George Rishmawi (right) visiting Birmingham in April 2008 with a resident of Bil’in, a village in the West Bank where the dividing wall has cut villagers off from their land. Each week peaceful demonstrations, supported by international activists march to the wall where they encounter rubber-coated rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs a foul water. They are at a demonstration in Victoria Square, Birmingham, where council workers are fighting to keep jobs and conditions.
George Rishmawi became a friend in 2004 on our visit to the Holy Land where we were sad to see people supposedly inspired by sacred scripture and tradition unable to translate that teaching into the high standards of humanitarian conduct they require. It is a land where killing and hatred is now deeply entrenched. We found, however people like George who has no religious pretentions, working like many others to resolve the situation.He and they believe in, and practice, peaceful resistance. It is they who preserve the “Holiness” here, not the extremists who claim the exclusive right to the land. It is the bigots who use religious zeal as the excuse for inhumanity, denying the rights of freedom of others in their demonstrations of piety. An army, supplied by the US, Britain and other Western powers, occupies the land of the Palestinians and often protects others who have seized the land illegally.
Now George’s father has passed away. Below George pays tribute to him and explains how he influenced him. They are a family with a Christian background, but Israeli occupying forces make no distinction between them and their Muslim brothers and sisters. All are as systematically and comprehensively oppressed.
We have had the pleasure of meeting George in Birmingham since we first met and have had the opportunity of honouring him in a modest way. I have video footage of our day in Bethlehem when we visited the empty and damaged Church of the Nativity. Yasser Arafat told us that we must ensure that it is restored. We saw the dividing fence, now a wall, between Jerusalem and the little town of the beloved carol, and we met the family of a man who had died the day before in Jerusalem, and whose family house had been destroyed by the Israeli army in reprisal.
George we send our deep sympathy and admiration for a life whose example we can all now share a little.
The appearance of Fidel Castro on Cuban television shows him as still being alert and concerned about key issues. He speaks about the serious situation in which mankind finds itself referring to the imminent Copenhagen Conference when a statement is due about just this.
Anyone who looks at the Cuban publication “Granma” will already realised that Castro remains an interested observer and commentator on current affairs, and his views from years of experience on the international stage adds a considerable dimension to his thoughts.
While Cuba’s influence on other countries, notably in the Caribbean and southern Americas, providing humanitarian aid, the alternative to the sick world of Capitalism gives hope and inspiration to all of us.
l to r Khalid Mahmood MP, Birmingham Perry Barr, Adrian Goldberg, Editor, The Stirrer, John Hemming MP, Birmingham Yardley
Yet another meeting took place at Birmingham Council House yesterday (23/8/2009) to discuss the clash between the English Defence League and anti-fascist demonstrators on 8th August. This one attracted two MPs, John Hemming and Khalid Mahmood, and two prominent councillors, Salma Yaqoob (Respect Birmingham) and Judy Foster (Dudley and the Police Committee). There was no one from the Tories available on the platform.
Also on the platform was Chief Inspector Adrian Atherley, head of West Midlands Police’s “diversity and community cohesion unit”. If he’s the head of this unit I suggest it is inappropriately named since the police policy of allowing the gathering of a group of people from Luton, where they have already been banned, was bound to lead to anything other than cohesion. The meeting representing around 80 people across the political and cultural spectrum unanimously agreed with Luton’s approach. The Chief Inspector continued to insist that the EDL and UAF had the right to exercise a peaceful gathering while some of their supporters resorted to violence.
Salma Yaqoob made it very clear to the Chief Inspector that he had been warned of the possibility of trouble arising. She emphasised that Mosques and parents had discouraged young Muslims from attending, but faced with the provocative message that the EDL in common with the BNP insisted on making it was unrealistic to expect a different outcome.
At the beginning of the meeting Adrian Goldberg, Editor or the Stirrer, gave a very clearly argued proposal for the idea of “Birmingham United” which would be a gathering of people to celebrate our cohesive multicultural society at the time members of the EDL were due to gather. This too met with unanimous approval.
