Monthly Archives: May 2013

Forbidden to return (A Real Fairy Tale) from Mohammad Arafat in Gaza

Ahmad and his family were living in Alafola village in Palestine. Their life was full of happiness and relaxation. Ahmad was working in a small farm in harvesting olive trees. He and his family were always visiting their farm in the morning. They were eating and using what they got from their farm like olives and olive oil. Ahmad had few cows and goats that he used to cow and eat their meat. He also had a group of hens with a rooster to get eggs from.
Once, Ahmad heard from his neighbors that the Israelis attacked the neighboring villages and kicked the people out. He was afraid of what he heard and was asking himself” what will we do if they attack ours? I have a big family of six and two small babies”. Ahmad and his wife Mariam could not sleep that night thinking of what they heard.
In a foggy morning, Ahmad heard a massive missile was shot beside his home and suddenly his home shook, so he said that the bomb was just the beginning of the war on their village. He went to his farm to see what happened to the tame animals. In the way to the farm, Ahmad met his friend and started to speak about the bad situations in the village and what happened to Ahmad`s home. Accidently, while they are speaking, a shell was shot by them and his friend got a fragment in his neck. Ahmad was shocked and took his friend to the hospital.
The next morning and after Ahmad went back home from the hospital, he found large groups of Israeli soldiers were around the village. They were warning its people that they would destroy it if they did not leave, so Ahmad noticed many villagers started to emigrate towards the neighboring villages and cities. Firstly, Ahmad did not go out and stayed home with his family, but when the Israeli army attacked them in their home and warned them that they will destroy it, Ahmad and the family left their home and hastened towards Gaza forgetting everything in their home. The family decided to go to Gaza because it`s empty of soldiers as they thought.
On the way to Gaza, the family had neither food nor water to feed even their little children. They forgot everything in their home. They were lucky that it was cold so that they were not too thirsty, but it was a strict situation for the innocent family. Finally the the hard situation forced them to start on their way to Gaza. They were not alone in that time going to Gaza. They were immigrating with many other villagers and citizens from Aka, Jaffa, Ramlah and Haifa. When the family arrived in Gaza after a difficult time of sacrifices, they got a small tent to live in and two dishes of soup with some pieces of bread. Mariam (the wife) distributed the food to all children, but while she was doing that, she began to scream and cry ”Where is my daughter Ayaaaah???” she left her middle daughter Ayah in their home in Alafola. The wife did not stop crying. She said that she is the first responsible for her daughter’s loss, but her husband Ahmad came to her and assured her that he will return to the village and look for the girl. The wife firstly refused and did not let him go. She said” we lost one from the family and we cannot lose another one, please don`t go!!” but in the same time she needs her daughter back to hug and kiss her. In the night, the family went to sleep sadly, but could not sleep. They were thinking of the girl and the home. They were thinking of what happened to him and to their neighbors who lost many of their children there. Finally the wife slept and the husband started his way to return to Alafola to get the daughter.
Ahmad began his strict trip to Alafola. He passed Gaza`s borders and some other blocks hardly to arrive the distention of his home. He thought was about to die of the bullets in that area. Finally he arrived the village and was shocked when he saw his home in a conflagration and about to collapse. He began to scream and cry. He entered the home and suddenly found his daughter passed out through the smoke. He picked her up and threw himself out through the window of the home. The father was so sad about his daughter’s condition and at the same time happy because he found the girl safe and sound.
Ahmad stayed in front of his home for moments thinking of his home how it was and how it is now. He decided to go back to Gaza, but two Israeli soldiers saw him with the unconscious girl . They stopped him and asked him to leave the girl and go out the village. Ahmad refused, but the soldiers warned him that they will kill him with the girl inthe same time, so Ahmad told them” I prefer to die beside my daughter to go to Jannah with each other Inshallah” .You can shot me with my daughter now. The soldiers forced him to leave the girl and then they hit him. One of the soldiers went to the girl and started to swear at her then he killed her and stamped on her face by his boots. The father began to cry and scream for his daughter, so the soldiers carried him out the village and he completed his way to Gaza with a huge mountain of depression. When he arrived Gaza and entered the tent, he and the wife began to cry and wail between their children. They were crying about their home and girl. They were crying about their bad situations. They were crying about what happened to Palestine and its people.
After 20 years of sadness and depression, the family developed their tent to a small home consisting of two small rooms and a bath. The UNRWA helped them in that home and gave them food and water. The children became young and Ahmad with the wife got too old.
One cloudy evening, an Israeli jeep came to Ahmad`s home to arrest his oldest son Mohammad. Ahmad could not force them to leave Mohammad because he was too old, so the son forced away leaving them alone. He had not even a knife to defend himself with. Finally he went to the jail where the soldiers were. They beat him and swore at him on the way to the jail. When they arrived at the jail, the jailers carried Mohammad in and began to torture him and ask him why he was throwing stones at the soldiers, but Ahmad said ”this is our right to defend ourselves and resist you. This is our land and no one can take it from us. We will get the freedom soon Inshallah”.
Mariam was so sad about their bad experiences. She tolerated a lot but was always saying” I lost my home in Alafola, I lost my daughter, I lost my son, but I will not lose my homeland ‘Palestine’. One day we will return.
Story by Mohammad Arafat, Gaza.

