Lest we forget
Last week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “To plan protests on Armistice Day is provocative and disrespectful”. Given the history, the meaning and the purpose I cannot think of a more respectful act today.
The main message of the protests which will take place across the UK are to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, and for the UK to stop arming Israel.
But only the march in London seems to pose a problem.
And this week the home secretary waded in comparing those marching for peace with the far right.
Peace activists have been left feeling bemused that a peace march on armistice day has become the source of such controversy.
“The Armistice, an agreement to end the fighting of the First World War as a prelude to peace negotiations, began at 11am on 11 November 1918. Armistice is Latin for to stand (still) arms”. Royal British Legion.
An armistice is to literally cease firing, so that peace negotiations might take place. And every year since, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we remember the moment with 2 minutes silence.
Armistice Day was established in the aftermath of WW1, “The war to end all wars. The saying was taken from a 1914 book by H. G. Wells, but gained popularity due to the sheer scale of the devastation and loss of life.
Armistice day was established as a mark of respect for all those in the armed forces who had fallen, and who have fallen since. And as an act of remembrance for future generations to never again make the mistakes of the past.
The modern peace movement has its roots in this post World War 1 collective desire to avoid future conflict, bloodshed and the massive loss of life experienced by many of the nations who had taken part.
Lest we forget the peace movement was largely founded & led by mothers of the fallen.
Lest we forget, we will remember those who sacrificed their lives, so that we might live. In the aftermath of World War 2 we remember all those who sacrificed their lives so that we might live free from the Tyranny of fascism.
Lest we forget many people wear flowers as a symbol of remembrance. In Wales many wore daffodils, in France the Bluet de France was worn, and in recent years the Saffron Marigold has become the Indian flower of remembrance.
Around the world poppies have long been used as a symbol of remembrance. The White Poppy was first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 as a lasting symbol for peace and an end to all wars.
And over 100 years since that first armistice, it is the red poppy that grew on Flanders Fields, and immortalised by Canadian the poet John McCrae, which became the flower of remembrance for the fallen used to this day.
Lest we forget
And the red poppy has also long featured in Palestinian art and has come to symbolise resistance, sacrifice and indigenous Palestinian heritage. It is the colours of the poppy which make up the Palestinian flag.
In 1920 following the collapse of the multi-cultural ottoman empire, the mandate for Palestine was assigned to the United Kingdom and ended amidst the bloodshed of the 1947-1949 Palestinian war in 1948.
214 British service personnel lost their lives, largely thanks to the competing promises the British government had made to two separate groups of people. Many more Israeli’s and Palestinians were killed. The rest is history.
On armistice day 2023, amidst the ongoing siege of Gaza, on a day when we are asked to remember the sacrifices made by British service personnel, I can think of no more respectful an act than a march for peace.
What I do find both provocative and deeply disrespectful, are those who would seek to portray peace marchers as a hate filled mob. Who would use armistice day to gloss over history, deliberately forget the sacrifices of the fallen and use this day to sow division and discord amongst us.
Lest we forget, today we remember the fallen.
Lest we forget today there are those who march in remembrance and for peace.
Lest we forget.
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