Monday, May 31, 2010

A war crime on the high seas

PROTESTS are taking place around the world over the Israeli government's act of piracy and murder against the flotilla taking humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. As so far reported, ten people were killed and dozens wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the vessels.

The attack came 90 miles offshore, in international waters. That makes it piracy. What will the governments that sent warships against Somali pirates do about Israeli state piracy? Will they raise even a finger of admonition on behalf of their own citizens on the ships, let alone the people of Gaza?

Or will they remain accomplices to Israel's crimes and Gaza's suffering?

On BBC news Israeli ambassador Regev affects indignation that some of his state's poor commandos were injured when passengers on the stormed vessels allegedly resisted. Cet animal est mechant. Quand on l'attaque, il se defends!

Here is a voice from the other Israel, from Gush Shalom, the peace bloc, and a veteran campaigner who is old enough to remember when Zionist ships ran the Royal Navy blockade of Palestine with arms and illegal immigrants, and were better treated.

Uri Avnery: This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command
A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists
It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do

"Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that - consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.

"No-one in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with," said former Knesset member Uri Avnery of the Gush Shalom movement. Gush Shalom activists together with activists of other organizations are to depart at 11:00 from Tel Aviv to protest in front of the prepared detention facility where the international peace activists will be brought.

Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers located in Cyprus, told Gush Shalom activists that the Israeli commandos landed by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.

This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel's already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.

Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza - but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.

It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not "disengage" from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.

The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy. It's time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza. Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue - and rightly so - to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there.

הודעה לעיתונות 31.5.2010

אורי אבנרי: בלב ים בוצע הלילה מעשה פשע בפקודת ממשלת ישראל ופיקוד צה"ל

התקפה מלחמתית על ספינות סיוע וירי קטלני על פעילי שלום וסיוע הומניטארי

היא מעשה מטורף שרק ממשלה שעברה כל גבול מסוגלת לעשותו

"רק ממשלה מטורפת שאיבדה כל רסן וכל קשר למציאות הייתה מסוגלת למעשה כזה – להתייחס לספינות הנושאות סיוע הומניטארי ופעילי שלום מכל רחבי העולם כאל אויב ולשלוח כוח צבאי אדיר כדי לתקוף אותן במים בינלאומיים, לירות ולהרוג. התירוצים השקרניים שמביאים דוברי הממשלה והצבא למעשה הזה לא ישכנעו איש בעולם" אומר חבר הכנסת לשעבר אורי אבנרי מתנועת גוש שלום. פעילים מגוש שלום ותנועות אחרות עומדים לצאת בשעה 11.00 מתל אביב לקיים הפגנת מחאה לפני מתקן המעצר אליו הובאו פעילי השלום הבינלאומיים.

גרטה ברלין, דוברת מארגני המשט הנמצאת בקפריסין, מסרה לפעילי גוש שלום כי חיילי הקומנדו הישראלים נחתו בהליקופטר על הספינות ופתחו מיד באש לעבר נוסעיהן.

זהו יום של חרפה למדינת ישראל, יום של חרדה בו אנו מגלים כי עתידנו הופקד בידי חבורה של אנשים חסרי כל אחריות שידם קלה על ההדק. זהו יום הוא יום של בושה וחרפה וגם שיגעון וטפשות ללא גבול, יום בו דאגה ממשלת ישראל להשחיר את שמה של המדינה בעולם כולו, לספק הוכחות חדשות ומוחצות לתדמית הכוחנית והברוטאלית שכבר יצאה לישראל בזירה הבינלאומית, לייאש ולהרחיק את מעט הידידים שעוד נותרו לה.

אכן, היום התבצעה פרובוקציה מול חופי עזה – אך הפרובוקטורים לא היו פעילי השלום שביקשו להגיע לעזה על פי הזמנתם ובקשתם המפורשת של התושבים הפלסטינים. את הפרובוקציה ביצעו ספינות חיל הים וחיילי הקומנדו, במצוותה של ממשלת ישראל, כאשר חסמו את דרכן של הספינות והפעילו כוח קטלני.

הגיע הזמן להסיר את המצור על רצועת עזה, הגורם סבל קשה לתושביה. היום קרעה ממשלת ישראל במו ידיה את המסכה מעל פניה וחשפה את העובדה כי מדינת ישראל לא "התנתקה" מעזה. מי שהתנתק באמת משטח אינו חוסם את הדרכים לשטח הזה ואינו שולח חיילים להרוג ולפצוע את כי מי משנסה הלגיע אליו.

מדינת ישראל התחייבה בהסכמי אוסלו לפני 17 שנה לאפשר וגם לעודד הקמת נמל עמוק מים בעזה, דרכו יוכלו הפלסטינים לייבא ולייצא באופן חופשי ולפתח את כלכלתם. הגיע הזמן לממש את ההתחייבות הזאת ולפתוח לרווחה את נמל עזה. רק ברגע שיפתח נמל עזה לתנועה חופשית ובלתי מופרעת, בדיוק כמו בנמל אשדוד ובנמל חיפה, תסתיים באמת התנתקותה של ישראל מרצועת עזה. עד אז, ימשיך העולם – ובצדק – לראות את רצועת עזה כנתונה לכיבוש ישראלי ואת מדינת ישראל כאחראית לגורל התושבים בה.

לפרטים: אורי אבנרי

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trial by torture in Israel "security" case

FAMILY of Palestinian Israeli citizen Ameer Makhoul, who was taken from his home in Haifa three weeks ago, have alleged that he has been tortured by his interrogators from the General Security Service (GSS), also known from its Hebrew initials as Shabak, or Shin Bet.

Makhoul, Director of Ittijah, a coalition of Palestinian Israeli community organizations, has not yet been charged with any crime. The Israeli government talks vaguely about "security" concerns, both to justify keeping information from the media and public, and to encourage rumours that the rights worker is some kind of "spy" endangering the State and fellow-citizens.

Omar Said, a pharmacist from Kafr Cana, near Nazareth, arrested at the same time as Makhoul, has been charged with being in contact with "foreign agents" -specifically, it was reported while on holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, he was approached by a Lebanese businessman, and that over coffee, the man said he was from Hezbollah and asked questions about the attitudes of Palestinians within Israel, and what they thought of Hezbollah. When he suggested Said could gather military information, Said, a member of the Balad party, said he was not the man for the job.

Under Israeli law, it is enough for the State to allege that you met foreign agents, without having to prove that you even knew they were agents, let alone helped them in any way. This was the case with a Jewish Israeli, Aharon Cohen, a member of the left-Zionist Mapam, and its expert on Arab affairs, jailed in 1958 over his contacts with someone he met at a Czech embassy reception.

In the case of the Lebanese person with whom Said, and perhaps Makhoul, allegedly had contacts, there are reasons to doubt that he had anything to do with Hezbollah, and suggestions he was an opponent of the party. Besides which, we have yet to hear what kind of military information the two would have had access to, even if they had agreed to obtain it.

Makhoul's lawyer was not allowed to see him for the first weeks of his arrest. Now his lawyers and his family, having seen him, assert that he has been tortured.

What follows, in its entirety, is a press statement from the family of Ameer Makhoul on his arrest and treatment, titled, “We Accuse.”

Today is the 21st day since the arrest of Ameer Makhoul at his home in Haifa, Israel, under the cover of darkness, by the International Crimes Investigation Unit and General Security Service (GSS or Shabak) officers. The arrest was conducted in a brutal and terrifying manner. Our house was raided, its contents ransacked, and various pieces of equipment and objectsof special value to us were confiscated. Violations of our fundamental rights to human dignity and privacy were committed, and physical, verbal and
psychological violence were employed against us and in front of our two daughters. On this day we, Ameer’s family, announce that we are extremely worried about what is happening to him and about the conditions of his detention.

