Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Apple too far from the Tree for Ben Gurion University?

WAS Professor Arens too far from tree, or is BGU too close to Israeli government; and NATO?

More on our item concerning Yigal Arens, the Israeli-born professor to whom organisers of a conference at the Ben Gurion University decided to rescind an invitation, in case his presence embarassed government officials attending.
("And they complain about a boycott", Saturday January 27

This is from the leading Israeli daily, Ha'Aretz:

Ha'aretz, Mon., January 29
Arens and the tree

By Akiva Eldar

Professor Yigal Arens fell very far from the tree. The son of a former defense minister and head of the Likud, he went so far to the left that a respected university in Israel cancelled his participation in a scientific conference. Dr. Bracha Shapira of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, one of the organizers of the conference, has stated that the organizers have chosen to remain silent.

Arens, who immigrated many years ago to California, heads two centers that deal with information systems on matters of intelligence, the war against terror and digital government. At the beginning of January a colleague, an American professor, invited him to participate in a working group that will convene this coming summer at Ben-Gurion University. The conference, which is funded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), will deal with the role played by the Internet in terror and its prevention.

The colleague said that the organizers, and among them Shapira, would be very glad if Arens accepted the invitation.Five days later, before Arens replied to the invitation, his American colleague informed him that he should forget the whole thing. He related that the Israeli organizers had told him that government personnel who had been invited to the meeting would not feel comfortable in his presence. Arens sent an e-mail to Shapira and asked that she explain the withdrawal of the invitation. She replied that his American colleague had "exceeded his authority in extending the invitation without full consultation with the conference organizers."

According to Arens, the organizers had been aware initially of his political background.(*) They learned about it from his American colleague who wanted to make certain, at Arens' request, that they would spare him any unpleasantness, which according to him had been his lot at previous conferences in Israel.

The organizers of a conference at an academic institution that benefits from public monies do not believe it is the public's right to know whether there is anything of substance in the grave suspicion that a scientists' political opinions disqualify him from entering their gates. Arens, in fact, concealed nothing. For many years he has supported two states for two peoples, but today he fears "that a two-state solution is no longer practically possible."

Arens believes that Israel should be a state for all its citizens, supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees and is opposed to any form of discrimination among citizens on the basis of their ethnic or religious background.

© Copyright 2007 Haaretz. All rights reserved§§§§§§§§§§

Yigal Arens comments on the differences between this report and the Hebrew original

The Hebrew version unnecessarily embellishes my resume a bit. That wasn't included in the English translation. I haven't written any books on the subject, although I participated in writing a study on a related topic (the use of IT in disaster management), and have co-authored a workshop report on responding to "unexpected events". There are other mostly minor differences between the English and Hebrew versions, the most significant being that the English one says I believe the organizers *were* originally aware of my politics, while the Hebrew one correctly states that I believe they were *not*.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Will nobody stop Dame Pauline?

NEVILLE-JONES. Cameron's adviser has 'form'.

TORY leader David Cameron is grabbing the headlines from obliging media with a speech damning "multi-culturalism" and accusing Muslim organisations of fostering separation and being akin to the British National Party.

Who is helping David Cameron with his homework? Up pops the new leading thinker heading Cameron's advisers, Dame Pauline Neville Jones. On TV tonight she admits that her target is not just those who use or advocate violence and terrorism, but anyone whose ideas "threaten the liberal foundations of our society". I'd guess that could include us Marxists, as well as Muslims, folks.

Especially, once that "multicultural" idea is out, those of you whose efforts to be more British than the British aren't judged sufficient. Whether it's your origins or ideology that are "alien" you'd better watch it!

We've met Dame Pauline before. Back in the days when people were being butchered as "Muslims", even if secular ones, while much of the Left preferred looking the other way and had not discovered the word Islamophobia. Pauline Neville-Jones was a Foreign Office political director and chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. She stood with Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd for maintaining the arms embargo on Bosnia. Hurd said easing it would only create a "level killing-field". While the Chetniks (Serb nationalists) could sow cluster-bombs and anti-personnel mines, Britain would not let those resisting them even buy mine detection equipment.

Neville-Jones was senior British official at the Dayton peace negiotiations imposed on Bosnia. "Balkan experts remember her from Dayton as a 'very tough' negotiator who was continually pushing the Bosnians to accept the de facto partition of their nation". (Francis Wheen, Guardian, 4 September 1996).

Three months after quitting the Foreign Office, Lord Hurd joined NatWest Markets, investment arm of the National Westminster Bank, on a salary of £250,000 a year. His qualifications for the world of finance were not obvious, but he knew people, and he had a helper - Dame Pauline. The dire duo went out to Belgrade in 1996 for breakfast with Slobodan Milosevic, whose government was strapped for cash, with Serbian workers demanding unpaid wages. NatWest helped Milosevic sell off the post and telephone system, PTT, and obtained a contract to advise on debt management. It eyed up Serbia's electricity industry and oil for further privatisation. While it was Italian and Greek money that went into the telecomms deal, NatWest did well out of tending advice, and so did Lord Hurd and Dame Pauline.

Then Neville-Jones was off to fresh fields. She became a BBC international governor in January 1998. In 2004 the Corporation was brought to heel over its coverage of Iraq, and the Blair government's dodgy dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Following the Hutton report, and after Greg Dyke was made to resign as director general, some people questioned Dame Pauline's objectivity as a governor. It was revealed that besides her intelligence past, she held £50,000 shares in the privatised former Ministry of Defence firm QinetiQ and had earned £133,000 the previous year as chairman.

Last year, the US Carlyle group, - whose investors have included George Bush senior, Colin Powell, former Defense Secretary James Baker and, at one time, members of the Bin Laden family - floated Qinetiq on the stock exchanges, and once again Dame Pauline must have done well out of it. But money, though it doubtless comes in handy, is not her first interest, and off she went last February for an "Intelligence Summit" in Arlington, Virginia, though I dare say her US hosts didn't see her out of pocket for this.

Among those taking part with her were former CIA directors John Deutch and James Wooley, as well as Steve Pomerantz, former director of "counter-terrorism" for the FBI. Not to be confused with Cointelpro, the FBI's programme of domestic infiltration, disruption and assassinations which has been reinstated as part of "Homeland Security". But also billed to appear were Colonel Oded Shoham, Israel army reservist, Yoram Hessel , "former senior Mossad officer", and Israeli-born Yousef Bosasky, now director of the Congress Task Force on Terrorism.

Another speaker was Rachel Ehrenfield, who two years previously warned of dangerous efforts by Tony Blair and the World Bank to pressure Israel into concessions that would lead to "an independent terrorist Palestine state".

Now I'm not suggesting that the head of David Cameron's political advice circle would have agreed with all those she might have rubbed shoulders with at Arlington, anymore than in Belgrade ten years previously. But I can see people asking whether her advice on multiculturalism and Muslims is well-meant, and even questioning her right to lecture anyone on association with extremists.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

"And they complain about a boycott?"

MANY people are still thinking about the idea of an academic boycott of Israel.
Would it be an effective way of responding to calls from beleaguered Palestinian academics and students for solidarity? Could it be misguided and hit the wrong people? Myself, not being an academic I don't have to make a decision, but I'm inclined to think a boycott aimed at individuals merely because of their nationality would be wrong, amounting to collective punishment which the enemy practises but we don't because we're not racists.
(It would be a different matter if someone specifically accused of crimes was coming, whatever their nationality).

