Norwich Stop War President detained in Egypt while trying to aid Gaza

Important info about my friend and Green Councillor colleague Peter Offord.
Please help, if you can!!:

GAZA FREEDOM MARCH – BREAKING NEWS
PETER OFFORD DETAINED IN EL ARISH, EGYPT

As some of you may know Norwich Stop the War President, Peter Offord, is
one of the international delegates travelling to Gaza to take part in the
Gaza Freedom March. With him he is taking in art supplies to assist the
Palestine Trauma Centre in Gaza. He and his colleagues were hoping to
enter Gaza through the Egyptian border.

However we have learned today that the Egyptian police are stopping
international delegates from travelling to the Rafah border, where they
intended to cross into Gaza to take part in the March. Currently Peter is
around 40 kilometres from the Gaza border, which has been closed.

This evening he has forwarded the message printed below explaining that he
was among those detained in El Arish, to which the message refers.

We must do all we can to ensure that the march is allowed to proceed and
materials are delivered..

PLEASE CONTACT THE EGYPTIAN CONSULATE CALLING FOR THE BORDER TO BE OPENED
AND INTERNATIONAL DELEGATES AND AID TO BE ALLOWED TO ENTER GAZA.:-

The Consulate General
2 Lowndes Street
London SW1X 9ET
Tel: 020 7235 9777
020 7235 6562
Fax: 020 7235 5684
E-mail: info@egyptianconsulate.co.uk

Kind Regards
Frank M Stone
Convenor Norwich Stop the War Coalition
____________________________________________________________________

Egyptian Security Forces Detain Gaza Freedom Marchers in
el-Arish and shut down Gaza Memorial in Cairo

What: Egyptian security forces detain internationals in el-Arish, break up
memorial actions in Cairo

When: Sunday, December 27, noon: the Egyptian security forces detained a
group of 30 internationals in their hotel in el-Arish and another group of
8 at the bus station. They also broke up a memorial action commemorating
the Cast Lead massacre at the Kasr al Nil Bridge

At noon on 27 December, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30
activists in their hotel in el-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza,
placing them under house arrest. The delegates, all part of the Gaza
Freedom March of 1,300 people, were Spanish, French, British, American,
and Japanese.

The Egyptian security forces eventually yielded, letting most of the
marchers leave the hotel, but did not permit them to leave the town. When
two younger delegates, a French and Japanese woman, attempted to leave
el-Arish, the Egyptian authorities stopped their taxi and unloaded their
luggage.

Another group of eight people, including citizens from American, British,
Spanish, Japanese and Greece, were detained at the bus station of Al Arish
in the afternoon of December 27. As of 3:30 PM, they were still being
held.

Simultaneously, Egyptian security police broke up a commemoration of the
Israeli invasion of Gaza organized by the Gaza Freedom March at Kasr al
Nil Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting Zamalek Island, in the
middle of the Nile, to Cairo. As a non-violent way of commemorating the
more than 1300 Palestinians killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza that
began a year ago on December 27, 2008, Gaza Freedom Marchers tied hundreds
of strings with notes, poems, art and the names of those killed to the
bridge.
"We're saddened that the Egyptian authorities have blocked our
participants' freedom of movement and interfered with a peaceful
commemoration of the dead," said Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, one of the
March's organizers.

Benjamin added that the Gaza Freedom March participants are continuing to
urge the Egyptian government to allow them to proceed to Gaza. They
visited the Arab League asking for support, various foreign embassies and
the Presidential Palance to deliver an appeal to President Mubarak. They
are calling their supporters around the world to contact Egyptian
embassies and urge them to free the marchers and allow them to proceed to
Gaza.

