How thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women are waging peace

The thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women who marched in Jerusalem and Jericho this month are not only demanding peace from their societies, they are reaching through stereotypes and artificial boundaries to find true partners.

By Riman Barakat

 

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Thousands of women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march on the Israeli Prime Minister’s Residence Jerusalem, October 19, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Less than a year ago a group of Palestinian and Israeli women spent a weekend in Tantur, situated between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, brainstorming what we could possibly do to break the cycle of violence and political stagnation. Everyone had their own personal reason for being there, whether it was the Israeli mothers who had to send their children to war or the Palestinian women who were exhausted by the daily incursions of the Israeli army, checkpoints, and the inability to live freely and imagine a hopeful future for their children. Personally, I felt torn apart having seen Jerusalem split into a hundred pieces, a place that should be the inspiration for coexistence instead oozing with the blood of Palestinians and Israelis on a near daily basis.

Over the last 11 years I have done my best to be involved in any possible initiative that attempts to bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace. Why is Women Wage Peace different? My belief has always been that if any group professes that they will bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace, they must have to want it so much so that they are willing to wed themselves to the cause. These women are of that character; they are unstoppable and determined but most of all, they believe they can create their own future. In order to create a different reality, we believe that we have to be that reality.

“We need to think outside of our surroundings,” Lily kept saying, and together we visualized the March of Hope, a march of togetherness — a cry to the whole world, coming from a mother’s womb, to stop the violence. We resolved not to stop, even in the midst of most terrible acts of violence. We met and shouted out, “ Enough! Enough!” in Arabic, Hebrew and English. We resolved to propose a shared language of hope, of humanity, of an unshakable commitment to peace, and we rejected the language of separation.

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The author, Riman Barakat, addressing the Women Wage Peace rally at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, October 17, 2016. (Gili Getz)

When I stood in front more than 500 women at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam earlier this month, I was not yet sure everyone truly understood or believed what was about to happen two days later — a joint march of thousands of Palestinian and Jewish women. As I called on the mostly Jewish group of women gathered there that day to come join hands with the Palestinian women, I felt the crowd cheering, moved by the thought of Palestinian partnership. Two days later, as the march commenced, a seemingly endless stream of Palestinian women descended from bus after bus, from Nablus, Hebron, East Jerusalem, Jericho, Jenin, Bethlehem. And mind you, they were there to really participate, and participate the did, singing out the words of peace.

We need to allow ourselves to bring down the barriers within and without, to dare to look each other in the eye and see the humanity. A long time has passed with us here and them there. The first step is to breach that psychological barrier and allow ourselves to be welcomed by those we call the “other.” I can’t recall the last time so many Israelis and Palestinians met and walked together. I believe I was much younger then, during the Oslo Accords. Yet after more than 20 years of separation, thousands of women are once again uniting for a common cause. It is a historic moment, and even those who try to ignore it will find it harder and harder to do so as it continues to grow.

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Thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women from ‘Women Wage Peace’ march near the West Bank city of Jericho, October 19, 2016. (Flash90)

When my dear friend Huda Abuarqoub from Hebron stood on the podium at the end of the march outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, declaring loudly, bravely and clearly, “Enough with the myth, I promise you, you have a partner,” it almost felt like a dream, like we were on a different planet. I watched the shock and elation of my Israeli friends. It was as if Huda herself was from another planet. But she was real, here, in the flesh, loud and clear. And everyone saw the magic that morning, only it wasn’t magic. There is a partner and the partner is real. It’s time to stop constantly demanding proof.

Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowye, who came from Liberia to join us in our march, invited the audience to take part in what she called “the open mind challenge,” picking up on what I said earlier in my speech about seeing the humanity of the other. She told us a story from her childhood about an old woman who lived on top of a hill in the forest, whom everyone thought was a witch who ate little children. Leymah’s grandmother insisted on taking the children to visit her. What was the point? The moral of Leymah’s story is that we need to cross those borders within ourselves, to deconstruct the stereotypes we’ve built about each other — an accumulation of many “thin walls,” as she called them. All it takes is one simple act of courage to traverse a border or boundary of fear, to challenge ourselves, and dare to truly meet the other.

What we witnessed on October 19 was an unsurprising surprise, that yes, those on the other side are human beings, full of love, who also want life and peace. Yet there we were, all of us aghast, my Israeli friends and I, as we listened to Huda stating nothing but the obvious. The myth of the evil witch on the top of the hill was shattered right then and there, and the partner for peace was among us, present in every shape and form.

