Thursday, 12 April 2012

Self-Examination: #UK Involvement in #Bahrain

I remember reading an article a few years back entitled 'Who will save Israel from Itself?' author Mark Levine wrote then that 'Israelis are clearly incapable.' But I felt that probably it had to be at least Jewish people who might rise up and correct their own kind. It was easy for me to support the persecuted in Gaza, but quite a different thing for me to speak out against Israeli policy - for sure I would have been labelled anti-Semitic.

I started to look for Jewish people that were brave enough to speak out against the bombing of Gaza and then I cam across Max Blumenthal in this video:

Max Blumenthal is able to record such a documentary because:
a. he is Jewish (American Jewish)
b. he is very funny (well I think he is!)

It is only right that a Jewish person does this, and no-one else. When I was a teenager I was always complaining about my parents to my best friend - I had the right to do this - they were my parents - but she knew that it was her duty to listen, and understand, but never ever to say a bad word about them herself!

Max Blumenthal continues to be an inspiration to me to this day. You can follow him on Twitter here. He is one of my heroes, not because I continue to be dismayed at the way Palestinians are denied their rights, not because he is very witty, but because he is brave enough to look at his own people and to speak out against them when he sees something wrong - in the face of much criticism and at the risk of being labelled a traitor. I was pleased to see he was nominated as a Jewish Community Hero last year too.

Now I find myself heavily involved in campaigning for the rights of the oppressed people in Bahrain, a crisis I have found myself drawn into following my support for medical neutrality. I'm starting to think the only way out of their mess is when 'pro gov' Bahrainis themselves start speaking out against their government and in support of human rights. And I'm wondering which members of the Khalifa family will save the regime from themselves? Will it be the Crown Prince? And will he get the support he would need to make a difference? And when will the rest of those people with a conscience who are currently silent find the courage to speak out against their own kind?

But all the time I have this 'niggle' at the back of my mind that reminds me of a verse I learnt from the Bible whilst at school:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. Matthew 7:3-5

The problem is of course that the British have been responsible for a huge number of atrocities all around the world, exploiting natural resources and helping itself to slave labour, all under the disguise of the Great British Empire, and the effects of this destruction are apparent even today. We are happy to preach democracy, but the sad fact of the matter is that many countries today do not have democracy because of British involvement.

This was never taught to me at school in my history lessons. No surprise that I was taught instead all about the 'Great' in Britain. I was actually a little confused in my geography lessons when I got to take a proper look at the atlas and started to realise that Britain was percentage wise actually a really small part of the world. I'm still not too great at history, largely ignorant, but I've decided that it is about time I started to get to grips with reality and to unravel the mess made by my ancestors (some of them no doubt still living).

Of course the mess made has been HUGE, so I'll just start with one little topic: not very distant history this one, actually still in living memory today, well still alive (at least he is at the time of writing as far as I know).

Whilst even the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror decide to take the high ground in regards to Bahrain, I have come to learn that Britain, not surprisingly, has played its part in building up this regime that thrives on oppression, and have conveniently forgotten the way it has happily exported inhumane and barbaric policing and security practices in particular through the provision of British Ian Henderson who remained head of security for Bahrain for 30 years and was rumoured to be acting as a consultant even last year at the time of the uprising (and recommencement of torture incidentally).

The UK opened an investigation into Henderson in 2000 after repeated calls to do so from human rights organisations, but then closed his file in 2008 because 'there is no realistic prospect of securing a conviction'. What does that mean??? Since when is this a good reason for closing a suspected torturer's file? I understand that Henderson has never even been called in for questioning, despite at least annual trips home to the UK.

Maybe if the UK had called Henderson to account years ago when they should have then things might be different in Bahrain now? But this guy is still alive, still owns a house in Devon, if they are quick they could still try hold him account before he dies - and so they must.

How the UK government can take the moral high ground without first calling in its own citizens for questioning when there is clear evidence that they have been involved in torture is troubling, especially to me a Brit. I'm drawing inspiration from Max Blumenthal and reckon it is about time I start speaking up against my own kind.

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