April 21st marks ten years to the day that Mordecai Vanunu emerged from eighteen years, eleven of them in solitary confinement, in an Israeli jail. These eleven years were spent in a nine foot by six foot cell. His treatment was condemned by Amnesty International as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”; Vanunu himself described it as “barbaric”. His crime? He leaked details of Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal to the Sunday Times newspaper. After being lured to Rome from England, drugged, abducted and secretly transported to Israel by Mossad agents, he was tried behind closed doors and found guilty of treason.
For all the eighteen years of his imprisonment, worldwide protests and vigils were held, one of them famously in London, where there was a weekly picket of the Israeli Embassy which called vociferously for his release. Members of Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition regularly supported the picket, the most constant being Helen Jones who attended every week, often going straight from the Peace Table outside Wimbledon Library.
Though released from prison ten years ago, Vanunu is still not free; his freedom of speech and movement are severely restricted and he is constantly appearing in court on charges of breaching these strictures. For example, in 2010 he served a sentence of 78 days in solitary confinement for speaking to foreign media in 2004(!), and his often repeated requests to leave Israel and settle abroad are refused.
Fortunately support for his case is growing throughout the world, and in this important anniversary year we are being asked to pledge some actions that will increase the call for his complete freedom. From now until April 21st we are asked to increase and publicise public actions to help FREE VANUNU in 2014.
A wonderful opportunity is presented by the next meeting of Merton Palestine Solidarity Campaign, 7·30pm on Wednesday 2nd April at 267 The Broadway SW19. Adeline O’Keefe, who was a member of the delegation team that met Mordechai Vanunu on his release from prison in 2004 and who is involved with the Campaign for a Nuclear-Free Middle East, will speak about Vanunu and undeclared weapons.
‘Welfare not Warfare’ says the International Peace Bureau, announcing its 4th Global Day of Action to coincide with the release of the annual Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) statistics on global military spending. $245 per person per year is the global estimate on military spending and just think what this represents in terms of wasted resources quite apart from the misery caused by weapons of war. Disgracefully, the UK has for many years remained the 4th highest military spender in the world (possibly shortly to be overtaken by Saudi Arabia) with the UK government giving huge subsidies to arms companies. What justification can there possibly be for such priorities, particularly at a time of cruel public sector cuts?
We shall be running a stall outside Wimbledon Library on April 14th jointly with Merton UNA. http://www.demilitarize.org.uk
We were glad to be able to arrange at short notice for the Wimbledon CND banner to join the demonstrations of appreciation at Bob Crow’s funeral in Newham on March 24th. The RMT has suffered the loss of a remarkable leader, responsible for a huge increase in membership over his period of office and for achieving best possible pay and conditions for his members, but the peace movement has also great reason to mourn his passing. Many of us have heard Bob as a powerful platform speaker at CND demonstrations, but not everyone is aware what an important part he played in bringing the trade union movement on board in our campaign against Trident. It was he that moved the successful RMT resolution against Trident at TUC Congress in 2006, overcoming traditional union suspicions that undermining ‘the defence industry’ threatens jobs.
Photos are on the WDC/CND Facebook page: thank you David and Harriet.
We need offers of goods and offers of help please. We are at St Mark’s Church Hall (behind Wimbledon Library) once again and this year we have also booked the garden so we shall be able to accommodate other peace movement/green stalls: get in touch if you want your stall to be considered.
We were made very welcome at the Lush shop on Wimbledon Bridge on March 15th and Alison, Jill, Alice, Julie, Daphne, Harriet and Joanna knitted away from 10am until 5pm. The Lush staff helped us to decorate the shop with sections of pink Aldermaston to Burghfield scarf, gave the knitters house room in the shop window and even went beyond the call of duty by collecting signatures on the Trident petition. The day’s activities were publicised on Lush Facebook and Twitter and we have a splendid set of photos for our own use.
On March 22nd we made a start on the mammoth task of assembling our finished scarf sections and we were pleased to welcome Maggie, a colleague from Kingston Peace Council. There will be a further ‘joining up’ on March 29th and future sessions will be announced.
Lush Campaigns has joined Wool Against Weapons and CND nationally in planning the great rollout on Nagasaki Day, August 9th. ‘Pinwheels’ (rolls) of knitting are to be distributed along the seven-mile route at calculated intervals in charge of regional organisers, of which WDC/CND will be one. We plan a local rollout at the end of June so all knitters should aim to complete as much as possible by then, and deliver it to us in Wimbledon rather than to Stroud so we can maximise local publicity. The bomb factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield will no longer be able to shelter behind public ignorance.
We have purchased a stock of these striking turquoise T-shirts designed for CND by Katharine Hamnett and they are an ideal campaigning tool, getting a forceful message across wherever they are worn. They have already had several outings: at a Trades Council meeting in Carshalton, at a ‘Save St Helier’ meeting in Morden. and at a ‘Save the NHS’ publicity drive in Sutton.
As the weather gets warmer we can use them on the Vigil and we shall issue them to stall holders at the Fête of the Earth. We want to hammer home the bald fact that the government is claiming that austerity measures are unavoidable while choosing to spend £100 billion on Trident, a grotesque and useless status symbol. As we have a group discount we can offer these roomy and comfortable T-shirts at only £7. Get in touch if you want your own personal garment.
