Report on Joseph Gerson tour 2018

Report on the Joseph Gerson tour

The 2018 Hiroshima Day celebration was planned to be dominated by the presence of a powerful and energetic speaker from overseas so that some media discussion of nuclear disarmament could take place. Joseph Gerson fitted the bill so we set about encouraging him to come to Australia.  He was delayed due to his commitments in Hiroshima and Nagasaki so we put our events back to August 11.

Joseph has experience over many years in the peace movement, and is currently the Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau and President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security.

Financial support

The Sydney Hiroshima Day Committee is most grateful for the financial support received from the NSW Quakers and PND. Their donations were sufficient to cover internal travel and living expenses. The HDC paid the international flights.

Financially we raised enough money to continue our work another year!  At present our balance is near $5,000.


The rally in Sydney was about the same size as in previous years but had the most powerful platform. We had an overseas speaker of some standing and a double Nobel peace prize winner in Prof Tilman Ruff from ICAN.

The speeches were really of a high quality and many participants expressed their gratitude to the speakers and to us for organising it.


Joseph spoke at a dinner and at a small demo in Brisbane


report from organisers David Purnell and Kathryn Kelly, IPAN (ACT)

Joseph Gerson  visited Canberra from 12-14 August 2018. On 13 August he met with ALP Senator Lisa Singh, Greens Senators Peter Whish-Wilson and Janet Rice, and ALP MP Sharon Claydon, and several staff/advisers at Parliament House. He supported their efforts to get Australia to change its position, and to sign and ratify the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty passed  by the UN in 2017 by a large majority (122 nations). He stressed the critical importance of reversing the nuclear arms race at a time when threats to use nuclear weapons are greater than ever.

Later in the day he spoke at the ANU College of Law to a public meeting, attended by around 30 people, outlining the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the failure of the nuclear weapons states to live up to their promise to move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, in response to other nations foregoing acquiring nuclear weapons. He urged us to work for Australia (as a middle power and part of the US ‘nuclear umbrella’) to support the ban treaty, as an example to other nations (eg NATO countries) that have not already signed.

In the evening Joseph was welcomed to a shared meal at the Canberra Quaker Meeting House by around 25 Quakers and others. He spoke further about the dangers posed to the world by nuclear weapons as well as climate change, and gave examples of work done to promote dialogue across ideological and national divides.

It was inspiring to have Joseph among us, able to share such a wide range of knowledge and commitment to peacemaking.

report from Romina Beitseen, CICD

Joseph Gerson visited Melbourne from 14-16 August 2018 as guest of the CICD with the sponsorship of IPAN Victoria, Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church, Pax Christi and Quakers.

Joseph arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday 14 August at 12.00 noon.  We had time to have a quick look at the Queen Victoria Market and lunch before heading to a 2.30 pm meeting with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

The meeting was attended by around 14 people. Joseph reported on his attendance at the 2018 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in Japan.  He said for the last 34 years he has been attending the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

He briefly spoke about his involvement over many years in the peace movement. He also reported on his visit to Brisbane and Canberra and his meeting with Labour and Greens members of Parliament. He said he supports their efforts to get Australia to change its position, and to sign and ratify the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty passed by the UN in 2017.

Joseph stressed the importance of reversing the nuclear arms race by campaigning and lobbying the politicians in particular around time of elections. He said 75% of ALP MP’s have signed a letter in support of the UN Treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Later in the day he met with some of the CICD committee members.

This was followed by a social dinner attended by 14 people including Nic McClellan who is a correspondent for Islands Business magazine in Fiji, and for other regional media, and is an associate researcher with the School of Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities at Swinburne University of Technology, Jacques Boulet, Interdependent Researcher General Editor at New Community Quarterly Director Borderlands Co-operative, Hans Baer, an anthropologist and development studies specialist at the University of Melbourne and a member of the Melbourne Unitarian Church, Joan Coxsedge the first Labor woman to be elected to the Victorian Legislative Council in July 1979, anti-Vietnam War activist, Save our Sons campaigner, artist, peace activist and CICD member. John Speight, CICD executive Chairperson, Len Cooper, executive vice chairperson, Andrew Irving, vice chairperson, Romina Beitseen CICD Secretary, and a number of CICD committee members.

Joseph briefly spoke about his trip in Japan and the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the failure of the nuclear weapons states to live up to their promise to support the ban treaty.  He said we have a lot to do to get Australian to support the ban treaty. Joseph was able to share a wide range of knowledge and history of peace movement.

On Wednesday 15 August Joseph spent an hour at the community radio station 3CR. Here Romina Beitseen interviewed him for the CICD radio program Alternative News and Jan Bartlett interviewed him for Tuesday Hometime. Joseph was generous in answering questions about himself and the work he has been and is involved with and his opinion on US wars and aggression around the world.

