All posts by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist. Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war. Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down. Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Ed Revill: clean burning gas from woodchips, the waste ‘biochar’ makes excellent fertiliser

By Ed Lovelace – from 2011

Ed Revill from Swansea gives us the low-down on biochar-producing stoves and how they can be harnessed to convert chemical energy stored in wood into useful heat and nutrient retaining, “carbon negative” charcoal known as ‘biochar’.

Audio interview

Permaculture revolution Ed Revill, from Swansea Biochar.
– Explore techniques which allow us to live in balance with the Earth.
– Recaim sovereignty from food and energy corporations and start to build resilient systems.
– Explore how to produce healthy soil as well as domestic heat by stabilising carbon in soil.
– Producing food and energy by stabilising carbon in soil enables us to reverse our ecological footprints and live in harmony with the Earth.
– This is the reverse of the current practice of burning fossil fuels to produce energy and food.
http://www.soil-carbon-regeneration.co.uk

UK Permaculture revolution

http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/73642

Download http://www.radio4all.net/files/tony@cultureshop.org.uk/2149-1-Dialect07Jan14.mp3

Tory behind Grenfell cladding downgrade hosts lavish party just before 2nd anniversary of fire

EXCLUSIVE: Rock Hugo Basil Feilding-Mellen, the Tory councillor who oversaw Grenfell’s refurbishment, invited actress Rosamund Pike and John Lennon’s musician son Sean to his 40th bash

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/grenfell-torys-star-studded-party-16520379

By Alan Selby 14 JUN 2019

Rock Hugo Basil Feilding-Mellen (known in Ladbroke Grove as ‘Cock Wielding Felon’) organised the bash

The Tory councillor who oversaw Grenfell’s refurbishment has been slammed for throwing a star-studded party at his family’s country pile weeks before the horror’s two-year anniversary.

Rock Hugo Basil Feilding-Mellen’s 40th birthday bash saw a who’s who of socialites and stars descend on Stanway House in Gloucestershire, including actress Rosamund Pike and John Lennon’s musician son Sean.

Photos on social media showed millionaires rubbing shoulders at his mum’s 5,000-acre Jacobean manor as families prepared themselves to commemorate the tragedy that killed 72.

Grenfell United, the survivors and bereaved families group, said: “Seeing these pictures is like a gut punch.

“We are no closer to justice, yet people that should be answering questions for the deaths of 72 people and the devastation of our community are living without consequence. It’s disgraceful.

“Because of what was done to us there are 72 birthdays we didn’t celebrate this year and two children who never made it to their first.”

Edward Daffarn lived in Grenfell Tower and almost lost his life in the fire.

He said: “It makes me feel like I did when reading the following quote from the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: ‘they were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clear up the mess that they made’.”

A source who revealed the party had taken place said: “I’m just appalled at the arrogance of these people revelling in the run-up to the Grenfell anniversary.

“There are seventy-two people who’ll never have another birthday.”

Moyra Samuels, of the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, said Rock Feilding-Mellen’s decision to hold a party with his rich and famous pals just three weeks before the two year anniversary of the fire showed he was “morally bankrupt”.

She said “He’s quite indifferent to the impact that such a thing might have on a grieving and quite sensitive community. He’s oblivious, continuing to act as if it is of no consequence that 72 people died.

“He lives in an elite and removed world, and always has, even though he was he was based not far from the tower.

“He’s been raised, nurtured and brought up with this entitled attitude.

“It comes as no surprise, but it is indicative of the fact that actually people like him who were involved in the council at the time of the fire and made some serious decisions that influenced what happened are still continuing to act as if it is of no consequence that 72 people died.

“They think this should not change their lives, and they will continue to indulge.”She added: “You would have thought this would be a time to show some sensitivity and some subtlety.”

Moyra, a teacher, said as the inquiry into the fire dragged on slowly the community felt justice was being denied as key decision makers like Mr Feilding-Mellen moved on with their lives and escaped sanction.

She said: “Every aspect of the procedure of justice and truth has been thwarted, in all sorts of ways, by a ruling, privileged elite who indicate to this community and, quite frankly, the rest of the country, that they don’t have any shame in them.”

 

Fielding-Mellen did not comment when approached by the Mirror.

Mr Feilding-Mellen was deputy mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea during the refurbishment of the tower, and was the chairman of the housing committee.

He reportedly urged refurbishment consultants in 2014 to reduce costs on cladding.

At that point £300,000 was cut from a £10 million budget and now-banned flammable aluminium panels were to be installed, rather than the zinc cladding which was originally planned.

After being elected to Kensington in 2006 Mr Feilding-Mellen became deputy leader in 2013 and took a seat on the powerful major planning development committee.

In 2015 he warned that the council’s housing redevelopment programme would need to be completed “with no recurrent cost to the general council taxpayer”.

After news of his involvement in the Grenfell refit emerged he was forced to flee his family’s £1.2million Kensington home in the wake of the fire, fearing for his family’s safety.

He stood down as deputy mayor of the borough after the fire, and left the council at last year’s local elections.

Days after Grenfell, in 2017, he told friends he was cancelling plans to visit Stanway House for the 30th birthday of his step-sister Mary Charteris, who is a model and member of the band The Big Pink.

Those who did go to Mary’s party included Cara Delevingne, actor Jaime Winstone and aristocrats including Scarlett Spencer-Churchill.

Mr Feilding-Mellen, known as Rocky, is the son of Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March.

He is the great-great-great-grandson of the seventh Earl of Denbigh and a direct descendant of the Hapsburgs.

Amanda Feilding is an outspoken critic of drugs policy, and campaigns on the benefits of LSD and cannabis.

The UK’s 50 biggest landowners revealed – lovemoney.com

Solution to inequality? UK Labour party embraces Land Value Tax (LVT)

Labour could stop renters paying council tax in major property laws shake-up

Labour has shown once again that it wants nothing less than the abolition of private property

Tax land: Winston Churchill said it all better then we can

Want to tackle inequality? Then first change our land ownership laws

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/04/tackle-inequality-land-ownership-laws

George Monbiot From housing costs to wildlife collapse, we pay the price while the rich boost their profits. But from today we can fight back @GeorgeMonbiot

Tue 4 Jun 2019 06.00 BSTLast modified on Tue 4 Jun 2019 12.35 BST

What is the most neglected issue in British politics? I would say land. Literally and metaphorically, land underlies our lives, but its ownership and control have been captured by a tiny number of people. The results include soaring inequality and exclusion; the massive cost of renting or buying a decent home; the collapse of wildlife and ecosystems; repeated financial crises; and the loss of public space. Yet for 70 years this crucial issue has scarcely featured in political discussions.