Tatchell stands down from MP bid – The Observer

 

Corrected version of Peter’s piece in the OBSERVER last week. Sad, but inspiring reading.
Let him be given a peerage!…:

The Observer – Peter Tatchell profile
 
How constant beatings have caught up with campaigner Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is standing down as a Green party parliamentary candidate after assaults by Robert Mugabe’s thugs and Russian neo-Nazis. He tells Elizabeth Day about his painful decision

The Observer, Sunday 20 December 2009

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/20/peter-tatchell-retires-interview  

Photo slide show of Peter Tatchell’s human rights campaigns:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2009/dec/20/gay-rights-activism  

Note: There are some annoying factual mistakes and misquotes in the interview and the photo captions
 

After surviving more than 300 physical attacks, two stabbing attempts, a live bullet posted through his door and a succession of vicious beatings that have left him mildly brain-damaged, Peter Tatchell must be one of the only people in the world who could still consider himself fortunate. “I’m lucky,” he insists with the quiet nonchalance of someone discussing the weather. “What helps me cope is to put things in perspective. My injuries pale in comparison to the pro-democracy campaigners in Iran or the environmentalists in Russia or the political activists in Zimbabwe. If they were doing what I was doing, they would be dead.” (This should read: “If I was doing what they are doing, I would be dead.”)

For much of the past four decades, the 57-year-old Tatchell has been fighting for what he believes is right. The Australian-born political activist has protested against homophobia, apartheid and the death penalty. He has spoken out against the dictatorships in Franco’s Spain, Pinochet’s Chile and Khomeini’s Iran.

In 1990, he founded the influential gay rights group OutRage!, which campaigned so effectively against alleged police harassment that the number of homosexual men convicted of gross indecency in the UK fell by two-thirds in three years. In 2001, he attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on Robert Mugabe in Brussels for civil rights abuse and was beaten unconscious by the president of Zimbabwe’s bodyguards. Two years ago Tatchell joined a gay pride march in Moscow and was attacked by rightwing thugs who punched him in the face and left him with permanently blurred vision in his right eye.

It takes a lot to make Peter Tatchell stop. But last week he announced he was standing down as the Green party candidate in Oxford East on medical advice, because those horrific beatings have left him experiencing permanent symptoms of severe concussion. His injuries were further exacerbated on a canvassing trip in Devon in July when the bus in which he was travelling braked suddenly and Tatchell was thrown forward, hitting his head on a metal rail.

“I have problems with my memory, concentration, balance and co-ordination,” he says, sitting in his small council flat in Elephant and Castle, south London, surrounded by piles of books and posters. One of the home-made banners depicts Pope Benedict as “the Queen of Homophobia”, complete with fluorescent pink lips and swastika earrings. “I’m slower, I make mistakes more easily and I don’t quite have the drive that I once had. I’m now prone to a bit of depression, but it’s manageable.”

Two years ago Tatchell fell over at home, hit his head against the door frame and knocked himself out, waking up some time later to find himself in a pool of blood – an incident he refers to with typical understatement as “a bit of a shock”. He finds it difficult to type without the words on screen appearing in a nonsensical jumble of letters and in the past week alone he says he has had “six near crashes” while cycling around London.

“I’d already sort of concluded that I’d have to stand down, but I didn’t want to accept it,” Tatchell says. “I felt so honoured to be accepted as their candidate that I couldn’t bear to give it up. It was a very, very emotionally hard thing to do.

“It’s quite hard to admit to – albeit minor – brain damage because I’ve tried to hide it for a lot of the time… I just carried on campaigning partly because I just wanted to do the job, but partly perhaps because there was a fear that this might affect my ability to continue.”

As he says this, Tatchell seems close to tears. His soft Australian accent is punctuated by a slight stammer that appears to get worse when he is talking about the personal cost of his political activism. “I am very resilient, but I also have a very fragile, sensitive underside, which most people don’t see.”

Does he feel resentful towards his attackers? “No. There’s an element of regret in that I wish these injuries hadn’t happened.” Mugabe’s henchmen attacked him three times in Brussels – once in the lobby of the Hilton hotel where the Zimbabwean president was staying, and twice on the street outside, leaving Tatchell paralysed down his left side for several days.

On television news footage of the beating, you can hear a crack as the bodyguards make contact with Tatchell’s skull. In Moscow he vividly remembers the thugs kicking him to the ground with “heavy, black boots”. Afterwards the Russian police arrested Tatchell and let his attackers go free. How can he not feel resentful? “What’s the point? Bitterness is a very destructive emotion.” He breaks off. “Obviously, I think they’re bastards,” he says with a grin, “but I don’t hold some grudge… The best reward for me would be to change them.”