We know that Ameer has suffered and continues to suffer from acute pains in his head, his back and in both of his legs as a result of the severe torture he was subjected to, in breach of his most basic human rights. These include the rights to sleep, drink and eat, and the rights to dignity and not to be exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment. His complete isolation from the outside world, the control exercised over him by the GSS interrogators, and his interrogation for hours and days on end without sleep, while in shackles and bound by his hands and feet to a low chair in a way that did not allow him to move, causing him severe pain, from which he still continues to suffer now, all resulted in his losing his sense of time and ability to think and concentrate, and in his mental disorientation. These methods are illegal under Israeli and international law.

Until today, 26 May, the court refused to allow Ameer’s attorneys to read the medical report written by a doctor who visited him twice during the interrogation. It also refused to allow an independent doctor sent from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel to examine him, as demanded by Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. These refusals raise concerns and questions about the information that the GSS, with the backing of the court, wants to conceal regarding his conditions of detention and their methods of interrogation.
What, we wonder, is the GSS hiding and why is it stalling? Is it in order to hide signs of the physical and psychological violence it has inflicted on him? And why has the court given its consent to these procedures?

What particularly worries us is that Ameer continues to complain of acute pains, and his eyesight has deteriorated, which has compelled him to ask for a stronger pair of glasses. The question is how and why this severely diminished eyesight was caused during his detention, and what the methods of interrogation were that led to this deterioration and to the pains he is complaining of.

The bigger questions are: What is the Israeli security establishment trying to cover up? Why is the court colluding with the GSS and concealing the conditions of detention and methods of interrogation/torture that have been used against Ameer?

Why did the court block the publication of the details of Ameer’s affidavit as it relates to the illegal methods of interrogation used against him, and which he spoke of before his lawyers in his initial meeting with them, held after around two weeks of being banned from access to legal counsel?

We appeal to the local and international communities and to individuals to continue to act quickly to put pressure on the Israeli government and legal system to open an independent investigation into the methods used by the GSS interrogators against Ameer, and to demand the indictment of those responsible for the use of torture against him. We also call on the local and international communities to consider any indictment by the GSS to have been fabricated and extorted under torture and gained solely by obstructing democratic freedoms and human rights. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law.

We call for demands on the Israeli authorities to immediately call off this trial, which is based on an investigation in which Ameer was prevented from defending himself in any genuine manner. Ameer was denied the basic human rights to which he is entitled under Israeli and international law. The independence of the judiciary and democratic freedoms were dangerously subjected to the dictates of the GSS in this case.

We greatly appreciate the community, institutional and individual solidarity with Ameer, local and international, and all efforts to defend his freedom.
We are aware of the importance of the role played by all political movements and political parties in challenging the circumstances of Ameer’s arrest, and this attack against the Arab public and its leadership, and on democratic freedom and human rights. We are also aware that the clear strategic choice of the Arab public in Israel has been and continues to be the that of unyielding and legitimate political struggle.

The fact is that Ameer Makhoul does not belong to any specific political
party. Rather, he reserves for himself an independent position, which is a clear indication that the main target of this attack is the Arab Palestinian public and their leadership, their rights and freedoms. Defending the freedom of Ameer and his rights as a detainee, and rejecting incitement against Arab citizens in light of his detention, are not an individual or class issue, but a national, democratic mission.

The real indictment is against the GSS and the Israeli establishment, which are trampling on democratic freedoms and human rights and resorting to illegal methods of interrogation and torture.

Janan Abdu, Partner of Ameer Makhoul (+972-54-756-2171)

Issam Makhoul, Brother of Ameer Makhoul (+972-50-551-0433) •

for latest on case and background, see:

Campaigners for Palestinian rights and a just peace point to a growing trend by the Zionist authorities to treat civil resistance as a military foe, and internal dissent as a "security threat", clamping down on opposition including Israeli Jews who seek co-existence rather than repression of the Palestinians. On the same day that an Israeli court ordered Mordechai Vanunu back to jail for "contact with foreigners", another Israeli, peace activist Ezra Nawi, was jailed for supposedly attacking a policeman, during a protest against a Palestinian home being destroyed.

Two campaigners against Israel's annexation wall, Jamal Jum'a and Mohammed Othman, were arrested. The military and border police have brutally attacked demonstrations in Bil'in and Ni'lin, unconcerned whether Israelis and internationals were among those upon whom they fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, and have followed up with night raids on homes in these villages.

A women's group accused of encouraging young people to refuse military service has had its premises raided by police, and been banned from speaking in schools. The New Israel Fund, which channels funds to social, humanitarian and civil rights groups, has become the target for both official and unofficial harassment.
Ironically, the Fund is condemned for taking funds from abroad ( in fact from donors in countries friendly to Israel ), while the campaign against it is spearheaded by Im Tirzu, a student organisation encouraged by the military and financed by extremist American christians! (It's best-known backer is Pastor John Hagee, who says Hitler was sent by God to hunt Jews out so they would have to go to Palestine).

This weekend the Israeli government is threatening to bomb a flotilla of humanitarian aid vessels attempting to break the blockade and bring succour to the embattled population of Gaza. Israeli officials say they will stop the boats from bringing aid - food, medicines, building materials, educational materials such as children's crayons - to an "enemy population". This siege, this war on an entire civil population, is a war crime. Governments which refuse to say, let alone do, anything about it, are the accomplices to the war criminals.

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Panahi freed but struggle continues

IRANIAN film maker Jafar Panahi has been freed from Tehran's Evin prison, on bail of $200,000 (£140,000) a week, after staging a week-long hunger strike, and attracting international sympathy and support.

At the Cannes international film festival, where he had been due to be a juror, French flm star Juliette Binoche held up a card with Jafar Panahi's name during her acceptance speech for best actress on Sunday, and attacked the Iranian regime for holding the director prisoner. "His fault is to be an artist, to be independent," she said.

Abbas Kiarostami,Iran's best-known director, also in Cannes, described Panahi's imprisonment as "an attack on art". Hollywood bi names like Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro, and Robert Redford joined the appeal for Panahi's release.

Panahi was arrested in March at his home in Tehran, together with his wife and daughter, who were later released. It is understood he refused bail at first, in solidarity with other people being held. A state prosecutor said the detention was not political. However, Iranian culture minister, Mohammad Hosseini, said last month that Panahi was detained for making an "anti-regime" film about last year's election unrest. He had previously been arrested for taking part in a memorial service for Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman allegedly shot dead by a government militiaman during post-election protests. He was then banned from leaving the country.

The 49-year old film maker is still not out of trouble with the regime. The Tehran prosecutor's office said that Panahi's file and the charges against him had been sent to a 'revolutionary' court that deals with security offences. It did not detail the charges.

Meanwhile, the Iranian regime continues to hold trade unionists like Tehran bus drivers' leader Mansour Osanlou. The bus drivers' union has made a call this year for co-ordinated action between the "green" opposition and the workers' movement. Hossein Sajedi, the Tehran police chief, has warned that security forces would confront any "illegal" protests on 12 June, the anniversary of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being declared the winner, amid angry protests that elections were rigged.

Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI), who campaigned for Jafar Panahi's freedom, and organised solidarity screenings of his film "Offside", in London, Manchester and Glasgow, have greeted the news of his release as a victory for his steadfastness as well as international support. Now HOPI is preparing to step up campaigning in solidarity with those struggling in Iran.

