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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.
Issue 166: February 2009

On a topic like the recent war on Gaza it is difficult to know where to start because there are so many issues involved. However a kill ratio of 1:100 is not a ‘war’ in a conventional sense, it is a turkey shoot. It was also a collective punishment meted out by the Israeli state onto the people of Gaza which cannot possibly be justified by accusing Hamas of being a ‘terrorist’ organisation. Hamas is democratically elected; we may or may not like what they stand for, and their shelling of rockets into Israel is extremely foolhardy and violent, but killing hundreds of children and ordinary people is inexcusable.

Gaza is one large prison camp or ghetto which is why its inhabitants have been forced to build tunnels. Yes, some of these tunnels may be used for smuggling in weapons or components for weapons but how can such restrictions on movements of goods be justified by either Israel or Egypt? Everyone has a right to a dignified life free of degrading treatment and the blockade on Gaza is certainly forcing Gazans into degradation.

When we editorialised on Palestine and Israel in Nonviolent News 159 (May 2008), we asked what real security is and stated that “Real security can only come when there is justice and peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians and that cannot come until Palestinians get their rights, and the violence of the Israeli state oppression is overcome.”

A Palestinian state is currently impossible. The inequalities that exist are immense. And when oppressed people react they may react in a crude and violent way but to blame them for reacting violently, without condemning the cause of their oppression, is to in itself heap more violence and ignominy on their heads. Of course we might prefer that they do not use violence. But have their demands for justice been listened to whether they have protested violently or non-violently? No.

Israel needs to withdraw to the internationally recognised boundaries. The Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank need to be removed over a relatively short time period, and further developments halted immediately. Real negotiations and dialogue need to begin, as this process is implemented, to work out a fair deal for a Palestinian state; Palestinians have been pushed to the margins from a situation, at the outbreak of the Second World War, when a maximum of 28% of the land of the then Palestine was owned by Jews.

None of this is easy. None of it will happen without the USA and Europe demanding changes from Israel. The founding Jewish myth is partly that Palestine was a homeland for Jews as “A country without a people for a people without a country”. Palestine was already inhabited and, as mentioned above, most of these inhabitants were Palestinian with only slightly over a quarter being Jewish. Fitting two peoples into that ‘one country’ that existed is a difficult task but not an impossible one if there is the development of a positive relationship between the different sides. That can only come with goodwill from both sides and pressure for change from the international community.

The journey in Palestine and Israel over the last century has been a tortuous and cruel one, and no side can claim purity (nor, indeed, can the West, Arab states, or the international community in general). But if you look at the injustices of the current situation it is clear that the Palestinian people are oppressed by the Israeli state – there is no other way of putting it. To journey away from the violent conflict of the past is for both sides to leave behind some of the accumulated baggage and seek new ways of relating in the future. It can be done. The task is to get it done sooner rather than later, since the longer it goes on the more intractable it becomes. The ball is at the feet of the USA and the EU if they want to play for peace in the Middle East. And if those who can put pressure to move things on fail to do so then the outcome will be more violence, more despair, more deaths and a situation where Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ (settlements in the West Bank) make a solution more and more difficult.

Dealing with the past: Eames-Bradley
INNATE thinks it is important to engage in the debate that the report of the Consultative Group on Dealing with the Past has opened. The group was established to look into ways to address the consequences of “the Troubles”. The main reason for INNATE to do it is the fact that it has been involved in promoting non-violence and dialogue to resolve conflicts for over 20 years, with special reference to Northern Ireland. The group is such an initiative, which we welcome.

Let us focus on relevant statements that have come out over the time it has been operating and look into the recommendations it makes accordingly. Stitched together they broaden the debate to what has been in the news since its launch on January 28th 2009.

We invite our network and readers to read, explore, debate, discuss in the light of these quotes taken from the Consultative Group’s website We will also mention the topics/issues under recommendation so as to focus the debate on what are the proposed and possible mechanisms of implementation. We do wish it is a constructive debate in the light of the public acknowledgement that dealing with the past is necessary and unavoidable for society as a whole and amongst everybody. We will make some further comments in the next issue of Nonviolent News.

29th May 2008
Finding ways to deal with our troubled past will not be easy and everyone will have to look beyond their own beliefs and perceptions if we are to have a brighter and better future where all traditions are accommodated and respected.