This report by the all-party House of Commons Defence Committee, publicised on March 27th, gives a less than ringing endorsement to government plans for the renewal of Trident, although falling short of outright rejection of UK nuclear weapons. As they cautiously explain, “It is possible to foresee an environment in which the core rôle of nuclear deterrence — to protect a state from attack — is achieved by the deployment of advanced conventional weapons.... This will be a matter which our successor Committee may wish to examine further.”
The paper explores issues around the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons in a “shifting security landscape”, emphasising “the greater significance of asymmetric threat compared to the Cold War strategic context”. In other words, nuclear weapons are useless against terrorists. They also acknowledge that there are concerns among senior military figures over the impact of major investment in Trident when other parts of the military are suffering spending cuts.
It might be worth asking your M.P. for a considered opinion on the carefully written report, resulting from many months of exhaustive analysis of evidence from expert witnesses.
This event at St James Piccadilly has been organised by the Stop the War Coalition. Conservative M.P. Julian Brazier and history teacher John Blake argue ‘No’. Lindsey German (StWC) and Jeremy Corbyn M.P. argue ‘Yes’. £3 admission on the door. 020 7561 4880
Left-wing historian Neil Faulkner spoke at London Region CND conference in January [see February Newsletter] arguing that World War I was about empire and profit. Ordinary people were duped into believing that they were fighting for ‘King and Country’ but many of them had changed their minds by 1917. “Whatever good may have come out of the war did not justify it. Much of Europe in 1914 was anyway on the brink of revolt from below”.
We have purchased a stock of the well- written and well-presented pamphlet in which Neil Faulkner develops these arguments and copies will be available to purchase (£4) at the Fête.
Bruce Kent was of course once upon a time Monsignor Bruce Kent, a dignitary within the Roman Catholic Church. He was obliged to resign his church position in the 1980s because of perceived conflict with his political activities but he has never swerved from his commitment to his religious faith. The February issue of the London & SE Region UNA Newsletter reprints an article originally published in Jesuit Magazine.
What can we do in the face of humanitarian disaster such as Syria “beyond charitable giving, hoping for the best, praying for the victims and leaving the rest to God?” he asks. “What long-term steps can we take now to avoid future Syrias and make this a less warlike world?
“The first step is to draw courage and inspiration from what has been achieved.... We forget that all of the peacemaking structures we now have, from the United Nations to the International Criminal Court... came into being because of the vision of many peace-minded people who have faded into history.
“We hear much about the bravery of those involved in the First World War. But almost nothing about Pope Benedict XV and his endless appeals in the name of common humanity for an end to the butchery....
“In an inspiring address to the General Assembly of the UN in 1965 Pope Paul VI committed the Church to support the UN but... I have never come across a parish or diocesan UNA group, or heard a sermon on the vision of the United Nations.... We Christians must confront our current sense of impotence as we work to sow the seeds of the Kingdom of God. It is simpler to donate to good causes than to question the way the world is being run.... I have great hope that the Church to which I belong will, with a new and inspiring Pope, more vigorously oppose the militarism, national pride, greed and exploitation which underpins the conflicts of our day.”
(See http://www.unalondonandse.org for the full article.)
John Kirk’s one-man show based on Michael Morpurgo’s story. Raynes Park Library, 10am April 14th. Booking essential: 020 8274 5718
With astonishing energy, Bruce Kent is undertaking yet another national speaking tour, this time directly addressing the faith community. A quick scan through dates on the CND website shows that he has been successful both in spreading his engagements all over the country and in achieving dialogue with a very broad spectrum of religious belief, Catholic, Protestant, Quaker, Muslim and Jewish.
His basic message will be that the £100 billion cost of replacing Trident nuclear missile submarines at a time when deep cuts are being made to public services is fundamentally immoral. “We oppose a disgraceful squandering of public money which has everything to do with national pride and nothing to do with national security.”
There are several opportunities to hear Bruce in London, but for most of us the nearest port of call will be at a multifaith event at the Wandsworth Quaker Meeting House (opposite Wandsworth Town Hall) on Saturday April 26th 1·30–4pm. Please publicise and support.
Once again I was invited to speak at the annual William Morris birthday celebration at the William Morris pub in Merton Abbey Mills and had an attentive and sympathetic audience for my message about the irrelevance of Trident and the growing strength of the global anti-nuclear movement, led by the international non-nuclear majority. It was a chance to collect some last-minute signatures for the national CND petition (due in at the end of March) and to promote Wool Against Weapons: I took my pink knitting with me — naturally.
I was pleased and touched when the esteemed folk singer Simon Prager followed me to the microphone and introduced his set by expanding on what I had said about the CND symbol. He had been personally acquainted with the potter commissioned to make the first generation Aldermaston badges which were made of clay (on the grounds that they would survive a nuclear firestorm!) and he explained about the semaphore-inspired design by Gerald Holtom.
[Note: we do have a few reproduction badges in the original black on white design if anyone wants to own one.]
Thank you, Auriel, for the invitation.