Save the Life of LGBT Activist Kiana Firouz

Kiana-Firouz-Cul-de-Sac1‘Iranian lesbian activist Kiana Firouz is currently seeking asylum in the United Kingdom after a controversy over the upcoming release of Cul de Sac. The film, which stars Firouz and includes explicit lesbian sex scenes, is based heavily on Firouz’s life and struggles as a lesbian in Iran. Directors Ramin Goudarzi-Nejad and Mahshad Torkan posted the trailer on YouTube in December 2009 (below, NSFW) and since then, the Iranian government has attempted to deport Firouz back to Iran to be tried and punished for her crime of homosexuality. Firouz applied for refugee status in the UK, but was rejected.

If she is not granted asylum in the UK, she will be sent back to Iran, where the minimum punishment for homosexuality is 100 lashes. The punishment for “unrepentant” homosexuality, which Firouz’s LGBTQ activism clearly demonstrates, is public execution by hanging.

To sign a petition asking for asylum in the UK endorsed by Firouz herself, click here:

To see the trailer for Cul de Sac, click here:

Send a letter asking for amnesty for Firouz here:
Minister of State (Borders and Immigration) -
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 870 336 9034

Secretary of State for the Home Department -
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Fax: +44 20 7035 0900

A form letter can be found here:’

From: Save the Life of LGBT Activist Kiana Firouz campaign


Monday, May 24, 2010

Nuclear whistleblower sent back to jail as more evidence indicts the Nobel prize criminal Peres

Mordechai Vanunu

His signature below that of PW Botha

Mordechai Vanunu, the technician from Dimona who blew the whistle on
Israel's nuclear weapons, and spent eighteen years in prison for it,
the first eleven in solitary, is back in prison again.
The 56-year old Israeli is beginning a new three-month sentence
for the "crime" of having unauthorised meetings with foreigners,
one of them being his Norwegian girlfriend.

"I survived eighteen years - I could survive another six",
Vanunu declared defiantly to a Jerusalem district court on Sunday.
"Are you trying to discipline me? You cannot take my freedom
of expression away ... You won't get from me in three months
what you didn't get in 18 years."

"Shame on you, Israel, and the stupid Shin Bet and Mossad spies
who are returning me to jail after 24 years in which I have spoken
only the truth," he shouted, before he was led away.

Vanunu was kidnapped and taken back secretly to Israel after
giving his story about nuclear weapons produced at the Dimona
plant to the Sunday Times in London, in 1986.
During his long years in solitary there were times
when even his family members were not allowed to visit.

Since his release he has been under strict orders as to
where he can go and who he can speak to, and not
allowed to leave Israel. Amnesty International has
now declared Vanunu a prisoner of conscience, saying
the draconian rules which he had allegedly broken can
not be considered "conditions of parole", as the Israeli
authorities claimed, since he had already served his
sentence when these were imposed.

Arrested while meeting his Norwegian friend at a
Jerusalem hotel, Vanunu was initially sentenced to
six months, which was reduced on appeal to three.
Given the option of community service, he asked
to do this in Arab East Jerusalem, where he was less
likely to be harassed or attacked by Zionist thugs,
but this option was refused.

"Shame on you Israel," Vanunu said: "The stupid
Shin Bet and Mossad spies are putting me back in
prison after 24 years of speaking nothing but the
truth. Shame on you democracy, the Knesset,
synagogues and the world media. Shame on you
all the Arabs that are allowing me to be put back
in prison. Shame on you Senate, congress, and the
chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency
for not protecting my freedom. Shame on you all the
world's religions, the stupid spies, the Jews, Christians
and Muslims."

"Everyone knows that Israel has nuclear weapons but
no one
is talking about it," he said. The world doesn't
want nuclear
weapons – not in Israel, not in the Middle
East and not
anywhere in the world."

While Israel's best-known prisoner of conscience is back in prison,
its Nobel peace prize winning president Shimon Peres was trying
to deny clear evidence of his part in agreeing to supply
South Africa with nuclear weapons, back in the days of its apartheid regime
and war on neighbouring countries.

Hitherto secret South African documents obtained by American
academic Sasha Polakov-Suransky include minutes of meetings
between senior officials in 1975. They show that South Africa's
defence minister, PW Botha, asked for nuclear warheads and
Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister, responded by
offering them "in three sizes".
The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing
military ties between the two countries that included a clause
declaring that "the very existence of this agreement"
was to remain secret.

The documents show both sides met on 31 March 1975.
Polakow-Suransky writes in his book published in the US this week,
The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's secret alliance with apartheid South Africa.
At the talks Israeli officials "formally offered to sell South Africa some
of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal".

Among those attending the meeting was the South African military
chief of staff, Lieutenant General RF Armstrong.
He immediately drew up a memo in which he laid out the benefits of South Africa obtaining the Jericho missiles but only if they were fitted with nuclear weapons.

The memo, marked "top secret" and dated the same day as the meeting
with the Israelis, has previously been revealed but its context was not fully
understood because it was not known to be directly linked to the Israeli offer
on the same day and that it was the basis for a direct request to Israel.
In it, Armstrong writes:
"In considering the merits of a weapon system such as the one being offered,
certain assumptions have been made:
a) That the missiles will be armed with nuclear warheads manufactured
in RSA (Republic of South Africa) or acquired elsewhere."

On 4 June, Peres and Botha met in Zurich. By then the Jericho project
had the codename Chalet. The minutes of the meeting record that:
"Minister Botha expressed interest in a limited number of units of
Chalet subject to the correct payload being available."
The document then records:
"Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes.
Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice."
The "three sizes" are believed to refer to the
conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons.

The use of a euphemism, the "correct payload", reflects Israeli
sensitivity over the nuclear issue.
It can only have meant nuclear warheads as Armstrong's
memorandum makes clear South Africa was interested in the
Jericho missiles solely as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.

South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly
with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology
only grew over the following years.
South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that
Israel required to develop its weapons.
The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval
commander, Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union.
After his release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an
agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer
to arm eight Jericho missiles with "special warheads".
Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs.
But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.

Some weeks before Peres made his offer of nuclear warheads to Botha,
the two defence ministers signed a covert agreement governing the military
alliance known as Secment. It was so secret that it included a denial of its
own existence:
"It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this agreement..
. shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party".

Reports of Israeli-South African military co-operation,
such as the supply of fast patrol boats, did start to circulate in the years
after the secret talks, along with allegations of nuclear co-operation,
initially implicating West Germany.
South African-occupied Nambia was a major source of uranium ore,
and during the war there and in neighbouring Angola there were
rumours of Israeli officers, heard speaking to each other in Hebrew
on South African military radio.

It has been suggested that the Mossad may have pointed South
African agents towards Egyptian Jewish communist Henri Curiel
as the source of secret information.
Curiel, who had links to underground anti-Apartheid fighters
as well as making contacts between Israeli
peaceniks and the PLO, was murdered in Paris in 1978.

Israel is believed to have over 200 nuclear warheads, and has
never signed the non-proliferation treaty. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu has been calling for stronger international
sanctions against Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons plans.
Ironically, Israel might have offered to help Iran acquire nuclear
weapons during the Shah's regime.

Tomorrow, May 25, Pantheon Books in the US will publish
The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With
Apartheid South Africa, by Sasha Polakov Suransky.

see Chris McGreal report:

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Forget the Stunt, Support the Strike!

