We have recently questioned the integrity of many journalists and pointed out how MSM distorts the truth and does not provide us with measured and balanced information about Israel’s assault on Gaza. In addition to the events that they do report and the opinions that are included, there are many other omissions.
In reports on the demonstrations all over the country, the impact of the protests has not been made clear, especially in our cities where the numbers have been huge and large areas brought to a standstill. MSM does not convey the strength of feeling or the level of support for Palestine. Nor has there been enough comment about the wide variety of people who protest, all ages, all backgrounds. There have been demonstrators in wheelchairs and on crutches. There have been MPs, including Labour MPs, and union leaders and representatives speaking out against the killing. There has been scant reference to the speeches and very few interviews with supporters. The opposition to the actions of the Israelis from Jewish people has not been adequately covered. For instance, there were the words of Jewish activist, Kate Colley, who was marching recently: “This is a genocide. There is no question about this. Yet we hear nothing but mealy-mouthed words of humanitarian crisis. It could stop tomorrow. It is not a crisis. It is a genocide.”
There are many other comments that are barely ever revealed. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has brought to light comments made in October. These provide further evidence that the relentless brutal assault on Gaza is not about Israel defending itself. `
“We are fighting animal people, and we are acting accordingly.”Yolav Galant, Israel Defence Minister.
“We will turn Gaza into an island of ruins.” Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We are dropping hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza. The focus is on destruction, not accuracy.” Daniel Haggari, Israel Defence Forces Rear Admiral, head of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.
“The only thing that needs to enter Gaza are hundreds of tons of explosives, not one ounce of humanitarian relief.” Itamar Ben Gvir, Israeli Minister in charge of police and arming settlers. Ben Gvir was barred as a teenager from serving in the Israeli Army because he was considered too extremist. He used to have a portrait of Baruch Goldstein hanging in his living room. Goldstein shot and killed 29 Palestinian Muslims and wounded 125 in the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron, West Bank, in 1994.
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has made it clear that he does not condone the slaughter and devastation: “The nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis. It is a crisis of humanity.” He has called for a ceasefire and said that Gaza is becoming “a graveyard for children”.
Islamophobia in the USA – and here in the UK
A 71-year old man stabbed to death a six-year-old boy in Chicago in October. He stabbed the child 26 times with a military-style knife and seriously wounded his 32-year-old mother, allegedly because of their religion and because of the ongoing situation in the Middle East. Police have charged him with murder and hate crime.
And at the end of last month, three young Palestinian men were shot and killed in Burlington in Vermont, close to the university campus. They were speaking Arabic and two were wearing keffiyehs.
There is understandably alarm that there is a growth in Islamophobia in the US. But we should be concerned too. Of course we deplore antisemitism and the incidents of antisemitism that have occurred here and been reported in the press, but we should not overlook or underplay the abuse and attacks that have been inflicted on Muslims in the UK. Islamophobic attacks have received less coverage, but ITV News has reported a 600% increase in incidents compared to this time last year, and these have included physical and verbal abuse and vandalism.
The Thought Police – Amnesty’s Report on Prevent
“The dragnet approach inevitably sweeps up innocent people and can destroy their lives and futures.” These are the words of Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive.
In a report published at last month, Amnesty has described Prevent as ‘broken’. The aim of Prevent was to protect us from terrorism by spotting people who might become radicalised and to intervene. However, most people who have come to Prevent’s attention are not a threat to society and required no intervention. Thousands of people who are innocent of any wrong-doing have felt the need to be unduly cautious as they fear being reported to Prevent, and this means an interference in people’s lives and freedoms.
Amnesty argues that Prevent can be racist and discriminatory and our marginalised and vulnerable people can be targeted. People who have never been involved in any criminal activity, some children, neurodivergent people and Muslims have often been considered at great risk of becoming drawn to terrorism. It is difficult for those who have been referred to mount a challenge and the reasons for referrals are often kept secret.
“Prevent is stripping people of their basic human rights and hampering their ability to live, work and speak freely. It is ineffective and a waste of public resources, where this resource can be better allocated.
It must be scrapped.”
Righting a past wrong – The guerrilla rewilders
Many of us have heard of guerrilla gardeners who grow plants such as vegetables and flowers in various places, possibly abandoned sites or spots that have not been looked after, transforming them into areas that are productive and aesthetic.
The guerrilla or ‘rogue’ rewilders, castigated as “a lawless eco-elite” by the Daily Telegraph in April, have taken a further step and have been breeding certain birds, butterflies and also beavers in secret and then freeing them in various parts of the UK. Last month the government said that trying to reintroduce lost species into our countryside is ‘not a priority’, and so this endeavour seems particularly important in the effort to prevent some of our native species becoming extinct. Many of these have been lost as a result of human activity, such as the fallout from our farming methods and hunting.