According to the Washington Post the CIA commissioned Blackwater, the firm now being questioned over killings in Iraq, to assassinate Al Quaeda suspects. It is now known that Blackwater’s founder and boss, Erik Prince, had a mission. As a born again Christian he saw his purpose to eliminate Muslims. Iraqi people became fair game for his armed personnel sent there.
Now a story about the removal of the President Zelaya from power in Honduras is being relayed (source Information Clearing House-see below). It tells of two large US corporations along with CIA support. Sounds familiar
The prospect of a ‘flu pandemic seems to induce hysteria. The Government panics for fear it is seen as unready for such an event and then people are worried, particularly parents since press stories of Avian, and now Swine ‘flu speak of their lethal potential.
When Avian ‘flu did eventually turn up in Norfolk the then Environmental Secretary, David Milliband, was more concerned with the commercial consequences blaming wild birds rather than Bernard Matthews’ infamous “bootiful” turkeys – or the method of intensive rearing where a virus can have a field day. Swine ‘flu has similarly been connected to Smithfield, a firm which rears pigs in unpleasant conditions in both the US and Mexico, the source of Swine ‘flu.
The downside of mass vaccinations, warned of by some professionals, has been played down and so Tamiflu has been stockpiled. Paracetemol they say is more appropriate and the widespread use of the anti-viral will hasten its ability to develop a resistance to this treatment.
I was kindly sent a ticket for a performance of the Burma Play at the Library Theatre in Birmingham last night (14/8/2009). It played to a packed house and was followed by an informed discussion which involved a number of people with first hand knowledge of the situation.
The subtitle is “A Comedy of Terror” referring to the comedians the “Moustache Brothers” jailed for presuming to poke fund at the regime. By strange coincidence I had been to a performance of The Comedy of Errors by the Shakespeare Globe Theatre touring company at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford earlier this week. Both productions were accompanied by on-stage musicians with clarinets and an array of percussion to give an eastern flavour and provide sound-effects for slap-stick comedy.
The two performers involved this evening knew Burma and the Burmese well and they also took part in the following discussion. The play alluded to events and these were presented with conviction and passion. Naturally Aung San Suu Kyi’s role was an integral part, but there had been no attempt to revise the play in the light of the most recent events. Her assertion “I am not afraid” was one repeated themes was the imagery of a white bridge over the lake where so many Burmese people were massacred by Burmese troops. The bridge had to be speedily hosed down to restore it from blood red to its pristine state. Many, including young women, were drowned in the lake.
The emerging evidence of private involvement in theatres of war increasingly shows how unsafe and uncontrolled this is, but it is a feature that has emerged during the Bush administration in the US and widely copied.
Now an individual is charged with the murder of two security colleagues. Many security guards are ex-soldiers. While the security firms may view this as a good reason to employ such people, here we see someone who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from his experiences. Giving him a gun is the last thing anyone should have even considered.
The unravelling has begun. How far left is “far left”? How “far right” Bush and yes those apparently close during the presidential years? Now Dick Cheney is having his say we read in the Washington Post.
While Cheney is directing his criticism to the “far-left” President Obama he makes it clear that Bush was moving away from his influence with his readiness to compromise with groups Cheney disapproves. As public approval slipped away from him Bush no longer deferred to his deputy, long seen as the power behind the throne.
I have not been keeping an eye on what is happening in South America as the western press are pretty dismissive of the world outside global capitalism. Whether China fits into that category is a moot point and what I’ve seen of intervention in African countries it can seem like neo-colonialism. However a report in Al-Jazeera shows Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales watching the launch of a satellite which the Chinese have launched on behalf of Venezuela to enhance the country’s telecommunication capability..
The Independent publishes an account of the realities on the front line in Afghanistan, The serving officer, who does not reveal his name, spent time in Iraq and says that even that didn’t prepare him for this.
The casualties, deaths and serious injuries with multiple amputations, seem to be treated casually: “medium”, “tolerable”. Somehow the politicians, the decision makers who have committed so many lives here, have to “sell” their justification. In reality though there isn’t any.