BRITISH Airways cabin crew resume their industrial action tomorrow, with a five day strike action. The workers succeeded last week at the High Court in having the ban on their strike lifted, and yesterday talks between the Unite union and BA at the conciliation service ACAS were halted, apparently after an invasion led by members of the Socialist Workers Party.

Police were called to ACAS headquarters after the SWP-led invaders, who had been attending a Right to Work conference, managed to get through security and reach the 23 rd floor, where the 11th hour talks were taking place. Shouting abuse at British Airways boss Willie Walsh, and chanting slogans, the protesters ignored Unite's Tony Woodley, who told them to "shut up".

Describing the invaders as "lunatics" and "idiots" who were not members of Unite, Tony Woodley said the meeting had been an opportunity to avert 15 days of strikes that will cost the airline "up to £100m".

"Negotiations have not broken down, they have been broken up. We have made some progress, but there is more to do," he said. "This was a complete waste of an early-evening. I am so disappointed… those idiots think they are helping, but they are outsiders. They are lunatics."

Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at Acas who had been chairing the talks, said the protesters managed to get into a secure area being used for the negotiations and then surrounded Walsh as he tried to call his colleagues on his mobile phone. Harwood called the police and managed to help move the BA boss to another floor away from the demonstrators, before Walsh was taken out of the building via a rear exit. Harwood said there was no violence during the demonstration but it was "intimidating".

Exactly what the demonstrators hoped to achieve is not clear. Perhaps it was not clear to them. Presumably they wanted to help the BA workers, and may have felt Unite leaders too ready to make concessions. But there has been no suggestion that BA workers asked for "help" of this kind, or that they were opposed to the union entering negotiations. Quite the contrary.

There has been widespread public sympathy for the BA workers, against bullying management, which has taken away travel concessions and victimised union members. But now the media have been able to present Willie Walsh as the victim of "bullying"! (On BBC 1 's Andrew Marr show today, Tony Parsons referred twice to "sandal-wearing" bullies. I'm no fashion expert and I couldn't see from the film clip what the protestors had on their feet, but surely if they had intended bullying anybody they'd have worn steel toecaps or at least Doc Martins?)

Many people on the Left, including former Socialist Workers Party members, are saying the ACAS invasion was a stupid stunt and criticising those who organised it for trying to substitute themselves and their ideas for the will of the workers. (I've not seen an SWP statement, and I know not all those involved were from the SWP, but such SWP comments as I've seen are happy to claim it. Whether other SWP members are all happy with it, perhaps we'll see.) But the only idea advanced here is that it was a good opportunity to shout at Willie Walsh.

The Right to Work campaign was set up after the SWP found itself playing second fiddle to the Socialist Party and others in the National Shop Stewards Network. I can't help suspecting that after several recent disappointments, and the departure of well-known leading members, and feeling irrelevant in upcoming elections in Unite and the Labour Party, the SWP leaders might not have been averse to a stunt to steal some limelight, and even hope that any resultant unpopularity will strengthen the loyalty of their members.

Or maybe they just felt that since such fun and games works in student matters, they could try it in the trade union movement.

Whatever the thinking - if any -involved, it seems to have done nothing to help the airline workers, nor to hit BA, and was just a nuisance to the union. The danger now is that the SWP's antics will be exploited to attack the entire left, both in the unions and the Labour Party.

In 1963 a bunch of supporters of what became the SWP disrupted a Labour Party May Day rally in Scotland, challenging right-winger George Brown on the platform. The Labour leadership launched a witch hunt, starting in Scotland, against the left in the Young Socialists. But ironically, the group which had been involved in the original incident, around the paper 'Young Guard' , quietened down and while other people were being expelled, became known as "young moderates"!

The union and BA are being contacted by Acas to try to resurrect the talks. Sources said that "some progress" had been made before the interruption. In a strange twist, BA criticised Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, for sending Twitter messages throughout the afternoon which gave a "running commentary" of the negotiations. The airline said: "We are astonished that Derek Simpson feels it appropriate to Tweet to the world a running commentary of some very delicate negotiations on a Saturday afternoon aimed at averting strikes which will impact on thousands of hard-working families wanting to go on half-term holidays and the job security of his members."

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Will Labour ever take on the power of the rich?

WORKERS from what's left of Fords, Dagenham, on May Day march. Still proud of traditions of workers unity and solidarity, which New Labour preferred forgotten.

I sent a letter to the Guardian last week, after they printed an article by the Labour MP for Dagenham, John Cruddas, in which, while denying any intention of running for the Labour Party leadership, he urged the party to refocus its policies. Cruddas referred to a swing away by skilled workers, claimed immigration had been used as a "21st century incomes policy", and appeared to blame low pay and job insecurity, if not on immigrants (he was talking to Guardian readers) then on Labour's unwillingness to challenge "liberal assumptions and the business lobby".

I think I got his drift. Cruddas, mind you, has been presented as union-friendly, even a possible candidate of the 'Left', and I suppose considering the government we've got now, it is "left" to see anything wrong in low pay and job insecurity. Didn't they oppose a minimum wage, and aren't they intent on sackings, for the good of "the country", naturally?

But seeing where Cruddas seemed to misplace blame, I wrote the following:

Dear Sir,

It is strange that having beaten off the British National Party, Jon Cruddas MP should fall into the trap of blaming job losses and falling living standards on immigration
(Hand on heart, I do not want to be Labour leader.Guardian, May 17).

It was not because of immigrants that the Ford Motor Company decided to cease production in John Cruddas' Dagenham constituency. Nor did their presence or otherwise deter Burberry from moving abroad, or influence the removal of Wedgwood from what we used to call the Potteries. It was not immigrants who took away the jobs of miners in that area.

It is true that some employers profitably exploit migrant workers as cheap labour, but Britain's immigration controls, offering the threat of internment and deportation, have made such exploitation easier. One has only to look at one London college where the cleaners had no sooner organised in the union than they were raided by border controls early one morning.

Workers rights and living standards have been undermined by the freedom which successive governments have given to capitalist employers, coupled with the restrictions imposed on workers and their unions. We saw this when British Airways having outsourced catering to Gate Gourmet, the latter firm replaced members of my union, TGWU Unite, with casual labour, and the union laws prevented fellow-union members at the airport from taking action. These Tory laws, which Labour lovingly preserved, are now once more in the hands of the Tories, and British Airways cabin staff are seeing their rights taken away by the judges. With Tory promises of deregulation in industry, and cuts in HSE inspections it soon won't only be rights that are lost.

John Cruddas rightly refers to the Labour government's decision not to act for the rights of agency workers. Indeed the leaders obstructed parliament even debating this issue. We have not forgotten that one MP did try to raise it, just as he attempted to introduce a modest Trade Union Freedom bill. If there's to be a real contest for Labour leadership, in which issues that matter can be raised, then step forward again the Member for Hayes and Harlington!

yours sincerely,

Charles Pottins

That was on Tuesday, and the good news of course is that by the time it should have appeared in print, the man from Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell MP, had announced he had decided to stand, making his announcement appropriately in a speech to the conference of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS), whose members are in the frontline of the fight to defend services and jobs.
John McDonnell, who increased his majority in the general election, is known for siding with workers in struggle, trying to introduce a trade union freedom bill, opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and calling for privatisations to be reversed, bring the railways and public utilities for example back into public hands.

He gets a good response when he speaks to meetings of trade unionists of course. And on Friday evening his views, delivered quietly and with modest humour, seemed to go down well with the audience on BBC Radio Four's 'Any Questions', coming from the Gower, in south Wales.

