DAY 247: Apology

May 31st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Not for the first time I find that I’ve fallen behind, or been devancé, by my confrères in the blog racket by having failed to post anything, not a single word, syllable or even character, as Easter moved on into Ramadan (can that be right?) and the Israeli state raised the art of massacring unarmed residents of Gaza to a new level. I could raise feeble excuses based on my state of health (my knees are currently atrocious, but I don’t after all type with them) or poverty (and I’m daily confronted by examples of better and more productive writers who are starving): my best excuse was given to me two years ago by someone I particularly admire: ‘Don’t write unless you have something to say.’ So I haven’t. To post the conclusion first, and save you the trouble of reading the arguments such as they are: what is going on is repression on a massive, even murderous scale. But it isn’t genocide such as affected the First Nations in America and Australia, and the victims, many of whom are surviving and living among us, will remain and become part of our culture. That’s a small starting point.

Accordingly, I have been thinking, in the face of the increasingly dire political situation (yes, that again) that something new seems to be happening, both locally and globally. I could mention a piece which claimed that the President of the United States was no longer that important. (Assuming that there was a period, say between 1860 and 1970, I stand open to correction, when he was,) It seemed a good point, and well and crisply made. We have to keep continuously focused on the small, the human, the thongs which escape being ‘news’. Many aspects of the world scene are simply atrocious, but relatively minor aspects of the so-called Grand Scheme of Things. I have to tell stories which point out the essential point: that the human beings, however much you dislike them, torment them or torture them, aren’t going away. Why not give up, make friends, and come to terms with them? You’d feel better about yourself; and if you loo; closely at your arguments against (economic, or whatever), you’ll find they don’t hold.

One article on the continuing story of the Great Return March I have managed to retrieve. I think I’ll copy it since it summarises something I’m increasingly understanding about the Palestinian movement, or people. It’s not about winning or losing, the people are, and will remain, simply there. It’s an interview from the Israeli +972 magazine – which I suggest you subscribe to rather than reading my thoughts such as they are – with Hasan al-Kurd, one of the group of independents who organised the Gaza ‘Great Return March’. This makes clear that the march was an expression of an independent political demand within Gaza, and certainly not promoted or sponsored by Hamas

Did you to travel to Israel in the past?

“In the past I was part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a left-wing Palestinian party that supports armed resistance — r.y.). So of course I was never allowed in. I have never met an Israeli in my life.”

Al-Kurd’s belief, as well as that of the other organizers of the Great Return March (“We are a group of 20 people, including four women, and we have members of all the political factions”) in nonviolent resistance has influenced a large segment of the public in Gaza, including leaders of local factions.

How is the leadership feeling a week after the attempt to cross the fence? After last week’s bloodshed I saw that Ahmad Abu-Ratima, who also helped organize the march, wrote on Facebook that the protests won’t cease, and that the attempts to breach the border will continue until the siege is lifted.

“Many of us are still in shock. We did not expect such a large number of people killed and wounded. But you know what? Even though we have more people wounded than during the 2014 massacre, I hear that many of them want to get recover and return to the border to try and cross over again.”

Palestinian protesters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Gaza City on May 11, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)


“Because they have nothing to do. They do not feel that they have any other reason to live. One of the positive results of our protest, despite all the pain that followed the massive loss in life, is that it gives our young people a purpose and a goal in life. This is why we feel we have started something new that is not going to stop. We will try to cross the border again on June 5th (on Naksa Day, when Palestinians mark the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 – r.y.).”

What conclusions did you draw? Not everything went as planned.

“You’re right,” he sighs, the pain still audible in his voice. “We made a lot of mistakes. We did not control the protest as we had hoped. The involvement of the other factions in Gaza and the coordination among all of them made things extremely complicated. It began when we discovered how difficult it is to control the individual actions of young, desperate people. As much as we pleaded with them not to get close to the soldiers or use violence, so as to not give the soldiers a pretext for shooting them, some of the young people did not listen and threw stones. After all, we know that the Israeli soldier, who does not think twice before shooting women and children, is waiting for the tiniest excuse to kill. We could not keep people at the distance we wanted from the border.