Today, I hope, this changes, with the publication of the report to the Labour party – Land for the Many – that I’ve written with six experts in the field. Our aim is to put this neglected issue where it belongs: at the heart of political debate and discussion.

Since 1995, land values in this country have risen by 412%. Land now accounts for an astonishing 51% of the UK’s net worth. Why? In large part because successive governments have used tax exemptions and other advantages to turn the ground beneath our feet into a speculative money machine. A report published this week by Tax Justice UK reveals that, through owning agricultural land, 261 rich families escaped £208m in inheritance tax in 2015-16. Because farmland is used as a tax shelter, farmers are being priced out. In 2011, farmers bought 60% of the land that was on the market; within six years this had fallen to 40%.

Homes are so expensive not because of the price of bricks and mortar, but because land now accounts for 70% of the price

Worse still, when planning permission is granted on agricultural land, its value can rise 250-fold. Though this jackpot was created by society, the owner gets to keep most of it. We pay for this vast inflation in land values through outrageous rents and mortgages. Capital gains tax is lower than income tax, and council tax is proportionately more expensive for the poor than for the rich. As a result of such giveaways, and the amazing opacity of the system, land in the UK has become a magnet for international criminals seeking to launder their money.

We pay for these distortions every day. Homes have become so expensive not because the price of bricks and mortar has risen, but because the land that underlies them now accounts for 70% of their price. Twenty years ago, the average working family needed to save for three years to afford a deposit. Today, it must save for 19 years. Life is even worse for renters. While housing costs swallow 12% of average household incomes for those with mortgages, renters pay 36%.

Because we hear so little about the underlying issues, we blame the wrong causes for the cost and scarcity of housing: immigration, population growth, the green belt, red tape. In reality, the power of landowners and building companies, their tax and financial advantages and the vast shift in bank lending towards the housing sector have inflated prices so much that even a massive house building programme could not counteract them.

The same forces are responsible for the loss of public space in cities, a right to roam that covers only 10% of the land, the lack of provision for allotments and of opportunities for new farmers, and the wholesale destruction of the living world. Our report aims to confront these structural forces and take back control of the fabric of the nation.

A Labour government should replace council tax with a progressive property tax, payable by owners, not tenants. Empty homes should automatically be taxed at a higher rate. Inheritance tax should be replaced with a lifetime gifts tax levied on the recipient. Capital gains tax on second homes and investment properties should match or exceed the rates of income tax. Business rates should be replaced with a land value tax, based on rental value. A 15% offshore tax should be levied on properties owned through tax havens.

To democratise development and planning, we want to create new public development corporations. Alongside local authorities, they would assemble the land needed for affordable homes and new communities. Builders would have to compete on quality, rather than by amassing land banks. These public corporations would use compulsory purchase to buy land at agricultural prices, rather than having to pay through the nose for the uplift created by planning permission. This could reduce the price of affordable homes in the south-east by nearly 50%.

We propose a community participation agency, to help people, rather than big companies, become the driving force in creating local plans and influencing major infrastructure. To ensure a wide range of voices is heard, we suggest a form of jury service for plan-making. To represent children and the unborn, we would like every local authority to appoint a future generations champion.

Councils should have new duties to create parks, urban green spaces, wildlife refuges and public amenities. We propose a new definition of public space, granting citizens a legal right to use it and overturning the power of private landowners in cities to stifle leisure, cultural events and protest.

We propose much tighter rent and eviction controls, and an ambitious social housebuilding programme. We also want to create new opportunities for people to design and build their own homes, supported by a community right to buy of the kind that Scotland enjoys. Compulsory sale orders should be used to bring vacant and derelict land on to the market, and community groups should have first rights to buy it.

To help stabilise land prices and make homes more affordable, we propose a new body, called the Common Ground Trust. When people can’t afford to buy a home, they can ask the trust to purchase the land that underlies it, while they pay only for the bricks and mortar (about 30% of the cost). They then pay the trust a land rent. Their overall housing costs are reduced, while the trust gradually accumulates a pool of land that acts as a buffer against speculation, and creates common ownership on a large scale.

We call for a right to roam across all uncultivated land and waterways (except gardens and similar limitations). We want to change the Allotments Act, to ensure that no one needs wait for a plot for more than a year. We would like to use part of the Land Registry’s vast surplus to help community land trusts buy rural land for farming, forestry, conservation and rewilding. We would like a new English land commission to decide whether to make major farming and forestry decisions subject to planning permission, to help arrest the environmental crisis. And we want to transform the public’s right to know, by ensuring that all information about land ownership, subsidies and planning is published freely as open data.

These proposals, we hope, will make the UK a more equal, inclusive and generous-spirited nation, characterised not by private enclosure and public squalor, but by private sufficiency and public luxury. Our land should work for the many, not just the few.

Bob Hoskins exposes London property scams, Omnibus (1982) Missing Believed Wiped, with Barry Norman

Bob Hoskins offers his unvarnished opinion on the architectural dilemmas facing the South Bank

BBC Omnibus | 1982 | 50m – Bob Hoskins offers his unvarnished opinion on the architectural dilemmas facing the South Bank. BFI collections: Building the South Bank and Beautiful South
http://www.bfi.org.uk/distribution/test

1982: Omnibus – Bob Hoskins took Barry Norman on a riverside walk along the South Bank to illustrate his concerns about property speculation and development along the riverfront in central London.

Throwback: Bob Hoskins talks about urban planning in London’s South Bank

By WILLIAM MENKING • Friday May 10, 2019

The actor Bob Hoskins was the star of the 1980 film, The Long Good Friday, a London gangster movie that reflected on major anxieties, opportunities, and economic changes taking place in the U.K. In 1982 Hoskins led Barry Norman and the BBC on a riverside walk along the South Bank, and while pointing to new concrete office blocks he calls “Mars Bars” he confronts change in the guise of urban development along the Thames.