If, as several people, including latecomer to the action Diane Abbott assure us, John McDonnell has not even got a chance of getting enough nominations from Labour MPs to get on the ballot paper, what would that say about Labour, or at least about Labour MPs?

Yesterday's Guardian had an article by Jon Harris suggesting "The new motto: immigration, immigration, immigration", telling us "Some Labour people have settled on a daft strategy:outflank the Lib-Cons from the right, to satisfy the proles". In other words, if you meet someone on the doorstep, probably a Sun reader, who knows something's wrong and can only think of blaming "immigrants", don't whatever you do start talking to them about capitalism and the banks, just nod along and report you have found the secret of saving jobs - your own, that is.

If a woman in Rochdale asks "where are all these east European workers coming from?", don't answer "er ...Eastern Europe?" (or explain how Labour,having supported the expansion eastward of the European Union, intends to stop Brits buying property there or workers displaced by capitalism coming here). If workers at an oil refinery or power station site protest about employers breaking agreements and bringing in contract migrant labour, treat it as the press did, as a matter of the workers' nationality, not the employers' mendacity.

Whatever you do don't blame the rich.

Let the bankers and gamblers with other people's money and lives sit back and enjoy the fun, whatever damage they have done.

"Labour's danger is not that long-imagined lurch to the left,"warns Harris, but an ugly and reactionary step in the opposite direction".

If that were to happen, it would give Nick Griffin and co. the last laugh, be the ruin of the Labour party, and set the working class back a century, unless it was stopped. The way to stop it now is to give John McDonnell our support.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

New inquest into death of Jerry Duggan

A north London family's long, dogged fight for truth and justice for the death of their son was given a step forward today, when the High Court ordered a fresh inquest on Jeremiah Duggan. Lord Justice Elias said it must investigate evidence of "foul play".

Jeremiah Duggan, 22, from Golders Green, was studying at the Sorbonne and the British Institute in Paris when his concern at the impending Iraq war led him to attend what he took to be an international peace conference in Germany, in March 2003. He had heard about it through a paper called Nouvelle Solidarite.

What Jeremiah did not know was that Nouvelle Solidarite, and the Schiller Institute which hosted the conference, were fronts for American cult leader and convicted fraudster Lyndon LaRouche. But when the student heard people at the conference seeming to blame the war on Jews, he spoke up, saying that he was Jewish.

Exactly what happened afterwards we do not know.

Except that Jerry phoned home that night, saying that he was in "big trouble", and "frightened". And the next morning his dead body was found on the B455 motorway outside Wiesbaden, some miles from where he'd been staying.

A German inquest found he killed himself, apparently by running out into traffic. This was disputed by a British coroner in November 2003,who found that Jerry Duggan had been in a "state of terror", but accepted that the cause of death was head injuries after running into traffic. Unfortunately this inquest did not adjourn for fresh evidence.

Lord Justice Elias, sitting with Mr Justice Aikenhead, said fresh evidence suggested that the death may have occurred elsewhere and the accident "stage managed" to look like a road accident. It was alleged, said the judge, that one member of the LaRouche group had told his mother: "We have hunted him down... it is right that he is dead, he is a traitor and a spy."

Forensic experts who studied the evidence found the vehicles had been moved after the alleged accident, contrary to police procedure. Neither of them showed any biological traces such as might have been expected from hitting a body at speed. Nor were there any tire marks on Jeremiah Duggan's body or clothes.

Light brown sand on Jeremiah's jeans was similar to that between the treads of the vehicles' tires. But there was no sand like this on that stretch of motorway. That suggested the student and the cars might have been somewhere else, and the body was then taken to the place where it was found.

An expert who studied Jeremiah's head injuries thought they would have been caused by numerous repeated blows, rather than being struck by a vehicle. Lack of biological traces on the damaged vehicle windscreen suggested that rather than hitting a person, it could have been broken deliberately with a crowbar or some such implement so as to fake the appearance of an accident.

Juustice Elias said: "It is sufficient that fresh evidence here could alter the verdict.

"It puts in issue whether or not there may have been foul play.

"It is necessary that this fresh inquest is held if for no other reason than to seek to allay the suspicions naturally raised by the evidence which has now been produced to the court."

Following the ruling, Jeremiah Duggan's mother, Mrs Erica Duggan said: "The judge gave a brilliant judgment. No country has investigated my son's death properly as yet.

"The German state has failed us. The British state has an obligation to establish how Jeremiah died."

She hoped that the German authorities will reopen the case following this ruling.

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John McDonnell the only serious socialist candidate

WITH the workers. Diane Abbott says other candidates "look the same", but these women in John McDonnell's constituency know the difference.

LAST weekend I was in Blackpool, attending the annual conference of trades union councils. As you might expect our agenda was much taken up with the fight against anti-union laws, cuts and privatisation. Motions had been prepared well in advance, but trades unionists knew what we faced whoever won the general election, and the Tory-Lib Dem government's formation only added edge to it.

On the Friday evening, we had a reception and rally at the Blackpool Trades and Labour Club. The excellent nosh laid on by our hosts, and washed down with a pint or two, made for a congenial atmosphere, but we still had a serious albeit good-natured debate on the election result and the opening contest for leadership of the Labour Party. Disagreeing with the brother who argued from the poor showing of left-wingers outside Labour that workers had rallied to defend "our party", but also with those who argued that we should turn our backs on Labour, I said the damage done by New Labour under Blair and Brown had left many people confused as to what was our class, let alone party, but workers who nevertheless turned out this time to vote Labour did so to stop the BNP and Tories.

Criticising union leaders who remained loyal to the Blair-Brown leadership despite the blows and insults we had experienced, I also noted how left-wingers like John McDonnell, who tried to introduce a Trade Union Freedom Bill, had done quite well in the elections, increasing their majorities. There was applause when I expressed the hope that John McDonnell would make another challenge for the Labour leadership. I added that we need to build a socialist alternative both inside and outside the Labour Party.

While I was away in Blackpool, members of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) were holding a one-day conference in London on the Saturday, together with the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the National Union of Journalists, Labour Briefing, Right to Work Campaign and others, on the theme "Join the Resistance!". Resistance that is to privatisation, job losses and cuts. This too had been prepared before the election, but in the knowledge that working people were facing a fight whichever of the main parties got in. And the following day, the LRC met and issued a statement urging John McDonnell to renew his challenge for the Labour Party.

With past experience, and the knowledge that Labour fixers had given limited time to get the necessary nominations from Labour MPs, John McDonnell had no illusions that this would be easy, but his supporters' enthusiasm overcame any reluctance, and he announced he would be standing. Yesterday, LRC supporters and friends were mobilising to raise support from trades unionists and write letters to MPs, asking them to nominate John even if they would not be voting for him, so he could get his name on the ballot paper. As he says, the important thing is to have a variety of candidates, and raise discussion on the political issues.

A letter supporting John McDonnell's nomination is going to the press, and having added my name as a union member, I am pleased to say that a quick consultation among my fellow members of Brent Trades Union Council produced agreement that not only should my colleague Pete Firmin, a post office worker, sign as Brent TUC president, but that we are adding our name as a trades council.

I know, incidentally, that Pete will be counting on our support -and that of MPs like John McDonnell - against the Con-Dem coalition's plans for Royal Mail privatisation. We would not take it from Major, or Mandelson, so why should we take it from Vince Cable? But looking at it another way, how can unions like mine, which have put millions into Labour coffers, seriously fight Tory-Lib.Dem policies, while leaving undisturbed those leaders who have been identified with the same kind of policies in the Labour Party?