He believes that most instances of hatred and oppression stem from a warped sense of machismo – almost all his attackers have been men – and it is hard not to think that part of this might stem from his upbringing in Melbourne. His parents divorced when he was four and Tatchell barely saw his father, Gordon, when he was growing up because he worked night shifts in a factory.

His mother, Mardi, later remarried and Tatchell’s stepfather, Edwin, was an evangelical Christian of Prussian heritage who subjected him to regular beatings. “He was a monster,” says Tatchell now. “There was an element of resentment that I was the result of a previous marriage, so there was a sort of macho rivalry surrounding my father. He beat me very badly, so much so that I used to think he was an escaped Nazi war criminal.”

At 17, Tatchell slept with a man and knew that he was gay. He did not tell his religiously zealous mother and stepfather for fear of upsetting them. “I knew they wouldn’t be able to cope mentally and emotionally if I simply blurted out, ‘I’m gay’… so the strategy I adopted was to drop hints. If there was a newspaper story about a gay person being beaten up, I always made a point of saying how shocking it was, that we should live and let live.” Eventually they asked Tatchell if he was gay. “I said yes. And they thanked me for the way I approached it.”

Both of his biological parents are still alive (Edwin died in 2002). Are they proud of him? “Yes, they’re pretty supportive, even though they still deep down believe that omosexuality is wrong. But they also think that discrimination against gay people is wrong. Both my mother and father do keep on saying, ‘We wish you’d take fewer risks and retire’.”

That is not likely any time soon. Although Tatchell has temporarily abandoned any hopes of a parliamentary career, he still grapples with a phenomenal workload. His doctor has told him he should take a complete break of at least six months, but Tatchell, who works 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and ekes out a living of £8,000 a year, largely from donations, is politely ignoring them. He spends his time orchestrating campaigns and answering a constant stream of emails and phone calls. He is extremely thin, subsisting on a diet of raw vegetables and cups of tea. On a comparatively uneventful day, he goes to bed at 3am and wakes up at 9am.  

Doesn’t he ever pine for a quiet life? “I can understand why people want a quiet, relaxed, material life, but on another level I can’t understand why people just accept things the way they are. One billion people woke up this morning without clean drinking water. That is outrageous. We live in a world of such plenty that it’s unconscionable that so many people don’t have the basics… That is just morally unacceptable.” But the difference is that most people would not feel galvanised into the kind of direct action that Tatchell takes, often putting himself in extreme danger.

Is he scared of dying? “No, my grandfather and all my great-uncles lived to their late 90s, so I hope it’s in the genes,” he says, deliberately misinterpreting the question.

He does, at least, admit to the occasional feeling of terror before carrying out his protests. “There is a nervous anxiety that is partly a fear of failure and partly a fear of being arrested and beaten,” he acknowledges. “My body temperature plummets …my stomach churns over. I feel physically ill and tend to want to pee a lot. Sometimes I get a headache from the stress of the build-up. There are moments when I’m actually shaking. Then once it’s all over and I’m in the back of a police van or a cell, I just have this incredibly serene sense of relaxation and I feel total calm.”

The way he describes it makes the experience sound almost like a chemical high and I wonder whether there is a part of Tatchell that is addicted to pursuing that single, pure moment of serenity when so much of his life is defined by the persistent threat of danger. He does not entirely accept this, but admits that he has started meditating a couple of times a week “to chill out for an hour or so” and that he indulges in the odd home-made hashish cookie. “I’m left feeling incredibly calm and tranquil. I use it for medical benefits, and it really enrages me,” he says, his voice gathering pace, “that something that can be so medically useful is criminalised.”

Only Peter Tatchell could be so enraged by something that is meant to calm him down. But as he grapples with the complicated security locks on his front door to let me out, it strikes me that perhaps the rest of us are lucky that he cares enough to carry on fighting, whatever the cause.

For more information on Peter Tatchell’s activism, see: www.petertatchell.net

PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND

Donations are requested to help Peter Tatchell’s campaigns promoting human rights, democracy and global justice. Peter is unpaid and receives no grants. He depends on donations from friends and supporters.