The coming redevelopment Hoskins claims (and was he ever right) will make the 1960s “redevelopment epidemic look like a rash.” Next to a Coin Street vacant lot, once the site of row houses, but torn down for the 1951 Festival of Britain, he points to another Mars Bar. You see that (the BBC overlays outlines the proposed structures) is what happens if you “don’t consult with local people.” In 1970 “a big property group said they would build flats, shops, and a hotel if they could build a great tower for their staff. Once they got that tower the company brass pushed off down to Surrey and their building was sold off and the new owners are new doing up a bit to let and now they say they are moving out of the tower as well.” Now thanks to these planning decisions what we have is an area that “looks and feels completely dead.” Hoskins was not just a great actor but with deep understanding of culture implicitly understood bottom-up planning. We need planners with his insight and passion.

@BBCArchive – #OTD 1982: Bob Hoskins took Barry Norman on a riverside walk along the South Bank to illustrate his concerns about development in London

‘My dad was such a good actor he convinced The Krays he was a gangster’ – Bob Hoskins’ daughter on his gentle side

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/celebrity/my-dad-good-actor-convinced-8084578

HOSKINS, who died in 2014, was often cast as a cockney hardman, but in a new book his daughter reveals that was as far removed as possible from his real personality.
By Rod McPhee 30 MAY 2016

WHEN Bob Hoskins lost his battle with Parkinson’s , a nation mourned the loss of the lovable movie hardman.

In reality, his family say he was a gentle soul who loved cookery and archaeology, not the underworld criminal like his characters in The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa…

Council stopped from bulldozing Huddersfield allotments – thanks to their own records from 85 years ago

Council plan to bulldoze allotments stopped – thanks to their own records from 85 years ago

Kirklees wanted to make way for a school but campaigners fought the plan – and have won a High Court battle

https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/council-plan-bulldoze-allotments-stopped-16252125

Tenants of Cemetery Road Allotments, in Huddersfield, with supporters from the National Allotment Society, at the High Court in Leeds for a judicial review into Kirklees Councils plan to take their plots as part of plans for a new primary school.

A battling allotment holder has scored a High Court triumph in his fight to stop Kirklees Council taking over his prized plots for construction of a new primary school.

Jonathan Adamson, who cultivates four plots at the Cemetery Road allotments in Birkby , was served with notice to quit by the metropolitan borough council in September last year.

He was told his plots were needed to provide playing fields and car parking space for the primary school, on which work is due to start imminently.

Mr Adamson supports the new school, but wants the plans reconfigured so as to spare his allotments, London’s High Court heard.

Although he and other allotment holders have been offered alternative plots, they are “not satisfied” with them, said top judge, Mr Justice Kerr.

Mr Adamson argued in person that he could not be deprived of his plots without permission from Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire.

Debby Fulgoni and Isaac Romain , plot holders on the Cemetery Road Allotments, which are under threat from building proposals
Debby Fulgoni and Isaac Romain , plot holders on the Cemetery Road Allotments 

The council fought his judicial review challenge tooth and nail – but now Mr Adamson has been handed a stunning victory by the judge.

The council’s September 2018 decision to “appropriate” the allotments for education purposes was overturned.

And Mr Adamson, together with 13 other allotment holders who supported him, had their notices to quit quashed.

An aerial view of Birkby from 1949 showing allotment space. The pink areas have since been lost to housing. The yellow area indicates the size of the current allotment site at Cemetery Road.

The judge’s ruling involved an in-depth survey of the history of allotments in Huddersfield going back to 1920, long before the council came into existence.

It was in that year that an Act of Parliament authorised the council’s predecessor, the Huddersfield Corporation, to purchase the Ramsden Estate – of which the allotments now form part – for £1.36 million, payable over 80 years.

The council denied that the Corporation had ever formally appropriated the land for use as allotments and that the Secretary of State’s consent was therefore not required.

But, after analysing Corporation minutes going back decades, Mr Justice Kerr found that it had done just that when the land was “zoned for allotments” at a meeting in 1935.

The allotments had been described as “permanent” at the time and the Corporation had directed that local maps be amended to show them.

Cemetery Road Allotments, Birkby.
Cemetery Road Allotments, Birkby. (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

The allotment holders therefore had “security of tenure” and, under the Allotments Act 1925, they could not be stripped of their plots without the Secretary of State’s say so.

The judge rejected council arguments that Mr Adamson had delayed too long in bringing his case to court.

And Kirklees’s plea that Mr Brokenshire was “highly likely” to approve the appropriation of the allotments for the new school also fell on fallow ground.

The judge paid tribute to the “skill and courtesy” with which Mr Adamson presented his case and ordered the council to pay his legal costs – which came to £12,199.

Kirklees Council said it was “disappointed” with the decision.

They added: “A new primary school is needed in this area to meet the demands for places.

“As a council we’re committed to ensuring all children in Kirklees have access to the same high standard of education. This school is an important part of this.

“This decision will delay us in providing the new school local children deserve.

“We will be presenting additional information to the judge and hope this decision will be reviewed. We will also be seeking permission from the Secretary of State to proceed with the development following this decision.

“Allotments are part of our local communities and it’s important that we have enough spaces for those that want them.

“The amount of unused space on this site means that it is possible to have both a fantastic new school and a vibrant allotment site.

“Affected allotment plot holders were offered new plots in the same allotment where work has been done to bring them up to a very high standard with new paths, edging, and access to water, so tenants can get straight into the art of growing.”

Craig Murray: XR – Extinction Aversion

Extinction Aversion

https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/04/extinction-aversion/ Craig Murray 23 Apr, 2019

Man made climate change has appeared to me for three decades to be sufficiently proven, and it has that cardinal virtue of a scientific hypothesis, you can see the things which it predicts will happen, come to pass before your eyes, like being uncomfortably hot in your Edinburgh flat on Easter Monday.

Direct action of the illegal kind is a very important weapon in the arsenal of protest. It represents a challenge to the state’s monopoly of force. While it may appear non-violent, in fact by imposing your body into a space and blocking it off, that is an assertion of physical force. What the Extinction Rebellion protests showed this week was the reticence of the Metropolitan Police in dealing with nice, middle class and largely white protestors. That reticence is to be welcomed; the fact that it is not extended to other groups is what is to be deplored. The alternative is to argue for everyone to get beaten up by Plod equally, which is not a sensible line to take.