Last time round, while John McDonnell was addressing enthusiastic meetings of trades unionists up and down the country, our union leaders largely connived at Gordon Brown's coronation. After Brown led Labour to defeat while McDonnell, openly opposed to official Labour, increased his majority, it would be harder for union leaders to justify their so-called realism. The announcement by John Cruddas MP, the supposedly union-trusted "centre-Left", that he was not standing, made the choices clearer still.

At which point, who steps forward to confuse the issues, but Diane Abbott, MP (Hackney North), a member of the "left" MPs Campaign Group which failed to support John McDonnell's previous attempt to challenge Gordon Brown. Announcing that she is standing, Abbott plays on her identity as a black woman (the first elected to the British parliament), remarking that the other candidates "look the same". She appears to have support and encouragement from the faceless, secretive Socialist Action group, previously best- known for surrounding Ken Livingstone with highly-paid advisers when he was mayor of London. I remember a friend of mine in Hackney Labour Party telling me that Socialist Action were very angry with him for moving a resolution criticising Diane Abbott's decision to send her child to a private school. I wonder how many working-class black women in Hackney, one of the country's poorest boroughs, can identify with that, or with the Ms.Abbott seen on TV staying pally with Tory Michael Portillo?

So far, the people I've seen saying they will support Diane Abbott on Facebook seem to be white students, and fairly new to Labour politics. I'm sure they mean well, but maybe they have been to sociology lectures and "awareness" classes, and are confusing "representation" in the political sense with that in social samples.
"Political correctness" may be over-used as a sneer from racialists and reactionaries, but it is still not the same as correct politics.

John McDonnell, incidentally, has graciously welcomed Abbott's candidature, as broadening the contest, in effect saying the more the merrier. But conceding that of course she has the right to stand, we are entitled to our opinion of whether she should have done, and whether she deserves support or not.

Sophie's Choice

And, here reaching me courtesy of Labour Representation Committee stalwart Marsha Jane, who is of course championing John McDonnell, is what another blogger, and leading member of the National Union of Students, Sophie Buckland, has to say:

This morning Diane Abbott declared her candidacy for the Labour leadership election. The talk across the net now is that John McDonnell ought to withdraw to ensure Abbott gets the 33 nominations needed to get on the ballot paper. I think that’s wrong, and here’s why. First off, to deal with the politics of representation. Of course, were there to be two genuine left candidates with similar politics, you’d argue for the white man to step down in favour of the black woman. But we’re not in this situation.

It makes me spittingly angry that Abbott is using claims about ‘representation’ across the media to back up her campaign. She said twice on BBC News that the problem with the current candidates is ‘they all look the same’, and made claims that she could re-energise women workers and ethnic minority workers, bringing them back to Labour. But representation is about so much more than not ‘looking the same’ (remember Thatcher?).

Much will be made by the media of Abbott’s decision to send her child to private
school, especially after she publicly castigated those in the Blairite elite who did the same. Quite aside from the headlines (Politician Is Hypocrite Shocker!), this matters. Abbott claims to represent Hackney, to be a class fighter interested in “women and ethnic minority workers’” struggles. Yet she effectively condemned all those working and fighting in Hackney’s schools, by very publicly judging them not good enough for her son. This is a workers’ wage issue: very much like the principle that parliamentary representatives should only take an average workers’ salary, they ought to share the living standards and service provision of those they claim to represent. Abbott doesn’t do this, and she didn’t launch a fight to level-up schooling for all. Instead, she participated in the system of educational privilege that churns out the bosses, bankers and top politicians of tomorrow, effectively shouting a big ‘fuck you’ at Hackney’s teachers, education workers and the vast majority of its populace who have no such choice to opt-out. (Interestingly, while we’re on the subject of privilege, John McDonnell is the only candidate to have declared who wasn’t educated at Oxford or Cambridge).

Of course, Abbott also isn’t great on the other aspects of real representation. She appears to be rather too interested in being a celebrity, raking in thousands of pounds a month for appearances on the This Week, cosied up to Portillo. Meanwhile John McDonnell visited Climate Camp, supported scores of striking workers and has consistently fought against cuts and privatisation, voting against every Blairite attack on the working class and getting stuck in to organising too. Where was Abbott? Not doing a great job of backing workers by all accounts. Abbott supported the privatisation of the East London Line despite being in the Parliamentary group of the RMT union. While rail workers in Hackney and beyond organised against this attack on their conditions and our public services, Abbott failed even to sign their Early Day Motion opposing the privatisation. Nice left-wing credentials there.

Checking what issues she has supported is difficult, given how much is a mixture
of two sides. Look at the record here: - moderately against an investigation into the Iraq War - a mixture of for and against allow ministers to intervene in inquests - a mixture of for and against introducing ID cards - moderately for equal gay rights - moderately against introducing student top-up fees Now go look at John McDonnell’s record. ‘Moderately’ isn’t left. I’m not saying that Abbott isn’t preferable to the Milibands or Balls; on many measures she probably is. But socialists cannot let the politics of representation be used as a figleaf for a poor political record, or, worse, be used to draw support away from a genuine left candidate. And the fact remains that Abbott has come out gunning for McDonnell, declaring on the BBC that he has ‘conceded’ he can’t get the nominations (a correction had to be broadcast later) – why, if she’s not a spoiler candidate, did she choose to stand against a ‘fellow’ socialist, denigrate his chances publicly and not get involved earlier to organise a candidacy both camps could support? That’s pretty suspicious whatever your politics. Continue to support McDonnell. On Abbott, I call fake left.

Originally posted over at Sophie's blog:

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Law isn't always an ass!

I'M sorry I missed a good day in the High Court today and I imagine, a good drink with friends afterwards. Mr.Justice Eady struck out the libel case being brought by Tower Hamlets Tory activist Johanna Kaschke against journalist and blogger David Osler.

He did so on grounds of "abuse of process".

I'm not well up on law, and won't attempt an interpretation of this. I did attend court the other week when the lawyer acting for Dave Osler made application for the case to be struck. Judge Eady suggested to Ms.Kaschke that since the differences between anything she had said and anything Mr.Osler had allegedly said about her were slight, and as he had been prepared to withdraw anything that was wrong, it seemed pointless to go to the expense of a jury trial.

Kaschke replied at some length, saying she had already devoted time and expense to bringing the case, that her business had suffered, and so on. She did not accept the judge's suggestion that this was good reason to stop now. Later, she seemed to question whether Dave Osler had referred accurately to an article from Der Spiegel which had appeared, then disappeared, from her own blog site. Claiming her link with fundraising for Rote Hilfe, which assisted members of the Baader-Meinhof group, had only come about through her musical interests, she went on to refer to details of a police raid and court case in Germany, which, as the judge pointed out happened thirty years ago.

It sounded interesting but I could not understand its relevance to the present case. Nor I suspect could Mr.Justice Eady, though he listened with patience, as I suppose is his job.

Anyway, you read the full details of his decision at:

Johanna Kaschke is needless to say, not a happy woman, as she makes clear amid her rejoicing at the advent of David Cameron's Tory-Liberal Democrat government, though she finds comfort in Judge Eady not having issued an order forbidding her from pursuing further cases:
"A gagging order would make it clear to the world, that if my name was added to the banned souls in the British legal system that there is no fair justice in this country. the Left are already allowed to run havoc with people’s reputation and get away with whatever they like; is it any wonder that Karl Marx chose London as his second home when the Germans had thrown him out".