Derek Gow, a rewilder in the West Country, has for some time encouraged biodiversity. He has reintroduced water voles, storks and beavers. Among the animals he breeds are turtle doves, harvest mice and glowworms. He is also aiming to reintroduce wildcats to the Devon woods at some point in the future. He has commented recently: “The reality was that, when we were farming here, we killed everything,” he says. “We’re not going to change the world by doing what we do [now]. But we’re going to set an example of how it can be done.”
Some established conservation groups are most unhappy about these activities and are concerned that many of the releases are unlicensed and there could be complications such as the spread of disease. But the government is not acting. Sometimes established groups are slow and cautious, and more often than not we need people who are prepared to forge ahead and take action themselves.
The UAE, one of the world’s biggest producers of oil, is hosting COP28
Global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022. Despite almost three decades of COP, the world still appeared to be on track for global temperature increases of 2°. But now there is an alarming new report from the United Nations which warns that we are potentially facing a 3° temperature rise – a rise of 2.5° to 2.9° this century being extremely likely. There is only a 14% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°. If we are ever to save the planet, we need the corporate world, governments and all communities to act. And oil and gas producers must make meaningful commitments. This feels hardly likely when the UAE is hosting and the presidential choice to lead on the global climate talks is Sultan Al Jabar, CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Recently leaked documents have revealed that the UAE has been planning to take advantage of being host to strike fossil fuel business deals, though this is being hotly denied.
There are other reasons to feel a level of cynicism about COP28, which began on 30th November. COP is usually a lavish event, where many representatives arrive by private jet. Most of the representatives have been male, and previous meetings have not heard enough from indigenous peoples who protect so much of our biodiversity. And poorer nations often bear the brunt of the climate emergency and yet have not had enough representation, possibly because of the high cost of travel and accommodation.
However, there may be some positives. Representatives from 197 countries come together to discuss this crucial emergency. Some countries on the frontline are able to make their views known and can affect the decisions made. And there is an opportunity for mass demonstrations to take place.
But will COP really succeed in saving the planet so that it can continue to support life? Many of us feel that supporting climate campaigns is a more purposeful route and are behind the groups such as Just Stop Oil which are involved in direct action and have raised awareness all over the world. It feels increasingly clear that Greta Thunberg was correct in her comment two years ago about the discussions and achievements of world leaders: “Of course, we need constructive dialogue – but they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah, and where has that led us?”
OFSTED is ‘toxic’ – teachers have known this for a long time
The Beyond Ofsted inquiry has stated that Ofsted inspectors should not be in classrooms. Schools should evaluate themselves, and the inspectors should cease to have any direct contact with schools. The inquiry was chaired by former Schools Minister Lord Knight who said last week: “It’s created a culture of fear in our schools, and if anybody thinks that fear is the basis for sustained improvement, rather than support, then I think they’ve got it completely wrong.” There has been increasing concern about the negative, judgemental and fearful sense that Ofsted brings to school, especially since the suicide of head teacher Ruth Perry earlier this year. Her death is believed to have been triggered by the distress resulting from an Ofsted inspection.
Looking back in time – the Mỹ Trạch massacre in Vietnam
Many of us have heard of the My Lai Massacre which occurred in 1968 during the Vietnam War. US soldiers were searching for Viet Cong. They found none in the village of My Lai but nevertheless killed all the children and elderly people, around 500 unarmed villagers.
In the village of My Trach every year 29th November is a day of mourning. It is known as “Hatred Day” and commemorates a massacre which took place just over 20 years before Mai Lai, during the First Indochina War. This war was known as the Anti-French Resistance War in Vietnam and took place between 1946 and 1954. Although an agreement was reached in 1954, the situation deteriorated and escalated into the Vietnam War (1955–1975). On 29th November 1947, at the time of French rule in Vietnam, the French army carried out a massacre in My Trach. The French soldiers killed more than half of the villagers. Those slaughtered included 170 women and 157 children. The soldiers raped many of the women before killing them. The French lined the villagers up at the foot of a railway bridge and then massacred them with machine guns. More than 300 houses were burnt to the ground. The massacre was part of the French tactics of brutal behaviour towards the civilian population with the aim of hindering the Việt Minh resistance, which was operating as a guerrilla force against the neo-colonial occupation of the country.
It is invariably civilians who suffer the vast majority of casualties in times of war. Between 1990 and 2000, civilians accounted for 90% of the world’s four million war-related deaths. Civilians may be directly targeted, they may be ‘collateral damage’. Then there are deaths from poverty, from shortages of food and medical provision. We can see now in Gaza how the assault from the Israeli forces is destroying civilian life and has led to at least 15,242 deaths, 6,510 of these being children. Many wars involve extreme levels of sexual violence. The aftermath of war includes lifelong trauma, displacement, unemployment and huge levels of reconstruction, as large areas have to be rebuilt after homes, transport networks, schools and hospitals have been destroyed.
“The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.” Aldous Huxley