I broadly support the Extinction Rebellion protest. In terms of gatecrashing climate change on to the political agenda, they have had a good and entirely necessary effect. Their use of what was in effect force, certainly did some harm in restricting the movement of people around London, and in some cases will have impacted the ability of struggling people to earn their living. It also disrupted public transport systems which are a good thing. But these are minor items if you accept that climate change is whirling its way to becoming an existential threat – and that is a premise which I do accept. The disruption is outweighed by the intent to do a much greater good, in terms of the justification of the people doing the protesting. Whether it succeeds in prompting real action by government and achieving a balance of good, is a different question. I fear we have to get rid of the Tories first.

I accept that climate change is a worldwide phenomenon and action in individual states of limited utility. But individual states can inspire by example, not least by showing that a switch to a greener economy can lead to a major stimulation of economic growth. I do not pretend to expertise in green economics. What follows are rather some homely policy nostrums which I believe should form a part of a coherent approach to green policy.

1) Home Insulation

The Tory Government has effectively abandoned and cancelled home insulation schemes; in effect nothing whatsoever is happening. Yet the government’s own plan to reach committed emissions targets by 2050 explicitly depends on one third of all savings being achieved by insulation in Britain’s existing stock of over 20 million very poorly insulated homes.

There is the clearest case here for government action. The aim should be to upgrade 4 million homes a year. Full funding should be provided to local authorities and housing associations for their stock. Householders should face a legal obligation to bring home insulation up to high defined standards – with generous means-tested grants available from central government funds, which should meet 100% of the cost for all those in straitened circumstances, and a decreasing percentage thereafter based on income and wealth. Private landlords should be forced to comply and self-fund up to the value of four months’ rent, with grants available for higher costs. Failure to comply should lead to the landlords’ property being confiscated by the local council, with tenancies protected.

Those are the broad outlines of a policy which would provide massive employment and contribute to a major Keynesian boost for an economy crippled by years of austerity, as well as make a major difference to emissions.

2) Ocean Energy

Wind energy has made massive strides, and to a lesser extent solar and hydro. But disappointingly little has been done to harness the restless energy of the seas. Government support for research programmes into utilising wave and current energy is pitifully small, given the potentially vast and reliable energy resource available, to the UK in particular.

On tidal energy, those objecting to the Severn or Wash barrage schemes on the grounds of effect on wildlife habitat are failing spectacularly to see the wood for the trees. Of course biodiversity is massively important, but we are fighting a battle in which some resources will need to be sacrificed. The Severn, Wash and Swansea Bay schemes do not require substantial technological innovation – they are basically just low head hydro – and should be pushed ahead as urgent projects. Simultaneously major research funding should be given to innovation. I suspect the harnessing of currents rather than waves would be the first to fruition.

3) Aviation Fuel Tax

Cheap flights are the opiate of the people. I cannot buy in to the argument that aviation fuel tax is only viable if everybody does it. Planes landing can very easily be taxed on any fuel they have in their fuel tanks brought in from third countries. If hub passengers transiting are reduced in favour of fuel tax free destinations, I cannot see that as a bad thing. An aviation hub is a particularly undesirable thing to become, from any sensible environmental view.

Flying is a major contributor to pollution and there is far too much of it. The tax free fuel status that makes flights cheaper than trains is ludicrous. Aviation fuel should be taxed at the same levels per calorific value as road fuels.

4) Expand Rail Networks

Nationalisation and re-integration is of course the sensible prelude to any development of rail transport. The UK is chronically behind most of the developed, and even much of the developing, world in terms of high speed rail lines. This needs to be rectified as does the chronic over-concentration of transport resource on South East England. HS2 should run on to Aberdeen and Inverness, not just be confined to the southern third of the UK.

On a wider note, with demand for rail transport buoyant, re-establishment of many Beeching axed lines should be undertaken with a view to a simple containerised nationwide freight distribution system as well as passenger transport. Rail is far more energy efficient than road. The preponderance of road transport is simply the result of perverse incentive from government policy.

Light rail and tram systems should be expanded in cities. Here in Edinburgh, the poor planning and execution of the start of a tram system should not put us off. Trams should be a local service, not fast and stopping frequently, but rather akin to buses, as in Manchester. They should not be confused as in Edinburgh with an express airport service, with very few and inaccessible stops.

5) Encourage Micro-Generation: Abolish Nuclear

The UK had an immensely successful programme of encouraging domestic solar generation through feed in tariffs, so the Tories cut it, as they cut the less successful insulation grants. Generous feed-in tariffs for domestic generation should be rebooted, while technologies such as heat pumps and exchangers should be zero rated for VAT (as should bicycles).

By contrast, the massively expensive nuclear power projects should be scrapped immediately. I lived almost all my adult life under the impression nuclear energy involved some fiendishly clever technology, until I realised it generates from bog standard steam turbines, and the nuclear part is simply a ludicrously complicated, incredibly expensive and devastatingly dangerous way to – boil water.

The real attraction to governments of nuclear power is the precise reason governments dislike micro-generation – nuclear power promotes a massively centralised security state, and links in well to weaponisation. It is the most expensive electricity of all, and should be immediately closed down.

The above represent my own thoughts on possible short term policy responses to climate change. I acknowledge quite freely that it is not my area of expertise and is perhaps insufficiently radical, and certainly insufficiently broad and detailed. It has however focused my mind on the great economic stimulus that can be gained from wholesale pursuit of the necessary technologies at the government level.

I have deliberately concentrated on unilateral measures rather than international negotiation, because I am sceptical there is sufficient will for progress on the latter or that governments around the world intend to stick to commitments. I have viewed it from a UK not a Scottish perspective because action is required immediately, and Scotland starts from a much better place anyway.

That I am thinking on this at all is in a way evidence that Extinction Rebellion achieved their aim from their immediate action, though it is those in power they seek to influence, not random bloggers. I am very sceptical of their declared desire to ‘negotiate with government’. If David Cameron were still in power, he would undoubtedly ‘hug a swampie’ and make all kinds of green noises, then continue shutting down environmental programmes. Those around Theresa May are quite clever enough to recommend such an approach, as a potential Tory rescuing image as the party otherwise crashes to electoral disaster.

I would recommend Extinction Rebellion to keep blocking the roads and stay clear of the politicians. If they could refine their tactics to concentrate more on direct action against the big polluters and their financial backers, and move away from shocking the public through inconvenience, that might be tactically good for a while. But on the whole, I applaud. Vigorously.