The odd thing is, well one of the odd things about this case, that three years ago when Dave Osler was supposed to have libelled Johanna Kaschke, he had no reason to think she was not one of those Lefties whom she now complains are running around, protected by British justice. (Karl Marx, incidentally, was the bringer of a successful libel suit, not the subject of one).

It all started when then comrade Kaschke had obtained but one vote, having offered herself to be shortlisted as a Labour parliamentary candidate (With Bethnal Green and Limehouse both now having returned Labour MPs, just think what we have missed!) Upset by rejection, she joined George Galloway's Respect, and then a Communist Party, before moving on to.. the Tory party! All in one year.

But meanwhile, having offended her, Dave Osler offered her the right of reply, as he said was the custom within the Left and the labour movement. In court the other week, Johanna Kaschke cited this to argue that he had not really offered her the right of reply, as she was not a socialist.

Indeed, not only has Kaschke included speeches by Margaret Thatcher about socialism on her blog,
but she has taken exception, both in court and her blog, to the accusation that she ever had connections with left-wing extremists.
"..., there is no evidence whatsoever in the extensive paperwork I provided that I was ever accused of links to left-wing extremists by the German authorities. I have got a letter from the German Attorney General to proof that point. I do not know why Eady J chose to ignore that evidence".
(note that emphasis, it is in the original)

That might be misinterpreted, but I will leave it to Ms.Kaschke to keep on digging. She has some more cases pending.

Last time I blogged about Johanna Kaschke I was impressed by the number of committees for which she managed to find time, but also by her wide-ranging knowledge of subjects including the Knights Templar, and significant numbers. I'm surprised she did not notice that yesterday was the 13th.

As it is, suggesting that blogger Dave is some kind of media Goliath, she has commented ruefully: " I think it is amazing how well Mr Osler’s publicity machinery is organised to give interviews after the hearing and put it on YouTube straightaway, for that extra bit of publicity".

Yeah. Amazing what some people can do with a laptop and/or a

I wonder, though, without any of this litigation, how many people would have noticed, let alone remembered what Dave Osler said in a blog, three years ago about an obscure East End character, and a long spent German court case? Far from silencing him, the case has amplified the issue through a large number of other blogs and into the news media. Maybe this will give some others reaching for their libel writs pause for thought.

Jack of Kent: What the Osler Decision Means

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Protests over hangings in Iran

PROTESTS are continuing over the executions in Iran of five political prisoners, including a leading Kurdish teacher and trade unionist, Farzad Kamangar, one of whose letters from prison we include below.

Students in Manchester intend holding a vigil for the Iranian hangman's victims tomorrow, at the Students Union at 1pm. There have been protests in Tehran called by the victim's families, and left-wing Iranians protested at their country's embassy in London.

Teachers' union organisations internationally have condemned the hangings, and the general secretary of Britain's Trade Union Congress(TUC), Brendan Barber, wrote this letter to the Iranian ambassador:

The HE Mr Rasoul Movahedian


Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

16 Prince's Gate

London SW7 1PT

Dear Ambassador
The execution of Farzad Kamangar, teacher and trade unionist

I am writing to you on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national centre for British trade unions, with 58 affiliated unions and 6.3 million members, to protest at the execution on Sunday of teacher and trade unionist Farzad Kamangar.

The TUC has been informed that Farzad Kamangar, together with four other prisoners, was executed on Sunday 9 May. He was sentenced after a court process which did not meet international or Iranian standards for a fair trial.

The TUC is opposed to the death penalty and unequivocally condemns the execution. It also denounces the inhumane treatment of Farzad Kamangar's family, who were not even informed before the execution took place. On Mother's Day, his mother was not even allowed to say goodbye to him.

The TUC has consistently denounced the persistent repression of trade unionists and all Iranians who do not share the views of the government. The brutal execution of Farzad Kamangar confirms the repressive nature of the Iranian regime, and your government's complete lack of respect for international obligations or human rights.

The TUC will support the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to which we are affiliated, in its complaint to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association about this gross violation of the principles of the ILO.

The TUC will call on its affiliates to denounce this inhumane act, and show solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters. In that respect, we continue to express concern about the other teachers and trade unionists languishing in Iran's jails, such as bus workers leaders Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi.

I cannot emphasise enough the damage that this execution has done to the reputation of Iran and your government.

I urge you to let your government know how abhorrent British people feel this execution to have been, and urge your government to halt any further escalation of trade union repression and human rights abuses against trade union members.

Yours sincerely


General Secretary

The Iranian authorities had variously accused the prisoners of being "enemies of god" and terrorist offences, but both the trials and executions were conducted in secret, and Farzad Kamangar's family were not even informed that he was being put to death.

Karmangar was not only a trades unionist, but an educator and writer, speaking out for the poor and oppressed in Iran. His letters from death row are likely to be published and become classics of political literature, one day taught in Iranian schools. Here is one from last month, concerned about the rights of the Kurds and other peoples in Iran:

We Are People Too: A Letter by Farzad Kamangar, Imprisoned Teacher Sentenced to Execution

April 16, 2010

Farzad Kamangar was executed on May 9, 2010, along with four other prisoners.

A Letter by Farzad Kamangar, Imprisoned Teacher Sentenced to Execution

“We Are People Too”
The purpose of this letter is not to pinpoint the problems of the Kurds and deny the inequalities that exist among the Baluchis, Turks, Persians, and Arabs. By adopting a sympathetic comradely toward others, one can regard themselves as a religious or ethnic minority, and thereby recognize the pains of others. We are people too.

The Kurdish story is the story of the woman who gets nothing from her matrimony but insults and beatings. When her husband was asked, “You don’t really pay for her expenses nor do you show any love to her, so why do you beat and belittle her every day?” He replied, “If I don’t do this, how will anyone know I’m her husband?”

Now for our story. In Iran’s mainstream political discourse, the words Kurds and Kurdistan unfortunately imply separatism and have anti-revolutionary and anti-security (regional) connotations. It is as though the words Kurds and Kurdistan are uninvited guests and have no affinity with Iran.

The province of Kurdistan has become a breeding ground for certain adversities. The Kurdish people are deprived of many basic economical, social, and cultural rights. Historical underdevelopment in the province has resulted in poverty, unemployment, and disillusionment of the Kurdish people.

Although patriotic and kind Kurds have persistently opted for a peaceful life in Iran and have not asked for anything but their basic rights, the response to their legal demands has been an increase in political and civil imprisonment, exile, and execution. This is a result of existing negative perceptions and common prejudices against the Kurdish people.

The presence of ethnic and racial minorities in Iran and the rest of the world is not a new phenomenon. Ethnic, racial, and cultural plurality in a society can act as a double-edged sword. Under the conditions where a [minority] region is developed and fair and equal social relationships exist, co-habitation of various ethnicities is not only problematic, but it is also culturally enriching for that society. It increases the society’s tolerance and reduces cultural dogmas and narrow-mindedness. Today in the era of globalization, where many societies feel threatened by the shadow of cultural monotony, multiculturalism is a gift that needs to be protected and cherished.

At the same time, under conditions where the leaders of a society do not pay attention to the needs and legitimate rights of minorities, extended [negative] consequences will be inevitable. Perhaps one of the basic rights every Iranian feels entitled to, whether Kurdish or not, is the right to citizenship. This is a right that stands against seclusion and exclusion; two sentiments formed from the influence of tangible realities in daily life: from poverty to the dimming light in a famished child’s eyes; from the embarrassed father with empty pockets to the empty family dinner table; to the pale cheeks and impoverished look of a mother.