A boycott targetting institutions on the other hand, as the AUT conference originally attempted, is a legitimate idea, particularly if the institutions are shown to have government links or be involved in oppressive policies.
The anti-boycott group Engage seems unable or unwilling to see the difference, and its big man Dave Hirsh has been urging members of the new academic union UCU to demand of candidates for office where they stand on "boycotting Israeli colleagues", as though that was being raised.

Even when they say they are against it, he doesn't seem satisfied. Singling out "left" candidate for general secretary Roger Kline, Hirsh wanted to know why the SWP was supporting him, and he doesn't like Kline citing his old Communist dad as saying you can criticise Israel without being antisemitic.
Engage was supposed to be on the Left itself, or so we were expected to believe. Maybe Hirsh was still upset over setbacks in his own college, Goldsmith's, or maybe he just couldn't stop the mask slipping.

Anyway, someone who has so far had genuine doubts over the academic boycott is Yigal Arens, an Israeli-born information systems specialist working in the United States. When he recieved an invitation to take his expertise to Israel, he hesitatated. While he was considering whether to accept, those who were to have been his hosts made his mind up for him. They may also have helped tip the balance of his thinking towards the boycott in principle.

At any rate he has headed this letter to a friend, with its interesting picture of just how "independent" of government some academic institutions are,

"And *they* complain about a boycott?"

Although raised in Israel -- living there from age 6 to 23 -- for many years I have been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies including their occupation of Palestinian territories.

On January 9 I was called by a US professor who specializes in security informatics. He said that he was co-organizing a small workshop on the Internet and its growing role in terrorist and anti-terrorist activities. The goal of the workshop would be to identify key research issues and set a research agenda. The workshop would include 20-30 people from the US, Israel, the UK and other European countries and was being paid for by NATO. The other co-organizer was Dr. Bracha Shapira of Ben-Gurion University (BGU), and the workshop would be held at BGU in early June.

The US researcher invited me to participate in this workshop. He said that the organizers were particularly interested in my presence and were very eager for me to accept the invitation. I have been involved in organizing related activities for several years now.

I told the US professor that I would have to think about this. I had a potentially conflicting obligation. Also, I said I wanted to be sure that I'd be treated no different than any other American participant, since I'd had an unpleasant past experience at another scientific meeting in Israel. He said he wasn't aware of any problem -- the Israeli organizer wanted me there. I said I'd give him an answer in a week.

On the following Tuesday, January 16, I received a urgent call from the US prof. He apologized profusely and said that he had been told by the Israelis that government personnel would be present at the workshop and that they would feel uncomfortable if I participated, and therefore he was told to rescind the invitation, which he was doing.

I wrote an email to Dr. Shapira to ask what happened to suddenly change their mind. That was on January 16. Since she didn't respond I sent her another email on January 19. She finally answered only on January 21. Her explanation was that the US co-organizer "exceeded his authority in extending the invitation without full consultation with the conference organizers."

Obviously, this doesn't answer any of the questions that come to mind given the specific interactions I had with the US co-organizer. She also uses peculiar language to describe the relationship between two co-organizers of an academic workshop.

I understand that a couple of reporters have contacted Dr. Shapira for her reaction. She has either refused comment or repeated that the original invitation was issued without consulting her, but has not addressed the question of official Israeli involvement in the process.

Yigal Arens
Director, Digital Government Research Center
Director, Intelligent Systems Division
Research Professor,
Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
USC/Information Sciences Institute

Yigal is quite keen for this experience to widely aired, so I'm happy to do my bit with this blog. And for any UCU members worried at the thought of Israeli academics being "blacklisted" (quoth Engage), here at last is a case you can take up! Only this one is being boycotted by officials in Israel.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Howard Andrews' Century

veterans like Andy just won't lie down!

JUST when I think I might get away with telling friends and comrades I'm "feeling my age" and might need to take a rest, along comes yet another report of some activist many years older than me who just won't lie down.

West Country trades unionist and socialist Dave Chapple has written to tell friends that International Brigader Howard Andrews, of Taunton, Somerset, England, known to his pals as Andy, will be 100 on the 15th February this year.

Dave has tried to persuade Andy to let them hold a "party occasion" to celebrate his centenery, but Andy said he did not want the fuss and performance.

"Andy has had a few problems with his health lately, including a fall, but he is in reasonably good shape, and continues to live by himself and look after himself, which includes all the cooking and shopping. He just has a 'home-help' come in to clean for an hour a week.

"On 11th February Andy is going into hospital for an operation- but he expects to be out for his birthday!"

Only last Autumn Andy made it to Spain to spend a week with comrades commorating the fight against fascism in Spain. It was in August 1936, after attending a rally in Trafalgar Square, that the young Communist from Kilburn talked it over with his brother in the Independent Labour Party, and decided to go out with Medical Spain for Spain.

He had already served in the British Royal Army Medical Corps(RAMC), joining as a teenager to escape poverty. It was an education. In Mumbai he watched women, some with babies on their back, loading coal onto ships. In Shanghai, in the same year 1926 of the general strike in Britain, British troops guarded business interests before Chiang Kai Shek suppressed the workers.

In Spain, Andy worked in a clinic near the Ebro front where they took care of the wounded. Local people helped him with supplies. Being a hospital did not prevent them being bombed and strafed by Italian planes.

After serving in the Royal Artillery during World War II, Andy decided in 1955 to move out to Taunton, Somerset, where he worked in the hospital and revived a branch of the health workers' union COHSE. He became branch secretary, and delegate to Taunton trades union council until his retirement.

Recently he attended a meeting of the Taunton Peace group, and successfully proposed an Anti-Trident nuclear missile protest outside his old workplace, Taunton's Musgrove Park Hospital, which will go ahead after his birthday.

Recently a Civil Servant called about the question of a centenary telegram message from the Queen of England: Andy told him that he didn't want a telegram, saying that:

' Me and the Royal Family haven't been friends for ages.'

Maybe some of those in the movement who have queued for honours should take note of this example!

If anyone wants to send a Birthday Card or greeting to Andy (Howard Andrews) you can get more information and discuss it with Dave Chapple -

Meantime, I'm not even two thirds as old as Andy, and having cried off two meetings and one very attractive social invitation last week on account of having "a bad leg", I'd better watch it or friends will be accusing me of "coming the old soldier" or sarcastically offering to buy me a buggy.

On a more serious thought, the 20th century should have been the century of people like Howard Andrews. It was stolen by the likes of Franco, Hitler, and Stalin too. Andy has more than earned his longevity into this century. He has deserved better than for this to be the century of Bush and Blair. Let's take inspiration to make it not.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Disabled score at Arsenal, and Cleaners Give Award


FOLLOWING up on a couple things from before Xmas... The TGWU Record
dropped through my letterbox this week, and among other news it contains a report saying "Arsenal demo clinches victory for Remploy workers' new factory".

As reported last October, workers from the Remploy factory in Holloway, north London, which is due to close in March as part of the Arsenal development, marched to the new Emirates stadium at Ashburton Grove on Saturday afternoon, October 14, to draw attention to their fears for jobs if the factory was not replaced. Remploy, a public agency employing disabled but often highly skilled workers, had announced plans for several closures.

Arsenal were due to play Watford in the Barclays Premier League. The marchers' aim was to gain maximum publicity as well as support from local people and soccer fans.

Arsenal won 3-0. The disabled workers' demonstration obtained wide press coverage, and according to TGWU national secretary Jennie Formby: "there was also a huge amount of support from the public, who contacted the company to make their feelings known, and this added to the pressure".

