Special Offer
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Special Offer

Published in Poetry

Special Offer

by Chris Norris

The State of Israel, strange as this may seem,
Has offered us Iranian folk its aid
In getting shot of our ‘hated regime’
By means of yet another bombing raid.

Rather as if, in Nineteen Thirty-Nine,
The Germans told the Czechs: ‘give us the wink,
Ask nicely, then we’ll cross your border-line
And fix up your regime-change in a blink’.

Rabbis for Mullahs, different sort of god,
Maybe another bout of genocide,
But please, just give our IDF the nod
And see if its famed goodwill’s bona fide.

Image above: The War Abroad, by Alix Amery

Dar Al-Shifa
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Dar Al-Shifa

Published in Poetry

Dar Al-Shifa

by Nick Moss

'Genocide enablers: Gaza and the corporate media'

Like a war scripted by Asimov on crystal meth
Squads of quadcopter drones
Shooting children in the head,
Patrolling the wreckage of the hospital.
The shrill scream of the blades,
Waiting to target anyone left.

Dar al-Shifa. House of healing.
Hopital. Shelter for the needy.
Just more debris now.
Concrete dust
Blown-out windows
Blood on the walls.
Blood on the floor
Bodies of surgeons
Piled on bodies of patients
Piled on bodies of parents
With the bodies of their dead kids
All meat now
For the feral dogs.

If the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
Is one of the fundamental rights of every human being
And if the IDF “follows international law”
When it turns a hospital
Into a boneyard
Tell me the one-drop rule
That makes Palestinians
Then, all somehow
Not-quite human

And you wait for condemnation
From the elected guardians
Of “international law”
And their lockstep oppositions
Who nod through the arms sales
And the Horizon Europe tech funds
That put legions of quadcopters
Up high in Gaza skies,
And democracy shrivels and fails,
And little by little it dies.

Lenny Bruce has hit the crystal meth.
Satire is tragedy plus time.
There is a bunker and tunnel network
Under al-Shifa
At Building Number 2
But it wasn’t hard to find
As it was built by Israeli architects
In 1983.

Lenny said in ’67
That if they killed Christ today
Catholic kids would be wearing
Electric chairs around their necks
Instead of crosses.
Anyone know how to make
A quadcopter pendant?

Christ Beneath the Rubble
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Christ Beneath the Rubble

Published in Religion

In the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, city and church leaders cancelled all Christmas festivities this year to mourn the more than 20,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza. Below is the Christmas sermon, “Christ in the Rubble: A Liturgy of Lament,” delivered by Reverend Munther Isaac at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, which has received international attention for a Nativity scene depicting the figure of baby Jesus in a keffiyeh, surrounded by rubble (see photo above, by Munther Isaac). “If Jesus were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble in Gaza,” preached Isaac, who condemned the use of theology to justify Israel’s killing of innocent civilians. “If we, as Christians, are not outraged by the genocide, by the weaponization of the Bible to justify it, there is something wrong with our Christian witness, and we are compromising the credibility of our gospel message.”

Beneath the Rubble

by Jim Aitken

Beneath the rubble of Gaza
lie the broken bodies of babies, of children,
of their parents and grandparents too
along with the fragments of bomb casings
beneath the rubble of Gaza.

And it is a rubble that is generic
for it brings to mind Stalingrad
and Dresden; it brings to mind
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mosul and Aleppo
and vast swathes of Afghanistan.

Beneath the rubble of Gaza
also lie some unlearned lessons –
the one about rubble begetting more rubble
the other one that peace only comes with justice
beneath the rubble of Gaza.

The media and Gaza: 'A textbook case of genocide'
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

The media and Gaza: 'A textbook case of genocide'

An authentic democracy cannot be psychopathic because most people are not psychopaths.

Most people would not vote to kill, wound and displace hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians for power, profit or territorial gain. Most people do not accept the great lie of ‘pragmatism’: that ‘the anarchical society’ of international relations mandates psychopathic violence: If ‘we’ don’t behave as psychopaths, somebody else will.