Seclusion is formed from the centralist approach and segregates the problems and the needs of the Kurdish people (the marginal population) from those living in the central regions [of the country].

There is no doubt that sentiments of exclusion, seclusion, and self-alienation are not limited to ethnic minorities when issues of underdevelopment and mismanagement are prevalent in society [as a whole]. These feelings affect, more or less, all members of society. However, due to structural inequalities, they have much deeper implications for minorities.

The sentiment of seclusion for all groups results in tension and unrest; especially in the presence of cultural poverty which is a consequence of economic poverty. Why not, even for once, instead of a security approach, we approach the basic problems of the people? This way we can solve the problems once and for all. However, there are other issues.

Is there no civil solution to fight the phenomenon of smuggling goods than to shoot or kill? If a person’s basic financial needs are met, would a young person risk his or her life to smuggle a box of tea or a few rolls of fabric across the border? Along the same double-standard policy, the security-centred approach implemented against Kurdish political and civil prisoners is severe.

[Translator's note: One of the only sources of income for the Kurdish population living near the Iraqi border is smuggling goods into Iran and selling them. The security and military forces shoot, injure and kill many of these impoverished individuals every year].

Even inside prisons, and in regards to punishment, do the Kurds have to still bear the label of ethnic minority and experience dark sentiments of seclusion and exclusion? Is there really a difference between a Kurdish and non-Kurdish prisoner that the former should be deprived of many legal rights such as access to a lawyer, temporary release, reduction in sentence, pardon, or freedom? Why despite recent leniency toward political prisoners of Tehran and some other major cities (I.e. their release, which is a source of great joy and I wish it continues), harsh and strict treatment of Kurdish prisoners persist. Instead of attempts to solve the issues, general policies continue to revolve around suppression and execution.

Unfortunately, some use the geographical location of the province of Kurdistan as a pretext to justify the security-oriented approach. The regime continues with pressures and crackdowns on political and civil prisoners. They also proceed with the occasional execution of prisoners who are essentially hostages or scapegoats rather than prisoners serving a sentence for a crime.

How long will this security-oriented view which has caused adversity and divergence amongst the Kurdish youth continue?

The victimized Kurdish population has chosen the most reasonable method to solve their problems: a non-violent life. Doesn’t the security-oriented approach toward the Kurds and Kurdistan imply that the Kurdish people are separated from Iran and Iranians, and thus have to be treated as non-Iranian citizens? I really wish this does not remain the case, or it can result in violence; a consequence that no sane mind wants to accept.

I hope the [discriminatory] treatment of Kurdish prisoners will end. By extending the same treatment to all prisoners, a necessary step (even if the step is small) will be taken to reduce the problems in this region. I wish the story of the Kurds will not be similar to the story of the woman whose only share of matrimony is the daily abuse she receives from her husband…

Farzad Kamangar

Evin Prison, April 10, 2010

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three for Freedom

JAFAR PANAHI is an award-wing Iranian film maker, his special brand of social realism bringing him a whole menagerie of prizes internationally - golden leopard from Locarno, golden lion from Venice, silver bear from Berlin. At the moment the director is not filming, being otherwise detained - the subject of a movie to be, quite possibly. KHORSANDI has been dubbed" Britain's best young female comic by any yardstick", by the Guardian no less. She is certainly one of the busiest, having made appearances on Radio Four's Quote...Unquote, as well as Live At the Apollo, Have I Got News for You and Question Time. Plus writing an excellent book, and raising a child, but...tomorrow evening Shappi is taking time out to do something for what she believes right, political and artistic freedom, and particularly that of Jafar Panahi.

JOHN McDONNELL has just been returned with a bigger majority as Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, a west London seat that embraces much of Heathrow airport. Besides work in his constituency - including opposing airport expansion and supporting the resumed struggle of British Airways cabin crew - John is parliamentary convenor of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, and chairs both Public service, Not Private Profit and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). The opening up of Labour's leadership contest has brought a call from LRC supporters for their favourite left-wing MP to renew the challenge for leadership which he tried to mount a few years ago.

But first, John McDonnell is due to perform another duty tomorrow night, at the Soho Theatre, in Dean Street, W1. Once again it is for freedom and for Jafar Panahi. It is also supported by the Labour Representation Committee.

Jafar Panahi's first feature film, White Balloon, came out in 1995, and won a Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His second feature film, The Mirror, received the Golden Leopard Award at the Locarno Film Festival. Then in 2000 came The Circle, which criticized the treatment of women under Iran's Islamist regime. It won him the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Panahi's Offside, about some girls who disguise themselves as boys to be able to get in to watch a world cup-qualifying football match, was selected for competition in the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, where he was awarded with the Silver Bear (Jury Grand Prix).

But Jafar Panahi has another distinction. He has experienced arrest by both the United States and Iranian authorities.

On April 15, 2001, the award-winning film maker was in transit from Hong Kong for a flight to Buenos Aires when he was detained by immigration police at John F. Kennedy airport in New York. They wanted to question and photograph him. When he declined to co-operate they took him away in a van and left him chained to a bench for ten hours with others from several nationalities, accused of trying to enter the United States illegally. His requests to 'phone Iranian colleagues and Festival authorities were ignored for some hours. Afterwards, Panahi protested in writing, not only on his own behalf but also for those who had been chained with him. He believed they were treated this way on the basis of race or nationality.

In Iran, Panahi was arrested last year during the upheaval against Ahmadinejad and what people felt were rigged elections. He was released again. Then in February this year his request to travel to the 60th Berlin Film Festival to participate in the panel discussion on "Iranian Cinema: Present and Future. Expectations inside and outside of Iran" was denied.[7] On March 1, he was arrested again. He was taken from his home along with his wife Tahereh Saidi, daughter Solmaz Panahi and 15 of his friends by plainclothes officers and taken to the Evin Prison.[8] Most were released 48 hours later, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mehdi Pourmoussa on March 17, but Panahi remains in ward 209 inside Evin Prison.

Although Panahi was detained without charges, the Iranian authorities said last month that they had detained him because he was working on a film against the government. The family say he was just at home entertaining guests. Friends say Jafar has twice been offered bail, but has refused in solidarity with all those incarcerated for their participation in the mass demonstrations against the regime that have shaken Iran since June 2009. There has been an international outcry against the arrest, notably from others in the film industry, including British director Ken Loach.

Tomorrow night, the UK-based campaign Hands Off the People of Iran(HOPI), which supports the Iranian people in their struggle for social progress and democratic rights, while opposing threats to Iran from the US and its allies, will hold a special solidarity showing of Jafar Panahi's most popular film in the West, Offside , which deals with real events.

Shappi Khorsandi has promised to provide a taste of her distinctive comedy to complement the bittersweet humour of the film, and John McDonnell MP, who is a HOPI member will give a political introduction.

HOPI says it is screening the film as a way of raising the profile of Panahi, and the political issues behind his arrest, so as to step up the pressure on the regime in Tehran to free all political prisoners. "We believe that international solidarity of this sort – not the threat of military strikes or sanctions – is the way to deliver effective aid to the struggle of ordinary people in Iran for freedom and social change."

Wednesday, May 12, 6pm. Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1

Tickets: £10 (£20 solidarity, £5 unwaged). All profits go to the charity ‘Workers Fund Iran’.

More info. and payment details:


Screenings of 'Offside' in Glasgow and Manchester

offside 2


Thursday May 18, 6.30pm
Club Academy, University of Manchester Students’ Union
Oxford Road

Friday May 21, 7pm
Centre for Contemporary Arts
350 Sauchiehall Street

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