Please make cheques payable to: “Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund”.

Send to: PTHRF, PO Box 35253, London E1 4YF

To download a donation form or a standing order mandate, go to

Donations at: www.tatchellrightsfund.org

For information about Peter Tatchell’s campaigns: www.petertatchell.net

 
 
 
 

Last survivor of uncontacted Amazon tribe attacked 9 December

 The last survivor of an unknown and uncontacted Amazon tribe has been targeted by gunmen.

The incident took place last month in Tanarú, an indigenous territory in the Amazon state of Rondônia, Brazil, but the news has only just emerged.

It is not known whether the Indian was in the direct line of fire or whether the shots were designed to scare him away. Ranchers in the area oppose government efforts to protect the man’s land, and are the most likely perpetrators.

Officials from FUNAI, Brazil’s Indian affairs department, discovered that its protection post had been ransacked and found empty shotgun cartridges nearby in the forest.

The police have investigated the incident, but nobody has been charged for illegal entry.

Altair Algayer, a FUNAI official, said, ‘This is a serious situation. The Indian’s life is being put in danger by the interests of the ranchers’.

FUNAI believes that the ‘Man of the Hole’ has survived the attack.

This name refers to the deep holes he builds to trap animals and to hide in. It is believed he is the only survivor of a tribe massacred by ranchers in the 1970s and 1980s.

The only known images of the ‘Man of the Hole’ were fleetingly captured by filmmaker Vincent Carelli in his film ‘Corumbiara’ which documents the genocide of the Akuntsu and other tribes in the region.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival, said today, ‘His tribe has been massacred and now the ‘Man of the Hole’ faces the same fate. The ranchers must allow this man to live out his last days in peace on his own land, and the authorities must do all they can to protect it’.
 

____________________________________________________________________________
 
Comment is fairly superfluous. Have a nice day…
--    Rupert Read  Green Party Councillor, Norwich.  http://rupertread.net   [If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob@gmail.com] 

Caring: yes. Liberal?: Perhaps not…

Here is my response to:
 
 
It is obviously very good that people are not as prejudiced against gays etc as they used to be. But is this because people are becoming more liberal (more tolerant, more… indifferent?), or because they are becoming more thoughtful and caring? I hope it is because of the latter.
Liberality points toward societal disintegration. A more caring society, more capacity to think and imagine yourself into the shoes of others, points toward societal integreation.
You can see where I am going with this… I strongly welcome the support for gay rights, and for abortion rights; but I hope that in an important sense this does NOT mean that Britain is becoming a more liberal society. A society that leaves people free to do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t directly harm other autonomous people. Because that way lies nemesis. For society, and the ecosystem…
And that brings me to religion. I find Unity’s preconception that we ought to welcome the reduction in religious belief unwelcome. I worry that what this reduction actually involves is a rise in materialism, and a drop in community engagement, in fact less of most of the things we actually need…
Religions such as (to take a few for instances) Quakerism, major forms of Buddhism, much of the C of E nowadays, liberation theology, Gandhian Hinduism, Creation Spirituality, the ‘Creation Care’ movement, the Mennonites, the Catholic Worker movement, the Bruderhof, and much paganism… Progressives and those who care about caring ought not to wish these groups away.
So: I hope the conspiracy is working, as it were – it looks like it is. But I hope that ‘it’ isn’t …liberal…
What we actually need is a genuinely communitarian and egalitarian conspiracy. And real communities welcome positive, caring, life-affirming religious organisations.

CWP to Tzipi Livni: “Cooperate with any international investigation against you”

An important piece of work that my friend Anat in Israel has done, that she asked me to help spread:


Press Release
16 December 2009

Coalition of Women for Peace to Tzipi Livni:

“Cooperate with any international investigation against you”

This morning (Wed. 16/12/09), the Women’s Coalition for Peace sent a translation of the Goldstone Report to Knesset Member Tzipi Livni (head of the opposition and Foreign Minister during the “Cast Lead” offensive), who received notice of a warrant for her arrest in Britain this week. In a letter attached to the report, Coalition members wrote: “we are convinced that if you refer to the report you will understand why British citizens and organizations have turned to the courts with a request to issue a warrant for your arrest.”

