Friday, September 30, 2011

Sheikh Salah can sue. So what happens to CST ...and Cameron??

Press Release: High Court rules Raed Salah is 'entitled to damages for wrongful detention' SHEIKH RAED SALAH getting the last laugh?

THE High Court has ruled that Sheikh Raed Salah was unlawfully detained and is entitled to claim compensation. This is an embarassment for Home Secretary Theresa May, who ordered his detention.

Sheikh Salah, leader of the northern section of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and a former mayor of Umm el Fahm, came to this country on June 25 to honour speaking engagements, one of them with MPs at the House of Commons.

These meetings had alll been pre-advertised and were public. No one told the Sheikh that he was banned from this country. An immigration officer at Heathrow scanned his passport reportedly ignored an alert to exclude him.

Three days after entering the UK, having spoken at at a meeting in Leicester, and with his other engagements, including that at he Houses of Parliament, to keep, Sheikh Salah was detained at his west London hotel, handcuffed and taken to Paddington Green police station, which has often been used for alleged "terror" suspects.

No clear reason was given. No crime had been committed, although newspapers like the Mail implied Sheikh Salah had somehow breached Britain's security. The Home Ssecretary subsequently served a deportation notice on him, on the grounds that his presence in the UK was "not conducive to the public good".

Salah challenged his removal and obtained bail in July. He is appealing against the decision to deport him in separate proceedings before an immigration tribunal which continues next week. In the judgment released on Friday, Mr Justice Nicol found for Salah on one of three grounds that his detention was unlawful. He rejected his claim on two other grounds.

It was reported this week that senior officials at the UK Border Agency had opposed the Home Secretary's decision, warning that the evidence against him was disputed, open to legal challenge and the case "very finely balanced". Salah had sought damages for illegal detention, arguing in an earlier hearing that he had been "confined without lawful authority" and subjected to what was essentially "false imprisonment".

It was also observed that the government action had succeeded in prolonging the Sheikh's stay in Britain for much longer than his originally planned trip.

Salah has been imprisoned before in Israel for funding Hamas and leading a violent demonstration. But unlike some other cases - from the Anglican Canon Riah al Awal to the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu - he had evidently not been banned from travelling. Yet the order banning him from entering the UK has apparently been based on allegations from Israel concerning antisemitism as well as fundamentalism.

It is reported that Theresa May decided to act after receiving a dossier on Sheikh Salah from the Community Security Trust (CST). a body whose official remit is to protect Jewish people and institutions in Britain from any threats, and monitor antisemitism. The CST, which has enjoyed good relations with the police for some years, boasts of having alerted the authorities.

Informed members of the Jewish community, including those who have worked with the CST, say it receives much of its guidance from the Israeli state. Supporters of Sheikh Saleh say that the evidence against him, including alleged antisemitic statements, was fabricated.

I've nothing against people organising to defend themselves and others against racist attacks, and antisemitism, quite the contrary beingJewish myself. But I've had my own experiences with the Jewish community's security, and so have friends, and they did not leave us feeling secure. It was the Community Security Organisation, as CST used to be called, which excluded several people from a film festival, apparently because one of them had been recognised from a previous occasion selling Jewish Socialist. Even after he spoke to the organisers, whom he knew, assuring them he had come to see the films and not sell magazines, the security men told them they would not be responsible for the security of the festival if this man was admitted.

On another occasion a couple I know were trailed around the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall by these Community Security heavies even though they were only treating his parents to a concert of Russian Jewish music. What kind of security "threat" they were suspected of plotting neither they or I know. But I did recognise one of the "security" team as having doubled as a guard for Ariel Sharon when he visited London.

I doubt whether I would have much political agreement with Sheikh Raed Saleh. I would certainly not support his party if I was a Palestinian. But that is different from seeing him as a "security threat" or saying he has no right to speak to members of the public or MPs in this country. As for his alleged antisemitism, considering some of the people the government has allowed in, for instance extremists who support the ant-Islamic EDL. it is hard to justify privilege. Nor would I trust an Israeli security-influenced source for evidence.

If some of us have learned to distrust an organisation which confuses security with policing, terror with politics it does not like, and leaves doubt as to where its accountability lies, one man thinks it is fine. Prime Minister David Cameron was guest at a CST dinner earlier this year. "And it’s great to be able to show my support again for Community Security Trust and the brilliant work you do. ... I believe CST is a model for all our communities in Britain. So much of what you do epitomises what I’m getting at when I talk about the Big Society. You don’t say “just leave it to the government, it’s not my responsibility", uou say “I want to play my part; I want to do my bit.”