25th anniversary of the Miners’ Industrial Action of 1984

1972 Birmingham and action taken by miners led to the Battle of Saltley Gate. In consequence a divisive Tory Government led by Edward Heath toppled. By 1984 Labour administrations had come and gone and once more the Tories were back with Margaret Thatcher as leader. A definitive history of these times still has to be written. Meanwhile we have dominating the scene biased right wing media which have run with the “enemy within” myth spouted by Thatcher at the time. This was believed by the gullible as they believed in the justification of the sinking of the Argentinian battleship the Belgrano.
As we endure another round of Toryism complete with new “austerity” measures foisted on us it is becoming abundantly clear who was, and is the “enemy within”: those responsible for allowing British industry to virtually disappear from swathes of industrial Britain leaving whole communities devoid of employment prospects and hope. We became dependent on foreign sources of energy, both costly and unreliable, as our mining industry was first sold off to private hands and then rapidly closed down.
In 2009 a meeting was held at the Conway Halls in Red Lion Square, London, when a number of those present came together to put the record straight. As with the 40th anniversary of Saltley Gate in 2012 the leading figure of Arthur Scargill took centre stage. Largely ignored by mainstream media and dismissed along with others in the forefront of the fight for Socialism as the answer to the crisis of Capitalism it is worth listening to his account of events. This along, with Seamus Milnes corrective “The Enemy Within” are the essentials for an understanding recent history so completely represented by one side with the power to distort and cover up at will.
One of the issues the miners’ leaders were charged with was a failure of democracy within the NUM. As Scargill points out this was far from the case. who took their own decisions. The national leadership were in no position to dictate to them even if they wished to do so. Others criticised them for holding a strike “in the wrong place at the wrong time” while members of the Labour Party and other union leaders wring their hands. There were honourable exceptions, and as Moira Symons, Secretary of the Labour Party in Birmingham in 1972 there were those like Jim Mortimore, present at the meeting on Red Lion Square, who gave their strong support.