Most people don’t believe the world can be divided between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘children of light’ and ‘children of darkness’. You don’t need to be a mystic to know that love, kindness, compassion – ‘light’ – arise naturally in all human beings allowed to live in freedom and peace.

We know from our own experience that we are wonderfully happy when overflowing with love and desperately miserable when overflowing with hate. We know, therefore, that love is suited to human nature and well-being in a way that hatred is certainly not. We know that when hate arises in large numbers of people it is born of suffering, not of some ‘evil’ disposition. We know that the real answer to hate is not violence but justice that alleviates suffering and hate.

Because we are not psychopathic, it is deeply important for us to believe that we are not living in a psychopathic society. When this human need clashes with political reality, examples of cognitive dissonance abound – psychopathic circles have to be squared, 2 + 2 must make 5. This is the task of the propaganda system comprised of the ‘respectable’ political, media and religious institutions of our society.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, supplied a particularly stark example. Welby began by affecting a transcendent spiritual impartiality, as one might expect:

‘I’m not pointing fingers’, he said.

Alas, Welby came back to earth with a bump:

‘I do point fingers at Hamas and say this is terrorism at its most extreme and most evil.’

Okay, but then was he also pointing fingers at the Israeli government raining hellfire on Gaza? Welby fell silent, hesitated:

‘It’s not… You can do the… You can say something which in different circumstances might be useful at a time that just makes everything worse… Let’s not run to judgement and blame straight away.’

The archbishop’s power-friendly ethical dissonance becomes even clearer when we recall that, last December, Welby told the BBC that ‘justice demands that there is defeat’ of ‘an evil invasion’ in Ukraine. It was right, he said, for the West to send billions of dollars of weaponry to support a ‘victim nation’ that is ‘being overrun by aggression’. After all, the international community had a ‘duty of care’ to protect weaker nations.

Welby’s failure to condemn any ‘evil’ committed by Israel came long after it had become clear that Israel had been criminally targeting Gaza’s civilian population with collective punishment cutting off water, food and electricity. And of course, by razing whole apartment blocks, indeed whole residential areas, to the ground.

From satellite imagery, The Economist estimated (30 October) that ‘over a tenth of Gaza’s housing stock has been destroyed, leaving more than 280,000 people without homes to which they can return’. The magazine noted:

‘Even Russia, during its siege of Mariupol in Ukraine between February and May 2022, negotiated humanitarian pauses in which some civilians were permitted to leave. Israel has thus far rejected calls, by the European Union and others, for such pauses.’

More recently, the health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has estimated that more than 50% of Gaza’s housing units have been destroyed, nearly 70% of its population has been displaced, 16 out of 35 hospitals that can take in-patients have stopped functioning, 42 UN Relief Agency buildings have been damaged, along with at least seven churches and 55 mosques. According to the World Health Organisation, there have been more than 100 strikes on health facilities. Since 7 October, more than 200 schools have been damaged in Gaza – around 40% of the total number – about forty of them very seriously, according to UNICEF data.

By any standards, this is an awesome level of destruction. In its first 563 days, Russia’s war on Ukraine killed 9,614 Ukrainian civilians, 554 of them children. In its first 25 days, Israel’s war on Gaza killed 8,796 Palestinian civilians, 3,648 of them children. Since the 7 October attacks by Hamas, at least 1,400 Israelis have been killed, including 1,033 civilians and 31 children.

Gaza - a graveyard for chidren

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres puts the immensity of Israel’s violence in perspective:

‘Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day. More journalists are reportedly being killed over a four-week period than in any conflict in at least three decades. More United Nations aid workers have been killed than in any comparable period in the history of our organisation.’

On 28 October, Craig Mokhiber, one of the world’s leading international lawyers, director of the UN’s New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned to protest the organisation’s handling of what he called a ‘textbook case of genocide.’ In his resignation letter, Mokhiber wrote:

‘This is a text-book case of genocide. The European, ethno-nationalist, settler colonial project in Palestine has entered its final phase, toward the expedited destruction of the last remnants of indigenous Palestinian life in Palestine. What’s more, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, are wholly complicit in the horrific assault. Not only are these governments refusing to meet their treaty obligations “to ensure respect” for the Geneva Conventions, but they are in fact actively arming the assault, providing economic and intelligence support, and giving political and diplomatic cover for Israel’s atrocities.’