Remploy had been paid £1.4 million for the loss of its Holloway factory, but although this was originally supposed to buy a new factory, said it had already spent the money. Now apparently it has decided it can afford a new north London factory after all. Just as well that demonstration worked first time. It would have been a pity to have to embarass the Duke of Edinburgh with another demo, when he officially opened the new stadium on October 26.
The Queen had been due to perform the ceremony but had a back injury - another possible case for Remploy?

I'm wary of accepting official union claims of victories since the Gate Gourmet dispute. But according to Jennie Formby, Remploy has agreed to buy a new factory and ensure there are no redundancies. "There will not even be voluntary redundancies, as we made it clear jobs were not for sale but being held in trust for future generations of disabled workers".

Nevertheless, having won this one, the union knows it still has a struggle on. While claiming to "help" disabled workers - by threatening their benefits if they don't look hard enough for jobs, rather than putting more pressure on employers to engage them, -the Blair government has also been taking contracts and resources away from sheltered workplaces such as Remploy.
The fight is on to defend another 82 Remploy factories around the country.

Goldman Sucks!

THE other big fight reported in the Record is that of cleaners in the City, who are scraping along on poverty wages while the firms whose offices they clean make huge profits, and pay enormous salaries and bonuses to executive types. The contractors are also taking more than their share, being big firms or subsidiaries of even bigger companies.

The average salary in the City these days is £100,000 a year, and bonuses are expected to reach £8.8 billion. Cleaners, on the other hand, typically get no sick pay nor pensions, no more than the legal munimum holiday, and earn as little as £5.35 an hour. Many have to do two jobs. Then travel on overcrowded and ever-more expensive public transport to see to their own homes, and kids.

Soaring house prices and interest rates have made it harder for ordinary working people, even in supposedly valued professions, to live in London. But somebody has to help boost those profits and fat cat bonuses. Then we're told that wages are the cause of inflation, and the Bank must raise interest rates to stop us spending more. At least they waited till after the Christmas shopping sprees, ("High Street confidence"), and January sales.

Anyway, as part of their campaign for better pay and conditions some cleaning trades unionists held a hunger strike outside the Royal Bank of Scotland(RBS) London offices before Christmas.

The TGWU Record says RBS, Merril Lynch and Goldman Sachs have been presented with the Golden Vacuum award, for "sucking their cleaners dry".
Workers occupied the plush foyer of Goldman Sachs' London headquarters, forcing traders and big money clients to clamber around sit-down cleaners chanting slogans, while outside other cleaners kept up the protest and made sure passing shoppers and City workers got the message "Goldman sucks".

The cleaners' target was ISS, which is one of the world's biggest cleaning companies, demanding it recognise the union and pay a living wage. And if it seems a bit indirect to take their action against the New York-headquartered merchant bankers, it is not. Because ISS is owned by Goldman Sachs.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Destruction of Bedouin Villages

BEDOUIN demonstrate
in Be'ersheva
over demolition
September 2005.
photo credit Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages.

“Where will my children sleep tonight, in this terrible cold?” cried the mother of ten.

TWO reports from Israel on how the Zionist state is treating Negev Bedouin:

Large police forces deployed to destroy an entire Bedouin village north of Be’er Sheba 21 houses were demolished, leaving 500 people homeless.

“The mother was crying out and her throat got dry. I wanted to give her some water, but the police had spilled all the water in the village on the ground” says Nori al-Okbi, head of the Beduin Rights Defence Association. “At 11 a.m. I got an urgent call from the Talalka Tribe, they cried on the phone: ‘Help! Help! They are destroying the whole village!’ I ran to my car and got there in a quarter of an hour..

I arrived at the horrible scene, hundreds of police protesting the bulldozers which destroy house after house. I saw this mother of ten crying: ‘What will I do now? My children will come back from school and find they have no home. Where will they sleep in the cold night?” She ran crying after the bulldozers, but the police commander continued with chilling efficiency to deploy his man and defend the destroyers. I my view, the destruction of a whole village and making five hundred people homeless is like cold-blooded murder. This is a brutal act against helpless civilians, who suffer severe racial discrimination by the Government of Israel, just because they belong to a minority ” says Al Okbi.

Nuri al-Okbi says that he saw a group of young people in yellow vests, who were removing the villagers’ belongings from the destroyed houses. “They were Hebrew-speaking young men, apparently of the age to be conscripts, but wearing civilian clothes. Is the army now ‘lending ‘ the police some conscripts, for participation in a dirty war against the Beduin citizens of Israel in the Negev? And if they were not conscripts, who were these young men, and where did they come from? I asked some Knesset Members to take this up with the Ministry of Defence”.

The Talalka live on their immemorial land, where they lived for many generations, long before the state of Israel was created. They have lodged an official appeal to recognise their ownership over 10,000 dunums (2500 acres). The appeal is still far from being finally decided, but the state authorities do not wait but try to create facts on the ground - to expel the Talaka from their land and lock them in an overcrowded concentration township, where no sources of livelihood. They do not yield, though the destroyers come again and again to destroy their homes, and every time the devastation is more total” says al Okbi.

“In the name of the Talaka and of all the Negev Beduin, who are discriminated against and persecuted solely because of their origin, I call upon the Prime Minster and his ministers: stop this evil and cruel policy against us, stop the destruction of the Arab citizens’ homes. Start regarding us, too, as equal citizens of the state of Israel!

That was a few days ago, as reported in a despatch via the Israeli peace bloc Gush Shalom. Terrible as it is, it is not an isolated case. Here is a report from the pre-Christmas period from the Council of Unrecognised Villages:

The Government of Israel Demolished an Entire Bedouin Village Today in the Israeli Negev

Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.December 6, 2006

At 5:00am hundreds of policepeople accompanied six bulldozers and demolished 17 homes and 3 animal shacks in the village of Twail Abu-Jarwal. The entire village is demolished. People are sitting by the piles of tin that were their modest dwellings and wondering what to do, where to go… even their family cannot host them, as no one has a house standing…

This is the fourth time this year that the government demolished this village. This time they got it `right` – no house is left standing… But the villagers have nowhere to go to. They lived on the outskirts of the Bedouin town of Laqia, the old folk paid for plots of land to build homes in the 1970s, they still hold on the receipt, hoping someday to receive the plots. For the last 30 years they have been living on land belonging to others, in shacks, the housing becoming ever more crowded, until there was no room left for another baby.

They turned to the government for a solution – the option for joining the rest of the residents of Laqia, in a regular house, on a regular plot of land. But the authorities had no options for them. The owners of the land on which they were living requested that they leave – 30 years is enough. So eventually they left back to their own ancestral land – only a couple of miles south of Laqia – by the old ruined school, by their old cemetery. The adult sons built their old mother a modest brick home. The rest built tin shacks. A year ago the government came and destroyed several houses – including the brick home.

Some of the people of Twail Abu Jarwal rebuilt, some moved into more crowded homes with their adult siblings. The government came nine months later and demolished 7 more homes. Again, some rebuilt their shacks, some moved in with family. The government came back last month and just to harass, uprooted fences, holding the sheep. And now they came in order to make sure the work is complete.

Israel`s Minister of Interior, Roni Bar-On, two days ago was invited to give answers to the Internal Affairs Committee in the Knesset, as to what solutions the government is advancing in order to solve the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and why the government is demolishing homes while these people have no `legal` options for building homes. Bar-On claimed that everything is just fine, he is doing all he can to deal with this issue, but a criminal must be punished, and therefore all the `illegal` Bedouin homes in the Negev must be demolished.