 

Riman Barakat is a Palestinian peace activist, the CEO and founder of Experience Palestine for International Missions and Delegations, and a board member of ALLMEP ( The Alliance for Middle East Peace). Previously she was co-director of IPCRI (Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives) as well as he Palestinian executive director for Breaking the Impasse.




This Is How They Broke Our Grandmothers

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It’s that time of year again for those tired old, hackneyed negative stereotypes to be unthinkingly reinforced and imprinted on innocent children, most of whom will have to wait many years to hear the real story, if indeed they ever do.

Not uplifting reading, but valuable for gaining or widening your perspectives on a range of subjects and issues including history, colonialism and sexual politics. As a detailed overview of an often unexamined phase in history, it’s essential reading.

This Is How They Broke Our Grandmothers

Once, there were witches. No. There were never witches. Not in the way men said, anyway.

Once, there were many Indigenous polytheist and animist faith traditions in what is now Western Europe. Their customs supported varying levels of respect and authority for women. They had holy women, woman healers, and woman leaders.

Once, there was a church that was a kingdom, built on the body of the Roman Empire, which itself was built on the abduction and rape of the Sabine women. This church was a principality in truth, ruled by princes who had a lust for land and gold that was almost as insatiable as their burning hatred for women.

They converted heads of state and demanded tithes of members, while leaving most local governance alone. They created a very early, very ephemeral transnational empire that required little in the way of personnel or men under arms, and was mainly concerned with governing what’s often classed as the private sphere.

Eventually, the church’s client states had a problem keeping their peasants in line, because the church and the aristocracy wanted to steal all the land and privatize it for themselves through enclosure of the commons.

As Sylvia Federici explains in her book, Caliban and the Witch, secular authorities eventually hit on the popular strategy of giving everything that women had to men, including the women themselves. Civil servants didn’t forget to account for the economic value of women’s work; rather, it was explicitly written out of economic accounting — declared to have no value during the enclosure era. Male tradesmen coordinated boycotts of female competitors and of men who worked with them. Women who persisted in trying to engage in public trades were harassed, called “whores” or “witches,” or were even assaulted without repercussion.

Eventually, to be a woman in public alone was very nearly synonymous with being presumed a witch or prostituted woman. Violence against women was both normalized and sexualized. Women were increasingly driven into prostitution  if no man supported them or if they were pushed outside of polite society through accusations of misbehavior, unsanctioned relationships, or sexual abuse. In the sex trade, upstanding men in their communities could torture these women at will, their victims the only party subject to legal sanction.

In order to do their part in solving the problem of the revolting peasantry and acquire their own share of the former commons, the church stepped up to bless this destruction of women’s rights and independence with the seal of divine approval. Their priests invented witches. That is, they invented women who worshipped and had sex with the Devil, who then gave them ludicrous powers  — what feminist historian Max Dashu calls “diabolism.” The church further asserted that everything that wasn’t approved as Christian was diabolism.

Again, there weren’t any witches as the church defined them. The pornographic, diabolist image described in the Malleus Maleficarum didn’t refer to any existing persons. For the most part, it didn’t even refer to things that are possible, in spite of the fact that some Indigenous spiritual and women’s health practices were included as evidence of witchcraft.

“Witches” were just women. That’s what men meant, in their own words.

“All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman… What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with
fair colours… When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil… Women are by nature instruments of Satan — they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.”Malleus Maleficarum

Diabolism was so broadly defined that any female rejection of male authority was potential evidence of witchcraft. Any woman could be a witch. Any look or word that offended a man, any angry speech, any unnecessary fraternization with other women, any sexual activity outside church-approved relations — all could trigger a charge of witchcraft.

Accusations could also be levied for material gain, as the church or state could then seize the property of the accused or charge them ruinous fines for a chance at freedom. Jews and Muslims were targeted as well, fitting the expansive view of diabolism as synonymous with being non-Christian, conveniently enriching the prosecuting authorities.

It became a major public project to humiliate and subjugate women, or to get women and girls to testify against their accused mothers and then stand at the front as they were executed.

serveimage-2Women could also be made to wear scold’s bridles, or branks, in public for speaking out of turn to any man, including their husbands, or for simply being poor and too old to work. The injuries sometimes sustained while they were paraded through the streets would have been life-threatening in the days before modern medicine and antibiotics.