"I want to be frank with you. It shames our country that our Jewish schools should need protection. But they do. And it’s fantastic that CST provides it. But just as your community does so much to raise money so we should help too. So I’m proud that Michael Gove has announced up to £2 million on security for schools this year and there will be more to come for all the years it’s needed in our country".

Cameron went on to extol the importance of countering extremism by educating in British national identity.

Welcoming Salah's arrest in June, CST's blog said "Most of the publicity regarding his visit had concentrated upon his speaking in the House of Commons tonight, alongside various pro-Palestinian activists and Jeremy Corbyn MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP and Richard Burden MP.

"Salah’s Islamist ideology is reflected by those organising the events, most of whom are leading lights in Britain’s pro-Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood type circles, such as the MEMO group. These groups and activists seek to dominate the ideological and political leadership of Britain’s highly diverse Muslim communities. Many on the secular far Left have made common cause with these Islamist ideologues: not because they believe that British society will be a better place for having such groups dominate Muslim communities, but rather because both ideological streams are would-be revolutionaries with many enemies in common.

"The fiasco over how Salah actually entered the UK, should not distract attention from the crucial fact that the Government has shown the meaningfulness and intent of its recent review of Prevent counter-extremism strategy. Salah’s banning and subsequent detention demonstrates that Government has now moved beyond only seriously challenging those who are explicitly pro Al Qaeda, or otherwise in favour of terrorism against Britain and British overseas forces and facilities.

"Now, Government is also facing up to the enormous challenge of how to reverse the influence of those pan-Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (including Hamas) and Jamaat-i-Islami, both of which make common cause and have significant control over British Muslims’ physical and political infrastructure; including an extensive network of lobbying groups, umbrella bodies, charities and mosques. Prior Governments have attempted to work with such groups (largely out of perceived necessity), but have repeatedly found them to be, ultimately, not conducive to the public good and social cohesion.

"The Labour Party may also have shifted its position. Some Labour MPs have long mixed in the Islamist and secular pro-Palestinian circles demonstrated by Salah’s visit, and exemplified by the past behaviour of Ken Livingstone. The Shadow Home Secretary has criticised the Government’s handling of border controls, but such criticism risks rebounding unless Labour is able to rein in those MPs and Lords who move in such circles"

Note that satisfaction over Salah's detention and some lumping together Muslim parties and "secular pro-Palestinian circles" was followed by the admonition to Labour to "rein in MPs and Lords..".

The writer seems confident of having his way. Mind you that was in June, and this is September.

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Wall Street protest gains wings!

YOU could trust them with your lives.

But understandably, they don't trust Wall Street with theirs.

Over 700 hundred Continental and United pilots, joined by additional pilots from other Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) carriers, demonstrate in front of stock exchange on Wall Street, September 27, 2011, New York City.

SOMETIMES it seems our media are full of America. The razzmatazz of its electoral system, the super-rich and Hollywood stars. At the other extreme - or sometimes not that far apart - we get the drugs, prostitution and crime. But ordinary working and poor America, now, are something less often seen. Especially when people just like us stand up to the wealth and power.

First it was the workers and students fighting the cuts in Wisconsin, now it is Wall Street, the main centre of not just American but worldwide capitalism, which a motley crew of protestors decided to occupy, setting up their own 'Tahrir Square'.

At first it might have been the "usual suspects", seeming to be as untidy in their outfits as their aims. In an article that was critical of the protesters, Ginia Bellafante wrote in The New York Times:"The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face — finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out."[20][16]

Glenn Greenwald responded to this criticism, writing "Does anyone really not know what the basic message is of this protest: that Wall Street is oozing corruption and criminality and its unrestrained political power -- in the form of crony capitalism and ownership of political institutions -- is destroying financial security for everyone else?"[21]

In fact, focussing on the centre of capitalism has proved a popular pulling point, it seems, as our picture above might show, bringing some decidedly un-hippyish protesters, as Forbes business magazine reports:

"Hundreds of uniformed pilots, standing in stark contrast to the youthful Occupy Wall Street protesters, staged their own protest outside of Wall Street over the past couple of days, holding signs with the picture of the Hudson river crash asking “What’s a Pilot Worth” and others declaring “Management is Destroying Our Airline.” This comes after pilots at United asked a federal judge to halt the merger with Continental, arguing that the whole thing is proceeding too quickly.

