Jade Marshall reviews our group's event with guest speaker Uri Gordon that took place at the Bar Convent in York on 21 April
Arranged by the Amnesty International York group, as part of their Writer’s on Writes series – this talk by a leading political activist from Israel talked in depth about the many issues faced by Palestinians and Israelis alike and the difficulty that both faced in coming together in creating a more positive future.
Taking a very fair-handed view, condemning the Jewish government and the Palestinian people equally for the violence that has become endemic in this conflict over the years. He explained how the current powers that be in Israel are very right-wing and conservative, and this is reflected in the majority of the Israeli population which is obsessed with the idea of being victims – a experience still carried by many Jews since WW2 in Israel and neither forgotten and definitely not forgiven - Gordon used the metaphor of a wound which has constantly been scratched and picked-at and therefore has never healed.
As Uri himself admitted, this talk had no positive end-note and was upsetting in its portrayal of a situation that, realistically, has little prospect of resolution. Being an Amnestonian and therefore often feeling more sympathy for the under-dogs (i.e. the Palestinians) I found it very interesting to hear an Israeli Jew criticise the Israeli government and to feel sympathy for the plight of Palestinians – he explained how in Israel the wars and violence in the Gaza Strip weren’t even reported on many Israelis feeling a sense of apathy towards the Arab population and concern purely for their own nationalistic concerns, which is fuelled by the Israeli media.
Uri also pointed out that the anti-Semitism involved within discussions of the Israeli/Palestinian problem is a case of nothing less than ‘intellectual laziness’ – and that the issue is renowned for its stimulation of stereotypical conjectures. During the question and answer section it was also very interesting to listen to the idea of the similarities between the Israel-Palestine issue and the period of Apartheid in South Africa. All we need now is an Arabic or Palestinian Nelson Mandela – not a big ask, surely?
Uri Gordon’s talk can be summed up by Caroline from York who tweeted that it was an ‘insightful & eloquent talk by Uri Gordon – this guy really nailed some points about Israel-Palestine & New/Future World Order’.
Uri Gordon is a lecturer at Loughborough University. In 2013 he edited a volume of writings about the actions and experiences of anarchists in Israel/Palestine and also details the condemnation faced by both Jewish and Arabic anarchists alike in Anarchists Against the Wall: Direct Action and Solidarity with the Palestinian Popular Struggle.
Our thanks go to John Bourton of Veterans for Peace and his colleagues Michael Elstub and Norman Lynch for speaking at our group's last monthly meeting on 12 April. John is currently chair of the VFP UK Steering Group. VFP UK is a voluntary ex-services organisation of men and women who have served in every war that Britain has fought since WW2. They focus their work to: educate young people on the true nature of military service and war; resist war and militarism through non-violent action; and stand in solidarity with people resisting militarism and war. John talked about his own personal experiences which led him from professional soldier to peace activist. The wide-ranging discussion afterwards included the psychological effect of military training, the issue of recruitment of 16 year-old minors into the army, the links between the government, arms companies and the army, the pressure on schools to promote unquestioningly the armed forces as a career and the role of armed forces charities to replace statutory after-care for former military personnel.
Our group's next monthly meeting takes place on Tuesday 10 May at 7.30pm at the usual venue (York Friends Meeting House on Friargate).