In an interview with Al Jazeera English, Mokhiber made a further key point:

‘As a human rights lawyer with more than three decades of experience in the field, I know well that the concept of genocide has often been subject to political abuse. But the current wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian people, rooted in an ethno-nationalist settler colonial ideology, in continuation of decades of their systematic persecution and purging, based entirely upon their status as Arabs, and coupled with explicit statements of intent by leaders in the Israeli government and military, leaves no room for doubt or debate. In Gaza, civilian homes, schools, churches, mosques, and medical institutions are wantonly attacked as thousands of civilians are massacred. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, homes are seized and reassigned based entirely on race, and violent settler pogroms are accompanied by Israeli military units.

‘Across the land, Apartheid rules.

‘Usually, the most difficult part in proving genocide is intent, because there has to be an intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a particular group. In this case, the intent by Israel’s leaders has been so explicitly stated, and publicly stated, by the prime minister, by the president, by senior cabinet ministers, by military leaders, that that is an easy case to make. It’s on the public record.’

Our ProQuest media database search for ‘Craig Mokhiber’ and ‘Gaza’ delivered four mentions, all in the Guardian. One of these was a smear, another was a single-sentence mention in passing buried in a news piece, a third substantial piece of 667 words, and an additional mention yesterday buried in the penultimate paragraph of an opinion piece. There were no mentions found in any other newspaper and there are none on the BBC website.

On Channel 4 News, Matt Frei asked Welby:

‘What do you say to those demonstrators on the streets of London who are saying this is Israeli genocide against the Palestinians?’

Welby’s sage reply:

‘I say you’ve no understanding of what you’re saying.’

When asked if Israel was acting within international law, Labour’s chivalrous knight, Sir Keir Starmer, said:

‘As to whether each and every act is in accordance with the law, well that will have to be adjudicated in due course. Um, I think it’s unwise for politicians to stand on stages like this, or to sit in television studios, and pronounce day by day which acts may or may not be in accordance with international law.

‘I think it’s not the role of politicians. I don’t think it’s wise to do it. I come with the benefit of a lawyer of having litigated about issues like this in the past. And in my experience, it’d often take weeks or months to assimilate the evidence and to then work out whether there may or may not have been a breach of international law.

‘So, I think the call for politicians to look at half a picture on the screen without the full information and form an instant judgement as to whether it’s this side of the line or the other side of the line is extremely unwise. I’m not going to get involved with that kind of exercise.’

If this sounds like an in-depth, heartfelt response, last year, Starmer was asked:

‘Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?’

Starmer’s reply:

‘Yes.’

On 8 February, Starmer told the House of Commons:

‘Before I entered this House, I had responsibility for fighting for justice in the Hague for victims of Serbian aggression. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that when the war in Ukraine is over, Putin and all his cronies must stand at the Hague and face justice?’

Again, completely contradicting everything he is now saying, Starmer said on 7 March:

‘Vladimir Putin and his criminal cronies must be held to account for their illegal invasion of Ukraine. The UK government must do all it can to ensure the creation of a special tribunal to investigate the crime of aggression.

‘The Ukrainian people deserve justice as well as our continued military, economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian assistance.’

Notice, Starmer was not calling for a ‘no-fly zone’ or a ceasefire – completely unthinkable in relation to Gaza – he was endorsing continued intervention in the form of massive military support for the Ukrainian war effort.

On 17 March, Starmer said:

‘I welcome the International Criminal Court’s decision to open war crime cases against Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian figures for their barbaric actions in Ukraine.’

There is nothing random, or naïve, about Labour’s hypocrisy and servility to power. Declassified UK reports:

‘Some 13 of the 31 members of Labour’s shadow cabinet have received donations from a prominent pro-Israel lobby group or individual funder, it can be revealed.

‘The list of recipients includes party leader Keir Starmer, his deputy Angela Rayner, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, and even the former vice-chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, Lisa Nandy, who is now shadow international development minister.’