Piloting an airplane may seem like a good line of work, a high-skilled job that places many lives in the hands of a highly skilled worker. The highly-skilled portion of this assumption is true. However, pilots are among the most dismally paid workers in the country – at least when they start flying.

According to first year pilots make as little as $21,600 a year. Some airlines, such as Southwest, pay more than twice that. On average, starting pay for the major airlines is just above $36,000 a year.

Fortunately for pilots, the payscale does climb and it climbs pretty high. Fifth year median pay is close to double what first year pilots earn. Top pay can be much better. The high-end of the salary scale tops out with UPS and FedEx pilots who can earn over $200,000, though most major airlines average closer to $150,000.

Notably, non-unionized JetBlue is one of the lowest paying airlines. Southwest, which is almost entirely unionized, pays its pilots almost as well as UPS and FedEx. Something to think about."

See also: Why I Support the Teachers Unions

As to the reaction of other protesters, as one remarked, in contrast to some other Wall Street denizens, "These guys don't get rich if they crash!"

Indeed, pilot Chesley Sullenberger, hailed as a hero who had achieved a "miracle" when he managed to save 155 passengers and crew by crash-landing in the ice-bound Hudson river, revealed that he had suffered a forty per cent pay cut and had his pension terminated, and warned that airlines making cuts in pay and precautions were endangering lives.

Although the Wall Street occupation failed to fetch the many thousands hoped for by organisers, and police prevented people putting up tents, it has kept going for nearly a fortnight, and seems to grow. It has been largely peaceful, but there have been more than 80 arrests - for such crimes as wearing masks, passing a police barrier, entering the Bank of America. Protesters have identified a police officer who pepper-sprayed women in the face.

After several reports of police brutality against protesters there were claims this week that numbers of police officers who don't share the enthusiasm for protecting capitalism against decent young people were finding ways to go sick or otherwise avoid going on duty.

But besides this claim of "solidarity" that is hard to substantiate comes a report that a large group of workers - those who run New York's public transport services - were planning to join the Wall Street demonstration.

This could be the start of something big, as the song goes.

I shall watch tonight's TV news to see if it is reported.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

They Did Not Pass
NO ENTRY. Sunday, October 4, 1936

IT was good of the English Defence League berks to choose the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for their proposed big march at the beginning of this month, enticing their supporters with the prospect of a show of strength through an area where many Asian Muslims live, going past the East London Mosque, and getting up to - well, a good Saturday afternoon's fun no doubt. Or freeing the area's white Christian population from Muslim terror, if you'd believed them.

As it was, a massive petition backed by local people appeared to persuade Home Secretary Teresa May and the police that the march on September 3 should be banned, hearing which many EDL supporters apparently dropped out leaving organisers with half-empty coaches. RMT union members said they would shut down stations if the EDL were allowed to gather at them to be ferried by train for their static meeting, and the EDL never got into Tower Hamlets. Except for one misguided coach load who chose to go home via the Whitechapel Road, stopping near the mosque, and had to be rescued from opponents. The coach company is hoping its insurers will understand.

The reason I say it was good of them was that they helped set the stage for the commemorations starting this weekend of events 75 years ago, when the Home Secretary of the day ignored a petition and allowed the fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley to marshal his uniformed blackshirts for a march into the East End of London, on Sunday, October 4, 1936.

Then too, the fascists did not make it, because people would not let them.

In those days there was a large Jewish population in the East End, mostly poor working people whose families had immigrated from Europe, particularly Czarist Russia, in the late 19th century. There had been an anti-immigrant agitation started by Tory MP Major Evans Gordon, at the turn of the century, with the British Brothers League. In the 1930s depression years Mosleyite agitators sought to build on this, with vicious antisemitism, persuading people hit by bankruptcy and joblessness that it was down to the Jews.

If the rich and supposedly powerful Jews they blamed for capitalism's ills were remote, there were poor Jews, workers and small shopkeepers near at hand who, even if they were suffering the same problems as everyone else, could be a convenient target for the thugs and bullies.

Mosley was having some success, particularly in Hoxton and in Bethnal Green, where many small workshops were closing and could blame Jewish competition. Less success perhaps in docklands, where the dockers were more class-conscious, and his efforts to win over the Irish met opposition. Nevertheless he now hoped to climax his campaigning with a triumphal march through the heart of the Jewish East End, and to have something to show the potential ally to whom he was turning for backing, Adolf Hitler.