He claimed that as far as he is concerned, there are not enough demolitions in the Negev. And now he has proved that he is a man of his word – 17 homes demolished in one foul swoop. Of the 150,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev, over 50% live in villages that the government as policy has left `unrecognized` , meaning that there are no options for building permits, as well as running water, electricity, roads, sewer systems and trash removal, additionally there are very minimal education and health facilities. This policy`s aim is to force the Bedouins off their ancestral lands and to concentrate the Bedouins in urban townships, regardless of their wishes or their culture.

However, there are also no options for living in the concentration towns the government has built, as there are no available plots of land for homes, as in the case of the families of the Twail abu-Jarwal village. Therefore the government can `legally` demolish the homes of 80,000 members of this community, while they cannot build one `legal` home.

In December, members of Al Okbi tribe invited supporters to join them in sowing crops. "On Saturday, December 16, 2006, Jews and Arabs joined together to undertake traditional Bedouin sowing of the lands that belong to the Al Okbi tribe in the Negev. During the sowing, three people were arrested and a confrontation developed with the police that tried to stop the activity.
Approximately 100 activists arrived in the morning to the Al Arakib region (located five kilometers south of Rahat) to help sow the fields of the Al Okbi tribe. The aim was to sow 200 dunam of wheat which would help financially support members of the tribe. As soon as the activity began, the police tried stopping the planters and three activists were forcibly arrested and brought for investigation to Rahat".

Israel's clearances of Bedouin are being spurred on by foreign capital and ambitions to develop minerals (particularly oil shale) and industry in the Negev, as well as expanding settlements and military bases.
See for instance, on American money:
and on oil shale:

REMEMBER the way our media treated the removal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza strip? Night by night the BBC brought us pictures of weeping settlers struggling with soldiers - and not a thought for those whose land they had settled, nor a mention that they were being provided with compensation and alternative homes and settlements. What a perfomance!
The other day I was remarking to someone how the BBC had failed to give the slightest coverage to events such as Bil'in, in the West Bank, where troops and border police attacked Palestinians and Israelis demonstrating against the Israeli 'Apartheid Wall'. My friend thought perhaps coverage was hindered by restrictions on the reporters and film crews. But see, for instance:

Newsmen and photographers have been casualties. But if the corporate media don't wish to expose their own staff, why not run some of material shot by brave local filmers and activists?

Campaigners did manage to get a BBC radio team in to look at what was happening in the Negev.
So who knows, maybe TV news coverage will catch up.


The mass evictions of Negev Bedouin are not taking place under military rule in occupied territory but within the Israeli state, where the Bedouin are supposedly citizens with equal rights! Yet the Israeli state refuses to recognise their villages and the Minister of the Interior can call them "criminals" simply for being where they are. A campaign called "Enough" is being launched this month in London to say that Israel's 40 year long occupation of territory seized in 1967 must be brought to an end. Quite right too. But even if the Zionists are finally persuaded to withdraw from the Occupied Territories -and it will take more than talk - the treatment of the Bedouin within the pre-1967 borders reminds us that withdrawal will not be enough. Not if we believe that human beings are entitled to be treated as such.

If you believe what you hear on the news, Condeleeza Rice has been out there helping Israel re-open efforts for "peace". US warships heading for the Gulf suggest a different interpretation. But if the Israeli government did want peace it could begin by making peace with some of its own citizens.

Some sources for more information:

Arab Human Rights Association, factsheet:

BUSTAN, a partnership of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers promoting social and environmental justice and fair allocation of resources in Israel/Palestine.

The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages was created in 1997 as the representative body for the residents of the 45 Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Israeli Negev. Hussein al-Rafaia is the elected head of the RCUV. For more information, please contact Yeela Raanan, 054 7487005, or via email at, Civil Society Activities Coordinator, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

If only hypocrisy was confined to the Right!


BALLERINA Simone Clarke takes the stage today as Giselle in a matinee performance for the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. Supporters of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) plan a demonstration outside the theatre, because Clarke was exposed in a recent newspaper article as being a member of the far-Right British National Party (BNP).

"We are calling on all those who have an appreciation for the arts, music and dance to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics are incompatible with a leading institution such as the English National Ballet", says a UAF spokesperson.
"We want them to speak out against the association of artists with the BNP and say that Simone Clarke should be removed from her position".

BNP leader Nick Griffin, buoyed by his acquittal on race hate charges arising from anti-Muslim speeches, and going for suited respectability, must be delighted with the latest publicity. The boot-boys and bombers are still around, but now middle class racialists can reassure themselves, you need not wear big doc martins to be a BNP supporter, you can even do it in ballet shoes. Helped by continuing media hysteria about immigrats, it should be good for votes, and funds.

Clarke lives near Olympia with fellow-dancer Yat Sen Chang, a Cuban immigrant whose father is Chinese. Their four-year old daughter lives with her parents in Leeds. But the 36-year old ballerina agrees with the BNP that there are too many immigrants. No doubt she will soon be built up as a courageous heroine standing up to the left-wing union bullies. Such a change from the BNP's more familiar image.

The entertainment union BECTU's general secretary Gerry Morrisey says "The BNP and its policies are an affront to the vast majority of people in this country. Simone Clarke earns her living in the subsidised arts and with this goes certain responsibilities, which she has failed to comply with."
Whatever the best way to deal with the BNP ballet dancer, and perhaps Musicians Union members might have a say, if members of the ENB company don't feel able to - I'd like to look at this from another angle.

It was revealed in the past week that Labour's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Rt.Hon.Ruth Kelly MP, who was previously Minister of Education, was sending her son to a private school. Kelly claimed this was because the boy had special needs. But Labour has been in favour of integrating special needs pupils into ordinary schools. It also emerged that her son's problem is dyslexia - something shared with many children in the area, and catered for in local schools.

The news brought cries of "Hypocrite!", from the Tory Evening Standard across to Respect's George Galloway. As the Bethnal Green MP says in his weblog:

" Everyone wants the best for their child. What used to be a badge of honour for a Labour politician was that they wanted the best for everyone’s children. Ruth Kelly’s decision to withdraw her child from state education in Tower Hamlets undermines the life chances of other children in the borough whose parents cannot afford £15,000 a year to go private.
It is a slap in the face for the hardworking teachers and dedicated support staff in east London who have an excellent record of including children with special needs into mainstream education. It will do nothing for the morale of staff and pupils at the outstanding Stephen Hawking special school in Tower Hamlets, who achieve miracles despite a lack of resources".
Ruth Kelly’s private school decision - a "slap in the face"

Well said, George.

But as Andy Newman asks in his Socialist Unity blog, "who are the hypocrites?" "As I revealed in July 2004, Respect parliamentary candidate, and national steering committee member Yvonne Ridley, sends her own daughter to Windemere St Annes, where the fees are £16,380 per year".

Discussing this with friends the other evening, I remarked that at least Ridley had not been an Education Minister. It was an old Socialist Alliance comrade who tried Respect who reminded me that when Respect threw Ridley into the Leicester byelection, it was against a locally-chosen socialist candidate standing on a Save Our Schools platform.

This week's Socialist Worker also has a piece about Ruth Kelly, pointing out that 20 schools in Tower Hamlets provide for dyslexic pupils, but also making the point that inadequate special needs education was part of Kelly's responsibility as a minister. It goes on to quote Laura Penketh, vice-chair of the Preston District Dyslexia Society, whom it describes as a Respect supporter:
"There is a real lack of resources available. And it can be a lottery how much teachers know about dyslexia. My daughter has dyslexia – but even when you know what funding and resources are available it is very difficult to get the things you are entitled to. Ruth Kelly’s decision is atrocious. The government says that it is all about opportunity in education – opportunity for who?"
Minister Ruth Kelly snubs state schools the voters use

But not a word about Ridley.

