Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Kuffiya for Tony Benn: British Warrior Who Matured with Age

A Kuffiya for Tony Benn – The British Warrior Who ‘Matured with Age’

by Ramzy Baroud
March 19, 2014

Long before the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign inched slowly from the fringes of global solidarity with Palestinians to take center stage, Tony Benn had been advocating a boycott of Israel with unrestricted conviction, for years.

“Britain should offer its support for this strategy by stopping all arms sales to Israel, introducing trade sanctions and a ban on all investment there together with a boycott of Israeli goods here and make it a condition for the lifting of these measures that Israel complies with these demands at once,” Benn wrote in his blog on April 19, 2002, under the title "A STATE OF PALESTINE NOW". The ‘strategy’ of which Ben spoke was for Arafat to declare a state, and for ‘friendly nations’ to recognize it.

Yes, the title was all in caps. It was as if Benn, a principled British left wing politician, had wanted to loudly accentuate his insistence that the Palestinian people deserved their rights, freedom and sovereignty. He was as bold and courageous as any man or woman of true values and principles should always be. He remained uncompromising in matters of human rights and justice. This international warrior left a challenging space to fill when he passed away at the age of 88, on Thursday, March 13.

Following the news of his death, British media was awash of reports about Benn and his long legacy of being a stubborn politician and uncompromising advocate for human rights. Frankly, there was less emphasis on the latter and much more on the former, despite the fact that Benn understood politics was a platform to quarrel with moral dilemmas. The parliament was a platform to serve the people, not to conspire with other politicians for the sake of one’s party. For some politicians, it is all about winning elections, not using office to carry out a morally-grounded mandate to serve the people. Benn was different, thus there was the love-hate relationship Britain had with him.

True to form, British media immediately conjured up a few buzzwords by which it attempted to define Benn’s legacy. He had ‘immatured with age,” was one of them. It was a remark made by Benn’s fiercest rival in the Labor Party, Harold Wilson (still alive at 96) in reference to Benn’s becoming more of a radical left-winger as he grew older. Some in the media simply love axioms and catch phrases, for it spares journalists the pain of exhaustive research. Wilson and his camp invested heavily in assigning Benn the responsibility of the successive defeats experienced by the Labor Party at the hands of the Conservatives. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher and then John Major had won four elections in a row, and between them changed the face of British economy and quashed major labor unions. But blaming Benn for splitting the party is unfair to say the least.

Compare Tony Benn’s legacy with that of Tony Blair. The first was principled to the core, boldly challenged US hegemony in the world, and fought hard for Britain’s poor, working class and against unhindered globalization that made states vulnerable to the inherent disparity of the global economic system.

Blair stood for the exact opposite: a self-serving politician, devoid of any morality, and was rightly dubbed Bush’s poodle for heeding to the US military adventurism, mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Benn, even from the point of view of those who disagreed with him, was always seen, and shall always be remembered as a man of high values. Blair had been districted by his own peers even before he was forced to concede office. One can imagine that Israeli media is the one likely to remember Blair with much fondness.

Although Benn seemed guided by the same high moral values that accompanied him throughout the over 50 years in which he served as an MP in the British parliament, when he retired in 2001, he seemed ready to take on even bigger challenges. His task morphed from that of a fierce politician at home, fighting for the very definition of the Labor Party, to an internationalist, taking on the most difficult of subjects, and never bowing down.

Following the US-British so-called ‘war on terror’ – designed around economic and strategic interests – Benn rose to greater prominence, not as another TV celebrity ‘expert’, but as a fierce opponent to the US and his own government’s wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Since then, the man never stayed away from the streets. He spoke with passion and mesmerized audiences in his beautiful, immaculate English. Most important about the timing of Benn’s courageous stances was the fact that back then, all public discourses related to the wars were saturated with fear. But, whenever Benn spoke, he pushed the narrative up to higher degrees of audacity.

I listened to him once speak at Trafalgar Square in London. He wore a Kuffiya, the traditional Palestinian headscarf. He spoke of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, as if their peoples were his own. Thousands of us applauded with so much enthusiasm. It was as if his words alone were the salvation that would free Arab nations from the bondage of military occupation and war. But at times, words live in a sphere of their own where they multiply, and when repeated often enough, can change the world.

“The main responsibility for the appalling crimes being perpetrated against the Palestinians must be equally shared between Jerusalem and Washington for successive American governments have funded Israel, armed Israel and used their veto at the Security Council to protect Israel from being forced to comply with what world opinion wanted,” he said in 2003, in an interview with Egypt-based Al Ahram.

True, Benn was not the only British politician who spoke with such candor about the shared responsibility of crimes committed against Palestinians, but few went as far as he did.

The next time there is a rally for Palestine, there ought to be an empty chair with a Palestinian Kuffiya, and the name of Tony Benn. It is a Palestinian tradition to honor its heroes, even those with a splendidly beautiful British accent.

*************

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter, UK. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news