The EU must use its position to defend Gaza


Just written to my MEPs, all of them, on Gaza…

Dear Rebecca Taylor, Linda McAvan, Timothy Kirkhope, Edward McMillan-Scott and Godfrey Bloom and Andrew Brons,

I write to you on the dreadful and continuing situation in Gaza.

Despite Israel’s defenders, the current escalation around Gaza has nothing to do with security and will increase insecurity in the region. Israel is publicly threatening to escalate the situation further even with a ground invasion. Israeli authorities are claiming to have killed 95 people. This includes 9 members of one family, including several children.

The EU should use its position in this.

The EU is the largest multi-lateral donor to the Palestinian Authorities and also Israel’s largest trading partner.

I ask you to call for an arms embargo. No-one should be selling arms in the area, not to any side, nor to linked countries. Nor should we be buying arms there, as Israel is an arms producer.

The EU-Israel Association Agreement has a Human Rights clause. I ask you to call for this to be invoked and to suspend the Agreement.

People have a right to live in peace, free from attack. Children should be able to sleep through the night free from air-raids, sonic booms or rocket attacks.

Attacking civilian populations is a crime: there should be no impunity – whoever is responsible.

Finally please call for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resume. These cover a longer-term ceasefire, opening the Rafah crossing and helping to boost the economy of Gaza – which needs it given a 30% unemployment rate there.

Any progress has now been halted – again.

The international community must take action. It is not enough to simply secure a ceasefire.

Yours sincerely,


They’re not heroes. They’re victims.

Whenever we idolise or demonise there’s a problem.

We demonise Hitler and so we perpetuate a deadly enemy. When we want a new deadly enemy we resurrect the image of Hitler, and use it for Saddam or Gaddafi or, currently, Assad. These modern enemies (ours, though not others) aren’t in Hitler’s league, but it makes it much more easy to attack them and justify it to mass populations (and ignore whoever else suffers or dies).

But demonising Hitler, too, does injustice to the truth, to the history of what happened. We must understand how Hitler came to power in Germany, the poverty, the unemployment, the international debt oppression, the idolising of the state, the Aryan people, the nationalism, the racism and hate encouraged against various groups. Or it will happen again. It could happen here. It could happen elsewhere, even with our nation’s help.

Others we put on a pedestal. One of the easiest ways to justify war is to idolise the warriors, the fighters, the soldiers, those who kill and die, suffer and cause suffering.

The soldiers will say the same! Yes, there may be some who definitely carried out some heroic action (on whichever side!), but they don’t regard themselves as heroes either. Almost universally. Rather they know the reality of war: murder, suffering and death, like Harry Patch below.

This is important.

Especially after Iraq.

They’re not heroes. They’re victims. They die, they get wounded, disabled. Worse – they do that to others. The vast majority of victims of war today are civilians, 0ver 80%. But the soldiers are victims in other ways too:  the things they do stay with them, maybe consciously, always subconsciously, always lifelong. That’s why, of just the soldiers, more of them kill themselves after whichever war, during ‘peace’, than died during the conflict. Certainly true of Vietnam, and the Falklands, and on its way to becoming true of Iraq and Afghanistan, as the suicides continue.

Kissinger called military men “dumb, stupid animals”. There just to do his bidding, the orders of the powerful, the elite, the Bushes, the Blairs, the Obamas and Camerons. Einstein said, Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

Our hierarchical societies are pyramids of sacrifice. We sacrifice our blood, and the blood of enemies, in order to what? ‘Make the world a better place?’ We so easily trot out some self-justifying description. Or we ask any critic, Well what would you do then, let the enemy win?  But we studiously ignore the lives wrecked, or the advantages gained by the rich and powerful, in territory, resources, advantage over other countries. Oil. And we fall for what the same rich and powerful tell us  through prowar propaganda from the media.

Kissinger’s right while any soldier thinks his only calling is to follow orders.

Because the soldier’s foremost duty is peace. It has to be. It’s the only way it can be ultimately justified. But this means we have to train them in the ways of peace, not just to kill! International law, Kellogg-Briand, Nuremberg, the Geneva Conventions, the treatment of prisoners, the rejection of torture. And, ultimately, the refusal to start a war. No matter how much the Blair’s of this world lie to us, to them.

