in this day and age, is happening.
But, friends, that's enough for now. So sorry you, had to wait so long for more from me.
I'll try to do better from now on.....