When chattel slavery was instituted in the colonies, the brank was used as a methodserveimage-3 of breaking the will of slaves. It had worked so well with the women back in the old country, after all. Throughout the colonies, subjugated peoples were controlled after the initial conquest in ways that strongly echoed the patterns of dominance European men had been trained to enact towards their female peers.

Again, every woman was maybe a disobedient witch who might displease her Lord or master. Every woman needed strict control to keep her in line and loyal in allegiance to men. The fact that the last two sentences are both true and sound like purple prose from a BDSM story should indicate that these attitudes remain with us. Eventually, European men no longer needed to burn their women alive or subject them to public torture in order to get them to cooperate, to be quieter, or to consent to play along willingly, even eagerly, in their own submission.

“Sadomasochism is an institutionalized celebration of dominant/subordinate relationships. And, it prepares us either to accept subordination or to enforce dominance. Even in play, to affirm that the exertion of power over powerlessness is erotic, is empowering, is to set the emotional and social stage for the continuation of that relationship, politically, socially, and economically. Sadomasochism feeds the belief that domination is inevitable and legitimately enjoyable.” – Audre Lorde

When men are put under constant surveillance, restricted in their speech, dehumanized, otherized as dirty and innately evil, or subject to torture or murder on the barest pretexts, all in hopes of a societal rebirth from the decadence of carnal softness, they call it fascism.

When women have to teach their daughters to conform to that sort of oppression, generation after generation, without any other hope of survival, men call it the natural order.

People seem to think that it was so long ago, it could hardly matter. Or that it only affected witches, whoever they were, and they sound like awful, terrible women, anyway, didn’t they.

The important thing to realize is that “witches” were just women that men were either jealous of, felt threatened by, or didn’t like. In practice, those were the triggering conditions for getting tried as a witch. More simply, witches were just women. Potentially all women.

To survive, women under the Inquisition submitted to isolating themselves away from the friendships of other women, and learned to be very good at making men like them. They taught their daughters to do the same.

For hundreds of years, any woman could be taken away to jail to be tortured and sexually assaulted. Any women could be pornographically tortured in public before her execution, in front of her family if she had any.

Why didn’t she speak up? That’s why. Why didn’t she stand up for other women? That’s why. European men ritually abused women for expressing any social solidarity with each other, or independence for themselves, for generations.

Men forced women to testify against other women, even their own mothers, to live. Yet they still mock women as jealous and spiteful of each other, still joke about “cat fights.”

The destruction of women’s history of community leadership, economic independence, and support for each other wasn’t so complete that there was no evidence remaining. But the living cultural practice of female solidarity was so utterly destroyed that it’s still newsworthy for us to talk about supporting each other.

Long after they stopped burning us alive in public, women could still be removed from public life to asylums , or subjected to torture, for displeasing men or showing too much independence. They could be abused for being pregnant or an unmarried mother.

When domestic violence wasn’t a crime, that meant it was still legal for a man to torture his wife in the privacy of their home if she displeased him. Or for no reason at all. The state considered it a matter of public health and safety to prosecute assaults, except of a man against his wife, which was legal. Marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 U.S. states until 1993. And given that barely one per cent of rapists ever see a day in jail in even the most supposedly egalitarian countries, that form of male torture against women is still effectively legal, also.

Individual men sometimes go to great lengths to plan to commit abuses against women and children, and this is often written off as inevitable misfortune. Other men often cover up for them out of a sense that they should give the male perpetrator the benefit of the doubt — an attitude which even police seem to extend to accused men, but often lack for female victims, empathy for women having been burned right out of our social norms. Male coverups and victim blaming is how individual misdeeds are transformed into what Andrea Dworkin called the barricade of sexual terrorism.

There are women still alive today who were simply disappeared from their communities for unsanctioned sexual activity. Maybe they became pregnant “out of wedlock,” outside the control of a husband, whether by choice or rape, and their children were taken from them. They were the girls who went away, either to give a child up for coerced adoption or to be committed to psychiatric hospitals and possibly treated with electroshock.

If you make the men angry, you can just disappear. That’s been true for a very long time. So many men still act in expectation of the instant obedience such fear can command, that the tragedy continues.