Britain’s veteran warmongers have been queuing up to persuade the public of the rightness of Starmer’s complicity in genocide. Arch-Blairite former Labour MP Peter Mandelson said:

‘As for Keir Starmer, I would just say this – I think what he’s doing is demonstrating to the British people the sort of toughness and mettle that he would display, if he were to become prime minister of this country. He has been very tough, very realistic…’

In a separate interview, as if reading from the same script, former Tory MP and Thatcherite Michael Portillo opined:

‘I’m amongst those who think that Keir Starmer has done exactly the right thing and has shown a great deal of mettle, which I think will be quite widely admired. And that’s important, I think, for a domestic audience that wonders whether he’s up to being prime minister.’

Dissidents are viewed and treated quite differently. Responding to home secretary Suella Braverman’s suggestion on X (formerly Twitter) that, ‘It is entirely unacceptable to desecrate Armistice Day with a hate march through London’, BBC sports commentator Gary Lineker posted:

‘Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don’t get killed is not really the definition of a hate march.’

Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst, former aide to Margaret Thatcher and contributor to the Telegraph, responded:

‘Gary Lineker’s knowledge of foreign and national security policy is practically zero. His vast narcissism and ego as a BBC football pundit is matched only by his sheer ignorance.’

In reality, of course, narcissism would mean Lineker keeping his head down, banking his huge salary, avoiding the inevitable torrent of abuse, and thus keeping his reputation safe and sound, like so many people do.

 

It is quite astonishing to reflect that, in 2011, NATO deployed 260 aircraft and 21 ships, launching 26,500 sorties destroying ‘over 5,900 military targets including over 400 artillery or rocket launchers and over 600 tanks or armored vehicles’ in response, not to the mass murder of civilians, but to a merely alleged threat of mass murder posed by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Not that there had been a call for a humanitarian ‘pause’, or a ceasefire, or the introduction of UN peacekeepers – the widespread demand was for massive military intervention. In reality, the NATO ‘no-fly zone’ that instantly became a bombing campaign obliterating Gaddafi’s army was based on a lie. A 9 September 2016 report into the war from the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons commented:

‘Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year record of appalling human rights abuses did not include large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians.’

In February 2011, The Times insisted that ‘there is incontrovertible evidence’ that demonstrators in Benghazi ‘are being blown apart by mortar fire’. Even if accurate, this would have been a pin prick compared to Israeli actions now. This was the response to the Libyan government proposed by The Times:

‘British officials and private citizens must do all they can to cajole, pressure and exhort it out of power.’ (Leading article, ‘In bombing its own civilians, Libya stands exposed as an outlaw regime,’ - The Times, 23 February 2011)

By contrast, on 25 October, The Times praised Starmer’s ‘initially assured response to the outbreak of violence that followed Hamas’s terror attacks on Israel on October 7’, which ‘correctly emphasised his party’s unconditional support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defence’.

This was a reference to Starmer’s appalling declaration that Israel ‘does have that right’ to inflict collective punishment on Palestinian civilians by cutting off water, food and electricity.

On 22 March 2011, with NATO bombing of Libya underway, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland published a piece titled, ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong’. He meant military intervention, of course – war – insisting that ‘in a global, interdependent world we have a “responsibility to protect” each other’. Freedland now warns against such ‘binary thinking’, as he baulks even at the idea of a ceasefire:

‘It seems such a simple, obvious remedy. Until you stop to wonder how exactly, if it is not defeated, Hamas is to be prevented from regrouping and preparing for yet another attack on the teenagers, festivalgoers and kibbutz families of southern Israel.’ 

Freedland’s article was titled: ‘The tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict is this: underneath all the horror is a clash of two just causes’. In ‘Manufacturing Consent’, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky commented on their analysis of media treatment of victims deemed ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ by the West:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’ - Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, ‘Manufacturing Consent’, Pantheon Books, 1988, p.39

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee also rejected calls for a ceasefire, obfuscating with a tangled web of Welby-style verbiage:

‘That word “ceasefire” has become a symbol and a semantic roadblock, as events rush on and words get left behind. “Ceasefire” has become an ideology rather than a practicality.’