50th anniversary trip to Hungary

It’s done, I’ve booked the rail journey and hotels en route to Hungary which I first visited 50 years ago. I shall be staying with the friend I first met during that trip and his wife, spending time at Lake Balaton as well as Budapest.
I’ll be travelling by rail on this occasion. In 1963 I took a night flight to Vienna traveling on by rail to Budapest. The flight in a British European Airways Viscount with lightening flashing across the pitch black night was not to be forgotten as we approached Vienna. My arrival at an unearthly hour in the morning meant I couldn’t get into the hotel until after desperately trying to attract attention. I managed a short rest before going to explore Vienna which I walked around in a daze. With my face swollen and distorted by insect bites I tried to make the most of only a few hours here. It’s always an insect that gets in a first welcome to Austria: horse flies and assortments have been my earlier and later experience.
The Danube beckoned so I thought I’d walk to see its wondrous blue. It turned out to be miles away in an area of heavy industry. This was reflected in a grey hue. I was able to spend more time on the return with trips to Schonbrunn and a performance of Die Fledermaus out at a theatre in the Vienna Woods if I remember correctly.
The train to Budapest was drawn by a huge black steam monster belching out smoke with soot that settled in hair and clothing. I needed to get to my hotel, the Beke (Peace) if I remember in Lenin Korut. Budapest at this time remained scarred from events of 1956. It was the distinctive and unique Hungarian culture, particularly food and music which had lured me here. I was also interested in the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe. I had first experienced these in 1961 during in a trip that took in Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany as well as the Soviet Union.
After a few rather lonely days in Budapest I moved onto Balatonfoldvar on Lake Balaton. Still not knowing how to make the best use of my stay I headed for the local tourist office. I found an interesting musical event taking place in the grounds of the Festetics Castle at Keszthely where a Haydn oratorio was to be performed by the railway choir. Problem was I couldn’t get back afterwards. I hadn’t noticed someone else in the room had been listening in. “Come with me” he suggested, “I have relations living there and they will put you up for the night.” The young man introduced himself as Egon who was a doctor in the Hungarian army. This year I am taking an engraved tankard commemoration 50 years of friendship.
We travelled to Kesthely by boat crossing over to the volcanic hill of Badacsony covered in vines. There we filled lemonade bottles to the brim with the beautiful local white wine. It was very hot and the wine was very welcome.
It was a wonderful experience to be invited into a home in a rural village. I stayed the night in the home of a friend nearby. I remember next morning I was suffering from a upset tummy, something that will happen with a change of water and diet. Why I remember this particularly I can’t say! Somehow I managed and we returned to Foldvar by train.
Egon introduced me to a few of his friends. One of them was a music student. It was the music of Bartok and Kodaly, together with Hungarian food, that drew me to Hungary in the first place, not just its political complexion. People I met were not very sympathetic to the imposition of a Communist government particularly after the repression of the Budapest uprising. The three of us walked around Foldvar humming Hungarian folk tunes, some of which I knew from Bartok’s piano music. We sat out late into the night drinking local wines, discussing music and politics among other things.
Another excursion was to the abbey on the Tihany Peninsula high on a hill.
Egon, Tihany (1963)
Egon, Tihany (1963).
John, Tihany (1963)
John, Tihany (1963).
Since 1963 I have met with Egon in many and varied places. He visited England where he stayed with my parents at their house at 45 Cedar Park Road in Enfield where I was born. In 1966 we met up again in Poland along with his friend Miklos. In 1971 I drove to Hungary with my wife in a Ford Escort painted a newly promoted metallic silver-grey. The heat of the sun in Hungary stripped the paintwork! Egon found us accommodation on Roszadom (Hill of Roses) in Buda by kicking a friend out of his home. On that occasion we visited Kaposvar, Egon’s home town, where his parents and grandmother continued to live. It was a grand home with large rooms and high ceilings, a cool respite from the intense heat. We travelled to Pecs, a city once taken over by Turkish invaders with the mosque now converted to a church. We first met with Kinga, Egon’s wife-to-be at Fertod, the Esterhazy Palace where Haydn spent much of his time. We stayed for a concert of music for piano, string quartet and girls’ choir with music by Haydn, Bartok and Kodaly.
Another excursion was to Visegrad on the Danube at the border with then Czechoslovakia. This remains a favourite place. We returned to Budapest by steamer taking in Szentendre, an artistic paradise close to Budapest.
On another occasion our families both met in Yugoslavia. This was before the turmoil and break up. Both of us had families with a boy and girl each. We returned to Hungary in I think 1986 as a family staying in the family apartment in Pest and then at their holiday home at Balatonboglar. Since then we have holidayed together in England. Wales, Scotland and Ireland.