Unity in resistance

The conclusion (which is obvious, and if I can find a good piece which argues it I’ll paste it in) is that paradoxically a policy which was meant to destroy Palestinian nationality has created it.

[Parenthesis: Was ‘Palestine’ as a nation actually created by the Balfour Declaration? I’d defer to others, but an important component of national consciousness seems to be the singling out of this segment of the Levant for special treatment by the Brits, and the feeling of the inhabitants that they ‘belonged’ together on account of a particular oppression? Discuss.]

These are the obvious but unintended consequences of repression directed against an entire population. Similarly (to turn to my second theme), with all attempts – and they’re getting more extreme all the time – to ‘stem the tide’ of refugees/migrants/whatever coming to Europe. You can kill them, jail them, drown them; they’ll keep coming. The humane solution is also the sensible one, and it costs so much less. Who would have imagined five years ago that the whole of northern France (nearly) would be so quickly transformed into, essentially, a police state? Who has the courage to call a halt to the process?

I’m reminded of what Izzy reported from Chios a year ago – and it’s hard to believe things have got better:

‘Tonight there are over 50 people sleeping outside the two camps on Chios. They arrived in the previous days and were all told there was no space. As we have seen several times before they were forced to walk between the two; carrying their children and their bags and an overarching cloud of hopelessness as they were repeatedly told to go back to the other.

Many have received threats of police removing them physically, others are sick, many haven’t eaten properly for days – all are tired and nervous of what comes next.

The situation here is unbearable, it’s of a horrific and catastrophic state I’ve not yet experienced on Chios.

Not even when fascists tried to burn children alive in their tents.

Or when an entire camp was emptied and given nowhere to sleep.

Now we are reaching a time where arrivals to the islands are straining them to a level that they simply cannot accommodate. Official figures for Chios estimate nearly 4000 people on the island which is almost three times over the official capacity. Meanwhile, the EU is pulling funding and the meagre presence of NGOs will be totally gone by the end of July.

But it’s not even this that is bringing the people here to the brink of collapse; it is the dark cloud of knowledge that something big is coming. For a year deportations have been discussed, fences have been constructed, legal systems that were put in place to ensure human rights have been sabotaged and detention centres built.

Now many people face huge uncertainty regarding the outcome of their asylum applications. Lawyers contact is minimal in many cases and a system designed to fail is leading to more and more arrests and deportations.

There is space on mainland camps but the islands continue to be used as giant holding cells. A macabre limbo where people wait often close to a year to know if they will either be sent back to Turkey or to a new camp to have their application for asylum in Greece simply considered.

One in three people here have witnessed a suicide in the camp, many have scars all over their own wrists and the mental torture deliberately inflicted through deplorable conditions in the camp and a seemingly neverending asylum process is taking its toll.

In a month there will be no going back.

Many of us on the ground here are failing at putting the daily suffering in front of our eyes into words. It is not from lack of will or fear but from exasperation, from the inability to describe the total despair that surrounds us. For years people have spent time gathering families, belongings and packing their bags – fleeing all that they knew and now they have been imprisoned on the shores of Europe.

To call this a prison is no understatement and by no means embellishment.

Those involved in this crisis have spent months putting photos into the public domain, stories and videos.

Dead children in the sand, smiling families finding solace in the sadness or capsizing boats has failed to create sustained action.

A post from Lesvos in the early days of this crisis was titled:

”The children’s feet are rotting – you have one month or they will all be dead.”

Nearly two years later I assure you, you have one month or many of these people will be deported to unsafe countries; locked in cells with no trial or will have been driven to trauma, despair and mental collapse the average human cannot imagine.

Many people have asked me why we aren’t talking, why we aren’t posting – in all honesty we don’t know what to tell you anymore.

Please just fight, hard and fast. The beginning of the end of this chapter of Europe’s refugee ‘crisis’ is approaching, the arrivals won’t stop and neither will the wars or natural disasters but any ounce of fairness or humanity that was left is about to be utterly extinguished.