This is not the only sad case of glaring hypocrsy on the Left.
This week's Socialist Worker has an item promoting the Unite Against Fascism demo against Simone Clarke of the British National Party, and quoting comments by Musicians Union members . Well, and good. The Socialists Workers Party is a major supporter of UAF, just as before it was the mainspring of the Anti-Nazi League.

But in the same issue, Lindsey German argues against broadcaster and poet Michael Rosen's charge that the Left is not taking some forms of racism - e.g. antisemitism - as seriously as others. German insists she is against all racism, but some, i.e. anti-Muslim propaganda and attacks- is more important right now than others.

Michael Rosen, who had to overcome an MI5 witch-hunt and blacklisting early in his career, has been a loyal supporter of left-wing causes, appearing on Stop the War platforms and at the SWP's Marxism events. But in a letter to Socialist Worker on January 6 he questioned the wisdom of inviting saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, notorious for his antisemitic venom, to the Cultures of Resistance concerts. "Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do".

Two other SWP members write assuring us that Gilad Atzmon has said he is not a racist or a Holocaust denier:"Gilad has now played around a dozen fundraising events for the SWP and we can say categorically that he has never made any offensive/racist comments – in fact every performance has been one of supporting the civil rights struggle and opposing war".
Gilad Atzmon is not racist

Even if we accepted Lindsey German's pecking-order perspective, which would have minorities vying in competition for the anti-racist left's sympathy, rather than uniting on a common perspective, battle-lines and priorities can rapidly shift. A few years ago when the Socialist Workers Party was still in the Socialist Alliance, leading SWPer John Rees - now Respect national secretary - told comrade Anna Chen that work among Chinese people in London was unimportant, because ‘the axis of racism is black and white’. That was presumably before the SWP decided the main issue was Islamophobia, but not long before the right-wing press launched its blame-the-victims campaign against Chinese immigrant workers, following the Morecambe Bay tragedy.

The BNP may be anti-Muslim but it also claims to be against the war in Iraq. So do a whole host of right-wing reactionaries, from France's Jean-Marie le Pen through German neo-Nazis to some wild American conspiracy-theorists. David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan put aside any prejudices he may hold against Muslims to attend the Holocaust Revision conference in Tehran. Since right-wing racists are not opposed to imperialism as such, how better for them to explain the war and divert fear and anger than by conjuring up, in place of US imperialism, the myth of "Jewish money-power"? Even if they cloak it momentarily behind "anti-Zionist" rhetoric, it is not long before the pose slips, as they turn to attacking left-wing Jews, if anything, more bitterly than the right-wing, capitalist ones.

And Gilad Atzmon? If the partner of a Chinese Cuban can be against immigrants, why shouldn't an Israeli Jew, with all his Zionist-taught arrogance, indulge in anti-Jewish diatribes? Writing "On antisemitism" in December 2003 on his own website ( he said: "We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously…American Jewry makes any debate on whether the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy."

"Israel's behaviour throws some light on the persecution of Jews throughout history."

In 2005 Atzmon distributed Paul Eisen’s essay "Holocaust Wars" which the Socialist Unity website described as "a full-blooded exposition of Holocaust denial material and a tribute to notorious neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel."

Atzmon maintains link with both Eisen and the curious Russian-born Israeli Israel Shamir, who doubles as a Swedish antisemite, and has recently featured a visit to Zundel on his website. From attacking anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian Jews in an article called "The Protocols of the Elders of London" he has turned to denouncing them as "Christ-killers" - the age old cry of the pogromists. Perhaps with Eisen and Shamir (who announced his conversion to Orthodox Christianity along with some rather old ideas on blood and matza), the talented saxophonist can say he is not racist, but only opposed to a mysterious "essential Jewishness" on religious grounds? After all, Nick Griffin persuaded a Leeds jury that he was only criticising Islam as a religion, not inciting hatred against Muslims.

By turning a blind eye to Atzmon's noxious ideas, the opportunist SWP leadership are neglecting their young members' education, as well as laying the causes with which they are associated wide open to the Zionist smear of "left-wing antisemitism". By giving Atzmon their seal of approval they are setting a precedent that others even more cynical and with less pretence to "socialist" credentials will be happy to use.

The two SWPers from east London who write defending Atzmon insist " we have publicly challenged and argued against those of his ideas we disagree with", though since they deny he is an antisemite or a racist it is not clear which these are. Still, as they say:

"Gilad has now played around a dozen fundraising events for the SWP and we can say categorically that he has never made any offensive/racist comments – in fact every performance has been one of supporting the civil rights struggle and opposing war".

Sounds like a different Gilad, but I'll take their word for it. Then again, I don't suppose Simone Clarke is going to surprise ballet fans by breaking into a goosestep, or raised-arm salute while performing Giselle. So that should be alright then, shouldn't it?

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bringing Truth, and Tali, home

Taking wire out in Tel Aviv, and right, Tali Fahima, now released.

HOPING to start the New Year with some good news, I had instead to report the brutal Israeli military raid into Ramallah, in which four people were killed and tension deliberately exacerbated.
But there have been a couple of items on the happier side. First, Anarchists Against the Wall reported an imaginative action in Tel Aviv; activists bringing the occupation home by taking razor wire from the "security fence" to set up a downtown roadblock complete with military warning notices, blocking traffic and giving fellow-Israelis a small taste of what Palestinians have to put up with regularly.

Then came the news this week that Tali Fahima has been released after serving two and a half years in jail for her contacts with Palestinian militant Zakaria Zubeidi. Tali, born in 1976, is an Israeli woman from an Algerian Jewish family who grew up in Kiryat Gat, a city established on Arab land, now mainly home to poorer working-class Jews originating from Arab countries. She obtained a job as a legal secretary, and voted for the right-wing Likud party.

Then in 2003 Tali began to wonder what drove young Palestinians into such desparate attacks on Israel. She also became interested in the Palestinian children's theatre project started by Arna Mer-Khamis in Jenin, and started visiting the town, which had been devastated by a massive Israeli raid earlier that year, during which the children's theatre too was wrecked by Israeli soldiers.

Talking to people in Jenin, and hearing their views on the occupation and intifada, Tali began to rethink all her attitudes. She was particularly interested to meet Zakaria Zubeidi, who had featured with his mother in the film Arna's Children, about the theatre project, and had since become the leader in Jenin of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade.

In August 2004, Tali Fahima was arrested and interrogated by Shin Bet (Israeli security service) officers who wanted information about the people she had met in Jenin, probably hoping to turn her into an informer. Tali was neither able nor willing to help them, so in September she was placed under administrative detention - a measure inherited from the British Palestine mandate to hold "suspects" without trial or charges. Israel has seldom used these powers against Jewish prisoners.

Meanwhile Shin Bet agents had been briefing the press that Tali had been having an affair with Zubeidi. It was their way of demeaning both, as well as explaining how an "ordinary" Israeli Jewish woman could possibly consort with an "Arab terrorist".

In December 2004, Tali was charged with "assistance to the enemy at time of war". The substance of the charge to which she eventually entered a plea bargain, of meeting and aiding an "enemy agent", was that she was supposed to have translated an Israeli military document for the Palestinians. This was apparently a plan for a snatch or kill operation, containing three aerial maps of Jenin, names of wanted residents, and four photographs of them, one of them being Zubeidi. As a result he was able to warn others to go into hiding.