Rewilding: Thomas Malthus, Aurochs and ‘green fascism’. The dark side of misanthropic environmentalism

Danish billionaires plan to rewild large swath of Scottish Highlands

Scotland’s largest private [Viking] landowners want to reverse years of land ‘mismanagement’, says adviser
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/21/danish-billionaires-anders-and-anne-holch-povlsen-say-plan-is-to-restore-scottish-highlands

Rewilding and Malthus

ON DECEMBER 27, 2016 BY GRAHAM   In September I was fortunate to attend the excellent Future of Wild Europeconference at Leeds University. Over three days, keynote speakers and early-career researchers in the environmental humanities gave presentations on rewilding, ethnography and many other fascinating topics related to political ecology.
https://theculturalwilderness.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/rewilding-and-malthus/

When the Nazis Tried to Bring Animals Back From Extinction

By Lorraine Boissoneault www.smithsonian.com – March 31, 2017
Their ideology of genetic purity extended to aspirations about reviving a pristine landscape with ancient animals and forests
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-nazis-tried-bring-animals-back-extinction-180962739/

Brown bears and wolves to be reintroduced to woods near Bristol after council gives permission

By Alex Wood 4 JUL 2018 Bear Wood could reopen in time for next summer, and will house brown bears as well as lynx, wolves and wolverine in woodlands https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/brown-bears-reintroduced-woods-near-1749087

The trouble with rewilding

Posted on 14 December 2016 by entitlecollective By Irma Allen*  A rewilding movement that bases itself on arguments around overpopulation, without interrogating the power structures that are enabling it, is in danger of failing to generate the kinds of solidarities, social justice outcomes and progressive visions of wildness that we so desperately need.
https://entitleblog.org/2016/12/14/the-trouble-with-rewilding/

In September I was fortunate to attend the excellent Future of Wild Europeconference at Leeds University. Over three days, keynote speakers and early-career researchers in the environmental humanities gave presentations on rewilding, ethnography and many other fascinating topics related to political ecology.

Pretty much my first academic conference, I found it hugely stimulating, and a great opportunity to accost authors of papers I was citing in my dissertation at coffee break. It was also not without a share of controversy and a range of different and at times conflicting visions were presented as to what a ‘wild Europe’ might mean and how to get there.

Irma Allen of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm also attended the conference and has written about her impressions in a thought-provoking blog, The Trouble with Rewilding. Here, she poses some challenging questions about what she felt was revealed concerning  the ideological underpinnings of the rewilding movement. Three main issues  concern her: the racialized Malthussian origins of rewilding; concerns about land abandonment and passive rewilding in Europe being facilitated by importing ‘virtual’ agricultural land; and rewilding initiatives being concentrated in the historically marginalized regions of Central and Eastern Europe.

  1. Malthus and the discourse of over-population

Environmentalism has a dark history of Malthussian ‘Limits to Growth’ thinking and misanthropy. A focus on and at times pre-occupation with over-population as the primary driver of environmental destruction, frequently accompanied by the reification of a sublime Nature above human well-being, has lead to an assumption that the only truly healthy Nature is one devoid of humans.

As Allen says, this issue was most famously addressed by William Cronon in his 1996 essay The Trouble with Wilderness (pdf) (Cronon 1996):

Perhaps partly because our own conflicts over such places and organisms have become so messy, the convergence of wilderness values with concerns about biological diversity and endangered species has helped produce a deep fascination for remote ecosystems, where it is easier to imagine that nature might somehow be ‘left alone’ to flourish by its own pristine devices. The classic example is the tropical rain forest, which since the 1970s has become the most powerful modern icon of unfallen, sacred land ‘a veritable Garden of Eden’ for many Americans and Europeans. And yet protecting the rain forest in the eyes of First World environmnetalists all too often means protecting it from people who live there.
Those who seek to preserve such ‘wilderness’ from the activities of native peoples run the risk of reproducing the same tragedy ‘being forceably removed from an ancient home’ that befell American Indians. Third World countries face massive environmental problems and deep social conflicts, but these are not likely to be solved by a cultural myth that encourages us to ‘preserve’ peopleless landscapes that have not existed in such places for millennia.
‘exporting American notions of wilderness in this way can become an unthinking and self-defeating form of cultural imperialism’

Cronon goes onto argue that the dichotomy that the concept of wilderness creates- that of a separation of anything touched by humans from pristine Nature- leads us to de-value the more prosaic world that we inhabit, and thus disregard the nature and the natural that is all around us, in our backyards, or even in the heart of the city. If we hold an essentially illusory image of ‘the wilderness’ – since nature untouched by humans hardly exists anymore, and arguably has not for a long time- as the only true nature worth preserving or paying attention to, we will neglect to look after the less exciting but equally important diversity than can often be found all around us.

In her post, Allen goes onto trace these Malthussian strains from one of the originators of rewilding, deep ecologist Dave Foreman, to the founder of Rewilding Europe, Toby Aykroyd, who also gave a presentation at the Leeds conference. Allen found that Aykroyd is also the founder of the Population and Sustainability Network, which focusses on the links between reproductive health, population and the environment, and provides free family planning services in developing countries- all well and good she says, but – when motivated by concern over natural resources and carrying capacities, and linked to power-laden development agendas, this shades into murkier territories and rationales that I find deeply uncomfortable. –

In my dissertation on rewilding (available here) I also referenced some of these associations:

The darker side of misanthropic environmentalism still pervades more extreme rewilding discourses and can readily be found on online forums and blogs (see for example The Happy Anachronism blog, 2012; The Rewild West n.d.). Drastic reductions in human population, either forced or through some kind of ecological collapse, are seen by these writers as a necessary and even desirable pre-requisite to any genuine rewilding (Foreman 2015). At times, these views can seem uncomfortably close to certain strands of Nazi ideology, which was itself strongly informed by belief in the purity of pristine Nature, underpinned by their mythology of the urwald (primeval forest) which they associated with the Fatherland and Aryan supremacy (Biehl and Staudenmaier 1995; Schama 1996).

While some find thinking about this uncomfortable and would rather not have it discussed, or claim that it is no longer relevant, the conservation movement needs to own openly to its origins in a history of forced evictions of native peoples in order to create protected wilderness areas (Dowie 2011), a practice that is still going on today.