Joseph met with Pax Christi and the Victorian Council of Churches members and friends at 11 am – there were about 13 people at the meeting. He spoke about the importance of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) adopted by the UN conference on July 7, 2017which marked a historic step forward towards a world without nuclear weapons. During the year since then, civil society movements, including Hibakusha, have joined forces with governments to support the treaty to make headway toward achieving the total abolition of nuclear weapons. There was a positive feedback from Pax Christi saying they had a very good conversation with Joseph which will, they hope, lead to ongoing contact.

This meeting was followed by Joseph enjoying a short tour to the Melbourne museum (First Peoples section). Following a visit to the CICD Hiroshima exhibition we shared a meal before the public meeting at 7 pm which was held at the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church and was attended by over 50 people.

Joseph spoke about the movement and political forces that are needed for change. He said the reason for accepting the invitation and coming such a long way is because Australia can play a central role both in helping to advance the nuclear prohibition treaty and also in doing so to help break the status quo in nuclear disarmament diplomacy. He spoke about the importance of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which is one of the three most important treaties of the 20th Century. He explained that North Korea has nuclear weapons because of repeated threats to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons.

Joseph appealed to the audience to do education work and to campaign. He we can make a difference. Governments are not going to deliver us a nuclear free world – the only way to get it is from the people’s power from below – we have to exert the pressure to move governments.

Dr Joseph’s contribution was outstanding.  He shared a wide range of knowledge and commitment to peacemaking.

Back to Sydney

Back in Sydney Joseph addressed a function in Ashfield hosted by the Quakers. About 30 people were present and they included mainly Quakers and some religious leaders.

Joseph shared the platform with Professor Jake Lynch and Nick Deane. There was particular interest in his point about President Trump’s inconsistency — reassuring about North Korea when he does not have an agreement and aggressive about Iran when he does have an agreement.

On Friday morning Joseph had time for sight seeing and lunch at Watsons Bay before attending a 3 pm round table discussion hosted by PND.

The visit ended with a Lebanese dinner much enjoyed by all.

Some lessons

  1. The Committee

It was a great rally in Sydney and there some positives that we should take away with us. So often at different meetings there is constant moaning about how hard it is to get people out about nuclear weapons.  Well this little committee did it!

  1. We contributed to the anti-nuclear the campaigns in Sydney, Brisbane, ACT and Melbourne.
  2. We live fed the event through facebook and got nearly 900 hits
  3. We sent social tweets to Government and Opposition representatives
  4. We distributed about 200 postcards to Malcolm Turnbull about nuclear disarmament.
  5. We have made a great impact on efforts to get the ban treaty signed..

The march through the crowded shopping streets of Sydney gained us many thumbs up.

  1. To improve
  • We need to invite more people onto the committee and to advertise the date, venue and time of the meetings.
  • We should be better at sharing the jobs – too much is done by one or two
  • Publicity is our big fall down issue
  • Our affiliated groups do not contribute talent and energy but leave it all to a small donation. For example WILPF was working hard on the bike ride to Canberra while the HDC was largely ignored.)
  • Social media is improving our exposure but not our attendance.
  1. The wider debate
    • The debate has to heat up
    • We sparked some interest
    • Our live feed caught some interest
    • The media is terrible
    • The growing militarism of our society – commented on by Joseph Gerson.

An Interview with Joseph Gerson 2018

An interview with Dr Joseph Gerson

Dr Joseph Gerson was in Australia for a speaking tour to four cities as the guest of the Sydney Hiroshima Day Committee. Dr Gerson is president of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, vice president of the International Peace Bureau, and the author of Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.

While he was in Australia for the annual commemorations of the 1945 atomic bombings by the USA of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Guardian took the opportunity to interview him.


Guardian:  Do you see or hear much evidence that Australia is important to the US?

JG:  What we mostly hear about is Pine Gap and its role in intelligence collection in the US network of over 1,000 bases worldwide.

Pine Gap is very important in its role in the militarisation of space. The US is seeking to control space. This control is essential for running its wars whether they are drone, conventional, or nuclear wars. The base provides navigation for missile guidance and Pine Gap is especially important in that regard.

We have heard about the new Marine base in Darwin. This is clearly part of the US campaign to surround China, in preparation for military conflict with China.

There is also the geopolitical situation. Australia is located in the vicinity of the South China Sea, control of the Western Pacific and up into the Indian Ocean.  If you were located say where Tanzania is, then Australia would be much less important.

Guardian: Why did you accept the invitation to come to Australia?

JG:  Honestly there is always the sense of curiosity but I must say that I pushed myself to do this trip after an arduous time in Japan because Australia has the potential to play a significant role in opening nuclear arms policy diplomacy.

The nuclear prohibition treaty is important step in moving towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.  It has a possibility to build power from the non-nuclear weapons states against the nuclear weapons states.

The nuclear states have to fulfill their treaty obligations to campaign for the elimination of these weapons but so far they have not bothered to act on those provisions.  If 50 countries like Tonga, Tanzania, Venezuela and Cuba sign the treaty, this does not bother or influence nuclear states and the US in particular.