These forms of abuse were exported to colonized states, and having started as a political persecution of women for economic gain, they metastasized into a political persecution and style of conquest employed against non-Christian peoples across the world.

The theft of children from Indigenous populations by settler states, alone, is an ongoing rights violation that differs more in scale than in kind from the historical thefts of children from “wayward” white women. It’s a logical consequence of societies operating under the cumulative presumption that only (white) men really have any rights to children; damn the mother, damn the child themselves,
damn the forcibly “feminized” masses of the brutally subjugated

The Inquisition certainly didn’t invent patriarchy, torture, or reigns of public terror designed to break the will of a conquered people. Yet it did set in motion a powerful set of social norms that remain with us. And even though the world has changed so much that the Catholic Church has apologized for persecuting heretics, such apologies are rare among the other churches and governments that murdered people on allegations of diabolism.

Women continue to be driven out of employment by male harassment, publicly vilified in sex-specific ways, tortured for entertainment in the sex industry, and killed for displeasing men.

As then, as ever, these injuries add up to degradation and disadvantage. Though they feel very personal when we are subject to them, the men who benegt from driving us out of public competition for power and resources don’t really care who we are. If another woman was in our place, they’d do it to her.

It’s the result of a centuries long, deliberate political project of destroying women’s will, power, and independence. That power and independence won’t be restored without similarly
deliberate political resistance. Because, as Lierre Keith says  oppression is not a misunderstanding.

This is how they made her a political prisoner in her own home. This was how they broke her. Remember.

 Natasha Chart

 




Install LOVE on the Human Computer

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Customer: I really need some help. After much consideration, I’ve decided to install LOVE. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes, I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready to install it now. What do I do?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your HEART. Have you located your HEART?

Customer: Yes, I have, but there are several other programs running right now. Is it okay to install while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let’s see… I have PAST-HURT.EXE, LOW-ESTEEM.EXE, GRUDGE.EXE, and RESENTMENT.EXE running now.

Tech Support: No problem. LOVE will gradually erase PAST-HURT.EXE from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory, but it will no longer disrupt other programs. LOVE will eventually overwrite LOW-ESTEEM.EXE with a module of its own called HIGH-ESTEEM.EXE. However, you have to completely turn off GRUDGE.EXE and RESENTMENT.EXE. Those programs prevent LOVE from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: My pleasure. Go to your Start menu and invoke FORGIVENESS.EXE. Do this as many times as necessary until it’s erased the programs you don’t want.

Customer: Okay, did that and now LOVE has started installing itself automatically. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes. You should receive a message that says it will stay installed for the life of your HEART. Do you see that message?

Customer: Yes, I do. Is it completely installed?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other HEARTs in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops. I have an error message already. What should I do?

Tech Support: What does the message say?

Customer: It says, “ERROR 412-PROGRAM NOT RUN ON INTERNAL COMPONENTS.” What does that mean?

Tech Support: Don’t worry, that’s a common problem. It means that the LOVE program is set up to run on external HEARTs but has not yet been run on your HEART. It is one of those complicated programming things, but in non-technical terms it means you have to “LOVE” your own machine before it can “LOVE” others.

Customer: So what should I do?

Tech Support: Can you pull down the directory called “SELF-ACCEPTANCE”?

Customer: Yes, I have it.

Tech Support: Excellent. You’re getting good at this. Now, click on the following files and then copy them to the “MYHEART” directory: FORGIVE-SELF.DOC, REALIZE-WORTH.TXT, and ACKNOWLEDGE LIMITATIONS.DOC. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching any faulty programming. Also, you need to delete SELF-CRITICISM.EXE from all directories, and then empty your recycle bin   afterwards to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My HEART is filling up with new files. SMILE.MP3 is playing on my monitor right now and it shows that PEACE.EXE, and CONTENTMENT.EXE are copying themselves all over my HEART. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets downloaded at the proper time. So, LOVE is installed and running. You should be able to handle it from here. Ah, one more thing.

Customer: Yes?

Tech Support: LOVE is freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everybody you meet. They will in turn share it with other people and you might get some similarly cool modules back.

Customer: I will! Thanks for your help!

Tech Support: You’re welcome.

(Author unknown)

 




To the Next Generation of Artists

(A timely message from two favourite and respected artists, aimed at an artist audience, but relevant for everyone)

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Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock have been friends for over forty years. In the pursuit of their art, they’ve shattered boundaries previously believed unbreakable, they’ve revolutionized the concept of innovation, and have chosen to make the endeavor of living compassionately and courageously the center of their lives.