When it comes to Gaza in November 2023, the famous ‘responsibility to protect’ has vanished from thinkable thought. Today, even the responsibility to protest is under legal threat. As for the British government’s response, Peter Oborne describes the shocking truth:

‘Meanwhile, not one government minister, as far as I can see, has condemned the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in Gaza, or uttered a word of condemnation of the wave of settler attacks including displacement of Palestinian communities – war crimes – across the West Bank. Nor the genocidal language used by too many Israeli leaders.’

In describing the conflict, the BBC is content to use the pro-Israel propaganda construct ‘Israel-Hamas War’.

Israel’s murderous bombardment of Gaza was described by the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen as Israel ‘still pushing forward’. Bowen noted: ‘Palestinians call this genocide’.

It is not just the Palestinians though, as Bowen well knows.

Uday, One Day
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Uday, One Day

Published in Poetry

Uday, One Day

by Jim Aitken

In memory of Uday Abu Mohsen who lived only one day
after being killed during the Siege of Gaza, 2023.

Uday was the baby boy’s name. Uday, it was.
He would have known so little but he would
have known he was someone with being.
He would have been welcomed and loved.

He would have been welcomed with fear
and would have known little of the blast
that ended his one- day old life, mayfly Uday.
Yet he leaves behind much more than a name.

He leaves behind the insanity of surgical strikes,
the criminality of collateral damage, the nonsense
of precision bombing, the lunatic costs – and profits –
of warfare set against the massacre of the innocents.

Uday’s death certificate was bizarrely issued before
any birth certificate arrived and the bombing continued
after his death. But mayfly Uday must be remembered
and not just in Gaza and in Palestine, not just there.

The cry of Uday must be heard in Israel, in Syria, in Iraq,
in Russia and Ukraine, in Yemen, Tigray and Sudan.
Uday’s little whimper should cross oceans, mountains
and plains, teeming cities and deserts, turning louder.

Turning louder all the time so that the whole world
begins to realise that without justice there is no peace;
that only justice can guarantee peace. Uday, one day
peace and justice will reign in your name. Uday, one day.

 See also these reports on media coverage of the Gaza genocide, at the BBC and more generally.

Outlook
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Outlook

Published in Poetry

Outlook

by Steven Taylor

Mainly cloudy
A chance of rain
Dusty. Grubby
Rubble mostly
Death expected

Britain

Could send umbrellas
But they prefer
Providing weapons
To the killers

(with instructions
to be careful, obviously)

The sound of weeping
Wailing is distressing
For our viewers

Poetry / Filíocht
Saturday, 18 May 2024 10:30

Poetry / Filíocht

Published in Poetry

Poetry/ Filíocht is a bilingual poem by Gabriel Rosenstock in response to the latest conflict in the Middle East

Poetry

perhaps rabbi Nachman
could give me advice
but how can I find him
among so many ashes
Zbigniew Herbert

I have strained my eyes
looking at headlines
pored over in-depth analysis –
who bombed the hospital?
Poetry shouldn’t be like this
plumbing the depths of propaganda
sifting for evidence.
Poetry should enter the heart of the bomb
and defuse it
before it rips into the mother’s heart
the father’s heart
before it muffles the scream of orphans
Before . . .
Rabbi Nachman, have you any advice?

Filíocht

d’fhéadfadh an raibí Nachman
comhairle a chur orm
ach cá bhfaighinn a thuairisc
i measc charn luaithrigh

Zbigniew Herbert

Thuirsíos mo shúile
ag stánadh ar cheannlínte
ag léamh mionanailíse –
cé a bhuamáil an t-ospidéal?
Ní cóir don fhilíocht a bheith mar seo
mionscrúdú á dhéanamh aici ar bholscaireacht
fianaise á piocadh amach aici.
Ba chóir don fhilíocht dul isteach i gcroí an bhuama
agus an dochar a bhaint as
sula réabfaí croí na máthar
croí an athar
sula múchfaí scréach na ndílleachtaí
Sula . . .
A Raibí Nachman, an bhfuil comhairle ar bith agat dúinn?