Not that we are denigrating those countries but when or if a so called ‘umbrella state’ like Australia, South Korea, Japan or a NATO state signs that treaty this would be much more powerful and influential. This would say that these states are so worried about human survival that they are willing to break with alliances by joining the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

This move has the possibility of exerting a strong tug on the illegitimate consensus that exists among nuclear weapons states.  We need the nuclear umbrella states to have the courage to step outside and challenge the international order based on the fear of genocide and even omnicide (the elimination of all life on this planet).

If we can get Australia as a key umbrella state to reject nuclear weapons then a significant step would be taken to exert the kind of pressure we need on the nuclear weapons states and the US in particular.

Guardian:  You have come to us via Japan where you spent time in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Can you comment on how well the movement for nuclear disarmament is doing in Japan? 

JG:  Japan is one of the very few countries where you have a social movement committed to nuclear disarmament.  This grows out of the history that Japan is quite literally the only country to be attacked with nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fact that the country suffered from the effect of the Bikini tests which irradiated a number of Japanese fishermen as well their food supplies.

They know what nuclear weapons do the way most of the rest of the world don’t so their movement is fairly strong,

I was at the World Conference against Hydrogen and Atomic Bombs which brought together about 9,000 people from across Japan for a rally. It was also attended by about 100 delegates including some highly placed diplomats to exchange information and to do some joint planning.

In Japan the culture is different and a major way they organize is through petition campaigns.  In 2010 and 2015, at the time of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), they brought to the United Nations about 7 million petition signatures.

None of these were collected on the internet but they were collected by people going out to workplaces, the streets and other public places with a petition calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  They shipped them to the United States and presented them to the President of the NPT review conference and to UN officials.

They are now in the process of following up on a petition modeled on the ‘Stockholm appeal’ from the 1950s during the Korean War.  Their aim is not to get 7 or 10 million signatures but hundreds of millions of signatures.

One thing all Australians can do is to take this petition off the web and to promote here.

Their way of doing it is a little bit different to the way we would do it in the United States. They don’t begin by going out to the street corner to gather signatures. First they go to Governors, City Councils Mayors and they get those ‘notables’ to sign. This encourages other people down the line to do it and it also gets them some media attention.

In addition to the encouragement that the Japanese movement gives internationally it also creates a break on Japanese nuclear ambitions.  The goal of having half the population signing a nuclear petition sends a powerful message to the military and Government

Guardian:  As an outside observer, what similarities have you noticed about Australian and US militarism?

JG: I found similarities and differences. The similarities are the degree of militarism and culture mixing which is very dangerous.

I am struck by the exulting role and myth of ANZAC from World War 1. I wrote to friends this morning explaining that it was counter intuitive that Australians by the thousands were openly sacrificed in a war that had no meaning.

It was ostensibly in the West a ‘war to end all wars’ but in essence it was a war for greater power between the British Empire and the rising German Empire.  For this thousands of Australians risked and lost their lives and now somehow this is to be honoured?  It was a huge mistake and people should learn from that mistake rather than reify it.

The reality of the Australian-US alliance is that Australia plays such a junior role.  It means that Australians have been involved in US wars for empire whether it be in Korea, South Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan.  This should be a source of shame and embarrassment for Australia.

I was in Canberra briefly and looking at the layout of the city, there is a major road that leads up to the monuments of all wars Australians have participated in.  Australians need to look at the sadness and tragedy of that and consider that there are far better things that could be honored in Australian history and culture.

In the United State after the Vietnam War we had what was known as the ‘Vietnam syndrome’. Across the culture there was a perception that this war had been wrong, that young men and women had been unnecessarily sacrificed and for a period of time this served as a break on US foreign and military intervention.

This was consciously attacked by the 1991 Gulf War with President Bush saying we had ‘to create a new world order’ and certainly after 9/11 we are in position where the military in the United States is increasing reified.

The Pentagon spends millions and millions of dollars for advertising, to have military ceremonies in football matches and baseball games.  So we are now in period where the military is the most highly respected institution in the United States.  This is deeply concerning to us both in relation to present and future wars but also as a threat to our democracy.

It should also be deeply concerning to people around the world and especially to people in Australia who are likely to get co-opted and to those who may be at the other end of the guns.

Guardian:  You travelled to four different regions of Australia. What are your impressions of the peace movement in this country from what you’ve seen?

JG:  I am impressed with the spectrum of who is involved in the movement.  You’ve got the left, left labour, those across the religious sector, medical professionals, and a number of scholars. That’s an impressive base to have. I have also been impressed by the movement’s ability to work with this cross section of people.

The big sign of hope is the support for the nuclear ban treaty from the Greens and at least by the pledge of many ALP members of Parliament.  So one can imagine that if the Liberals are ousted from power there will be room for Australians to struggle to get the ban treaty signed.

If that happens that will move the Australian movement to the height of visibility and respect of the world’s peace and justice movement.

My guess is that if this opening appears there will be ‘push back’ from the United States on Labor and from Britain as well.  This will have to be a time when the peace movement moves into a very high gear to keep the pressure on them.