Hitler's success in Germany had dispelled illusions in what might happen if people did not unite to stop fascism. Advice from the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Chronicle and the official Labour Party leadership to stay indoors and avoid trouble were ignored. The Communist Party which had been planning a rally in Trafalgar Square on October 4 to support the Spanish Republic was persuaded by its members in Stepney to change its plans, and the call went out, everyone to Aldgate. On the morning of October 4, 1936, crowds began gathering at Gardiners Corner, blocking the road to the fascists, and to the police who tried to clear a way for them. An anti-fascist tram driver left his vehicle skewed across the road.

Realising the fascist march might take a detour along Cable Street, anti-fascists went and joined local people there, and threw up barricades. Jews and Irish dockers famously joined forces there, and repeated charges by the police could not clear them. As the anti-fascists fell back, the advancing police came under fire from upper-storey residents, anything from milk bottles to the contents of chamber pots being hurled.

The Battle of Cable Street, as the day's events became known, ended with the police telling Mosley that his march could not go ahead, and that he and his minions must head back to the West End and disperse. It was not the end of fascist activity in the East End, but Mosley as strong man had suffered a setback, whereas many an East Ender who had previously had to fear the blackshirts now walked tall, and had a story to tell their grandchildren.

There are a number of events coming up this weekend, including a march and rally beginning from Aldgate East (corner Braham Street and Leman Street) 11.30 am on Sunday, and going on to St.George-in-the-East Gardens (off Cable Street).

At Wilton's Music Hall, Grace Alley, there'll be an exhibition and a concert, various organisations and groups will have their bookstalls, and Five Leaves Books from Nottingham have a book launch at 3pm for no less than five books they have published or republished for the occasion. Among these is Battle for the East End by David Rosenberg, which I am just reading at the moment.

Dealing extensively with the way Mosley made use of antisemitism, and with the varied ways Jews responded, David's book began as a rewrite of an earlier work he had written, I think (which sold out on a previous anniversary!), but he has done enough fresh research and thinking about his subject to produce a new, and very informative work. One thing he reveals is how widespread in British society was the prejudice into which Mosley tapped.

Something else Dave goes into, which I've heard him talk about on his excellent East End Walks, is the way the Communist Party did not wait for street confrontations with the fascists, but took up basic work to establish working class unity in struggles over rents and housing conditions.

Another item I was interested to come across was a debate between two people over how to deal with antisemitism, one of them being Julius Jacobs of the Jewish People's Council. In post-war years Julie Jacobs was much involved in fighting a resurgent Mosley fascism and confronting the Labour government's use of it to ban all marches including May Day, as he had become leader of the London Trades Council.

That was closed by the TUC but eventually reborn as the Greater London Association of Trades Union Councils (GLATUC), at which I am proud to be a delegate. GLATUC is among the bodies supporting Sunday's march, which as a commemorative event has escaped the Home Secretary's ban on marches.

Some places for more information:

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Netanyahu's Deputies get their way -with help from Gove

THE BRITISH government has decided, as expected, that it will not support the Palestinian declaration of statehood and bid for recognition in the UN. Not much surprise there, then. So much for David Cameron's interest in freedom and the 'Arab Spring'.

If some friends of the Palestinian people have appeared hesitant or unsure about supporting the bid for statehood and UN recognition, their enemies have not hesitated to oppose.

Here's the website of the Board of Deputies of British Jews:

'Board Statement: UDI Latest

The Board and the JLC have written to both the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander restating the Jewish community's opposition to a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence. We believe that the only route to achieve a lasting peace is via negotiations. The Board is concerned and disappointed at the statement issued by the Opposition this week endorsing the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN. The letter to the Prime Minister can be found here. The letter to the Shadow Foreign Secretary can be found here.'

That use of the expression "Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI)" harks back of course to Ian Smith's Rhodesia, a white settler regime which declared independence of Britain without making any concession to its black African people's aspirations for freedom and majority rule. But the only supremacist regime enforcing its rule in Palestine is the State of Israel, with its settlements, which of course the Board of Deputies supports.

Thirty years ago when Israel was treating Palestinians as just "terrorists", the Board of Deputies mobilised a huge rally to oppose Britain's Lord Carrington, then at the Foreign Office, from meeting with the PLO. It continued opposing local authorites like Dundee twinning with West Bank towns like Nablus, and it has had a long-running feud with Ken Livingstone since his days at the GLC. Then after Oslo, when the Israeli government decided it was temporarily kosher to talk with Palestinians, the Board went so far as to welcome Arafat, even though it had condemned one of its own leaders, June Jacobs, for meeting with Palestinians before Israel gave the OK. By the recent wars in Lebanon and Gaza these "community" leaders were rallying again for Israel, though without the enthusiasm, unanimity or numbers of bygone years.

