Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Killing machines R us. Protest at DSEI arms fair.

photo CAAT

photo CAAT
Heather Hunt , attender at Sheffield Central meeting,  donned a corporate suit and posed as an Israeli arms dealer on the first day of action to stop the London based arms fair on Monday September 7th.  This day was to highlight and protest about the Israel and UK two way arms trade .

Heather is part of Sheffield Creative Action for Peace  (SCRAP) and talks about her motivation and the day of  action.

Israeli-UK two way arms trade. BDS campaign
“I was shocked that the UK government had invited Israel arms dealers to have a pavilion inside the DSEI arms fair to be held at the Excel centre East London. I am proud that the Quakers are active in opposing arms sales to Israel. However, I hadn’t realised how complicit the UK and Israeli governments are in this mutual support of arms dealing as good business.

So I was delighted to be part of Sheffield Creative Action for Peace (SCRAP) and its contribution to the protest to highlight and oppose this two way arms trade. Two of us posed as Israeli arms dealers with our badges, “killing machines are us” with client support sheets detailing how you can get more for your bucks with our combat tested weapons.   (eg Friendly and uncritical allies like the UK and US.) We displayed our products to interested independent media from our portfolio of 2D replicas which included our biggest sellers:
Elbit Hermes 450 drones, made in the Israeli owned Elbit factories in the UK  and used extensively on the Gaza strip.  Our sales pitch, backed by research, included “Can be fitted with two hellfire missiles. Recent sales include Columbia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Merkava tanks
Manufactured by Israeli military Industries and assembled by Israeli Ordnance corps. Fitted
with 2 machine guns which can shoot down helicopters. Field tested on Gaza.  One tank killed 120 Hammas militants in Protective Edge. Sales increased after assault on Gaza.  “Very serviceable. Main battle tank for many countries. Selling well. Now upgraded to include night sensors and target trackers and adapted for guerrilla warfare.”

Honouring Palestinians killed by Israeli drones
To highlight the nature of Israeli weapons other members of SCRAP displayed the Drones quilt we have been making, highlighting and naming Palestinians killed by drone strikes on Gaza.

photo SCRAP
During the day an enormous low loader arrived conveying a military vehicle looking like a missile launcher. Protestors immediately got onto the road and between us we stopped the vehicle going into the Arms fair for two hours.  3 women clambered onto the vehicle and, with a Palestinian flag flying, read out testimonies from families whose children were killed in the 2009 Israeli massacres in Gaza. And then, with the lorry still blockaded and the road therefore closed, we held a dabke dance workshop in front of the lorry, on the road with police dancing round our circle trying to give us an arrest warning.

photo CAAT
War is good for business and economic growth.
Refugees not arms welcome here.

We found out that the drivers of the low loader we stopped were Hungarian and had driven this vehicle from Southern Hungary, through Austria and western Europe. Sometime over the weekend the driver probably drove past the thousands of migrants walking to Vienna, most of them from Syria and Afghanistan, fleeing wars prosecuted and fed by the sort of materiel he was carrying. 

How ironic is this? That killing machines can cross European borders easily whist humans fleeing war torn countries cannot. The stark realisation before us then was seeing how war is so good for business. Weapons used by all and any side in Syria and other conflict torn countries around the world continue to get circulated and traded, making profit for some and for others, their lives are ravaged.

The day was an excellent example of effective collaboration between CAAT, War on Want, and Palestine Solidarity campaign.  It gave me hope we can work together and creatively to advocate for humane and just settlement for refugees, and an end to the arms trade.

I enjoyed researching my role as a corporate Israeli arms dealer and keeping in that role for 5 hours. I gained an insight of a little of what it could be to be in that person’s shiny shoes. I was marketing manager and my colleague was client support. As we approached the protest, we were shouted at “shame on you! Murderers!” Some protestors really were taken in by us. We arrived confident and smart. From this vantage point the protestors looked SO scruffy and not worth listening to.
Later in the day during one interview, with Russia today, I was asked if I felt guilty and responsible for so much killing and death.  I surprised myself (in role) by the question-not understanding the feeling or the question. Of course we were serving our country, particularly keeping our economy afloat.  Guilt? What has that got to do with it.
Heather Hunt 23rd September 2015

You can see films of the action here and here.

‘Testimonials From Families of Palestinian Victims - #OccupyDSEI Day One’

SCRAP meets on alternate Thursday afternoons. Next action October 3rd, Waddingtom RAF base. Scones not drones.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Our faith in the future

Quakers in Britain have a new 'long term framework' to guide our discernment at all levels of decision-making, including our local and area meetings, as well as our centrally managed work. The document, called 'Our faith in the future', was approved by Meeting for Sufferings (our national representative body) on 5th September. It replaces the 'Framework for Action 2009-14', which was a previous attempt at a 'strategic framework' for Quaker decision-making.

The new document has shifted the focus away from a list of priority areas of work, and towards a vision of the kind of Quaker community we aim to become. No strategic plan or framework can dictate how the Spirit may lead individual Friends, local meetings and the wider Quaker community in the future. Our way of corporate discernment is based on the faith that God's guidance is available to us in community, with the authority to upset all of our cherished plans.

For this reason, the group appointed to write the new long term framework has wisely avoided any attempt to prescribe what kind of work Quaker communities should undertake. Instead, the document directs our attention towards some of the core principles - of spiritual rootedness, inclusion, discipline and social engagement that are at the heart of our Quaker practice.

Hopefully, the text will act as a reminder of what we already know by experience to be important, supporting our practice of Spirit-led discernment rather than imposing pre-determined outcomes on it. The full text is given below:

Our faith in the future

Facing turbulent times, Quakers in Britain seek a future where…

Meeting for worship is the bedrock of living as a Quaker. In worship we become one with the Spirit, with each other and with our true selves. The Spirit is the source of strength and guidance for all we are and do. Our way of worship is open to all, and we are making it available to more people.

Quaker communities are loving, inclusive and all-age. All are heard, valued and supported both in our needs and our leadings. Everyone’s contribution is accepted according to their gifts and resources. All ages and conditions are welcomed and included. There are clear and effective ways of working together on shared concerns. Fellowship and fun strengthen the bonds between us, enhancing a loving community.

All Friends understand and live by Quaker discipline. Our discipline is actually 'letting go and letting God': not thou shalt nor I will but what does Love require of me? It works when we understand it and practise it! Because we understand it, we can share it with others. Our testimony guides us, but we have to work on what it means for each of us personally.

Quaker values are active in the world. Our lives speak peace, equality, respect for the earth and all its inhabitants. We offer friendship to all and solidarity to the marginalised. We speak truth to power with love. We hold those in power in the Light. We find creative and nonviolent ways to get our message across. We are in for the long haul; we’re not afraid to take risks. We are called to live in the place where our deep gladness meets the deep hunger in the world.

Quakers work collaboratively. We are well aware that we can't put the world to rights all by ourselves. We value the important work of others; by engaging with them we are already changing the world. We want to break down barriers; we refuse to prejudge who is or is not an ally.

Quakers are well known and widely understood. We are active in our local communities, reaching out in friendship, making more use of our meeting houses for events and renting/lending out. All members are ready and equipped to explain our way confidently and clearly to anyone who asks, as well as to speak publicly on issues of concern. We share our practices where appropriate and make full use of new media to reach out widely. In an increasingly divided world, we try to offer 'patterns and examples' of a caring community.

… a future where we let our lives speak