From their early days composing and playing together with Miles Davis in Davis’ Second Great Quintet, to branching out and flourishing in their individual endeavors, Wayne and Herbie’s contributions to the world of music have been nothing short of extraordinary. Together, they’ve won a combined total of twenty-five Grammys. Despite their countless accolades, they’ll both insist that their greatest achievements lie in their roles as husbands, fathers, and humans of this earth.

After the recent rash of tragedies around the globe in the past year from Paris to San Bernardino, we had the opportunity to ask Wayne and Herbie how the next generation of artists can respond. Below is an open letter with their thoughts.

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To the Next Generation of Artists,

We find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.

From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.

While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.

We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.

FIRST, AWAKEN TO YOUR HUMANITY

We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.

EMBRACE AND CONQUER THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.

WELCOME THE UNKNOWN

The unknown necessitates a moment-to-moment improvisation or creative process that is unparalleled in potential and fulfillment. There is no dress rehearsal for life because life, itself, is the real rehearsal. Every relationship, obstacle, interaction, etc. is a rehearsal for the next adventure in life. Everything is connected. Everything builds. Nothing is ever wasted. This type of thinking requires courage. Be courageous and do not lose your sense of exhilaration and reverence for this wonderful world around you.

UNDERSTAND THE TRUE NATURE OF OBSTACLES

We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO INTERACT WITH THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU

The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences.

STRIVE TO CREATE AGENDA-FREE DIALOGUE

Art in any form is a medium for dialogue, which is a powerful tool. It is time for the music world to produce sound stories that ignite dialogue about the mystery of us. When we say the mystery of us, we’re talking about reflecting and challenging the fears, which prevent us from discovering our unlimited access to the courage inherent in us all. Yes, you are enough. Yes, you matter. Yes, you should keep going.

BE WARY OF EGO

Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.

WORK TOWARDS A BUSINESS WITHOUT BORDERS

The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined.

APPRECIATE THE GENERATION THAT WALKED BEFORE YOU

Your elders can help you. They are a source of wealth in the form of wisdom. They have weathered storms and endured the same heartbreaks; let their struggles be the light that shines the way in the darkness. Don’t waste time repeating their mistakes. Instead, take what they’ve done and catapult you towards building a progressively better world for the progeny to come.

LASTLY, WE HOPE THAT YOU LIVE IN A STATE OF CONSTANT WONDER

As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.




The Battle of Orgreave

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave, a pivotal event during the miner’s strike in Britain in 1984-5. On that day in 1984, miners who went to picket lorry drivers supplying coke to the steel industry were met by thousands of police officers drawn from all over the country, commanded by South Yorkshire police. The force included officers on horseback and the first units with short shields and truncheons ever used in Britain. Their official purpose, stated in the police’s tactical manual, was to “incapacitate” demonstrators.

On June 18 1984, after weeks of picketing, miners and supporters turned up at 8am outside the Orgreave coking plant to protest at the “scab” labour and coal lorries passing through the South Yorkshire site. After bricks and bottles were thrown at the “scab” vehicles, the police commander at Orgreave, assistant chief constable Anthony Clement, responded by sending in the mounted police. It was a serious overreaction and the miners’ mood quickly turned violent.

When the pickets countered with a second push, Clement ordered another mounted advance and demanded that the pickets disperse. They refused and Clement unleashed a third advance, backed up by short-shield snatch squads. Known as Police Support Units (PSUs), these were a new development on the British mainland. An aggressive, consciously offensive form of policing, they were developed out of the Toxteth and Brixton riots of 1981 and modelled on some of the colonial riot tactics used by the Hong Kong police force. As the mounted police cantered out, the PSUs followed in their wake, delivering baton beatings to the unarmed miners.

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Lesley Boulton from Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures was calling for an ambulance for an injured miner when attacked by a mounted policeman in riot gear with drawn truncheon.

2112Events did not end there. As a majority of miners headed off to Orgreave village, the police sweltered in the sun. Those miners still picketing the plant played football and goaded the police lines. As the hours passed, the police became increasingly frustrated. Now it was no longer about keeping Orgreave open; the police wanted it out with the miners.