In this way, ‘wilderness’ can be seen a cultural artifact, literally created by the forced removal of people (Ginn and Demeritt 2008). This is what Monbiot (1994) calls forced rewilding  (it is a curious aspect of his work that he gives scant mention of these issues in his more recent influential rewilding book Feral [2013]).

Perhaps oddly, neither Allen in her post, nor as far as I could see from a quick search on the PSN website, make any mention of the demographic transition-the well researched process of development, by which birth rates decline, sometimes dramatically, with economic development, as infant mortality declines and people move away from subsistence farming, and no longer require large numbers of children to ensure enough survived to work the land (Galor and Weil 2000).

Given that the data has been in on this process for decades and just keeps getting stronger, psychological explanations are being employed, as referenced by Allen,  to explain why overpopulation is still routinely referred to as ‘the elephant on the room’, a kind of ‘public secret’ when in fact it has always been a core underpinning of the environmental movement, championed most prominently by Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich (1968). A challenge for rewilding then will be to make a clean break with such Malthussian ideology.

Dolly Jorgensen, who also spoke at the conference, comes to the same conclusion in her review of rewilding:

Taken as a whole, rewilding discourse seeks to erase human history and involvement with the land and flora and fauna

(Jorgensen, D. 2014)

In response, Prior and Ward (2016) make the case that many rewilding ‘experiments’ are indeed well integrated with human activity and presence, citing two examples of beaver re-introductions in Scotland, and the Oostvaardersplassen reserve in the Netherlands. However, my own research last summer suggests that people are likely to continue to use ‘rewilding’ in many different ways, and even if efforts are made to shake off the idea of rewilding being about the reconstruction of an imagined ‘pristine’ nature, there is bound to be some considerable slippage in public discourse. Rewilding will remain strongly associated with wilderness discourse and continue to draw from a broad church, including Malthussian deep-ecology.

Rather than focus on over-population, Allen sees over-consumption as being a more significant issue, bringing her to her second issue: exporting productive land overseas to allow increased conservation at home.

2. Virtual land trade in Europe

Citing the 2010 OPERA report (von Witzke and Noleppa 2010) on land-sparing, Allen points to data suggesting that Europe’s dramatic increase in productive land abandonment- hailed by some as an opportunity for passive rewilding ( Navarro and Pereira 2012) and regreening (the topic of my last post)  has come only at the expense of a ‘virtual land grab’ outside the EU, mainly in developing countries, who have seen a consummate loss of forest cover. If so, this would provide a challenge to those, like myself, who have argued for intensification of agriculture as a way of freeing up farmland for nature.

However more recent data show that post-2008, the trend within the EU of increasing its virtual land imports has reversed, declining more than a third from the peak of 2007/8:

Source: Noleppa, S., & Cartsburg, M. (2014). Another look at agricultural trade of the European Union: Virtual land trade and self-sufficiency. Hffa Research.

While Europe still imports a large amount of ‘virtual farmlandland’, mainly in the form of oilseed crops, primarily soya from South America, the trend for other crops is in the other direction as Europe increases efficiency and raises yields. Moreover, a proportion of this virtual acreage is for the production of crops to meet the EU biofuel mandates. Under scenarios explored in the earlier study, this could already account for some 3-4m ha, rising by another 10% if biofuel mandates are increased.

Allen also points to the issue of land-grabbing in Europe, fingering EU-backed neo-liberal policies. While this may be a serious problem, dislocating traditional farming communities, this cannot be the same land that is being abandoned, but is rather for intensive production- which itself could lead to more abandonment of marginal land and subsequent re-greening. Implicit in her post is also a degree of ‘anti-capitalist’ rhetoric, which ignores the considerable data for overall long-term improvement of living conditions under capitalism.

Allen argues that rather than welcoming the process of depopulating rural areas and land abandonment, rewilding should align itself with High Nature Value farming (HNV) and the benefits known to be provided to wildlife by by small farms- in other words, a land-sharing approach:

The key point here is that there is nothing neutral about processes of rural depopulation. Rather than passively celebrate their demise, should rewilding advocates not align themselves with small-scale farmers, whose practices, at least in Europe, can often encourage far greater biodiversity, and are themselves perhaps part of the very notion of ‘wild’ we might want to cultivate – non-homogenous, diverse, non-standardised, and self-willed?

This does seem to obviate the whole point of what rewilding seeks to achieve: If rewilding means anything at all distinctive, it is as a challenge to conventional conservation policies, which are deeply meshed within agri-environment schemes coming out of Europe the past 40 years. In contrast to rewilding, whereby natural processes are given priority to lead where they may (not unproblematic in itself), HNV farming has more in common with what we already have, which seeks to maintain specific habitats, generally those found in pre-WW2 pre-industrially farmed landscapes.

Agri-environment policies are already geared to promote land-sharing. But with world food demand set to rise dramatically over the coming decades, we will also need land-sparing, including new technologies to increase yields. A stalling in  innovation is cited as one of the major reasons for the slow-down in agricultural yield increases globally, and in Europe especially, where GMOs for example are strongly opposed and largely restricted. The OPERA report concludes that excessive regulations and bureaucracy have stifled agricultural innovation in the EU, while an increase in lower-yielding Organic agriculture across the EU would only lead to in an increase in virtual land imports.

3. Bio-capitalism in Eastern Europe

Allen’s final point is to question how, although rewilding generally has been focussed on the developed world, yet within Europe, most initiatives seem to be in the poorer eastern countries. This is true at least for one of the more prominent rewilding organisations, Rewilding Europe, which has most of its projects located in the poorer European countries of eastern Europe.

I think this is another valid point which is worthy of further discussion and research. This could be focussed for example on how eastern Europe may be at an earlier stage of the demographic transition through which more devloped countries have already passed, and how this relates to forest transitions. From informal discussions and other presentations at the Leeds conference, there were suggestions that RW Europe, and perhaps other organisations, see the depopulation of rural areas much to their advantage, and their assumption that alternative livelihoods in eco- and wildlife tourism can seemlessly make up for the decline in farming in these areas needs to be demonstrated rather than assumed.

