Category Archives: Foreign policy
Below a suitably sinister picture of Jeremy Corbyn and a very thin text in the Times, John Carlin (right) refers to Corbyn’s refusal to accept an invitation to attend an official dinner with Israel’s prime minister this week.
The position taken by the Labour leader is honest and consistent. Years ago he was arrested for demonstrating against Israel’s support for apartheid in South Africa.
Below: The West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit, seen through a barbed wire fence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to approve some hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before slowing settlement construction, two of his aides said Friday, despite Washington’s public demand for a total settlement freeze.
“Since 1967 Israel has established over a hundred settlements in the West Bank. In addition, there are dozens more settlement outposts that are not officially recognized by the authorities. These settlements were established on vast tracts of land taken from the Palestinians, in breach of international humanitarian law. The very existence of the settlements violates Palestinian human rights, including the right to property, equality, a decent standard of living and freedom of movement”: B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Jeremy Corbyn has consistently called for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people, supporting a two-state solution. Had he agreed to dine with a perpetrator, one can imagine the outcry and the charges brought against him.
B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories is one of many Israeli Palestinian organisations working for justice and peace.
Nelson Mandela, to whom Carlin (his biographer) is said to have paid an eloquent, affectionate tribute (here), was loyal to Palestinians and troubled by Israel’s support of the South African apartheid, which he worked to end.
On a 1999 trip to Israel Mandela said:
“Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank”.
(Read on here).
Broken Britain 8: EU nationals experience the maladministration which has affected the country’s poorest for decades
EU nationals’ deportation threat was an ‘unfortunate error’, according to Theresa May
The Home Office mistakenly sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal
One of these, academic Eva Johanna Holmberg has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade, but the letter from the Home Office said that ‘A decision has been taken to remove you from the UK.’ It added that if she did not leave the country of her own accord the department would give “directions for [her] removal” as “a person liable to be detained under the Immigration Act”.
Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. Several people have been told wrongly they should leave the country after trying to apply for permanent residency but this is the first time the Home Office has issued a letter telling people to leave.
Though the department called to apologise, the person who telephoned did not agree that the government would cover her legal costs of about £3,800.
The Financial Times reports that more than 120 MPs have challenged the rollout of Britain’s flagship “Universal Credit” benefits system, saying that delays are leaving poor households exposed.
Universal credit payments are withheld for the first week and then paid monthly in arrears. In practice, almost a quarter of claimants are waiting even longer — for up to 12-13 weeks. A DWP spokesperson said “Around 80% of payments are made on time and where they are not it is usually because a claimant commitment has not been signed or there is a verification issue over information”.
Citizens’ Advice has helped more than 30,000 people facing problems with the new system, and the Trussell Trust ((food banks) has seen a sharp rise in referrals for emergency food in areas where universal credit has been introduced.
But private enterprise flourishes: MP Ruth George said there was evidence that high-cost payday lenders were targeting areas where the universal credit system has just been introduced – and household debt is already 140% of GDP.
A Moseley reader’s answer: to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty, achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace process and put in place a government which will not cut benefits to its neediest citizens, elect a Corbyn-led government.
The Times of Israel, publishing this picture wrote, after the last election:
“Corbyn belied his radical reputation and proved a charismatic, affable candidate who resonated particularly among young voters. Relatively high turnout nationwide was widely attributed to his appeal . . . the left-winger is now in a position to remake more of the party in his own radical image. . . he was the anti-establishment candidate whose unapologetic conviction politics proved compelling in a Britain riven with inequality”. It continued:
“Corbyn is emphatically no lover of Israel”
But should have added that his concern for the poorest and for justice and fair play would not allow him to be partial in any negotiation.
Government policy is inconsistent and at odds with parliament:
- In February the red carpet was rolled out at No 10 to welcome Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister
- But during his March visitto Ramallah, Boris Johnson re-emphasised Britain’s long-standing support for the two-state solution and its position that illegal Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace.
- Last December Britain also supported UN security council resolution 2334,which reiterated the illegality of settlements.
- Yet the government chose to abstain on key resolutions devised to hold Israel to account for its human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and its illegal settlement building.
The Conservative government seems to be increasingly isolated in its unconditional support for Israel
Parliament and the main opposition parties have been highly critical of Israeli violations of international law, and have supported steps to censure Israel and empower the Palestinians. In 2014 parliament voted to recognise Palestine by a majority of 262. Richard Ottaway, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said the recent annexation of West Bank land by the Israeli government had angered him like nothing else in politics. He said he had close family connections with the generation that formed the Israeli state and had been a strong supporter of Israel in the six day war and subsequent conflicts but then told MPs: “The annexation of the 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago has outraged me more than anything else in my political life.”
A select Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the UK’s policy towards the Middle East peace process is currently underway.