But as my friend Moshe Machover points out, Zakaria Zubeidi, who has spent time in work and prison in Israel, speaks and reads Hebrew, and would hardly have needed the Kiryat Gat secretary to translate and explain the document to him.

As Tali Fahima says: "My first crime was that I refused to work with Shin Bet, the second was that I insited on going to see the Palestinians and the third was that I protested against the Israeli policy of assassination".

At times Tali was kept handcuffed to her chair for 16 hours a day. Shin Bet said they wanted to teach her to be a "good Jew". For nine months of her time in prison she ws held in solitary, and not allowed to read or watch television. Her plea bargain should have meant a shorter sentence, but on 14 September the Parole Board ruled that she must not be released early because she had "acted in an insolent and rude manner towards prison guards".

Although now out of prison, Tali is restricted, like nuclear weapon whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. She is banned from "leaving the country, contacting foreign agents or entering the Palestinian-controlled areas".

"I learnt about the nature of Shin Bet", she says, "how they terrorise us, both the Israelis and Palestinians. I learnt about the nature of the government, how they do not want us to see what is going on in our name."

Others have observed, made contacts, protested. But like Vanunu, Tali Fahima was from a Maghrebi (North African) family background, a member of Israel's "misrachi" ("oriental") working class upon which successive governments have relied for votes, work and cannon fodder, depending on their desire to prove their loyalty and anti-Arab sentiment. If any of them step out of line they could threaten the whole Zionist edifice. Tali Fahima was not some "advanced", way-out intellectual, but just an ordinary humdrum secretary who asked awkward questions about why her country knew no peace, and, looking for answers, talked to her Palestinian neighbours. That is probably why the state security organs had to make her an example by criminalising her.

That she has been released now, early, for "good conduct", is good news, not just for her, and not just because she should never have been jailed in the first place, but because it may hopefully indicate the security organs are not getting things all their own way now, amid political uncertainty.

"My crime was to protest at Israeli assassinations"
The Guardian, January 6, 2007,,1983247,00.html

see also earlier interview:

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Answers to our last Quiz

These things also happened in 2006:

1) George Galloway, MP surprised supporters by announcing he would be taking part in the "reality TV" Big Brother programme, to raise money for charity, and it would be the last vote he faced. He was voted out of the Big Brother House a few weeks later.

2) Labour's Culture Minister Tessa Jowell announced in March that she was separating from lawyer husband David Mills, following reports that the couple took out a £408,000 mortgage on their home in September 2000 then repaid it a month later. Mills faced trial alongside former Italian prime minister Sylvio Berlusconi, on charges involving tax evasion and money laundering.

3) St.Pancras Coroner's Court said news cameraman James Miller had been murdered by the Israeli army.

4) Labour lost 200 seats in local council elections on May 4, and came third in vote totals.

5) Arsenal played its last game at the old Highbury stadium on May 7.

6) Leaflets advertising Brent TUC's commemoration of the Grunwick strike were banned from the borough's public libraries as too "political".

7) MPs have written to the Public Service Pay Review Board saying they need a 66 per cent pay increase to come in line with senior civil servants.

8) The government proposed in the Queen's Speech in November that the age at which people become eligible for the state pension should be raised to 68 by 2046.

9) Prime Minister Tony Blair

10) The investigation into corruption surrounding the al-Yamama arms deal with Saudi Arabia.


1) The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

2) The 1926 British General Strike.

3) The flight was to pick up General Franco so that he could call up the military revolt which began the Spanish Civil War.

4) The blowing up of the King David Hotel, in Jerusalem, then housing British military and police headquarters, on July 22, 1946. More than 90 people were killed, and 45 injured.

5) The 1956 Hungarian Uprising. Peter Fryer's despatches were censored or suppressed by the Daily Worker, and he was expelled from the Communist Party for publishing them outside. Shortly before his death, nearing the 50th anniversary, Peter heard that Hungary was awarding him the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit in recognition of his "continuous support of the Hungarian revolution and freedom fight".

6) The Anglo-French assault on Egypt in 1956, in response to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal and in collusion with Israel.

7) The seafarers' strike

8) In Lebanon. The Palestinians there were besieged in 1976 by right-wing Christians and Syrian forces.

9) The Battle of Cable Street, October 4, 1936, when the police were unable to clear a path for Sir Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts. .

10) Pickles was a mongrel dog who while out for a walk with his owner in south London on March 27, 1966, found the football World Cup, stolen seven days earlier from Central Hall, Westminster.


1) Two Tamworth Ginger pigs who escaped from the slaughterhouse in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Besides newspaper coverage, their week-long escapade inspired a film and so to speak, saved their bacon.

2) Holsteins and Friesians are breeds of dairy cattle, usually black and white, and hailing originally from roughly the same area in north-west Europe. Holsteins, common in the US, are taller than British Friesians.

3) Silkworms.

4) Master McGrath(1866-1871) and Mick the Miller(1926-39) were successful champion greyhounds, both born in Ireland. Mick the Miller was eventually stuffed and stood in a glass case at London's Natural History Museum, but later moved to the Walter Rothschild Natural History Museum in Tring, Herts.

5) A bottle-nosed whale strayed up the Thames and became stranded. It died on January 21, 2006, apparently from the stress of being trapped in London. We know the feeling.


1) 'King' Cotton.
2) Between Pontefract, Wakefield and Leeds. It used to produce 90 per cent of the world's rhubarb, in heated greenhouses. There's a rhubarb festival due next month.
3) Potatoes.
4) Flax, used for making linen, also provides linseed oil, used in paints, varnishes, and for treating cricket bats. Flaxseed oil, obtained cold and refrigerated, provides omega-3 fatty acids now favoured in human and animal foods, and said to be good for us.
5) Tulip bulbs. The Black Tulip, published 1850, was Dumas' last novel.

True Colours

1) William Brown.
2) Vicount Grey of Falloden was Foreign Secretary from 1905-16, but Earl Grey who have his name to the blend of tea with bergamot oil prime minister in the 1830s.
3) Red Nichols, and Red Adair.
4) Captain Jack White, b.Co.Antrim
5) Conrad Black, former owner of Telegraph newspapers.

By any other name

1) Rita Hayworth.
2) Lauren Bacall.
3) Peggy Lee.
4) Alicia Markova, ballerina.
5) Ninette de Valois ballerina and director, Sadler Wells.
6) Tony Curtis
7) Tommy Steele
8) Michael Caine.
9) Elke Brooks.
10) Jasper Carrot
11) George Eliot
12) Joseph Conrad
13) Sholem Aleichem
14) Robert Maxwell
15) Pele


Ramallah: IDF fanning flames of war

WHEN the statesmen talk about peace, the common people know they can expect war, is an old saying. With Israeli and Arab, as well as Western, leaders putting out signals about peace just recently, the Israeli Defence(sic) Forces (IDF) has carried out a major provocative raid on Ramallah, the functioning centre of Palestinian authority amid the occupied territories.

The mid-day raid brought death to four people in the town's main square. It has been condemned by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom as "an aggressive and dangerous provocation".

It came two weeks after Palestininian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was invited to the official residence of the Prime Minister of Israel, after years of being boycotted. "There, in front of the cameras, Olmert embraced him and kissed him warmly on both cheeks. Abbas looked stunned, and froze.
Somehow the scene was reminiscent of another incident of politically-inspired physical contact: the embarassing occurrence at the Camp David meeting, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak pushed Yasser Arafat forcefully into the room where Bill Clinton stood waiting.
In both instances it was a gesture that was intended to look like paying respect to the Palestinian leader, but both were actually acts of violence that - seemingly - testified to ignorance of the customs of the other people and of their delicate situation. Actually, the aim was quite different.

