It’s not always easy to choose which events to include in the News Digest. There are many stories around the world that are overlooked by our MSN or need additional emphasis or comment.
We have never sat back complacently and believed that all was right with the world, but It is difficult to do anything without images from Gaza haunting our waking hours, pervading our sleep and making us feel powerless. The catastrophe in the Middle East has created a major shift, and it feels impossible to live the kind of lives that we were living before. Yet other events need to be highlighted and, now and then, there are happenings to report on that are more positive and give us hope.
Palestine – items overlooked by our MSM
Some facts, figures and comments will never be reported in our media. One of the main lines which our media sticks to is the misleading information that everything that has happened in the last few weeks is as a result of 7th October. Our politicians on the whole do not acknowledge that the colonial occupation by Israel, enforced by extreme violence, goes back decades. They fail to discuss the context or history that has led to the current slaughter in Gaza.
Unlike the Labour leadership, Crispin Blunt, Tory MP for Reigate, appears to know what he is talking about. He has also been prepared to speak out in defiance of the comments of both his party and Labour: “If you are encouraging a party to undertake a war crime you become complicit in that crime itself. And it’s absolutely clear now that what is happening in Gaza does amount to a war crime”. He posted this on 15th October on the site that was once called Twitter.
Jeremy Corbyn pointed out a week ago: “There are more trucks delivering food to supermarkets on a single road in my constituency than there are for 2.2 million people in Gaza.”
Many Jews are opposed to Zionism and the occupation of Palestine. On 22nd October, Torah Judaism, a group of Jews united against Zionism, reported on X (formerly Twitter) that there was a march of courageous Jews in support of Palestine in Mea Shearim, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile “Starmer is set on making Britain complicit in what could easily become a genocide.” These are the words of David Hearst who has been commenting regularly in Middle East Eye. In an article on 23rd October, he analyses Starmer’s leadership, his failures, his alienation of Muslim party members and councillors and the likely loss of the Muslim vote all over the country. Starmer has failed to recognise the strength of feeling against his stance on Gaza.
Farmers in a West Bank village threatened by settlers
Villagers who live and farm in a village in the Northern West Bank have received a letter written in Arabic from local illegal Jewish settlers: “To the families of our enemy in the West Bank. You wanted war, now wait for the big Nakba. Hamas and Daesh are criminals who want to destroy our land. They made a big mistake. They are killing our children, women and old people. Your are going to get another 48 Nakba. This is your last chance to escape to Jordan. If you won’t go we will kick you out of our holy land which was given to us by God. Take your items and run to Jordan. We are coming.”
More and more settlers have been encroaching over the last year and threatening the inhabitants of West Bank villages. They have weapons and bulldozers. Despite everything they are up against, the villagers have worked so hard to encourage their villages to prosper, to farm, grow olives and build a supportive community, and to be a decent place for their kids to grow up in. They are terrified.
Just Stop Oil doesn’t just stop here
Just Stop OIl is not only UK based; it is part of the A22 Network. In a recent newsletter from JSO, the A22 Network explains: “We are the A22 Network. Including Just Stop Oil, we are ten projects in ten countries. Ten communities of ordinary citizens who are stepping up to protect their rights and demand that their governments stop the greatest harm that the world will ever witness – the continuation of the carbon economy.”
Our media does not report on the growing cooperation between groups in different parts of the world, and few have heard of the A22 Network. They are building a powerful unity between different organisations dedicated to fighting climate change and giving life on Earth a chance.
Last month there were waves of protest across Austria and successful pressure applied to the government in the Netherlands relating to support for fossil fuels. In France, Dernière Rénovation’s demand for energy saving measures and the reduction of emissions, were agreed by the French National Assembly and Senate. The protest group put pressure on Macron’s government over this important matter this autumn, but Macron vetoed the scheme. In addition the movement is not focussing on the single, though of course vitally important, issue of the climate, but it is also supporting protests against systemic racism, police violence and social inequalities in France. Many of us, including those of us at Critical Mass, have been arguing that we need this kind of unity, so that, wherever possible, those of us fighting for a better world join with other groups and we support each other’s causes.
In Germany the movement is proud to be “loud, direct and diverse”. They sprayed paint on the Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz, and disrupted the Berlin Marathon.
In the UK there was a focus in September on the “peaceful and direct support” for Defend our Juries, which was mentioned in the News Digest of 1st October. The UK government and police are trying to intimidate protestors by investigating them for interfering with the legal process, which can mean life in prison. But courageous protestors of all ages and backgrounds are not deterred.
There have been actions in the US, in Norway and in Switzerland, where Renovate Switzerland entered the stage during a concert. The conductor, Valdimir Jurowski, showed impressive solidarity with the group and insisted on the audience listening to what they had to say.
In Sweden protestors blocked two motorways, organised a slow walk with 145 participants and closed one of Stockholm’s motorway bridges for an hour and a half. “To us, this shows the power that lies in peaceful civil resistance”.
One of the protestors in Sweden, writing from a cell where they were detained, commented: “I refuse to be another adult who fails younger generations. It is ordinary people who must step forward and give hope to others so they can see we are not powerless. It is us who are democracy, all of us who live and breathe. We need to peacefully resist the greatest evil that exists. We need to do it now.”
Malawi no longer a safe haven for refugees
Malawi has for long prided itself as a country which welcomes refugees and has guarded its reputation for decades.
One of the largest refugee camps in Africa, Dzaleka, is situated in Malawi. It has provided a home for those who have fled from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Burundi. Many refugees have made a success of joining communities outside the camp. Some have set up businesses which provide employment for local people; some have married Malawian citizens and refugees’ children have settled in local schools.
President Lazarus Chakwera, almost definitely in a move to impress disenchanted Malawian citizens and win votes in the next election, declared earlier this year that refugees who live in Malawi’s communities must return to the camp. They are being forced back by the military, sometimes enduring a stay in prison on the way. Ashley Simango, in an article published in al Jazeera at the end of last month, revealed that some refugees have had their passports and identification documents confiscated and there are plans to deport some who are fleeing their home countries because of alleged criminal activities. One of these countries is Rwanda, beloved by Suella Braverman, which she has praised as a save haven for those who have fled across continents. Such deportations would be breaking international law.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has condemned the forced relocations. Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Southern Africa considers “the existing structures in Dzaleka refugee camp are already stretched to the limit” and the increase in numbers will “result in immense human suffering and create a new dependency on humanitarian assistance”.
Redonda recovers – biodiversity restored in record time
This autumn there was an announcement from the government of Antigua and Barbuda that it had established the Redonda Ecosystem Reserve. Work on Redonda, which covers nearly 74,000 acres of land and sea, began in 2016. At that time, as reported by Mongabay, Redonda “resembled the moon’s surface: a dusty, debris-covered, barren terrain”.
Redonda was used for mining guano for fertiliser until the First World War, when it was abandoned to the invasive rats and goats established there. Removing invasive species is not a new technique in conservation and can lead to an 88% success rate in restoring biodiversity on island habitats.
The transformation of Redonda took place astonishingly quickly. Grasses and trees started to grow again and a number of sea birds returned to recolonise the island. Particularly remarkable was the thirteenfold increase in the population of a critically endangered species, the Redonda ground dragon.
Hopefully the successful work on Redonda will act as a model elsewhere. There are many other small islands in the Caribbean which are overpopulated by invasive species and could be similarly restored.
Shock election result – Mateusz Morawiecki voted out in Poland
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s nationalist Law and Justice government (PiS) has lost power in Poland after eight years of extremely hard line conservative rule. Morawiecki undermined democracy and democratic institutions and made sure that various official posts were filled with PiS loyalists, They took control of the public broadcasting system and changed a number of social policies, introduced harsh abortion laws and crested hostility to the LGBT community, who are celebrating the defeat.
Donald Tusk, previous Prime Minister and EU Council President, aims to work with his centrist coalition to restore democratic rights and improve relations with Brussels. Tusk is no revolutionary of course, but the departure of Morawiecki will be welcomed by many.
Looking back in time – Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)
The 1832 Reform Act denied women the right to vote. There followed a hard-fought campaign which lasted for decades. In 1897 a variety of different groups which had been campaigning both locally and nationally came together as the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). They relied mainly on public meetings and presenting petitions to parliament.
One hundred and twenty years ago, in 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester. The WSPU was the militant wing of the British suffrage movement. They organised public meetings and marches but also pursued more radical disruptive methods, direct action and civil disobedience. There were also some attacks on property. In Emmeline Pankhurst: My Own Story, written in 1914, Pankhurst declared: “Now our task was to show the Government that it was expedient to yield to the women’s just demands. In order to do that we had to make England and every department of English life insecure and unsafe.” They took more extreme measures because the government would not listen. They broke windows, started fires and introduced chemicals into postboxes. About five people were killed and more than 20 injured. They were referred to as ‘terrorists’ in several quarters. If imprisoned, a number of the women went on hunger strike. Their protests ceased when the First World War broke out in 1914, but it was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote, giving them the same voting rights as men had at the time.
Our current government could learn from previous administrations that failed to listen to activists campaigning for equality and fair treatment. Organisations such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have not only been ignored and dismissed by those who wield power and create laws to benefit corporate greed, but have suffered unjust persecution and grossly unreasonable prison sentences because they are trying to save the planet. They have blocked roads and delayed traffic and at times spread orange powder and paint. No one has been harmed. Palestine Action has also taken direct action, and their activists are being dealt with extremely harshly, but again have harmed no one. They are trying to prevent further slaughter caused by the global arms trade. The government has not yet had to face a group which aims to “make England and every department of English life insecure and unsafe”. But they may.
Image by Radical Tea Towel: https://radicalteatowel.co.uk/