The EU has criticised Israeli settlement policies, saying last February that Israel should “cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use and of denying Palestinian development. The UN, which has said that Israel should “rescind all policies and practices that lead to the forcible transfer of Palestinian Bedouin families”. The USA has said it is “concerned” about Israeli demolition policies in the West Bank.
But now we learn of the Israeli authorities destruction of terrapin cabins used as school buildings and other educational equipment. The area was sealed off, declared a military zone, and security forces used stun grenades to keep residents away. The Independent reports that last year also saw the highest number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures since rights groups began record-keeping. The Times of Malta comments that since 2011 friction has arisen over funding for schools which decline to teach an Israeli curriculum, which varies distinctly in the way it teaches the region’s history from a Palestinian one, adding:
“Some 55 schools in the West Bank are currently threatened with demolition and stop-work orders by Israeli authorities, with a lack of planning permits often cited as grounds for demolition. Critics of Israel counter by arguing that Palestinian permit requests in Area C – which makes up 60 per cent of the West Bank and is controlled by Israel – are routinely denied, leaving them with little option but to build illegally. In the first three months of this year there were 24 cases of direct attacks against schools”.
And Benjamin Yetanyahu faces a series of corruption investigations
The Israeli police have signed a state’s witness deal with Ari Harow, Mr. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and once one of his closest confidants. In a legal document pertaining to the negotiations with Mr. Harow, the police said in writing, for the first time, that Mr. Netanyahu was suspected of bribery, as well as fraud and breach of trust.
“Netanyahu is already a dead man walking, said Sima Kadmon, a political columnist, in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper – if the authorities were prepared to offer this witness, who was facing trial in another case, a lighter sentence.
Time for change: elect more humane governments in Britain, America and Israel.
To avoid escalation, frontline troops in the area do not generally carry weapons
In June a column of Chinese troops accompanied construction vehicles and road-building equipment moving south into what Bhutan considers its territory. Bhutan requested assistance from Delhi.
The Chinese and Indian troops reportedly clashed by ritualised “jostling” captured on Indian TV: bumping chests, without punching or kicking, in order to force the other side backwards.
Yesterday, the FT highlighted another strategy as Chinese troops hold a banner reading ‘You’ve crossed the border, please go back’ in Ladakh, India
The Press Trust of India, India’s national news agency, reported that troops on both sides suffered minor injuries in a scuffle on the banks of Pangong Lake, on India’s Independence Day holiday.
It began when Chinese troops twice attempted to enter territory claimed by India. The news agency said that Indian border police formed a chain to block Chinese troops, who responded by throwing stones. Indian forces responded in kind, and the melee lasted about half an hour before both sides pulled back, the agency said.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said: “As there is no commonly delineated boundary on the line of actual control, such a situation arises from time to time, and these are dealt with at the local level”.
The BBC reports today that after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it should be “very, very nervous” if it does anything to the US, Defence Secretary James Mattis warned that armed conflict with North Korea would be “catastrophic” and said diplomacy was bearing fruit. “The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results,” he said.
At a series of intergovernmental conferences starting in 2013, extensive evidence was presented of the enormous ‘humanitarian consequences’ should nuclear weapons ever be used again in war.
One study published by the organisation Article 36 was a detailed analysis of the impacts of a single modern nuclear warhead exploding over a typical city within an industrialised nation. The target was Manchester in the UK as a model medium-sized modern city. The yield of the warhead was 100,000 tonnes (100kT) – similar to many of the smaller warheads deployed by the US, Russia, France and UK.
The immediate impacts of blast from the explosion were estimated using the city’s night-time population. Very conservative casualty estimates were around 210,000 people injured – many very seriously – and around 80,000 killed immediately by blast. Many of those injured would likely die from their injuries. These figures do not take account of injuries due to flash burns arising from the fireball, severe fires or longer term health impacts. Similar casualty figures were found for a warhead exploding at ground level. This would slightly reduce the radius of blast and fire damage but instead would create a long lethal zone of radiation capable of killing and injuring people many miles downwind.
These results are based on widely accepted casualty models and are therefore reasonable minimum estimates of the impacts. A range of humanitarian organisations (including UN agencies and the Red Cross) have concluded that the detonation of just one such weapon near any centre of population anywhere in the world would overwhelm the health infrastructure, making an effective humanitarian response impossible.
One 800kT warhead dropped on a city like Manchester would mean an estimated 240,000 killed and 535,000 injured. On top of this, one would expect large numbers of deaths and injuries due to flash burns, severe fires and conflagrations or even a firestorm. One RS-20 missile with ten such warheads could destroy ten urban areas with total deaths of at least 2.4 million and injuries of at least 5.4 million.
