Daily archives: June 15, 2007

British Casualty Monitor

Last week saw a number of grim milestones in the Iraq and Afghan wars. The 150th British soldier died in Iraq, closely followed by the 60th British soldier in Afghanistan. Around the same time the US death toll in Iraq reached 3,500. The last available survey-based estimate of Iraqi dead in the war is 650,000, as of June 2006, while in Afghanistan the total figure remains a matter of almost complete guess work. In both countries the situation continues to deteriorate.

In response, the British Casualty Monitor project has been started over at LFCM. They aim to provide regular graphical analysis of casualty trends, initially just for UK troops, that will help in understanding the true burden of the wars and the evolving trends in the conflicts.

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For a Secular, Democratic, Single State of Palestine

Events in Palestine are terribly sad. Forgive the banality, but it needs to be said. The terrible plight of the Palestinian people is a sore on the world. They have been uprooted from their homes and decamped into appalling conditions, with what little land they have left being constantly squeezed, hemmed in and deprived of water.

I thought I was well-informed on Palestine, but still reading Hilda Reilly’s The Prickly Pears of Palestine was an eye-opening experience. It is a difficult book to read. At first I found the constant repetition of the word “Martyr” to describe the dead annoying. But then, as misery piles upon misery, it brings a full understanding of just how devastating and all-pervasive is the reach of Israeli violence into the lives of Palestinian families. Reilly also does much to explain the disillusionment with Fatah, its corruption and lack of achievement, and the enthusiasm for Hamas, particularly among younger people.

In these circumstances appalling distortion of Palestinian society is inevitable. Those of us concerned for the Palestinians have been, rightly I think, concerned to correct the one dimensional view of Hamas portrayed in the Western media, and concerned to expose Western hypocrisy in seeking to penalise Palestinians for their democratic choice.

But it was nonetheless not a good choice. The Palestinians are victims of terrible racial persecution. Turning to religious fundamentalism is an understandable process, but very unhelpful. Above all, the Palestinians have never been a religious mono-culture. A former girlfriend of mine was a Palestinian Christian.

She and I used to campaign for a unitary, secular, democratic state in Palestine, that would encompass Palestinians, Jews and others who live there, in the combined lands of Israel and the occupied territories. That is what I still believe to be the solution. I am not sure how and when it became de rigeur to support a so-called “Two state” solution, with a tiny, fractured, walled, dry and non-viable Palestinian “state”. I don’t believe the UK was committed to that idea until Blair supported it in the Rose Garden all those years ago.

By associating themselves so completely with Islamic fundamentalism, the Palestinians are making the situation worse, and the Zionists very happy. But what did we expect? Palestine has been a prolonged genocide for sixty years, the worst example of ethnic cleansing since the eradication of Native Americans. Desperate people do things that seem stupid from the comfort of our armchairs. It is our comfort and indifference that has brought them to this.

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