Harry Patch, war is murder

Harry Patch, war is murder

Why I wear the White Poppy, not the Red Poppy

Repost from Richard Jackson –

I would wear a red poppy if it was a symbol of remembrance for all the victims of war, and not just the ones who did the killing. By excluding the non-military victims of war from remembrance, the red poppy upholds a moral hierarchy of worthy and unworthy victims: the heroic soldier who is worthy of respect and official commemoration, and the unworthy, unnamed civilians killed or maimed by the heroic soldier who remains unacknowledged and unremembered. This validation of those who wage war and the moral hierarchy of victims is a central part of the cultural architecture which upholds the continuing institution of war in our society. It is a central part of what makes war possible. When the red poppy comes to be associated with an honest public acknowledgement of all the people killed by our soldiers, enemy soldiers and civilians alike; when it symbolizes our sorrow and regret for all the victims of war, not just a chosen few; then I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it did not function to hide the truth and obscure reality – if it wasn’t a way of enforcing a particular kind of collective memory which is actually designed to forget uncomfortable realities; if it wasn’t intimately tied up with a whole series of myths and untruths about heroic sacrifice and necessary violence in war. The truth is that war is cruel, bloody, and inglorious, and that the soldiers we remember are there to kill and maim fellow human beings, and to die screaming for their mothers. The truth is that when we send soldiers to kill others, we consign those who survive to mental and moral injury; a huge proportion of them will attempt suicide in one way or another after they return home. The truth is that many of our wars are nothing to do with freedom, liberty, or democracy; they are often illegal, pointless, or predatory. When the red poppy is associated with an honest debate on the reality and morality of our wars; when it acknowledges the truth about the horror of war and its often pointless slaughter of our best and brightest; then I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if its fund-raising and symbolism had the true interests of the military personnel it purports to support at heart. The fact is that the best interests of every military person would be to never have to kill or face death or mutilation ever again, and certainly not for the squalid purposes most often dreamed up by our venal and vainglorious politicians. The funds raised by the red poppy should be used to work for the end of all war, not to make up for the short-coming in state support for military personnel or to prepare the nation for the further slaughter of our fellow citizens in future wars.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t a way for the state to offset the costs of war so that it can engage in ever more military adventures. In truth, the state sends the nation’s young people to war and then refuses to spend the necessary money on supporting them when they return home. Buying a red poppy is in effect a second tax for funding war, as it allows the state to spend the money it should have spent on rehabilitation on buying new weapons and training new soldiers. Instead of buying a red poppy, we should demand that the state pay the full support and rehabilitation of all soldiers who need it out of the taxes we have already paid to the military. If this means that there is not enough money for the next military adventure because we are taking care of the last war’s victims, then this is how it should be. It should not be easy for governments to take the decision to go to war; they must pay the full cost. If the red poppy came to symbolize a challenge to government to properly care for service personnel; if it was a means to really question the decision to go to war, instead of implicitly supporting every war regardless of its morality; I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t used socially to enforce an unthinking patriotism, and to punish and discipline those who would question the morality of war or the values of militarism. Those who fervently promote the red poppy often assert that the soldiers we remember fought for our freedom, but this does not include the freedom to question military values or public displays of violent patriotism. Anyone should be allowed to refuse to wear a red poppy in public on the basis of conscience without being questioned or looked down upon, or even to wear a different coloured poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t part of a broader militarism in our society which makes war more likely, rather than less; if it wasn’t bound up with national narratives of heroism and the legitimacy and rightness of military force; and if it wasn’t implicitly supportive of military values. If the red poppy came to symbolize opposition to war and support for peaceful values; I would consider wearing it.

I wear the White Poppy because it is an unambiguous commitment to peace, the end of all war and opposition to militarism. The Red Poppy may have once been part of a commemorative culture shortly after the First World War that was aimed at working towards ensuring that no one ever had to experience the horrors of war again; but this meaning has long since vanished, replaced instead by an insidious military patriotism. The White Poppy is now the main symbol of a commitment to remember all the victims of war, to tell the truth about war, to work to ensure that no soldier ever has to suffer its horrors again, and to make peace the central value of our culture, instead of militarism.

(You can order a white poppy to wear from: