Thursday, 29 April 2021

Human Rights Watch determines Israel is committing apartheid and persecution


In welcoming  news Human Rights Watch, a leading organization monitoring rights abuses worldwide, has just released a scathing new  report  "A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution on Tuesday, drawing on years of documentation,and case research from different sources, shows us Israel's oppressive policies against Palestinians., which is bound to cause powerful ripples that will be felt throughout the solidarity movement for Palestinian rights, freedom and liberation. 
The 213 page report which is accompanied  by graphics co-produced with Visualisinf Palestine, details the ways in which Israel is intentionally pursuing  the domination of Jews over Palestinians in all parts of the land, as well as in the diaspora, regardless of their legal status, It argues that the policies and actions o the Israeli government against the Palestinian people amount to systematic apartheid and unlawful persecution that  must be stopped.. 
The report reads, " Every day,a person is born in Gaza into an open-air prison, in the West Bank without civil rights, in Israel with an inferior status by law, and in neighboring countries effectively condemned to lifelong refugee status, like their parents and grandparents before them, solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish.
 While the term "apartheid" was first used in relation to South Africa's racist segregation of non-white citizens, the report said it was now a "universally recognized legal term" that described crime against humanity under international law.
An apartheid system is defined by "an effort to maintain domination by one racial group over another, a context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group (and) inhuman acts," HRW said.
The accusation of persecution is based on "the widespread confiscation of privately owned land, the effective prohibition on building or living in many areas, the mass denial of residency rights, and sweeping, decades-long restrictions on the freedom of movement and basic civil rights," the publication says.
HRW also noted that the report is not comprehensive, as it does not include all human rights abuses in the areas, including those committed by armed groups or Palestinian authorities.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, had this to say about the report:
"Apartheid is the reality today for millions of Palestinians, and its incumbent upon the international community to recognize the reality for what it is, and have the courage to fight apartheid."
Israel, for its part, rejected the findings. Its foreign ministry dismissed the report's claims as "both preposterous and false."
 But in order to maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. This institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.
 Israeli authorities have  continued to commit a range of abuses against order to maintain domination, systematically discriminating against Palestinians. This institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.
 In addition to finding Israel guilty of the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution the report makes several recommendations including for states to consider sanctions as well to condition military aid to Israel and HRW called on the ICC prosecutor to “investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated” in apartheid and persecution. ( Last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) had already announced it would investigate war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has said it will not cooperate with the probe.)
 The United Nations must also take action by establishing an envoy position focused on ending persecution and apartheid worldwide, and businesses operating in the OPT must stop contributing to any actions that facilitate the deprivation of Palestinian rights such as the demolition of their homes.
 The reports findings would not be possible without the decades of struggle and resistance of Palestinians, who continued to resist even as the international community remained silent.  But what we are witnessing could well be the beginning of the end of Israel's impunity for the systematic oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people.It also represents a milestone for the wider  movement.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, the same year it annexed east Jerusalem. Since then, Jewish settlers in both areas have absorbed increased amounts of land. Palestinians in east Jerusalem and across much of the West Bank are regularly denied building permits, while Jewish home construction has steadily grown.
Israel's settlement policy in the occupied Palestine is illegal under international law, particularly international humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, which relates to the protection of civilians in time of war. Palestinians should have the same rights and freedoms as anyone else, not to  have their rights denied or be treated differently because of their ethnicity or religion.
 HRW thankfully  is the latest in a lineup of top human rights groups, including Israeli NGOs Yesh Din and B’Tselem, that have publicly stated in recent months that Israel is perpetrating apartheid and maintaining a regime of Jewish supremacy. They join a growing movement, led for years by Palestinians and allies, that has been working to debunk mainstream myths about Israel’s military occupation and redefine the nature of the oppression Palestinians face on the ground.
Ultimately, HRW is saying that apartheid is not some conditional, future scenario , that threshold has been crossed. Apartheid is  the reality today for millions of Palestinians, and it’s incumbent upon us the international community to recognize the reality for what it is, and have the courage to fight apartheid.
 We can do this by supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a non-violent initiative, supported by 170   Palestinian civic groups  that encourages individuals, nations and organisations to censure Israel's consistent violations of international law and human rights standards through various boycotts.Now that one of the world;s foremost human rights organisations has detailed how Israel's actions cross the legal threshold of the crimes against humanity of apartheid, will it still be considered antisemitic to say so, It's time to Make Apartheid History once and for all and to dismantle the walls that maintain it.  You can read and share the report below.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

The Death of fascist Benito Mussolini

The death of Benito Mussolini, the deposed Italian fascist dictator, occurred on 28 April 1945 in the final days of World War11  in Europe, when he was summarily executed by Italian partisans in the small  village of Guilino di Mezegra in northern Italy.
Born July 29,1883, in Dovia di Predappio. he was an intelligent and inquisitive from an early age. In fact, he set out to be a teacher but soon decided that career wasn't for him. Still, he voraciously read the works of great European philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Georges Sorel, Benedict de Spinoza, Peter Kropotkin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx,
Mussolini had initially been a member of the Socialist Party in 1900 and had begun to attract wide admiration. In speeches and articles he was extreme and violent, urging revolution at any cost, but he was also well spoken. Mussolini held several posts as editor and labor leader until he emerged in the 1912 Socialist Party Congress. He became editor of the party's daily paper, Avanti, at the age of twenty-nine. His powerful writing injected excitement into the Socialist ranks. In a party that had accomplished little in recent years, his youth and his intense nature was an advantage. He called for revolution at a time when revolutionary feelings were sweeping the country.
However in March 1919 Mussolini founded another movement , the nationalist Fasci di Combattimento, named after the Italian peasant revolutionaries, or ' Fighting Bands,' from the 19th century. Commonly  known as the Fascist Party, Mussolini's new right-wing organization advocated Italian nationalism, had black shirts for uniforms, and launched a program of terrorism and intimidation against it's leftist opponents, it won the favor of the Italian youth, and Mussolini waited for events to favor him. 
The elections in 1921 sent him to Parliament at the head of thirty-five Fascist deputies; the third assembly of his movement gave birth to a national party, the National Fascist Party, with more than 250 thousand followers and Mussolini as its uncontested leader. In October 1922 Mussolini successfully marched into Rome, Italy. He now enjoyed the support of key groups (industry, farmers, military, and church), whose members accepted Mussolini's solution to their problems: organize middle-class youth, control workers harshly, and set up a tough central government to restore "law and order." Thereafter, Mussolini attacked the workers and spilled their blood over Italy. It was the complete opposite of his early views of socialism. 
King Emmanuel 111, who had little faith in Italy's parliamentary government, asked Mussolini to form a new government. Initially, Mussolini was appointed prime minister at the head of a three-member Fascist cabinet, cooperated with the Italian parliament, but aided by his brutal police organization he soon became the effective dictator of Italy, In 1924, a Socialist backlash was suppressed , and in January 1925 a Fascist state was officially proclaimed ,with  Mussolini as 11 Duce, or 'The Leader.'
Once in power, Mussolini took steps to remain there. He set general elections, but they were fixed to always provide him with an absolute majority in Parliament.   He suspended civil liberties, destroyed all opposition, left wing parties were suppressed  and in 1929 imposed an open dictatorship ( absolute rule), At the same time Mussolini also carried out an extensive public-works programme and the fall in unemployment made him a popular figure in Italy.
In 1928 John Heartfield  created The Face of Fascism  a montage that dealt with the rule of Benito Mussolini which spread all over Europe with tremendous force. "A skull-like face of Mussolini is eloquently surrounded by his corrupt backers and his dead victims".

Italy controlled Eritrea and Somalia in Africa but had failed several times to colonize neighbouring Ethiopia.. When Mussolini came to power he was determined to show the strength of his regime by occupying the country. In October 1935 Mussolini sent in General Pietro Badglio and the Italian Army into Ethiopia.
The League of Nations  condemned Italy's aggression and in November imposed sanctions. This included an attempt to ban countries from selling arms, rubber and some metals to Italy. Some political leaders in France and Britain  opposed sanctions arguing that it might persuade Mussolini to form an alliance with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany
Over 400,000 Italian troops fought in Ethiopia. The poorly armed Ethiopians were no match for Italy's modern tanks and aeroplanes. The Italians even used mustard gas on the home forces and were able to capture Addis Ababa, the capital of the country, in May 1936, forcing Emperor Haile Selassie to flee to England.
Outside Italy Mussolini is remembered as something of a buffoon. But he unleashed a cruel violence that, though it might not match that of Hitler or Stalin, was then something new in the world. Mussolini was responsible for the deaths of a million people. They were killed during the terror in Italy and vicious colonial wars in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
They died because of his support for General Franco in the Spanish Civil War and fascist Italy's own butchery in the Second World War. Mussolini also waged a merciless war against the anti-fascist Resistance movement that liberated so much of Italy between 1943 and 1945 .
Though not the driving force behind the Second World War, he was drawn by ambition and ideology into an alliance with Nazi Germany, an alliance that invaded many countries.This alliance with Hitler involved the deportation of Italian Jews and compliance in the Holocaust.
As the tide of war turned, Italy was invaded, and in July 1943 disgruntled Italian politicians ousted Mussolini from power. He was imprisoned but then rescued by the Germans, who had invaded Italy when it made peace with the Allies.The Germans installed Mussolini as leader of a puppet state in northern Italy. But a combination of Italian partisans and Allied armies gradually drove back the Germans, who could not commit more troops thanks to the Allied liberation of France and invasion of Germany.
During the last days of the war in Italy, with defeat imminent fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, attempted to escape the advancing allied  Army by hiding in a German convoy headed towards the Alps  Partisans stopped and searched the convoy  and though disguised found Mussolini alongside his mistress Ckara Petacci, wearing a  private's overcoat over his striped General's pants, he was instantly regonized. His bald head, deeply set jaw, and piercing brown eyes gave him away. Mussolini had developed a cult-like following and instant recognisability over the past 25 years, due to his face being plastered all over propaganda nationwide, and now it had come back to haunt him.
The partisans seized Mussolini and Petacci. Fearing that the Nazis would again try to liberate the dictator, the partisans hid the pair in a remote farmhouse for the night. The following day, 28 April 1945 Mussolini and Petacci were removed from the house and driven to the small village of Giulino di Mezzegra on the shores of Lake Como. They were ordered to stand in front of a stone wall at the entrance to Villa Belmonte where both were executed by machine gun fire.
There’s no uncertainty, however, about what happened to Mussolini’s body in the hours after his execution. In the pre-dawn hours of April 29 the corpses of Mussolini, Petacci and 14 fellow fascists were placed in a truck and hung in Milan’s Piazzale Loreto, a deeply symbolic public square for the anti-fascist forces. There, eight months earlier, fascists acting under orders from Hitler’s SS publicly displayed the bodies of 15 executed partisans, from that moment onward, partisans  called this place the ' Square of the Fifteen Martyrs.'
After Mussolini’s arrest in July 1943, jubilant crowds mutilated images of the dictator. Now, as the sun rose on the “Square of the Fifteen Martyrs,” residents of Milan had the chance to do the same thing, only this time for real. They hurled invectives and vegetables at the dictator’s corpse before kicking, beating and spitting upon it. One woman, deciding Mussolini wasn’t dead enough for her, emptied a pistol into the dictator’s body and shouted,  "Five shots for my five assassinated sons!"  The executions are the first conspicuous demonstration of  mob violence carried out by the partisans who until up to then had been kept under control by their leaders.The partisan commander-in-chief General Rafaea Cadorna said at the time that such incidents  were regrettable but desirable in this case as a way for the public to vent their anger against the former dictator and his cohorts.
In early afternoon, American troops ordered the bodies to be taken down and Mussolini’s bullet-ridden corpse transported to the city morgue. By this point, Mussolini’s badly beaten body was barely recognizable, but a U.S. Army photographer still staged the bodies of the former dictator and his mistress in each other’s arms in a macabre pose. Benito Mussolini who brought destruction to 20th century Europe, died in ignominy but it was a death that brought peace to many oppressed by the man known as Ill Duce.
After his death and the display of his corpse in Milan, Mussolini was buried in an unmarked grave in the Musocco cemetery, to the north of the city. On Easter Sunday 1946, Mussolini’s body was located and dug up by a young fascist, Domenico Leccisi, and two friends. Over a period of sixteen weeks it was moved from place to place ,the hiding places included a villa, a monastery and a convent — while the authorities searched for it. Eventually, in August, the body (with a leg missing) was tracked down to the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery not far from Milan. Two Franciscan friars were charged with assisting Leccisi in hiding the body.
Word of Mussolini' death spread quickly. Hitler , for one, heard the news on the radio and vowed not to have his corpse desecrated in the same manner as Mussolini's.  People in Hitler's circle reported that he said, "This will never happen to me,"
In his final will, scrawled on a eice of paper, Hitler said " I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organised by the Jews for the amusement of their hysterical masses. On May 1, mere days after Mussolini's death , Hitler  shot his mistress and new wife Eva Braunn, and then after swallowing some poison shot himself in the mouth.. His inner circle  in the bombed out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, wrapped their Fuhrer in a Nazi flag, doused the bodies with gasoline and set them on fire  as Soviet forces closed in. The Russians found remains of his teeth.
.Mussolini was so influential that the name of his Fascist party has since been adopted as a catch-all term for extreme right-wing politics based on racism, authoritarianism, and hate and sadly on the anniversary of Mussolini’s death on 28 April has become one in which neo-fascist supporters mark with major rallies. In Predappio, Mussolinis home town a march takes place between the centre of town and the cemetery. The event usually attracts skinheads and self proclaimed fascists that includes speeches, songs and people giving the fascist salute.
However every year on April 25, Italians gather round heavily laden tables and barbeques and chant ' Bella Ciao'(Goodbye Beautiful) at least a dozen times, right hand on the hert.From 1943-1945,the lyrics of the song Bella Ciao was modified and sung by the anti-fascism Resistance Partisiani against Mussolini and the Nazi German forces occupying Italy and again in the struggle against the Italian Social Republic and its German allies during Italy's Bella Ciao has become an anthem for the  anti-fascist movement worldwide and versions have been used in revolutionary events in Spain, Greece, Tunisia,and Palestine.
And every year on April 25, Italians gather round heavily laden tables and barbeques and chant ' Bella Ciao at least a dozen times, right hand on the heart. In March and April 2020 , under Italy's first strict lockdown, Bella Ciao could be heard constantly coming from the roofs, windows and balconies overlooking empty streets in Rome, Milan and Bologna, like a reassuring collective mantra. Here's one of my favourite versions of this great rousing song of resistance.  Long may the forces of fascism be defeated and given no victory as the flowers of resistance still grow strong.

Bella Ciao - Modena City Ramblers

Link to archive on Italian resistance movement:

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Marking the anniversary of the horror that was Guernica

                                  Pablo Picasso's Guernica

During the afternoon and early evening of Monday, April 26th, 1937,  the German and Italian fascist air forces destroyed the Basque town of Guernica . The war crime was ordered by the Spanish nationalist military leadership and carried out by the Congor Legion of the German luftwaffe and the Italian Aviazone Legionairre. Designed to kill  or main as many civilians as possible, Operation Rugen was deliberately chosen for a Monday afternoon when the weekly town market would be at its most crowded.
 Spain at the time was embroiled in a convulsive civil war that had begun in July 1936 when the right-wing Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco sought to overthrow Spain's democratically elected Popular Front Government It did not take long before this bloody internal Spanish quarrel attracted the participation of forces beyond its borders - creating a lineup of opponents that foreshadowed the partnerships that would battle each other in World War II. Fascist Germany and Italy supported Franco while the Soviet Union backed the Republicans. Millions of people around the world felt passionately that rapidly advancing fascism must be halted in Spain; and more than 35,000 heroic volunteers from dozens of other countries made their way to Spain to fight and die under the Republican banner including the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from the United States.
 Guernica, in the Basque  country where revolutionary sentiment among workers was deep, was defenceless from the bombers, which could fly as low as 600 feet.The raid’s purpose was to test a new bombing tactic to intimidate and terrorize the resistance. For more than three hours, waves of explosive, fragmentary, and incendiary devices were dumped in the town. In total, 31 tons of munitions were dropped between 4.30 in the afternoon and 7.30 in the evening. In the aftermath of the raid, survivoHistory rs spoke of the air filled with the screams of those in their death throes and the hundreds injured. Civilians fleeing the carnage in the fields surrounding the town were strafed by fighter planes. Human and animal  body parts littered the market place and town center, such , such horror.Guernica was effectively wiped of the map. From a population of 5,000 some 1,700 residents were killed and a further 800 injured. Three quarters of the buildings were raised to the ground. Farms four miles away were flattened.
The destruction of Guernica was part of General Franco's wider, brutal campaign against the existence of the Spanish Republic. This campaign led not just to widespread destruction of property, but thousands of civilian casualties too, as well as widespread displacement. Many sought refuge abroad, as many as 3,800 Basque children were evacuated to England and Wales for the duration of the war. The British Government at the time callously refused to be responsible for the children, but  throughout the summer children were dispersed to camps throughout Britain. Eight of these colonies were here in Wales. They were received with a mixture of hostility and kindness, but they had all managed to escape the grips of Franco's fascist Spain.
 The significance of Guernica is that it was the first time that civilians were deliberately targeted in an air attack; it was the first time that a population centre was carpet bombed from the air; and it was one of the first times that a population was used as a target from the air by a foreign power  to test the effectiveness of its aircraft and the effectiveness of terror on the civilian population.Guernica changed the mode of war. Before then, civilians in cities and towns away from the front were by and large were relatively safe. In wars before then air power was not capable of such bombing attacks. In World War I, by and large, troops slugged it out in trenches on the front and there was no air war.
News of the atrocity reached Paris several days later. Eyewitness reports filled local and international newspapers.
Picasso, sympathetic to the Republican cause, was horrified by the reports. Guernica is his memorial to the massacre, and after hundreds of sketches, the painting was done in less than a month before being delivered to the Fair’s Spanish Pavilion, where it became the central attraction. Rather than the typical celebration of technology people expected to see at a world’s fair, in his mural, they saw  a raw and anguished anti-war statement, a haunting piece of work that   became a universal howl against the ravages of war. On a large canvas  he painted deformed figures of women and children writhing in a burning city.A broken sword in hand, a dismembered fighter lies with wide open eyes, an impassive bull, a wounded dove and an agonising horse nearby. Picasso did not agree with Franco´s regime and he was living in France for a long period of time until his death in 1973 when he was 91 years old. One of the most famous passages about his life is when he was interrogated by the Gestapo while the Nazi occupation  in Paris. When the officers saw the Guernica  they asked him “Did you paint that?” and he replied “No, you did” Picasso's picture still resonates with tragedy, capturing the full terror and horror of this terrible moment in history. It is still regarded as the 20thcentury’s most powerful artistic indictment against war, and remains just as relevant to civilians around the world who continue to be caught in today’s conflagrations. The work’s emotional power comes from its immense size of 349 cm times 776 cm (about 11ft tall and 25ft wide). It is a painting challenges rather than accepts the notion of war as heroic.
.For many Basque people, the memory of the bombing and Picasso's visceral artistic response form part of their cultural identity. Franco, who ruled Spain as a fascist dictator for nearly forty years, from 1936 until his death in 1975, claimed the attack on Guernica never took place. They tried to blame the Basques, but the truth is Germany deliberately bombed the town to destroy it and observe in a clinical way the effects of such a devastating attack, practicing a new form of warfare, where only civilians were the targets.In October 1937, a Nationalist officer told' a Sunday Times correspondent: 'We bombed it, and bombed it, and bombed it and Beuno why not.'
 The Republican forces sent Guernica on a global tour to create awareness of the war and raise funds for Spanish refugees. It travelled the world for 19 years before it was loaned to The Museum of Modern Art in New York for safekeeping. Picasso refused to allow it to return to Spain until the country “enjoyed public liberties and democratic institutions,” which did not occur until 1981 following Franco’s death. Today it is on permanent display in the Reina Sofia, Spain’s national museum of modern art in Madrid.
This atrocity horrified the world and helped shift public opinion towards the Spanish Republican Cause, but shamefully the British Government stuck steadfastardly to its non intervevention line. The fascists hated liberalism and humanity, their ideology was one of evil destruction, 'Long Live Death' they cried.  Guernica represented their creed, with one of the Fascist Generals declaring " Like a resolute surgeon, free from false sentimentality, it will cut the diseased flesh from the healthy body and fling it to the dogs. And since the healthy flesh is the soil, the diseased flesh, the people who dwell on it, fascism and the army will eradicate the people and restore the soil to the sacred national realm... Every socialist, Republican, every one of them, without exception, and needless to say, every Communist, will be eradicated, without exception.' An ideology of unfettered hate, and evil..... it's ideology still trying to tear the world apart,  it's forces  still seek to gather, fostering  hatred and division.
After Guernica , George Steers eyewitness account in The Times described what he saw as 'without mercy, with system', words that remain tragically pertinent to the bloody legacy of carpet bombing in conflicts ever since. Conflicts that continue across the world.... humanity still descends into darkness.... the Rape of Nanking, the Second World War, the Holocaust, Syria, Bahrain, Cheknya, Rwanda, the continuing confontation between Israel and Palestine......
 At the United Nations in 2016, French Ambassador Francois Delattre compared the destruction in the Syrian city of Aleppo to Guernica.“Aleppo is to Syria what Guernica was to the Spanish war, a human tragedy, a black hole destroying all we believe in,” he said.
So we must remember Guernica , and  its legacy, we must make sure the fascists are stopped in their tracks, we must not let them pass.... we must carry on singing no pasaron to whatever disguise they dress themselves up in.It is important and timely to reflect on this tragic occasion .Guernica must be remembered , for our time, and for future generations, a terrifying rendition of the slaughter of  innocents.
 By April 1939, all of Spain was under fascist control and Franco declared a victory .Solidifying his power with a brutal dictatorship by oppressing and systematically killing any political opposition.Over half a million people were killed in the war, and in the next few years many tens of thousands more were executed, not forgetting all those who died from malnutrition, starvation, and war-engendered disease. General Franco's military regime remained in power until his death in 1975 depriving  Spain of freedom for several decades afterwards, the wound inflicted still resonates.

Guernica - A.S Knowland

Irun- Badajoz - Malaga - and then Guernica

So that the swastika and the eagle
might spring from the blood-red soil,
bombs were sown into the earth at Guernica,
whose only harvest was a calculated slaughter.
Lest freedon should wave between the grasses
and the corn its proud emblem, or love
be allowed to tread its native fields,
Fascism was sent to destroy the innocent,
and, goose-stepping to the exaggerated waving
of the two-faced flag, to save Spain.

But though the soil be saturated with blood
as a very efficient fertiliser, the furrow
of the ghastly Fasces shall remain barren.
The  planted swastika, the eagle grafted
on natural stock shall wither and remain sere;
for no uniformed force shall marshall the sap
thrilling to thrust buds into blossoms, or quicken
the dead ends of the blighted branches;
but the soil shall be set against an alien crop
and the seed be blasted in the planting.

But strength lies in the strength of the roots.
They shall not pass to ruin Spain!

Reprinted from
The Penguin Book of
Spanish Civil War Verse (1980) 

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

April 24th is the day that the many commemorate the Armenian Genocide  committed by Turks in 1915. Amid the upheaval of World War 1, when countless villages across the Ottoman Empire became killing fields as the desperate leadership of this region, having lost the Balkans and facing the prospect of losing its territories as well, saw an imagined threat at home.
Worried that the Christian Armenian population was planning to align with Russia, the then primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials embarked on what historians have called the first genocide of the 20th Century.
Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed,  becoming tragically part of one of the biggest atrocities of the Great War. Initially intellectuals and community leader were rounded up, one by one, then thousands were  instantly slaughtered, there were reports  of mass burnings, others  put in concentration camps,  to be tortured and gassed,  others left  to die of starvation, exhaustion and disease. Rape was frequently reported too. All this occurred between 1915-1923, to   further add to this misery, the great bulk of the Armenian population were forced from Armenia to Syria, where the vast majority were sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger.Armenians  have since called these events Medz Yeghern (the great crime) or Aghet (catastrophe)
In 1919, following the defeat of the Ottoman  Empire, Grand Damat Ferid Pasha officially declared that  a crime had been perpetrated against the Armenians and the foreign mininster admitt that some 800,000 Armenians had been deported..When Mustafa Kemal Ataruk, the father of modern Turkey  opened his new country's parliament in Ankara on April, 24,1920, he called the genocide of Armenians a "shameful act of the past."
On the same day, the Armenian community that had survived held a commemoration ceremony at the St. Trinity Armenian church in Constantinople. Following its initial commemoration in 1919, this date became the annual day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide. 
This  horrific moment in time has since though with great shame been bitterly contested by Turkey, under President Erdogan the successor of the Ottoman Empire, who has consistently denied the word genocide, as an accurate term for what happened. Despite pressure from Armenians and social justice advocates throughout the world, it is still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened to Armenians during this era. After the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, the leaders of the Young Turks fled to Germany, which promised not to prosecute them for the genocide. Ever since then, the Turkish government has denied that a genocide took place.
Years later the issue of whether to these killings a genocide remain raw and emotional, both for the Armenians, who are descended from those killed, and the Turks, the heirs to the Ottomans. For both,  the question touches as much on national identity, as it does on historical facts.
Whilst at the same time for geopolitical reasons the U.S.A too, has never  labelled the atrocities committed by Turkey as genocide, being close  friends with Turkey, their allies in  the NATO alliance, .U.S. presidents  have at least for decades  acknowledged Remembrance Day, though it should be noted that Robert Dole in the Senate once introduced a mild resolution commemorating 1990 as the 75th anniversary of the Armenian  genocide, at the time when the Israeli government worked with the Turkish government to lobby against it. ( The resolution was subsequently defeated in the Senate) 
President Obama himself, pledged in his  Presidential campaign to call it genocide, but two terms into to his Presidency,but  he remained silent. 
However in positive news  President Joe Biden today recognized the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office and. , signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey.
President Joe Biden  on Saturday recognized the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office. Biden’s designation,  signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey.
The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide,” Biden said. 
"!Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.”
Biden’s designation, which coincided with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey. it has been said  that he plans to follow through on a campaign pledge to formally recognize that atrocities committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire more than a century ago in modern-day Turkey were genocide, according to U.S. officials.
During a telephone call Friday, Biden informed Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of his plan to issue the statement, said a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Separate statements afterward by the two governments made no mention of Biden’s plan. The White House said Biden told Erdogan he wants to improve ties and find “effective management of disagreements.” The two also agreed to a bilateral meeting at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.
Biden, who pledged as a candidate to recognize the massacre as genocide, arguing that “silence is complicity,” wanted to speak with Erdogan before making the formal recognition, according to officials familiar with Biden’s deliberations and plans. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter before Biden issued the proclamation and they spoke on condition of anonymity.
Friday’s call was the first between the presidents since Biden took office more than three months ago. The delay had become a worrying sign in Turkey. Erdogan had good rapport with President Donald Trump and had been hoping for a reset despite past friction with Biden.
The fact that Israel has continued  to this day to be very strongly opposed to efforts being made to recognise the Armenian genocide, for me is really quite astonishing. Especially from a country founded  in the aftermath of its own genocide, holocaust. There are growing calls from within Israel for them to finally recognise this historical fact , and  not to be  in denial, which would be good, since  both peoples, the Armenians and the  Jewish people having suffered the same fate, the same terrible tragedies.  But at the end of the day the Turks are their allies, and you don't want to alienate allies, do you, because that's much too important. Israel thinks it's not their business, lets simply not talk about the Armenian holocaust, but any  conciliatory offerings, I am sure will be welcomed. 
Sadly the British government will not recognise it, despite  ironically Winston Churchill  hilst making war on Turkey, ton Turkey, who used the Greek word Holocaust - originally meaning a sacrifice by fire - to refer to reported burning of Armenians in a pit, and thus gave the word its modern meaning of genocide and also wrote "There  is no reasonable  doubt that this crime was planned and executed for  political purposes." He also used the phrases "Administrative  Holocaust" and  "clearance of race".
Yet countries  like Canada, Argentina, France, Greece and Russia, Poland and Switzerland where the survivors  of  the Armenian genocide and their descendents live have officially recognised the Armenian genocide, thus helping the process of healing.
I believe the voices of the people killed and those haunted should not be forgotten, we should mark their identity, and  the psychic wounds that have passed through generations.
Years later Hitler would use this model of genocide for his own tools for a Holocaust. Hitler and Himmler, guided by the same evil,  were inspired  by the Ottoman Empires own methods of quiet extermination. Mass genocidal maniacs since  like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot followed suit with their own reigns of terror and slaughter of millions.
We should recognise the sad fact that Turkeys lack of contrition leaves descendents struggling to reconcile loss and renewal. It is simply implausible that we should still question the reality of this appalling terrible injustice.
It is a moral necessity that we continue to condemn these massacres and ethnic cleansing of Armenians, that began on this day. To continue to deny this truth amounts to a criminal lie. We need to enshrine in our collective memory this crime against humanity, so as to ensure that it is understood, learnt and transmitted to future generations. We need to recognise the wounds  that have never been able to be healed.

Armenian refugee children 1915

Friday, 23 April 2021

The Death of Blair Peach

 Blair Peach  died from a broken skull , as a result of  being struck on the head  by a truncheon wielding policeman from the Special Patrol Group during a demonstration  on the 23rd of April 1979. 
 Clement Blair Peach was born in New Zealand on the 25th of March 1946.  He studied at Victoria University of Wellington and was for a time co-editor of the Argot literary magazine with his flatmates Dennis List and David Rutherford. He worked as a fireman and as a hospital orderly in New Zealand before moving to London in 1969 and started working as a teacher at  the Phoenix School in Bow, Tower Hamlets, East London, a special needs school.
Peach was no stranger to radicalism and protest; he was a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party, as well as the Socialist Teacher’s Association and the East London Teacher’s Association, both within the National Union of Teachers. A committed anti-fascist.In 1974 he was acquitted of a charge of threatening behaviour after he challenged a publican who was refusing to serve black customers. He was also involved in campaigns against far-right and neo-Nazi groups; he was well known for leading a successful campaign to close a National Front building in the middle of the Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane. He was also arrested in April 1978, outside a public meeting held by the NF in an East London school. The police had arrested a fellow demonstrator, who was black and female. Peach instinctively placed himself between the woman and the arresting officer and said, “Leave her alone, she has not done anything.” He was arrested, and pleaded not guilty but was convicted, receiving a fine of £50.
Peach was elected President of the East London Teachers Association in 1978. Twice that year he was attacked by supporters of the National Front as he cycled home from teaching at the Phoenix School, and he suffered black eyes, bruising and cuts. According to the East Ender newspaper, “Doctors fear permanent damage may have been done to one of his eyes. His finger has been bitten through to the bone shredding the nerves.” Even before 23 April 1979, Peach was putting his body on the line in the cause of the struggle against fascism.
On St. George’s Day 1979, the fascist National Front held a meeting in Southall Town Hall. The Front had almost no supporters in the area, but was hoping to gain publicity by bulldozing its way through the heavily Asian district of outer London.  a neighbourhood which, especially since the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Gurdip Singh Chaddar in Jun 1976, had been the target of increasingly violent attacks not only by National Front supporters but also by the local police. Nearly 3000 of the latter were deployed that day to ensure the fascists could hold a rally, 94 of the on horseback.The Anti-Nazi League held a counter demonstration outside the Town Hall. Peach was one of 3000 people to attend,
When the National Front meeting began, members of the Special Patrol Group were among police who tried to clear the area of demonstrators. The SPG was a specialist group that had gained notoriety following the Red Lion square disorders in 1974 at which student Kevin Gately was killed by a blow to the head by an unidentified assailant.
The demonstration turned violent;700 protestors were arrested, paramedics were denied proper access to tend to police-battered bystanders, the People Unite community centre run by the reggae band  Misty In Roots which was being used as a medical centre to treat wounded anti racists  was raided. Dozens of eye-witnesses complained that police officers aimed their batons at the heads of doctors, nurses and solicitors who had sheltered there. The band's manager Clarence Baker beaten into a coma from which he only emerged months later. 
According to 14 eye-witnesses who gave evidence to the subsequent inquest, Peach sustained a blow to the head from a weapon by a police officer at the junction of Beachcroft Avenue and Orchard Avenue, as he tried to get away from the demonstration. that left him staggering in to a nearby house. The impression is sometimes given that Blair Peach died instantly in the street but in fact he was still conscious though very dazed and finding it hard to speak when the ambulance arrived a quarter of an hour after the injury.  There was no blood or external trauma but it’s clear that he was suffering from a swelling in the brain, what’s termed an extra-dural haematoma. Blair Peach died in an operating theatre at the New Ealing District Hospital at 12.10am. He was only 33 years old. At least three other anti fascist protesters were hit so hard to the head that their skulls were fractured.
Peach’s death struck a chord amongst the communities he had stood up for, and across the city as a whole. A few days after his death, 10000 people marched past the spot where he was fatally injured. His funeral was delayed by several months, until the 13th of June, but that was also attended by 10,000 people. The night before his funeral, 8000 Sikhs went to see his body at the Dominion Theatre in Southall.
In the aftermath of Peach's murder, protesters were everywhere, flyposting, speaking, organising, discussing the lessons. The police were around, in very large numbers, but they did not dare to stop people from organising. It was almost as if the police were shamed by the enormity of what they had done. June 1979 also saw a 2,000-strong first Black people’s march against state harassment through central London.
Police investigated themselves in the aftermath of Blair Peach's death and identified  6 cops, 1 of whom administered  the fatal blow. No one has ever been charged.. 

The death of Blair Peach was the dire outcome of a double-edged state racism. The police that day staunchly protected a racist gathering in a predominantly Asian community, while unleashing militarised measures of control and punishment on demonstrators looking to oppose the fascists (Institute of Race Relations, 1979).
Blair Peach’s death became a focal point for those who questioned the nature of the Special Patrol Group and the general lack of police accountability which that force epitomised. And, from the agitation of Blair’s family, especially his long term partner Celia Stubbs, about the inadequacy of the inquest system and the secrecy surrounding the coroner’s court and the evidence withheld from the family, was created the organisation INQUEST.
The Metropolitan Police commissioned an internal inquiry into what happened, which was led by Commander John Cass. 11 witnesses saw Peach struck by a member of the Special Patrol Group (SPG). The SPG was a centrally-based mobile group of officers focused on combating serious public disorder and crime that local divisions were unable to cope with. It started in 1961, and was replaces in 1987 by the Territorial Support Group, which also has a less-than stellar reputation amongst activists.
The pathologist’s report concluded that Peach was not hit with a standard issue baton, but an unauthorised weapon like a weighted rubber cosh,or a hosepipe filled with lead shot. When Cass’ team investigated the headquarters of the SPG, they found multiple illegal weapons including truncheons, knives, a crowbar, and a whip. 2 SPG officers had altered their appearance by growing or cutting facial hair since the protest, 1 refused to take part in an identity parade, and another was discovered to be a Nazi sympathiser. All of the officers’ uniforms were dry-cleaned before they were presented for examination.
Cass concluded that one of 6 officers had killed Peach, but he couldn’t be sure who exactly, because the officers had colluded to cover up the truth. He recommended that 3 officers be charged with perverting the course of justice, but no action was ever taken. The results of the inquiry were not published, and the coroner at the inquest into Peach’s death refused to allow it to be used as evidence, despite making use of it himself. Two newspapers, the Sunday Times and the Leveller, published leaks naming the officers that had travelled in the van that held Peach’s killer. They were Police Constables Murray, White, Lake, Freestone, Scottow and Richardson. When the lockers of their unit were searched in June 1979, one officer Greville Bint was discovered to have in his lockers Nazi regalia, bayonets and leather covered sticks. Another constable Raymond White attempted to hide a cosh. 
Celia Stubbs, said: "This report totally vindicates what we have always believed - that Blair was killed by one of six officers from Unit 1 of the Special Patrol Group whose names have been in the public domain over all these years."
The death of Blair Peach was a public relations disaster for the Metropolitram Police,  a well respected and well liked activist who fought hard for local communities. Peach was a man for whom many people cared about. The Met should have been transparent, finding out what happened and punishing those responsible quickly and openly. Instead, they covered up the cause of Peacg's death for 3 decades, allowing what happened to fester,contributing to a sense of resentment and distrust that continues to this day.
Campaigners have since  demanded a fresh inquiry into Blair Peach's death Gareth Peirce, the lawyer who defended many of those arrested in 1979, said: “Unquestionably a public investigation is required as to what happened and why it was covered up for so long. A man was killed, wholly innocent people were convicted and evidence against them fabricated.
The police went out to deliberately inflict injuries on innocent people and were being provocative and racist. An onslaught of violence was unleashed on the Southall community and other protesters. The Hillsborough inquiry shows that reopening investigations into incidents that happened in the past is not only important but achievable.”
The late Darcus Howe  writer and anti racist activist once remarked: “The death of Blair Peach is a lasting injustice. But it is also a pressing issue because there is no evidence that the policing mistakes that led to the death of Blair Peach have been consigned to the past.
The campaign for justice for Blair Peach was the model for all the others that have come since. We now know, that from the very start, it was infiltrated by undercover police, who targeted his grieving partner, family and friends before he was even buried.
Following his death, his partner Celia Stubbs launched a justice campaign, which was infiltrated by officers serving in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a secret police unit accused of serial abuses over decades.
Following his death, his partner Celia Stubbs launched a justice campaign, which was infiltrated by officers serving in the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a secret police unit accused of serial abuses over decades.
Speaking on behalf of Ms Stubbs, Matthew Ryder QC told the Undercover Policing Inquiry that the killing of Blair Peach and the subsequent “cover-up” was one of the “most notorious events in the history of British policing.”
Mr Ryder said that the campaign for police accountability became a “focus” for the spycops, adding that this was a “vivid illustration” of “inappropriate undercover policing” of those seeking justice.
The lawyer said that a “source of significant distress” for Ms Stubbs was the presence of undercover officers at Mr Peach’s funeral. Documents disclosed to the inquiry reveal that officers compiled a list of people who attended and even took photographs of individuals.
The attendance at the funeral was obviously an intelligence-gathering exercise” said Mr Ryder, disputing statements by one officer that he was only present to protect his cover.
SDS reporting on the campaign continued for another 20 years, the inquiry heard, with a document dated to 1998 recording a protest on the anniversary of Mr Peach’s death.
Celia Stubbs says she was horrified to discover she was spied on for years while campaigning for justice. She will give evidence next month to the inquiry into undercover policing as it examines the extent of covert surveillance in the 1980s.
First the fatal beating from the Special Patrol Group, quickly followed by the long deception from the Special Demonstration Squad; the violence from the Metropolitan Police towards people who stood up against injustice was unrelenting.
Peach dedicated his life to standing up to racism, something that the NUT [National Union of Teachers] celebrates through its annual Blair Peach award. The award is given to individu­al NUT members or groups of members who have made signifi­cant and exemplary contribu­tions to LGBT+, race, gender, and/or disability equality in their school or division.Peach was the very definition of an anti-racist activist and ally. and after his death a number of writers have dedicated poems to his memory, including Chris Searle, Michael Rosen and Susannah Steele, Louis Johnson, Edward Bond, Sigi Moos, Sean Hutton and Tony Dickens, and songs including  the following  by dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson  in Jamaican patois.

Linton Kweisi Johnson - Reggae fi Peach

Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,
Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was an ordinary man,
Blair Peach he took a simple stand,
Against the fascists and their wicked plans,
So them beat him till him life was done.

Everywhere you go its the talk of the day,
Everywhere you go you hear people say,
That the Special Patrol them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
The SPG them are murderers (murderers),
We cant make them get no furtherer,
Cos they killed Blair Peach the teacher,
Them killed Blair Peach, the dirty bleeders.

Blair Peach was not an English man,
Him come from New Zealand,
Now they kill him and him dead and gone,
But his memory lingers on.

Oh ye people of England,
Great injustices are committed upon this land,
How long will you permit them, to carry on?
Is England becoming a fascist state?
The answer lies at your own gate,
And in the answer lies your fate.

Peach was a deeply private person, more comfortable in political rather than literary circles, No more than one or two of the writer mentioned above can have known that in his youth Blair Peach had been a poet himself. At the University of Wellington he had helped edit a literary magazine Argot, Against the untimely horror of his untimely death perhaps a tint satisfaction can be found in the way h has ben remembered since by the people of Southall as a man who fought alongside them, and by his fellow writers.
It is sad though  that  battles which were fought against state-sanctioned violence and far-right racism are still the battles being fought today, and we should not forget that Blair Peach wasn’t the first person nor the last to be killed by the  police, since his murder Cynthia Jarrett,( whose death during a police raid prompted the notorious Broadwater Farm disturbances in 1985)  Mark Duggan, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes; are some other people who have  had the misfortune of being famous because they were killed by the Metropolitan Police. The fight for justice goes on, as does Blair Peach's legacy who  believed in the inclusion of everyone no matter what race, religion or educational ability. As was the case over 40 years ago, a principled democratic debate about police powers and methods is vital. We must also continue to  confront and resist the forces of fascism and racism everywhere and continue to defend the right to protest.without any reservation..

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Stephen Lawrence Day : A Legacy of Change


Today is the third annual Stephen Lawrence Day, named for the black teenager  and loving son who was murdered in a racist attack on the same day in 1993.
The story of Stephen Lawrence is deeply tragic one and, sadly, one of far too many.Stephen  was born and grew up in Greenwich  south-east London, where he lived with his parents Neville and Doreen, his brother Stuart and sister Georgina.
Like most young people, he juggled an active social life, school work, family commitments, and part-time employment. But he also had ambitions to use his talent for maths, art, and design to become an architect, and wanted to have a positive impact on his community.
Tragically, his dream of becoming an architect was never realised. On 22 April 1993, at the age of just 18, Stephen was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. He didn’t know his killers and his killers didn’t know him.
The killing of Stephen Lawrence by a group of young men simply because he was Black was a horrific crime, but the failure to correctly pursue the killers because of the Metropolitan Police’s own racism was an appalling crime in its own right
Undercover officers spied on his family’s campaign for justice. Stephen’s parents and his friend, Duwayne Brooks, who was with him on the night he died, were all reported on by undercover police and are all classed as core participants in the public inquiry.
Incompetence, alleged corruption and racism in the police meant that it took nearly 20 years to convict two of his killers,Gary Dobson and David Norris, while the remaining three Neil Acourt, Jamie Acourt and Luke Knight have never been brought to justice.
They should not be allowed to rest easy.Their sentences should be long, despite the fact that they were juvenille at the time, they have shown no remorse, consistently lied and flaunted and paraded their arrogance. Shown themselves as the cowardly racists they are.
Sadly the ugly reality of racist hatred still lingers. It needs to be crushed and condemned at all times. Only then can we really move on.A public inquiry into the handling of Stephen’s case was held in 1998, leading to the publication of the Macpherson Report, a major breakthrough in recognising institutional racism and taking steps to tackle it.
The findings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry led to changes in the British Race Relations Act and an opening up of discussion and attitudes around race and colour. Of course, what we know from discussions in 2020 and 2021 is that the inequalities that are created by racism have not been removed since the recommendations were given in the 1999 report.
Ever since, a major struggle has taken place to defend the findings of the Macpherson report and a host of other reports which have found overwhelming evidence of institutional racism and made recommendations to record and combat it.
The Undercover Policing Inquiry was set up in 2015 to look at the activities of two shadowy police units after condemnation of undercover tactics.
A public outcry was sparked when it was revealed that women had been tricked into sexual relationships with undercover officers and that police spies had used the identities of dead children without their families’ permission.
Family justice campaigns were spied upon, and there are claims that some officers were arrested or prosecuted for crimes under fake identities, leading to alleged miscarriages of justice for their co-defendants.
The Government's CRED report was the latest attempt by those wishing to deny institutional racism, and therefore deepen it. It is vital to the legacy of those who have fought racism for decades that we defeat it.
The report has been overwhelmingly rejected, including by a UN panel who concluded that it "repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent. " 
 Stephen Lawrence's death left a wake of shock and grief, but also a strong appetite for profound change - something activists have worked towards for decades.
Stephen Lawrence Day was created by the Stephen Lawrence Foundation as a celebration of his life and legacy. It exists “to inspire a more equal, inclusive society, and to foster opportunities for marginalised young people in the UK”.
The Stephen Lawrence Foundation has launched a drive to commemorate the teen and push for meaningful action every year on April 22.
And there are several ways for willing participants to get involved.
The Stephen Lawrence Foundation hopes to inspire people to actively influence their community and make positive changes.
Whether this is by making the right choices or getting involved in local projects, action can help young people create their ideal community.
Organisers also hope to provide voices to those who might not always feel they can speak up.
While Stephen Lawrences's death ignited discussions about institutional racism and hate crime, there is still work to do. For  truly transformational change, racism must be rooted out in every aspect of our society.We must  continue to promote anti racism and our call for a better life for all through the ending of inequality, inequity, systemic racism and injustice. 
Stephen Lawrence Day is about the part we can all play in creating a better society; a society that treats everyone with fairness and respect, a society in which everyone can flourish.
One way to get involved is by understanding anti-racism and the circumstances surrounding Stephen's murder with resources.
Several organisations have compiled guides on combating racism and hatred, including the Stephen Lawrence Foundation.

Educational resources include:

The Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation educational resources

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) resources on racial discrimination

Show Racism the Red Card

The Equality and Human Rights Commission resources for race hate incidents

Those who want to learn a little more from the foundation's leaders can watch educational webinars.The foundation has scheduled three so far to take place over April 22 and 23 on their YouTube channel.

'Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice ,' Baroness Doreen Lawrence

Cardigan and North Pembs Amnesty International : Making The Best Of It


                                         Local Singer Lowri Evans, Photo:Sian Bowls
My Local Cardigan and North Pembs Amnesty International  Group which I am a member are staging ‘Making The Best Of It’, a virtual online concert which will be screened on Saturday, May 1 at 7.30pm.
It follows last year’s cancellation of our 15th annual ‘Making a Song and Dance of It’ event at Rhos-y-Gilwen due to Covid.
The online concert will be the usual eclectic mix of music, song and a little poetry.
Headlining will be local singer Lowri Evans, accompanied by guitarist Lee Mason.
Described by ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris as one of his ‘absolute favourite artists’, Lowri is blessed with a voice capable of wide emotional power.
Her songs take their musical colours from a broad palette that includes Americana, Folk, Country and Blues, all beautifully knitted together through her innate musicality and heartfelt delivery.
Lee Mason’s beautifully judged playing and subtle harmonies have been integral to Lowri’s music from the outset.
Together they have toured the USA, performed sessions for Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2, been playlisted on BBC Radio and regularly perform in venues across the UK and in festivals such as Cambridge Folk, Underneath the Stars, Celtic Connections, Wychwood Festival, Greenman Festival and Hay Festival.
Glen Peters and Trio Looney (Helen Jefferson, Gwen Williams and Nick Heath), Marion Carlisle, Kate and Megan, Charlie and Caz, and  local poet Dave Rendle, a.k.a me teifidancer will also be appearing.
All performers are appearing for free and it's free to view  but there will be a donation link if you want to make a donation and hopefully a fair sum can be raised for Amnesty International's work for human rights. Please attend and tell all your friends.  Video performances (available on 1 May): 
This is the link
It will also be available online after  the performance if you can't make it on the night, hope you can tune in, cheers ,heddwch /.peace.

Soon after Word War 2 was weathered
Appalled by all the lives lost
and sickened by the Holocaust
The UN set about decreeing
A set of rights for human beings
Every person has these rights they declared
In  any location across the globe
Every human from their inception
Every human without exception
Every human is endowed they said
With reason, and a conscience
It's up to us defend these rights
To continue to act in spirit of brotherhood
With resilience  in words and deeds
The circles of injustice must be ended