Massively outnumbering the pickets, they started banging their shields with truncheons. Then came the PSUs. Then came the cavalry. Then came the charge. As miners fled the field, across railway lines and into the village, the police closed in. Miners were beaten on the field as they lay. But when the cavalry entered Orgreave village, they came under renewed attack. Clement ordered a mounted police canter through this small Yorkshire village. An out-of-control police force now charged pickets and onlookers alike on terraced, British streets. The full brutality of the police was only revealed later as prosecution after prosecution of “rioting” miners was thrown out. Instead, the South Yorkshire police force ended up with a huge compensation bill.

A classic example of the out-of-control behaviour of the police that day was captured in what has become an iconic image of the time (above) when Lesley Boulton narrowly escaped serious injury when a mounted police officer attempted an assault.

“I was attending to a man who was on the ground and seemed to have some chest injuries. I was standing trying to attract the attention of a police officer in the road to get him an ambulance. Because I thought, I don’t know how serious it was, but it warranted some medical attention.”

“As I stood up to attract this policeman’s attention, this officer on a police horse just bore down on me. Fortunately for me there was someone standing behind me who was also with the injured miner, who just yanked me out of the way.”

“John Harris, who was taking the pictures, was using a motor drive and I’ve seen not just the famous photograph but the subsequent picture which shows the baton going down very close to me. I felt it go past me. I was just missed by the skin of my teeth really.”

A fuller account which is well worth reading can be found here.

To many, Orgreave remains a symbol of resistance to Thatcherism’s attempt to crush not only the miners’ strike, but with it a culture and a community diametrically opposed to 1980s Conservatism. (The coking plant itself was later shut down and demolished.

…the strike was a “struggle for a livelihood, for jobs, and even for the identity of communities devastated by political decisions to close pits without thought for the lives affected. The poverty, deprivation and oppression were terrible. Yet the bravery of the men, women and children in those communities is almost forgotten, the struggle has all but been erased from memory.

Following the outcome of the inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster, pressure has been put on the Home Secretary Theresa May to order a Public Inquiry into the vicious and unruly policing of picketing miners, wrongful arrests and the subsequent falsification of police evidence, especially in light of the fact that the same police force, the South Yorkshire Police Force, was responsible for both and responded to both incidents in the same way.

The falsification of evidence was also aided by the media coverage of events, with the news media reporting and showing police responding to attacks by the miners, when in actual fact the reverse had been the case. The BBC subsequently apologised nearly a year later for their skewed news coverage, saying that somehow the video footage had got mixed up

Following the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquest, a jury ruled all 96 people who died at the stadium were unlawfully killed, mainly as a result of gross negligence by South Yorkshire Police officers. A redacted version of the Orgreave report shows that the same officers and solicitors linked to Hillsborough and the subsequent cover-up were involved in the aftermath of the Orgreave.

If the police hadn’t been allowed to get away with Orgreave, the cover-up at Hillsborough would never have happened, – Chris Kitchen, NUM General Secretary 

The IPCC is currently considering whether an unredacted version of the report  can be published. Of the report, shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “As I’ve always said, we won’t have the truth about Hillsborough until we have the full truth about Orgreave. Finally, this report provides proof of what has long been suspected – that underhand tactics were used first against South Yorkshire miners before being deployed to much more deadly effect against Liverpool supporters.”

Burnham added: “Like the people of Liverpool, the mining communities of South Yorkshire now need to be told the truth about their police force and the policing of the miners’ strike. On the back of these revelations, Theresa May must now order a disclosure process not just on Orgreave but on the policing of the miners’ strike.”

Shelia Coleman, spokesperson for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, who believes the Hillsborough cover-up was sanctioned by the then Tory government because of how South Yorkshire Police managed the miners’ strike.

“Margaret Thatcher got off very lightly [over Hillsborough] and the government of the day got off undoubtedly.

“We are of the firm opinion that the cover-up came from the top, so that’s a very disappointing aspect.

“It’s always been our argument that it [the cover-up] was payback time, Margaret Thatcher’s way of thanking South Yorkshire Police for how they managed the miners’ strike.”

Men who were young at Orgreave are now approaching their 60s. Memories fade, evidence disappears and many who were there have not lived to see the truth come out. But this is not history, it is a vivid and open wound. Its impact lives on, both for the community, but in particular for those who were there. We owe it to them to deliver the truth and allow these wounds, finally, to heal.