Conclusion

Irma Allen has raised some perhaps uncomfortable questions for the rewilding movement. Its Malthussian origins should not be ignored and vigilance is needed to ensure it just does not become just the latest vehicle for misanthropic green fascism. Nevertheless, there are some contradictions in her arguments, and a danger of replicating these very same issues in her own apparent preference for small farms and extensive agriculture, while opposing agricultural technology that is badly needed to feed a still growing world population aswell as freeing up more land for nature. This is not to undersate the social disruptions which are likely to accompany such transitions, and further study should be undertaken to assess the social impacts of both agricultural intensification and any possible ‘green-grabbing’ being carried out in the name of rewilding.

References

Biehl, J. and Staudenmaier, P. 1995 Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience AK
Press

Cronon, W. (ed) 1996 Uncommon Ground- Rethinking the Human Place in Nature
W.W.Norton & Co. New York/London

Ehrlich, P. 1968 The Population Bomb MacMillan

FAO. 2016. State of the World�s Forests 2016.
Forests and agriculture: land-use challenges and opportunities. Rome.

Foreman, D. 2015 [online] An Interview with Dave Foreman
http://www.thewildernist.org/2015/03/interview-dave-foreman/ [last accessed 12-07-2016]

Galor, O. and Weil, D.N. 2000 Population, Technology and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond American Economic Review Vol. 90, No. 4 (Sept 2000), pp 806-828

Ginn, F. and Demeritt, D. 2008 Nature: A Contested Concept Ch.17 in Clifford, N.J. et al 2008 Key Concepts in Geography, Sage Publications Ltd.

Jorgensen, D. 2014 Rethinking Rewilding Geoforum 65 (2015) 482-488

Monbiot 1994 No Man’s Land: an investigative journey Through Kenya and Tanzania, MacMillan, London

Monbiot, G. 2013 Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life Allen Lane

Navarro, L.M. and Pereira, H. M.2012 Rewilding Abandoned landscapes in Europe  Ecosystems (2012) 15: 900-912

Noleppa, S., & Cartsburg, M. (2014). Another look at agricultural trade of the European Union: Virtual land trade and self-sufficiency. Hffa Research.

Prior, J. and Ward, K. 2016 Rethinking rewilding: A response to JorgensenGeoforum 69
(2016) 132-135

Schama, S. (1996), S. 1996 Landscape and Memory Vintage

Von Witzke, H., & Noleppa, S. (2010). EU agricultural production and trade: Can more efficiency prevent increasing ‘land-grabbing’ outside of Europe? Study Commissioned by OPERA.

‘Untermensch’ with nowhere to go: Myanmar farmers under siege from land law

Nowhere to go: Myanmar farmers under siege from land law

The Myanmar government has tightened a law on so-called ‘vacant, fallow and virgin’ land, and farmers are at risk.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/myanmar-farmers-siege-land-law-190328003658355.html

by The law puts farmers at risk, mostly in territories that are home to ethnic minorities [File: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo]
The law puts farmers at risk, mostly in territories that are home to ethnic minorities [File: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo]

Yangon, Myanmar – Han Win Naung is besieged on his own land.

Last September, local administrators in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi region put up a sign at the edge of his 5.7-hectare farm that read “Under Management Ownership – Do Not Trespass”.

They felled the trees and started building a drug rehabilitation facility and an agriculture training school on opposite ends of his plot.

He was eventually informed that the administrators were challenging his claim to the land and had filed charges against him under a controversial law that could see him jailed for three years.

“I didn’t know what this law was,” the 37-year-old farmer told Al Jazeera. “I didn’t understand what was happening to us. They also asked us to move. We don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Han Win Naung is accused of violating the Vacant, Fellow and Virgin (VFV) Lands Management Law which requires anyone living on land categorised as “vacant, fallow, and virgin” to apply for a permit to continue using it for the next 30 years.

According to estimates based on government data, this category totals more than 20 million hectares or 30 percent of Myanmar’s land area. Three-quarters of it is home to the country’s ethnic minorities.

The law has sparked outrage among land-rights activists, who say it criminalises millions of farmers who do not have permits and lays the ground for unchecked land seizures by the government, the military and private companies.

Han Win Naung’s farm was seized by the Myanmar authorities under a new land law and his crops are now untended [Han Win Naung/Al Jazeera]

Struggle to survive

“The more people learn about this law, the more they will use it against farmers who cannot afford lawyers,” said a lawyer who is representing Han Win Naung. She asked to be identified only as a member of Tanintharyi Friends, a group that represents several farmers who have been sued under this law.

Now Han Win Naung’s farm is in disrepair. Because of the lawsuit, he has been unable to tend to the mango, banana and cashew trees that have sustained his family since his father set up the farm 28 years ago.

“We haven’t been able to do anything on the farm since September … We are facing a lot of trouble getting food on the table,” he said.

The VFV law is modelled on a British colonial policy in which land occupied by indigenous people was labelled “wasteland” in order to justify seizing it and extracting its revenue. After independence, Myanmar’s military rulers adopted the strategy as a way to ensure they could feed their ranks.

In 2012, the nominally civilian government under former general Thein Sein enshrined the strategy into law, referring to the targeted land as “vacant, fallow, and virgin” instead of “wasteland”.

Last year, despite coming to power on a platform of protecting the land rights of smallholder farmers and promising to reverse all military land grabs within a single year, the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) made the VFV law stricter.

With the NLD’s endorsement, arrests and evictions of farmers like Han Win Naung are accelerating.

In September 2018, Myanmar’s parliament, which is controlled by the NLD, passed an amendment that imposed a two-year prison sentence on anyone found living on “vacant, fallow, and virgin land” without a permit after March 11.

This gave millions of farmers, many of them illiterate or unable to speak Burmese, just six months to complete a Kafkaesque process of claiming land they already consider their own.

According to a survey conducted by the Mekong Region Land Governance Project, in the month before the deadline, 95 percent of people living on so-called VFV land had no knowledge of the law.

Han Win Naung’s family outside their home in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi region [Han Win Naung/Al Jazeera]

‘Torn up’

As the deadline approached, local land-rights activists jumped into action, sending petitions to the government demanding that the law be repealed.

In November, 300 civil society organisations signed an open letter denouncing the law as “an effort to grab the land of ethnic peoples across the country”, especially land belonging to hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people who have no ability to apply for permits.

In December, the Karen National Union (KNU), a powerful ethnic armed organisation that had recently withdrawn from the national peace process, called for the VFV law to be “torn up”, raising the spectre of future conflict.