"According to the New Testament, Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus in order to point him out to those who had come to arrest him. In appearance - an act of love and friendship. In effect - a death sentence".
(Uri Avnery, 6.1.2007, Kiss of Death).

If Olmert was serious he could have started the release of Palestinian prisoners, who include elected MPs and ministers. But he did not. Not even mothers, elderly or sick people, who could have been freed on humanitarian grounds. As Israeli veteran peace campaigner Uri Avnery notes: "He did indeed announce (for the umpteenth time) that the roadblocks would be 'eased', but the Palestinians report that they have not felt any change. Perhaps, here and there, the endless queue at some of the roadblocks has become a little shorter. Also, Olmert gave back a fifth of the Palestinian tax money withheld (or embezzled) by the Israeli government. To the Palestinians, this looked like another shameful failure for their President: he went to Canossa and received meaningless promises that were not kept".

Olmert may have gone through motions to give Bush something to claim as progress. But as Avnery observes, "there is also a more cynical explanation. If one humiliates Abbas, one strengthens Hamas. Palestinian support for Abbas depends on one single factor: his ability to get from the US and Israel things Hamas cannot. The Americans and the Israelis love him, so - the argument goes - they will give him what is needed: the mass release of prisoners, an end to the targeted killings, the removal of the monstrous roadblocks, the opening of the passage between the West Bank and Gaza, the start of serious negotiations for peace. But if Abbas cannot deliver any of these - what remains but the methods of Hamas?"

"The business of the prisoners provides a good example. Nothing troubles the Palestinians more than this: almost every Palestinian clan has people in prison. Every family is affected: a father, a brother, a son, sometimes a daughter. Every night, the Israeli army 'arrests' another dozen or so. How to get them free?
Hamas has a proven remedy: to capture Israelis (in the Israeli and international media, Israelis are "kidnapped" while Palestinians are "arrested"). For the return of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Olmert will release many prisoners. Israelis, according to Palestinian experience, understand only the language of force.

"Some of Olmert's advisors had a brilliant idea: to give Abbas hundreds of prisoners as a gift, just for nothing. That would reinforce the position of the Palestinian president and prove to the Palestinians that they can get more from us this way than by violence. It would deal a sharp blow to the Hamas government, whose overthrow is a prime aim of the governments both of Israel and the USA.

"Out of the question, cried another group of Olmert's spin doctors. How will the Israeli media react if prisoners are released before Shalit comes home?
The trouble is that Shalit is held by Hamas and its allies, and not by Abbas. If it is forbidden to release prisoners before the return of Shalit, then all the cards are in the hands of Hamas. In that case, perhaps it makes sense to speak with Hamas? Unthinkable! The result: no strengthening of Abbas, no dialogue with Hamas, no nothing. THAT IS an old Israeli tradition: when there are two alternatives, we choose the third: not to do anything."
(Avnery, A Kiss of Death.)

But it is actually worse. While doing nothing to strengthen Abbas politically, the Israeli forces which used to bomb Palestinian police stations, and trumphantly seized weapons bound for Arafat's forces, have facilitated a shipment of arms for Abbas' security force, from Egypt. Olmert and his generals must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of Palestinian civil war.

Not content with that, they have launched the Ramallah raid. This provocation came as Olmert was meeting the Egyptian president, and was under pressure to respond positively to public peace overtures from Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad. Opening talks could mean indicating readiness to return the occupied Golan Heights and allow Syrian refugees to return there. But Olmert argued that talking with Syria now would mean letting down Bush and Washington. Then he demanded Assad break links with Iran and Hizbollah. In other words, throw away his negotiating cards before the talks begin!

According to Avnery, senior Israeli army commanders are calling for Israel to invade Syria, reducing that country to ruins and chaos as America has done in Iraq (and this just as Israeli political analysts have concluded that the end of Saddam Husein's regime in this way has made the Middle East far more unstable and dangerous than it was before!) Having made a mess of their savage blitzkreig on Lebanon the military commanders, like an addicted gambler, want to repeat their madness with another, bigger, throw - staking all on alliance with the neo cons in Washington still pushing for war on Iran.

So while Olmert is doing nothing to make his peace promises seem real, his armed forces are doing something to provoke an outburst of anger and fan the flames of ongoing war. Here is the comment from Gush Shalom:


The deadly raid in Ramallah is an aggressive and dangerous provocation. This is not the way to build a cease-fire, nor anyway helpful to advance peace.
At the very hour when the Prime Minister of the State of Israel held with the President of Egypt a meeting, which is supposed to bring us back on the route to peace, somebody had decided to send soldiers, bulldozers and helicopter gunships to conduct a deadly midday raid into Ramallah.

The largest Israeli force to enter this city in the past four years conducted a prolonged gun battle in Ramallah’s main square, in front of international TV crews, and killed four Palestinian inhabitants. It was an act of heavy-handed aggression which immediately wiped out Olmert’s so-called “gestures” to President Abu Mazen (none of which, incidentally, was carried out).

Either somebody deliberately intended to create a deadly provocation, or it was an unbelievable show of stupidity and incompetence. In both cases, the dire result is the same, as is the conclusion: this is not the way to build a ceasefire, and certainly not the way to advance towards peace. If the deadly IDF raids into the West Bank cities are not stopped, there will also be no quiet in Sderot and on the Gaza Strip border, and all of us will sink deeper into the abyss of hatred and bloodshed.

For further information: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Refugees caught in no-mans land

WHERE NEXT? Another child of our time? Stranded at al Tanaf on Syrian border.

AS though being driven from their homeland almost 60 years ago was not enough, Palestinians who tried to build new lives in Iraq are once again finding themselves homeless refugees, caught between the barbarity that the imperialists have uncaged in today's "free" Iraq, and the callousness of other Arab states.

An end of the year Action Alert from al Awda(the Return) coalition says that according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relief agencies, several hundred Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes in Iraq are now stranded in no man's land on the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

Al-Hol and Al-Tanaf camps, located on Iraq's border with Syria, consist of makeshift tents. The camps have become the home of 655 displaced Palestinian men, women and children who continue to languish there under extremely difficult conditions. Another camp, Al-Walid, was just established recently to house an additional 41 Palestinians, all of whom were forced to leave by militias loyal
to the US-backed Iraqi government.

Al-Tanaf camp with its 350 residents is located in a remote area
about 260 kilometers away from the nearest populated area. The
only services the camp receives is provided by local area organizations whose access to the camps may be limited at any time. About 10% of the refugees in Al-Tanaf need urgent medical care which they are not receiving.

In Al-Ruweished refugee camp, which is located on the border with Jordan, there are 148 Palestinians caught in a similar untenable situation. Some of Al-Ruweished's residents have been there for close to three years. Most of the children in the camp have been denied education during that time.

There is more than a tragic historical echo to all this. In 1938 the Nazis in Germany set about deporting all Polish Jews in the country. Some 12,000 were sent to the Polish border, where they were refused admission, and stranded. Sheltering as best they could in disused farm buildings, they were fed now and then by the Polish Red Cross and Jewish charities. A desperate couple called the Grynszpans managed to send a postcard to their son in Paris, pleading for him to help them get away to America.

Hirschl Grynszpan, 17, himself stateless and unable to get work, could do nothing to help his parents. After trying desperately to get help, he took a gun, went to the German embassy, and shot a diplomat. The Nazis made this the pretext for their planned Kristallnacht pogrom against the Jews of Germany. Looking back we could say the Holocaust had begun.