If you don’t act the next photos you will see will be of children behind bars; of young people being forced onto boats to Turkey on masse, of more suicides and of faces who still hold traces of shock at what they found here in the pursuit of safety but are utterly resigned to the fact humanity has totally failed.’





DAY 245: Lamentations

May 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

My mind has been running, as minds do run, when it hasn’t been obsessed with royal


babies or hostile environments or the impending departure of the King of the Emirates- for where ? on the strange work known as the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, which every day as more populous cities are abandoned and sit lonesome like widows, seems more relevant. Aside from the fact (which only a crossword maniac would pay attention to) that
three of its chapters are acrostics with 22 verses corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, it does ask the question of where is God when our beautiful cities have been destroyed in this shitty way by the Hebrew equivalent of Daesh (say)? It’s a common enough question, and as usual God isn’t about to provide an answer. The other much-loved look (by me) know as  Ecclesiastes or Qohelet seems to take the more reasonable position that none of this is God’s business anyway, and we just need to keep thinking about him before the grasshopper gets to be a burden (pretty soon) and desire fails (not yet, I’m afraid). Which leads us to the question of why people write books at all. As the Preacher says ‘Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.’ Amen to that!

Which brings me naturally to the weekend I spent at what the Quakers call their Yearly Meeting (Annual Conference to you), finding the friends deeply absorbed in the need to bring out a fresh edition of their standard text ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’. Why/ Of making many books there is no end, how will it help to add another? The motion to revise passed, of course, nem. con., and I didn’t have the eloquence required to marshal the (I’d have thought) obvious arguments against the enterprise:

!. The Quakers a) are bad at discipline b) don’t think it’s a good thing. So why do they need a book of discipline rather than a poetic book which says, say, some tosh about how God made the world, or loves the world, or has ways which are mysterious but just; and about how we are here on a vale of tears to live a life of suffering – all put in fine and poetical language so that the masses, if they don’t actually believe it, will at least find it comforting.

2. A book, as a basis for a religion, should be something you turn to to help you survive the unbearable daily grind, and it should be packed with nuggets of handy information about how you survive. This has nothing to do with discipline. Look at the AA Twelve Steps – they say nothing about discipline, because they say, basically, that you’re going to be incapable of it. As I’ve often been told, the important thing is to give up before you start, That, I feel, has the kind of poetry in action which makes it possible to get somewhere. Your cities have been destroyed, none of you friends will console you. Despair. It seems a pretty good basis to build on in Europe right now, and if I had the energy I might start a religion, buy a shopfront, write a gospel and all that stuff. I can’t say that the triumph of the Msys and the Javids (and the discomfiture of the Rudds) can be taken as a sign. But an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign – I guess that’s us.


On a completely different topic, I’ve been learning yet another way in which I was massively ignorant about the law; I’m sure there are more to come. You know how we (you and I) think of time as a continuum, or an ever-flowing stream, and if we’re supposed to bake a cake for forty minutes assume that this means something between thirty-nine and forty-one (say). The lawyer’s conception of time is completely different, which is why it’s lucky they’re never allowed to bake cakes. For a lawyer, time is divided into discrete units of six minutes – I expect it goes back to the Babylonians – think of the Code of Hammurabi -, but I can’t find a reference offhand. The consequences are obvious: if Meghan calls her lawyer Angelique about her marital status under EU law after Brexit and Angelique replies ‘Sorry, love, I’m at lunch, I’ll call you back in an hour’, Meghan, who finally gets a two minute conversation, is going to be billed for six minutes of Angelique’s time (say £10 at £100 an hour), since the legal accounting system allows for no shorter units. The historian, who sees time

in a completely different way (what was the date of the battle of Barnet? how many weeks did Hey Jude occupy the number 1 spot, and which weeks were they?), not to mention the astrophysicist or the person who searches for quarks or works out orbits for drones, where a nanosecond can make the difference between eliminating a bad guy and a blameless family, as often happens. Meghan (to return to her) will also be billed for six minutes that Angelique has spent worrying about EU law and families (twelve minutes if she’s really worried). The latter, or some student in her office, will have also spent time working out all these costs and checking them – think of the tine taken thinking about time! Time squared!!


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