10th November 2008
There will be no amnesty recommended in our report to deal with the legacy of the past, co-Chair of the Group, Denis Bradley, said today. Speaking at an event in Belfast, jointly organised by Queens School of Nursing and Midwifery and WAVE, he also challenged wider society to help deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past and not to place the entire burden on victims and survivors.

18th January 09
Taken from the foreword:

The Consultative Group on the Past was established to find a way forward out of the shadows of the past. The goal was to enable our society to do this together and this was to be achieved through the widest possible consultation. This engagement had to be voluntary which led to fears hat only a few would actually engage with us.

However, the group was overwhelmed with the level of engagement from across our society. The response underlined the immense amount of work that had already been done to create a society truly at peace with its past. However, it also highlighted the depth of hurt and suspicion that still exists in very part of our society

These recommendations are organised in 6 areas/aspects:

The Legacy of the Past and Reconciliation

Victims and Survivors

The Legacy Commission

Society Issues

Processes of Justice and Information Recovery


Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column–

Understanding the economy

We live, as commentators say, in the information age. This is certainly true in the affluent countries. When I was a boy, Northern Ireland had two TV channels, BBC and ITV, which broadcast for 12 hours a day. Now television and radio broadcast 24-hours a day and the internet, which brings many of the great libraries of the world into one’s living room, as well as a great deal else, never sleeps. The daily newspapers and their supplements contain more articles that one could ever read, in addition are the innumerable magazines on sale, not to mention all manner of advertisements, reports by governments, NGO’s and businesses.

One might assume by this volume of information that we as a society are well informed and therefore equipped to deal with issues such as the present “economic crisis”. This is not the case. The economic models economists presented to governments were completely wrong, economic predictions were pure fantasy, and the security networks sold to hardworking citizens in the form of investments, saving plans and pension schemes are in many cases worthless.

Why did we so misunderstand the nature of our own economic construct? The reason is because a great deal of information is self-referred, which is to say, it has meaning only within the paradigm that produced it. Information is not the same as understanding. Understanding is rooted in critical thinking, the ability to make comparisons and connections, and involves transcendence and compassion.

The lack of understanding of our economy has led governments and big business to offer solutions to the economic malaise that arise from the mindset that created it in the first place. As the banner headline in the morning edition of the Belfast Telegraph, 25th November 2008, reads “Spend, spend, spend”. This followed the announcement by the UK chancellor Alistair Darling of a cut in VAT by 2.5% to 15%.

The economic measures announced at this time means that government borrowing will reach 118 billion pounds in the course of 2009. This is a debt that will be left to our children to pay. The ethos of ‘spend, spend, spend’ will lead to an increase in global warming gases, loss of biodiversity and pollution of water and air, all of which are counter to human wellbeing, which is the purpose of an economy in the first place.

The misunderstanding of the global economy has resulted in the UK parliament voting to build a third runway at Heathrow, while its short-list of contenders to harvest the energy of the Severn estuary left out those less likely to have a minimal impact on the local environment. The British government recently made millions of pounds available to the car industry, while giving a mere few hundred thousand pounds to research into the decline of the honeybee. It refinanced the banks to the tune of billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money while doing little to support businesses based on sound ecological principles.

Understanding, aided by information, would lead many key economic and political decision makers to conclude that we cannot consume our way out of the “economic crisis”, that we cannot have infinite consumption in a finite world. As John Madeley, an economic journalist, wrote in The Guardian, 31st January 2009:

“If we are to take sustainability seriously then in a world of finite resources we surely need to live within the limits of our resources, not to expect that economic growth will rise all the time. That’s just greedy.”

A Poem for Gaza

A poem for Gaza

Even if the topic is grim, we’re delighted to publish another poem from our old friend Lothar Luken:

black olives

deep tracks in dry soil

dust forever unsettled

olive branches not offered

but splintered and crushed


shadow of concrete wall

casts darkness on old man

they bulldozed his trees

his grandpa’s olive trees


not much I can do there

but buying this beautiful bowl

crafted by robbed refugees

from tank ravaged wood

here, friend, take some olives

from my exiled bowl

they’re black and I wish

they could be from Gaza


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