It should also be remembered that these casualty figures would only apply to the (very numerous) medium-sized cities. Nuclear warheads would be much more devastating if targeted on larger cities, such as Shanghai (population: 24m), Moscow (12m), London (8.5m) or New York (8.5m). For example, Moscow would suffer an estimated 760,000 immediate deaths with 2.7m injured from one US Trident Mk-5 warhead. For Shanghai, estimated fatalities are 3m with 4.4m injured.
This devastation would not be the end of the story. The next section looks at the longer-term effects of a nuclear war, in particular, disruption to the global climate, the ozone layer, ecosystems and food supplies.
Exploding nuclear warheads over ‘combustible targets’ such as cities and factories would lead to widespread, intense fires that would inject massive amounts of smoke into the atmosphere leading to the formation of extensive high-altitude smoke clouds. These would cause cooling of the climate in a similar fashion to that observed after very large volcanic eruptions (for example, Krakatoa in 1883), but on a rather larger scale, threatening agriculture and hence food supplies across the world. Other effects included major damage to the ozone layer – which protects humans and ecosystems from damaging ultra-violet rays from the Sun – and the long-lived effects of radioactivity.
The use of greater numbers of larger Russian and US nuclear warheads would cause even higher levels of cooling and greater climate impacts lasting a decade or more. The 1,800 US and Russian warhead scenario would cause a long-lasting cold period with a peak global cooling of 4°C, whilst the full scale nuclear war would cause 8°C. Frosts, drought and monsoon disruption would severely impact crop production for several years.
Finally, levels of nitrogen oxide gas and soot particles created by the nuclear explosions would severely damage the Earth’s protective ozone layer. It has been estimated that 50% of the protective value would be lost. This would increase the levels of ground level ultra-violet radiation and skin cancers amongst any survivors. It would also severely affect waterborne life by damaging phytoplankton which are a key part of the oceanic and freshwater ecosystems and provide a vital food supply for all larger aquatic creatures.
The destruction of vital infrastructure such as health care, water, food and energy supply systems, and a complete disruption of communications and trade, the longer-term consequences for the Earth’s environment would present very severe challenges for all those who survived the initial detonations. Realistically, after a large scale nuclear war, one should imagine a brutalised, traumatised shattered society violently thrown back into a pre-industrial age. Assuming that humanity at large could survive this global catastrophe, any ‘recovery’ would surely be measured in hundreds of years. Even after what has formerly been considered a small scale nuclear war, the consequences would still be dire across the globe, far beyond the conflict zones.
It has to be regarded a shocking indictment of our ‘civilisation’ that current stockpiles of nuclear weapons are sufficient to cause such a global catastrophe.
The fully referenced report may be read here: http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/nuclear-weapons-beginner-s-guide-threats
As Boris Johnson rattles his sabre and peddles unsettling fantasies, a Chinese minister refers to Britain’s track record: bringing chaos and humanitarian disaster
On Thursday there was a joint meeting between British and Australian foreign and defence ministers, who discussed closer defence and trade co-operation as the UK prepares to leave the EU.
Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said that Britain was stepping up its commitment to the Asia-Pacific region following its dispatch of Typhoon aircraft to Japan and South Korea last year and plans to sail two new ‘vast, colossal’ aircraft carriers through contested Asian waters at a time of rising tensions between China and the US.
Jamie Smyth in Melbourne (FT) reports that Mr Johnson repeated this claim later in Sydney: “One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area,”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to come into service in 2020 but HMS Prince of Wales is not due until 2023. They are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Belief in selected tenets of the rules-based international system
Mr Johnson said the aim was to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system – freely ignored by UK<USA and allies when bombing civilians in several regions – and the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital to world trade.
Will Boris be foreign secretary long enough to implement this – or will he be long gone?
Euan Graham, an analyst at the Lowy Institute think-tank, said Mr Johnson’s commitment to Asian waters was unlikely to take effect until the early 2020s when the carriers would be ready to sail to the region.
The (‘blond British wombat’) foreign secretary told The Australian newspaper that legal certainty in the South China Sea was important and that Britain had a role to play in the region that would be welcomed by many: “People want the involvement of a country that sticks up for the rules-based international system, that is prepared to deploy its military in the area”.
On Friday CNN reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region. Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance.”
Following our tenth entry: MP Andrew Gwynne, who successfully introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act and worked long and hard to get justice for those who received contaminated blood through the NHS, we turn to Botswana, after reading an obituary by Emily Langer in the Independent. Her subject was Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.
A summary with added links and photographs
Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor and became a successful farmer.
He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari Desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.
After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.
The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.
He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’.
After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.
Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”
After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.
He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.”
A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia..
As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”
It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.
Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”
Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?
There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.
A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.
But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.
“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”
Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.
He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.
Co-existence in Iran
In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.
As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:
“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.