Statement on the Middle East: Bertrand Russell's Last Message

[My dad was a big fan of Bertrand Russell, the great British mathematician and philosopher and friend of Albert Einstein. I still have the original LP with Bertrand Russell's acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize in Literature]
This statement on the Middle East was dated 31st January, 1970, and was read on 3rd February, the day after Bertrand Russell’s death, to an International Conference of Parliamentarians meeting in Cairo.
The latest phase of the undeclared war in the Middle East is based upon a profound miscalculation. The bombing raids deep into Egyptian territory will not persuade the civilian population to surrender, but will stiffen their resolve to resist. This is the lesson of all aerial bombardment.
The Vietnamese who have endured years of American heavy bombing have responded not by capitulation but by shooting down more enemy aircraft. In 1940 my own fellow countrymen resisted Hitler’s bombing raids with unprecedented unity and determination. For this reason, the present Israeli attacks will fail in their essential purpose, but at the same time they must be condemned vigorously throughout the world.
The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.
The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone as “the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.” Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their number have increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their own country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East.
We are frequently told that we must sympathize with Israel because of the suffering of the Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis. I see in this suggestion no reason to perpetuate any suffering. What Israel is doing today cannot be condoned, and to invoke the horrors of the past to justify those of the present is gross hypocrisy. Not only does Israel condemn a vast number. of refugees to misery; not only are many Arabs under occupation condemned to military rule; but also Israel condemns the Arab nations only recently emerging from colonial status, to continued impoverishment as military demands take precedence over national development.
All who want to see an end to bloodshed in the Middle East must ensure that any settlement does not contain the seeds of future conflict. Justice requires that the first step towards a settlement must be an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June, 1967. A new world campaign is needed to help bring justice to the long–suffering people of the Middle East.

Reflections on Two Storms


Like many people in the Pacific Northwest, my wife and I were hit pretty hard by the recent ice storm. We live on a patch of woodland just outside of Newport. We lost power and cable early and (since we are on a well) that meant no water. We were offline for almost six days. Our driveway was blocked for 2 days. Fortunately, we had a wood stove and barrels of rainwater so we could stay warm, heat food, boil water, and manually flush the toilet. Thankfully, we also have great neighbors, who pitched in with firewood, a generator to keep our freezer going, helped clear the road, etc. An event like this makes one truly value good neighbors. It also tends to make one think of all the other people going through the same thing as neighbors also. It can create an expanding set of circles of inclusion: the local town, the county, the state, the nation, and so on. It is this ability to include others in our ring of compassion that (I believe) could be salvation of humanity.

At times during the storm, I stood out on my deck just watching and listening. It came to me that I was basically living in a war zone. I winced as my family’s trees took a beating. Breaking twigs were like the crackle of small arms fire; larger branches broke with a sound like rifle or small cannon shots; the really big branches and were as loud as artillery rounds, and from time to time, a tree top or a whole tree would snap like a bomb blast and there were horrific crashing sounds as they slithered to the ground in piles of rubble. Meanwhile, the sky was occasionally illuminated as transformers blew—these were like airstrikes. All the time, we never knew where the next blow would fall—would it hit the house, the garage, the studio, the well, the road…? Do the crashes one hears mean the neighbors nearby or down the road have been hit? Should we rush out in the storm with branches raining down to check on them…? 

As I stand thinking about this, it occurs to me that we should consider the other storm that rages in Gaza today. We should include them in our circle of compassion and think of them as neighbors too. In an ever shrinking and connected world, they really are. Their suffering has not ended—there is no relief in sight. The suffering there has been going on for years. It started long before the October 7 attack by Hamas. People in Gaza have lived for years with severely limited light, heat, power, internet, and phone. The water from my rain barrels is probably much cleaner than any water they have had for years. 

Every twig that broke as I watched during our local storm was a person wounded in Gaza. Every branch that broke on my family’s trees was a son or daughter dying. Every treetop that came down was the death of a parent or two. Whole trees were families wiped out in a single airstrike. Can we really keep believing this is necessary or useful? 

The existential question facing people in Gaza is “where to go.” Israel told the civilians to move south. Now they have mercilessly bombarded the south. Meanwhile, the other pressing question is a simpler where to “go”? With disease spreading and badly contaminated water, people must still “go.” There are no functioning toilets and no water to flush. The stench must be horrible. We might hope it will rain, but that will rinse the raw sewage into already undrinkable water. Now Israel is pumping saltwater into the already badly compromised water table.

An ice storm is an odd thing. It wasn’t blowing or raining hard, there was just a constant transparent, misty drizzle. It strikes me that this is much like hatred—it just congeals on everything until it becomes brittle, the weight becomes intolerable, and something finally snaps.

Experiences like this are deeply traumatizing, especially to children. One of my earliest, most vivid memories is of the October 12, 1962 Columbus Day storm. I was only about 3 and half years old, but I still remember crouching under a heavy table in our basement while my father paced nervously as trees crashed down. One can only imagine what the survivors of Gaza will have to live with. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Forget all the nonsense you might have heard about the Palestinians “teaching hatred of Israel” in their classrooms. Gaza will teach them all they will ever want to know about the brutality of Israeli occupation.

Our recent storm gave us a very small taste of what people in Gaza endure. We were inconvenienced for a few days; they are now on day 117 of a major catastrophe (as of February 1). It is not over yet. Our ice storm was a natural disaster. Gaza is manmade. It could be stopped any day. Maybe our experience can help us imagine how much worse it could be and try to speak out for an end to this disaster. 

February 1, 2024

Israel’s Controlled Demolitions Are Razing Neighborhoods in Gaza

This article by the NY Times shows how Israel is systematically destroying what remains of Gaza's civilian infrastructure.

The damage caused by Israel’s aerial offensive in Gaza has been well documented. But Israeli ground forces have also carried out a wave of controlled explosions that has drastically changed the landscape in recent months.

At least 33 controlled demolitions have destroyed hundreds of buildings — including mosques, schools and entire sections of residential neighborhoods — since November, a New York Times analysis of Israeli military footage, social media videos and satellite imagery shows.

In response to questions about the demolitions, a spokesperson for the Israeli military said that soldiers are “locating and destroying terror infrastructures embedded, among other things, inside buildings” in civilian areas — adding that sometimes entire neighborhoods act as “combat complexes” for Hamas fighters.


“Israel’s plan is to destroy Gaza and make it unliveable and lifeless,” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to Britain. “Israel’s goal has always been to make it impossible for our people to return to their land.”

Two days after the 21 Israeli soldiers were killed in central Gaza, another demolition video was filmed. In it, a soldier says that, in their memory, 21 homes would be destroyed.

Read more on the NY Times

‘My children are crying from hunger. This is a war of starvation’

International aid organizations are warning of catastrophic levels of hunger. A report by The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) placed Gaza’s entire population in a situation of acute food insecurity, which it defines as “crisis or worse.” According to the UN, 80 percent of all the people around the world facing famine or catastrophic hunger are in Gaza. Palestinians in the north of the Strip have told CNN they are eating grass and drinking polluted water, because no aid is reaching them. 




The latest news from the Joomla! Team
Fair Use Notice
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: . If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.