But these petitions fell on deaf ears, and as the deadline expired, millions of people, many of whose families had been on the same land for generations, became trespassers.

Saw Alex Htoo, deputy director of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), blames the NLD’s pursuit of foreign investment for the policy.

“The NLD is pushing for investment to come into the country without really looking at what’s happening on the ground,” he said. “That’s the only way they could support this VFV law, which is inviting conflict and will displace millions of farmers across the country.”

When asked why the party would pass an amendment that could harm so many people, NLD spokesperson Myo Nyunt said that while land disputes might arise, the purpose of the law was not mass dispossession.

A sign on what was Han Win Naung’s family farms warns against trespassing, while a drug rehab facility and agricultural training facility are being built there [Han Win Naung/Al Jazeera]

“The purpose of the law is to promote the rule of law,” he said.

“When we implement the new law, those affected have the responsibility to understand and follow it. If they have grievances, they can report them to the relevant committee addressing land grabs. There will be some people who are affected negatively by this law, but that is not the intention of this law.

“The government is working to improve the livelihood and quality of life in Myanmar and the rule of law.”

Ye Lin Myint, national coordinator for the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), said enforcement of the VFV law actually calls the rule of law into question because it contradicts several earlier government commitments, including the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) between the government and eight ethnic armed organizations.

“The NCA clearly states that during the peace process, there should be no land seizures,” he said. “This law will start a domino effect of ethnic conflict.”

Conflict over the VFV law has already begun. At least one activist has been arrested for protesting against it and observers say the NLD’s role in generating conflict risks a backlash in next year’s election.

“The ruling National League for Democracy party are really shooting themselves in the foot with the VFV law,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “This will be a human rights disaster that goes to the doorstep of millions of farmers across the nation, and it’s a fair bet they will punish those they consider responsible in the next election.”

Han Win Naung attests to this. Since he was sued, his 80-year-old father has stopped eating and cannot sleep. His children, nieces, and nephews are embarrassed to go to school.

“People like us have been suffering since this government came to power,” he said. “We don’t think we will be voting for the NLD in 2020.”

Labour’s antisemitism fiasco has led to a drop off in pro-Palestinian activism – it’s time we found our voice again

Labour’s antisemitism crisis has led to a drop off in pro-Palestinian activism – it’s time we found our voice again

In 2014, the killing of 1,900 Palestinians in the Gaza strip saw 150,000 people take to London’s streets. Yet the UK’s Palestinian solidarity movement has been noticeably muted in recent months

It is eight years since I attended a protest in the West Bank where unarmed Palestinian activist Mustafa Tamimi was killed after being shot in the face with a tear-gas canister at close range by the Israeli army. Horrified by the brutal injustice of his death, I attended Mustafa’s funeral days later. I witnessed the Israeli army shoot the tear gas canisters that killed Mustafa at his grieving family, as they mourned at his graveside.

It often feels that so little has changed since then, and that only the list of Palestinian dead has grown longer. Israel continues to kill Palestinians with impunity, and I never cease to be outraged by the British government’s shameful “diplomatic silence” and its failure to condemn the Israeli government for its actions.

In the last year alone, the Israeli state has killed 194 Palestinians, including 41 children, during the weekly Great March of Return protests that began in Gaza on 30 March 2018. Although a UN report has now suggested that Israel’s actions could constitute war crimes, UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt abstained on a vote at the UN last month that would have held Israel responsible for its intentional use of “lethal force” against civilian protesters.

The most infamous of these civilian deaths was that of Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old nurse who was shot in the chest by the Israeli army while wearing her white medic’s uniform as she attended to injured protestors in the Gaza strip.

Britain’s failure to condemn this potential war crime has undoubtedly further emboldened the Israeli state. This week, Israel killed another medic; teenage volunteer medic Sajid Muzher was shot in the abdomen while giving medical attention to protestors in a Bethlehem refugee camp. Young enough to be a student in the sixth form at the school I teach at, Sajid’s death hangs particularly heavy in my mind.

The failures of this government to intervene in these crimes only highlights how important a grassroots Palestinian solidarity movement truly is. After all, we must never forget that while it was Thatcher’s Conservative government who supported South African apartheid to the very end, it was ordinary British people who stood in solidarity with the struggle of South Africans in their fight for equal rights and freedom for all.

Just like South Africa then, the UK’s solidarity movement has repeatedly shown that many people in this country will refuse to stand on the sidelines as the British government allows Israel’s actions to go unchecked.

Tens of thousands of protestors marched through London in 2009 after 400 Palestinians were killed by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead offensive. In 2014, these demonstrations had grown exponentially; the killing of 1,900 Palestinians in the Gaza strip saw 150,000 people take to London’s streets once again.

Yet the UK’s Palestinian solidarity movement has been noticeably muted in recent months; demonstrations outside Downing Street last year in solidarity with Gaza’s Great March of Return saw only around 2,000 activists in attendance, and a protest outside the Israeli embassy this weekend is likely to be much the same size.

There could of course be a myriad of reasons why this is the case. But it is increasingly clear that the antisemitism crisis that has rocked the Labour Party in recent months has deflated the confidence of Labour Party members like me who would have previously taken part in mass demonstrations against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.

This is not to deny, of course, the very real, abhorrent cases of antisemitism that do exist within Labour, which must be vociferously challenged. But many now feel that these have become even more difficult to root out because of the way antisemitism has often been conflated with anti-Zionism by those who seek to shut down legitimate criticisms of the Israeli state.

The Palestinian solidarity movement must not be afraid to speak out in the face of such attacks. We need more grassroots actions like those taken by members at the Labour Party conference in 2018, when the hall was filled with delegates waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Free Palestine” as a motion was passed unanimously agreeing to freeze arms sales to Israel, were a Corbyn government to be elected.

Corbyn himself could make a bold statement if he agreed to speak at a national demonstration in London on Saturday 11 May, just as he did in 2009 and 2014 before being elected Labour’s leader. This could reaffirm Corbyn’s long-standing commitment to Palestinians’ liberation, and generate the confidence needed to build a mass solidarity movement once again.

As Palestinians in Gaza take to the streets this weekend to mark the anniversary of the Great March of Return, Israel is unlikely to respond with either caution or restraint, making the UK’s grassroots solidarity movement as important as ever. We must never underestimate the powerful message this international solidarity sends to Palestinians struggling everyday against their oppressors.

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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