In his foreword to the 2010 report ‘State Sponsored Cruelty…’ Peter Bottomley MP writes this, ‘The first test of a policy can be: ‘If I had the professional duty to carry it out, how would I feel?’. The second is: ‘Would I volunteer to do this unpaid?’. The last is to consider how I would feel if it happened to one of my family or to me.” (download report)1. At face value the questions look good, although, in fact, the only real test is the last one. Our sad world is filled with examples of people happy to carry out ‘professional duties’, even to undertake tasks as a volunteer that all peace-loving and compassionate people should abhor. Nazis in Auschwitz, Soviets in the Gulag, Japan soldiers in China, Mao’s cultural revolutionaries, Germany’s Bader Meinhof, all saw themselves as doing a necessary and worthwhile job. In the case of USSR even family ceased to be a primary concern.
It is easy to look on the failings of African & Middle Eastern states with residual colonial supremacist (white) eyes, and to ignore the failings of our nations, in the ‘civilised west’, a term which I take to include Australia and New Zealand. The above-mentioned report, which I have read, deals with the situation of immigrant children in detention centres in UK prior to 2010. The ‘Medical Justice’ website – most of which I haven’t read – suggests that there has been little improvement. Recent decisions to downgrade the ‘search and rescue’ operations in the Eastern Mediterranean demonstrate that Europe’s concern to protect its own wealth trumps human compassion, except….
We, rightly, criticize such as Boko Haram for kidnapping children, for raping and brutalizing them into submission or death. We,rightly, criticize the slave children in Far Eastern & South American countries for exploiting cheap labour. except…
Do we, in the latter case, tut tut as we read the reports, then go to ‘Poundland’ or the cheapest supermarket? If we do so out of economic necessity, I’ll not complaint, ‘except’ about the inequality in our rich western nations that forces people below the breadline. But if I can shop fairly, paying a fair price for the labour involved in production, I should.
And, on what basis can I criticize the harsh regimes imposed upon women and children in other countries when my government legalises oppression in its own country and condones persecution elsewhere. ‘We’ don’t do torture – but it’s OK if some other country does it for us. Guantamo Bay can continue because it is not on US soil, therefore not subject to the US constitution. Which brings me to Palestine, the longest running refugee crisis in history, except it’s not – a crisis, that is. A situation is only a crisis if it is headline news 3 days running. Gaza was a crisis in the summer of 2014, ( as in 2012 and 2008/9), but of the promised donations to rebuild little has been given. The children of Gaza continue to suffer, subjects of three massive assaults within six years. But we cannot provide them with schools, with homes, with regular clean water, with adequate health care, and why? Because donors have a well-founded fear that what we pay for will be demolished again by Israel, to be rebuilt again to the benefit of Israeli and American business. So, instead of seeking a solution we wait for a better opportunity.
Can the children of Gaza wait, Can the children of the West Bank wait, can the children of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, wait for a ‘better’ opportunity, when so many opportunities have been squandered over the years. What of the children of Israel, and I don’t mean the biblical ones, just the ones who live in Israel today. Can they wait for a solution all the while the moral integrity of Jewish-Israeli society disintegrates before their eyes in their parents hands. Can Jewish children worldwide wait, can Christian children, Muslim children, wait until we are all overtaken by waves of hate emanating from Mullah’s, Ministers and Rabbi’s.
1. see also