Monday, 19 April 2021

Remembering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

April 19th  marks the first day of the month long 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is one of the most symbolic and well-known acts of anti-fascist resistance ever to take place, an armed uprising against Nazi attempts to transport the Jews in the ghetto to death and labor camps.
The Nazi persecution of the Jews in Poland began with the invasion of the country in 1939. Jews very quickly lost their rights; by October 1939 they were forced to register and have the word ‘Jude’ stamped on their identity papers. They were soon forbidden from many ordinary activities, such as walking on the pavement, or going to schools, libraries or museums. Synagogues were blown up, or turned into prisons or factories, and many Jews were abused and humiliated on the streets.
Within a few weeks of the Nazi consolidation of Poland, Governor Hans Frank ordered four hundred thousand Warsaw Jews to enter a ghetto. By November 1940, around five hundred thousand Jews from across Poland had been sealed behind its walls, severed from the outside world and plunged into social isolation. Surrounded by a ten-foot-high barrier, the creation of the ghetto meant the relocation of approximately 30 percent of Warsaw’s population into 2.6 percent of the city, the designated area being no more than two and a half miles long and having previously housed fewer than 160,000 people. Conditions inside the Ghetto were horrendous. Many families inhabited single rooms, and the dire lack of food meant that roughly one hundred thousand people survived on no more than a single bowl of soup per day. The sanitation system collapsed, and disease became rampant. After 18 months of incarceration some 63,000 Jews had died due to the hunger, disease, overcrowding and cold.
The Ghetto was internally controlled by the Judenrat – Jewish Council, which was set up by the Nazis to carry out their instructions. The Judenrat included people who tried to help Jews who were suffering from the harsh Ghetto conditions, but also had members who would attempt to save their own skin by any means, with little regard for their community. A Jewish police force, which was notoriously brutal, was used by the Judenrat to enforce Ghetto “law” internally. Antisemitic Polish “Blue” police guarded the Ghetto. There was also an independent police force that served to gather intelligence for the Gestapo, though this was later absorbed into the main force. The Judenrat came to be regarded with contempt by the populace, as the conditions in the Ghetto worsened, and was nicknamed the Judenverat (Jewish betrayal).
During November 1941 news reached the underground in Warsaw of mass killings of Jews following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in summer that year. Communal leaders also heard reports of an extermination camp at Chelmno, where Jews were being gassed to death. However, finding the information almost unbelievable and not wanting to destroy morale, they left the Ghetto inhabitants uninformed.
An Anti-Fascist Bloc was created in the spring of 1942 as the existence of death camps and the slaughter of thousands of Jews at isolated locations was confirmed. Consisting of left-wing Zionists and communists, the organisation had no arms, but set up combat units and distributed propaganda. The Anti-Fascist Bloc issued appeals calling on the population to reject the collaboration and compromises of the Judenrat. However, most Jews continued to listen to the passive advice of the Judenrat. The efforts of the Anti-Fascist Bloc were initially either ignored or rejected
Attitudes towards resistance changed dramatically in the summer of 1942, when, through the Judenrat, the Nazis decreed: “All Jewish persons living in Warsaw, regardless of age and sex, will be resettled in the East …”. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp that summer. In July 1942, at the initiative of the Zionist youth groups, a meeting was held which formed the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB – Jewish Combat Organisation). The ZOB’s political wing consisted of the various Zionist organisations and the communists. It was led by Jewish communists such as Mordechai Anielewicz and Zivia Lubetkin. In October the Bund (Jewish Socialist Party), Poland’s largest Jewish organisation, joined as well. Only the extreme Jewish nationalists did not participate; instead they decided to fight separately as the Irgun Zvai Leumi (Jewish Military Union).
Within a few weeks the ZOB had drawn up by-laws, describing the purpose of the organisation as being the defence of the Ghetto against further deportations and collaborators.
For ZOB militants, collaborators represented an auxiliary wing of fascism that was instrumental in facilitating the deportation of Polish Jewry. To demonstrate that this stance would not be accepted in the ghetto, ZOB militants chose to execute Jewish policeman Jacob Lejkin. For his “dedication” in deporting Jews to Auschwitz, Lejkin was shot, and his example triggered widespread panic in the collaborating establishment. This was followed by the execution of Alfred Nossig in February 1943. Józef Szeryński, the former head of the ghetto police, committed suicide to avoid his own fate.
These acts ensured ZOB’s centrality in the resistance movement, and also encouraged resistance from beyond their ranks. They aimed to prove that challenging collaboration was both possible and a moral duty, and within a short period of time had won many ghetto inhabitants to this position.
 As the months progressed, the spectre of death became ever-present. Between June and September 1942, three hundred thousand Jews had been deported or murdered, a destruction of the Polish Jewish community. In these desperate circumstances, people lost everyone and many young people began to dispense with anxieties about protecting their families and commit instead to militant political activity. Simply put, the more Jews were murdered in the ghettos, the less personal obligations were felt by survivors, and the more the feeling of responsibility for causing further anguish from Nazi reprisals receded.
During the winter of 1942/3 underground bunkers and secret hiding holes were constructed throughout the Ghetto, while ZOB attempted the difficult task of securing weapons. Some were obtained from the black market and from German and Italian deserters, but at a high price. A small quantity of arms was acquired from the Polish resistance (Home Army), which operated under the instructions of the Polish government in exile, based in London. Supply from the Home Army was limited because of a combination of antisemitism and fear that the weapons might be used in the future on the Soviet side in the event of a war between Poland and the Soviet Union. More arms were delivered once ZOB had proven itself as effective, but in total they only ever made up 10% of the ZOB arsenal.
German troops surrounded the Ghetto on 18 January 1943 in an attempt to deport the last of Warsaw’s Jews. Even though they were taken by surprise, five ZOB units engaged the troops and killed or wounded some 50 Germans, seizing weapons in the mêlée. ZOB casualties were high, but after three days the deportations were halted.
Deportations were suspended until April, 1943, the eve of Passover, the Jewish festival of liberation when Heinnich Himmler,ordered the fascist forces were to carry out the final liquidation of the Ghetto. On 19 April 1943  2,000 men, including Waffen SS, Wehrmacht, Latvian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian fascists, supported by units of the Polish “Blue” police, advanced on the Ghetto, the area of which was now less than 1,000 by 3,000 metres. 
With the civilian population underground in prepared bunkers, the 22 ZOB combat units took their positions. Some were in the central Ghetto area and others in the factories. As the fighting proceeded they were joined by the Irgun and other unaffiliated units.
 ZOB units attacked the fascists – who were led by SS Lt General Jurgen Stroop – with guns and homemade petrol bombs. Stroop had expected little resistance from those he had described previously as “this Jewish trash and subhumanity” who are “cowards by nature”. 
The Jewish residents refused to come out. Instead, and to their surprise, the Germans found themselves being shot at from all sides with rifles, pistols and automatic weapons. Grenades and Molotov cocktails were thrown from windows, and a handful of Germans were killed.
The next day, 20 April, Waffen SS reinforcements entered the Ghetto and were bombarded with grenades and explosives. In one incident alone an electric mine killed some 100 Germans. They responded with tanks and field artillery and began setting fire to Ghetto buildings. ZOB replied by burning down the warehouses of the agency in charge of expropriated Jewish property. Despite the fire and smoke, which began to envelop the Ghetto, morale was high. On one roof the Jewish blue and white banner flew alongside the red and white Polish flag. On another roof a banner stated, “We shall fight to the last”.
Flamethrowers were brought in on 22 April, to force out the tens of thousands of Jews still hidden underground. The Ghetto became engulfed in flames and thousands of Jews were burned alive. Stroop reported:
They jumped from burning windows and balconies, abusing Germany and the Führer … over and over again, we observed that the Jews and bandits preferred to return to the flames rather than be caught by us.
Marek Edelman succeeded Amielwicz when the Zionist leader and ZOB commander died in battle.The Ghetto held out into May. Zivia Lubetkin, one of the few ZOB survivors of the epic battle, recalled. “We sat in the dark, scores of Jewish fighters, still carrying our weapons, surrounded by thousands of eager and expectant Jews. Was it not May Day? … How grave the responsibility we felt as the last desperate Hebrew warriors! We could not hold out against the Germans’ consuming fire for long without water or food or weapons.
It was a battle that the Jews could never have won, no matter how heroic the resistance. The ZOB headquarters was surrounded on 8 May, after three weeks of combat. Over 100 fighters were inside. The Germans blocked the entrances and sent gas into the bunker. The fighters decided to kill themselves rather than be taken alive. ZOB Commander Anielewicz was among them. During the revolt he wrote:
It is now clear to me that what took place exceeded all expectations … The last wish of my life has been fulfilled. Jewish self-defence has become a fact. Jewish resistance and revenge have become actualities. I am happy to have been one of the first Jewish fighters in the Ghetto.
Two days after the end of the battle, 75 ZOB survivors crawled through Warsaw’s sewers. They escaped with the help of comrades in the resistance on the outside of the Ghetto.By mid-May, the ghetto had been razed, and the Great Synagogue of Warsaw personally blown up by General Stroop on May 16 to celebrate the end of Jewish resistance. Of Warsaw’s 350,000 Jews, few were to survive the war. Of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews, only 50-70,000 were to remain alive.
 On the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, it is important to remember this heroic act of   resistance, when Jews decided to fight against their oppressors rather than be forced to die in a concentration camp. All too often, mainstream media and historians peddle the myth that “the Jews just walked into the camps.Those brave souls who gave their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising might beg to differ. On this day, we remember their sacrifices in the struggle against  fascism.
Despite its tragic end, the Warsaw Uprising left a lasting legacy.It inspired Jewish youth, in ghettos from Lvov to Będzin to Białystok, and in camps including Treblinka and Sobibor ,to resist, and the bravery of the men, women and children involved has inspired a number of books, poetry, songs and films. 
The ghetto fighters left us a universal message of humanism and hope in the face of barbarism. It was an inspiration understood by some of the leaders of the Polish resistance, one of whom commented that “the blood of the ghetto fighters was not shed in vain…it gave birth to an intensified struggle against the fascist invader”. 
It is a message that we need to remember as we confront racism and fascism wherever and whenever it raises its head.