The report directly refers to remarks by senior political figures in Israel which encouraged indiscriminate attacks on civilians, in contradiction of international law. It is in this context that MK Tzipi Livni is quoted as saying, on 13 January 2009, that “we have proven to Hamas that the equation has been altered. Israel is a state that, when its citizens are shot at, will respond insanely. And that’s a good thing.”

Furthermore, runs the letter, “the Goldstone Report details a long list of indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations […] In addition, the report surveys the extent of the damage to industrial infrastructure, food production, water facilities, sewage infrastructure and residential buildings; the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and the targeting of medical staff. The testimony of Israeli soldiers corroborates the allegations made in the Report that during Cast Lead heinous war crimes were committed.

“The attention of the Goldstone Commission was drawn to the way the military operations affected women particularly adversely. The responsibility of women towards their homes and children forced them to deal for a period of weeks with extraordinary difficulties caused by impossible conditions which denied them of the means of sustenance – including access to food, water, heating supplies and protection against the rain, shelter, intentional attacks on civilians, destruction of infrastructure and denial of medical attention. Women suffered most of all from the attack which you helped lead, and for which you served as the international spokesperson.

 “As a feminist organization active in Israel, we consider that only a process of legal investigation and prosecution of war criminals by the international community has the power to bring a measure of justice to the women and men of Gaza. In our opinion the correct reaction on your part to the Goldstone Report would be a coming to terms with the wholesale murder with which you collaborated freely as a senior minister in the Israeli government as part of an election campaign. We call on you to cooperate with any international investigation that may be opened against you and to counsel your colleagues in the government and military to do the same.

 

For more details: 

Please contact Eilat Maoz, General Coordinator, Coalition of Women for Peace   

NDR DECISION WILL PLEASE NO-ONE

This was my comment today, on learning that the government is funding a half-NDR.

“This is a ridiculous half-way house decision that satisfies nobody. Building only part of the route undermines any claim that the road is a bypass: the NDR can never again be called the ‘northern bypass’. It will result in gridlock in North East Norwich, especially if the road building is accompanied by large scale housing growth and a failure to invest massively in improved public transport.

“It is no wonder that the route has been dubbed a ‘road to nowhere’. It is an utter waste of taxpayers’ money. The Government really should have made a clear decision about the priority for investment. £67.5million would make an enormous different to Norwich residents if invested in creating a first class public transport system to enable people to get around the city in an efficient and affordable way”.

Evo Morales to arrive in Copenhagen and denounces capitalism as cause of crisis

 
Now it gets interesting…
Good to hear someone ‘naming the beast’: globalised neo-liberal capitalism. Manmade climate change is just the SYMPTOM…
 
*President Evo Morales of Bolivia to arrive at Copenhagen Conference
President Evo Morales Ayma of the Plurinational State of Bolivia will arrive
in Copenhagen tonight, Tuesday 15 December, to join the UN conference on
climate change.

President Morales arrives with an unprecedented mandate from the Bolivian
people after his landslide re-election with 64% of the popular vote. He also
has a strong moral standing on the international stage for his rejection of
the economic system that has caused the crisis, and his advocacy of rights
for Mother Earth and economic and social development based on Buen Vivir
(‘living well’ in harmony with all humans and the planet) which is inspired
by indigenous principles.

During a summit of ALBA country members in Cuba held this week, Evo Morales
explained he was traveling to Copenhagen to defend a “culture of life” and
to try and save the planet from “a culture of death” caused by the current
economic system.

“I have heard many debates in the UN where presidents condemn climate
change, but never say what causes it. We say clearly that it is caused by
capitalism.”

“We send a message to the world to reflect deeply and to the presidents of
the capitalist system to change their economic model which is destroying the
environment and planet earth. Capitalism and imperialism are forms of
industrial development without limits. We need industries, but there also
have to be limits. That is the debate,” Morales asserted.

Morales called on the rich countries to pay their climate debt to developing
nations, and on all countries to recover traditional forms of ecological
production. He also said that rights had to be given to nature and Mother
Earth. “The planet can live without human beings, but we can never live
without her.”