In his speech from the dock, young Hirschl Grynnszpan said: "Being a Jew is not a crime. I am not a dog. I have a right to live and the Jewish people have the right to exist on this earth. Where I have been I have been chased like an animal."

The Grynszpan case aroused sympathy from Leon Trotsky, who knew what it was to be hunted from country to country and denied entry, and inspired the composer Michael Tippet's oratorio "A Child of Our Time". This was aptly conducted by Daniel Barenboim when he brought his West-East Divan Orchestra, founded with Edward Said, to the 2005 BBC London proms. Substitute "Palestinian" for "Jew" and "Jewish" and you still have a lesson for our time.

The combination of Nazi genocide and the world, notably America, closing its doors on Jewish refugees, led within ten years to the UN decision to partition Palestine. The United States and the Soviet Union backed the creation and expansion of the State of Israel, and it was the Palestinians' turn to be made refugees.

Let al Awda resume the story:

Largely as a consequence of their expulsion from their own homeland by Zionists upon the imposition of the state of Israel in 1948, thirty-four thousand Palestinian refugees lived in Iraq prior to the American invasionin 2003 . Many have since faced harassment, threats of deportation, abuse by the media, arbitrary detention, torture and murder. Palestinian neighborhoods such as al-Hurriyya and al-Baladiyyat in Baghdad have been bombarded and attacked ever
since the US occupation. Many Palestinians were expelled from their homes and initially took shelter in tents in Haifa stadium in Baghdad. Others were either killed, imprisoned or have beenforced to leave.

According to the United Nations, a total of about 19,000Palestinians have left Iraq since 2003, and only 15,000 remain.The Syrian and Jordanian authorities have thus far refused entry to the Palestinian refugees currently stranded in Al-Hol, Al-Tanaf, Al-Ruweishedand
Al-Walid refugee camps.

Here is how you can learn more and help out:


Al Awda, the US-based coalition for the Palestinian Right to Return is calling on all people of conscience to do the following:

Contact the US Department of State to demand that the American occupationforces in Iraq put an end to anti-Palestinian attacks. According to the Geneva Conventions, the US is obliged and expected to protect all civiliansin areas it is occupying by force.

Write and call Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at

Address: 2201 C St., N.W.Washington, DC 20520, Tel: 1-202-647-4000 Fax: 1-202-647-22832.

(In the UK we could write to Margaret Beckett, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or write to your own MP asking them to raise the issue with her).

Write and call the Syrian embassy in your own country to ask that the stranded Palestinians on Syria's borders be admitted into Syria without delay.

Write and call the Jordanian embassy in your country and ask that the Palestinian refugees stranded in Al-Ruweished camp be admitted into Jordanwithout any further delay

Write and call the Iraqi "embassy" and demand an immediate end to the persecution of Palestinian refugees in Iraq.

Write and call United Nations offices and demand that:-- The United Nations agencies do their utmost to ensure that the Palestinian population in Iraq is protected in the interim.

-- That UNRWA and UNHCR provide the refugees stranded at the Iraqi-Syrian and Iraqi-Jordanian border with shelter, basic and medical needs until their situation is resolved.

-- UNRWA and UNHCR help Syria and Jordan as needed, to admit the stranded Palestinians.

-- Demand that The United Nations act to ensure implementation of the inalienable natural, legal, individual and collective rights of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land of origin in Palestine per United Nations Resolution 194. This resolution has been affirmed more than 130 times by the United Nations General Assembly since 1948 with the imposition of the state of Israel, and the expulsion and dispossession of the refugees.

Write and Call H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, The Secretary General of the United Nations

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

PO Box 131352Carlsbad, CA 92013, USA

Tel: 760-685-3243 Fax: 360-933-3568


Monday, January 01, 2007

Answers to the Xmas Quiz

ON Christmas Eve we had the first of two quizzes for the holiday period,
Hope you found the questions an amusing diversion, and not too obscure.
Here are the answers to that first quiz, and some references if you want to follow up or refresh your memories:


1) Tele-evangelist Pat Robertson. .

2) Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey, since 1983 and unsuccessful contender for Liberal Democrat leadership. Peter Tatchell, defeated Labour candidate in Bermondsey after anti-gay witch hunt, said "let bygones be bygones".

3) Comedian Linda Smith, who died in February 2006.

4) US vice-President Dick Cheney.

5) John Reid, MP, became Home Secretary in May 2006.

6) The British National Party.

7) Dana Olmert was recognised among young people demonstrating outside the army commander's home over the killing of civilians in Gaza.

8) Birmingham MP Lynne Jones was held up with a womens 'delegation by an official who boasted he was called "the devil". The women had wanted to visit Ramallah, and deliver children's books including "Teddy's House" and "A Martian Comes to Stay".

9) Mel Gibson, is said to be inspired by the Society of Saint Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and has therefore been dubbed a "PXie" (Pronounced pixie)

10) Tommy Sheridan, MSP, formerly of the Scottish Socialist Party.

11) David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan attended the Holocaust revision conference in Tehran.

12) The post of director general, MI5.

True or False? Relatively speaking

1) True. George Lansbury and fellow-councillors in the London borough of Poplar were jailed in 1921, for witholding funds from the Metropolitan police rather than benefits from the borough's poor and unemployed. "Poplarism" became a term for councils resisting central government to serve their working-class electors.

2) True

3) False. Elsa Lanchester was born Elsa Sullivan in London. The brothers Fred and George Lanchester founded a car company in Birmingham, and gave their name to the Polytechnic in Coventry, but AFAIK were no relation to the film star.

4) False. Albert Finney's dad was a Salford bookie.

5) False. But Michael Manley's father Norman was the cousin of Alexander Bustamente.

Who lived there?

Which famous people once lived at these addresses?
1) Benjamin Disraeli. .
2) Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild, and later Lord Rosebery. In 1970 Mentmore was taken over by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for his Transcendental Meditation movement and became its seat of World Government.
3) Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.
4) George Bernard Shaw.
5) Peter and Helen Kroger (Morris and Lorna Cohen), Soviet spies, arrested in January 1961.
6) Anthony Aloysius Hancock, in the comedy series Hancock's Half Hour.

What do they make at...?

1) Pork pies.
2) Furniture, particularly chairs.
3) Locks.
4) Blankets.
5) Carpets.
6) Pencils.
7) Liquorice sweets, hence Pontefract Cakes.
8) Lace.

Out of the Ground

1) Jet.
2) China Clay, or kaolin..
3) Slate.
4) Blue John, or fluorite, used for ornaments and jewellery..
5) Iron ore, Haematite.
6) Gypsum.
7) Portland stone (limestone)
8) Oil
9) Silver


(1948) Rev WV Awdry, creator of the Railway Series of children's books featuring Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends.

(1956) Sir Anthony Eden, British PM who launched Suez war.

(1957) Nye Bevan, Labour shadow foreign secretary, opposing party conference resolution renouncing nuclear weapons.

(1979) Lord Louis Mountbatten

(no date, but born 1966) Eric Cantona

Yuletide knowledge

1) Bohemia (Czech Republic). Hence Wenceslas Square in Prague.
2) Southern coast of Turkey, but probably of Greek family.
3) Reindeer and Caribou are the same species.
4) Native American Indians.
5) Los Tres Reyes, the Three Kings. The tradition of celebrating the Epiphany, the visit of the Three Kings(or Magi, Wise Men) has spread through Hispanic cultures, e.g. Puerto Ricans.

Answers to our second Quiz at the weekend.
Hope all blog readers had a good holiday, and have a Happy New Year.