Tag Archives: wilfred owen

Stop the Occupation now!

HMS York, which is on its way to the Falklands (ph:Royal Navy)

I have just bought my copy of the Current Bun (Britain’s most widely read daily newspaper) and it seems we could once again be going to war with Argentina over territory that is 8,000 miles away.

Isn’t it about time we withdrew our 3,000 citizens from the Falkland Islands and look to make peace with Argentina? This is an issue that is never going to go away.

It is an occupation similar to Israel’s in the West Bank, except we have no security reasons to be occupying the Falklands.

In 1982 war raged for 74 days and we lost a staggering 255 soldiers, while Argentina lost 649.

We even sank an Argentinian warship, the General Belgrano, while it was not enagaged in battle. 323 Argentinians went down with it.

As Wilfred Owen, out greatest war poet, asks us in Futility: “Was it for this the clay grew tall?”

No, it wasn’t.

In contrast to the often repeated, but dubious, assertion that we went to war with Iraq over oil, this really is a conflict over oil. It is believed there could be billions of barrels of oil under the coastal waters surrounding the Falklands (there are zero oil reserves in the West Bank)

Four British based drilling teams are due to start work off the Falkland Islands next week, much to the chagrin of Argentina, and we have sent HMS York, a destroyer, to guard them in the wake of the increasing tensions between the two countries.

Argentina has decreed that boats travelling through its territorial waters need to obtain special permission before doing so, which could inhibit the drilling.

Argentina still claims the Falklands and surrounding waters as their own. Maybe they are wrong but there has never been a judicial court decision as to who owns what.

We keep hearing how Israel is apparently “in breach of international law” for being in the West Bank but are we not in breach of international law for being in the Falklands?

The islands have been conquered, abandoned and reconquered successively by France, Spain, Argentina and Britain.

From 1820 to 1833 Argentinians were living there until we threw them out. Now they want them back.

Surely, the only fair thing to do would be for the International Court of Justice to convene in the Hague to try the sovereignty issue once and for all.

It would be hassle, but not overly problematic, to remove 3,000 people and to rehouse them back here (Israel withdrew 7,000 from Gaza).

No British soldier deserves to lose his or her life over a tiny piece of territory so far away from us.

Yes, the loss of the oil reserves will hit our already battered economy but then our army won’t be diverted from where it is currently needed most; fighting Islamist terrorism.

And, finally, when all is said and done we might even then have some moral authority with which to preach to Israel about ending its own occupation of the West Bank.

Cartooning in Conflict exhibition in London

St. Martin-in-the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 4JH (Charing X Tube)

Until 24th January. For more information: www.theparentscircle.org

The shadowy crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields is a fitting setting for this exhibition of war cartoons about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cartoons have been drawn by 35 artists from around the world and the exhibition’s driving force is Robi Damelin whose son, David, 28, was killed while on reserve duty by a Palestinian sniper.

The exhibition was inspired by Israeli cartoonist Michel Kichka’s own Cartooning for Peace. The cartoonists here are the modern day versions of Wilfred Owen. They capture, through their drawings, the futility of war the way the young Owen did, so emotively, through his poetry.

Robi, 65 and a grandmother, is originally from South Africa and was active in the anti-apartheid movement before making aliyah. She loves Israel but is determined that no one should use her son’s blood as an excuse for revenge.

Robi was last in London in November 2009. She was joined by Ali Abu Awwad, 37, a Palestinian. Both Ali and his mother had spent time in Israeli prisons before, one day, Ali’s brother Yussef, 32, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier.

Are there pieces missing? It's all here! (Damien Glez - Burkina Faso)

Instead of seeking revenge Ali joined the Parents Circle-Family Forum where he met Robi. They now travel the world together speaking in churches, mosques and synagogues.

The Forum contains 500 Israeli and Palestinian families all with one thing in common; each has lost a close relative in the conflict. Members of the Forum regularly go into Israeli and Palestinian educational establishments to speak to students. Instead of politicians doing the talking it should be the Israeli and Palestinian people. Their important work even continued during the Gaza War.

In November Robi and Ali spoke to an audience of Muslims and Jews at the Regent’s Park Mosque after showing Encounter Point. The film portrays the physical and mental barriers that Forum members encounter when trying to get their message across. In the film Ali’s more humourous solution to the conflict is for all Israelis who smoke to be forced to buy cigarettes from the Palestinans and vice versa.

Cartooning in Conflict is an extension of the Forum’s work. The cartoons are a means for peaceful dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. The artists include Pulitzer Prize winners Pat Oliphant and Jim Morin and the famous French political satirist, Plantu.

For Robi a highly evocative cartoon is that of an Angel and the Devil playing cards. Instead of chips they play for bodies. “Can you see who has won the most bodies?,” Robi sadly asks me.

A dove is a recurring theme. One cartoon shows the bird lying in a colourful frozen supermarket package. The dove’s eyes are open while it awaits defrosting.

Frozen Dove (Baha Boukhari - Palestine)

My favourite cartoon is of the fighting stopping while a goal is scored in a televised football match recalling the legend of Christmas Day 1915 when English and German troops met in no-man’s-land for a bout of the beautiful game.

The least hopeful is that of an Israeli and an Arab each digging a grave side-by-side. The cartoon is called “Sharing the Land”.

Recently Robi wrote to her son’s killer in prison. He is a Palestinian folk hero for what he did. Robi hoped he would make a statement saying he was transformed so he would not to be viewed by Palestinians as such a hero any more. All she received back was a political justification for her son’s murder but she still holds out hope.  

Robi has been joined by Ali’s sister, Seham. It is Seham’s first time out of the West Bank and both she and Robi will be around the exhibition to answer questions.

Robi and Seham welcoming guests