The Jewish Leadership Council, JLC, consists of various bigwigs and big donors expecting political clout, among them Tony Blair's old chum Lord Levy. In July 2009 Conservative Party Treasurers Howard Leigh and Stanley Fink joined the Council as individual members. In December 2009 the Council sought and published a legal Opinion from Lord Pannick QC advocating a change in UK law to prevent the issuing of arrest warrants against Israeli leaders without prior consent of the Attorney General. The Con Dem government has now changed the law in accord with promises.

Not everyone agrees with such spokespersons. On ewish Voices issued a statement:

'In keeping with our support for a fair and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Independent Jewish Voices welcomes the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations. We see it as a legitimate demand for fuller recognition on the world stage and as an affirmation of Palestinian nationhood.

At the same time it is clear that it is not an end in itself. It leaves many questions unanswered and problems unresolved – the continuing occupation, the need for free and fair elections in the West Bank and Gaza, the status of the Palestinian diaspora. Nonetheless it provides the only current opportunity to break the long-standing deadlock. We call on all parties – including the British and Israeli governments, and fellow Jews – to express their support.

on behalf of IJV Steering Group
20th September 2011

Unfortunately, as we can see, these are not the kind of voices listened to by H.M.Government. So the Palestinian delegation in London will not yet be upgraded to an embassy. Whereas the Israeli government, thanks to supporters like the Board of Deputies, has two.

This enables its repressive policies not only to evade criticism from the British government but to influence events happening here. This weekend sees an ambitious cultural festival in the north London borough of Haringey,
Join celebrated writers, film makers, rappers, photographers, story tellers and locals to listen, talk, learn, rap, discuss, watch, question and share ideas on Palestine at the inaugural Tottenham Palestine Literature Festival, Thursday September 29th to Sunday October 2nd.

Among those taking part is poet and former children's laureate Michael Rosen, and the event was apparently designed to include Palestinian children's poetry and opportunities for London schoolchildren to learn about the lives of children their age in Palestine. But earlier this week I read that Michael and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn were angered to learn that schools were being told they could not attend.

It was reported that the Board of Deputies had expressed concern about schools participating, claiming some children might "feel uncomfortable" or get a one-sided impression from the events. It turns out that as the Jewish Chronicle reports, the Board has not been alone in intervening.

Gove asks schools to pull out of Tottenham festival

By Marcus Dysch, September 27, 2011
Follow Marcus on Twitter

Education Secretary Michael Gove has intervened to ask primary schools to pull their pupils out of a literature festival organised by pro-Palestinian campaigners.

Mr Gove wrote to headteachers after learning of the plans for youngsters to attend workshops at the Tottenham Palestine Literary Festival.

Eight schools from the north London boroughs of Islington and Haringey had signalled their intention to take part in workshops led by anti-Israel activists at which children would be encouraged to examine "the themes of human rights".

Organised by the Haringey Justice for Palestinians branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the festival begins on Thursday, the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

The Board of Deputies had earlier called the plans for children to take part "extremely troubling".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Schools have a statutory duty to offer children a balanced presentation of opposing political views.

"The Secretary of State has written to the schools reminding them of their duty to present a balanced argument, and has asked them to either withdraw from participation, or explain how they will comply with [their statutory duty]."

Board president Vivian Wineman said: "I can think of few organisations which would be less appropriate to run a workshop in a school than the PSC. The conspiracy theories and hostile propaganda promoted by some of its members are particularly obnoxious. I am delighted the Secretary of State has taken such strong action."

The schools were expected to respond to Mr Gove's request as the JC went to press.

A blogger on the Board of Deputies website also had his say:

"Is the PSC really an organisation that head teachers want in their schools? Are racist conspiracy theories, antisemitic cartoons and the concept of the Holocaust as a means by which the Jewish community can maintain non-Jewish guilt, really views to which our young people should be exposed?

For anyone who believes that our schools should be inclusive and safe, this is a move which must be opposed.

And opposed it has been.

Today it was revealed that, following discussions between the Board of Deputies and Department for Education Officials, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, had written to each of the schools concerned. In his letter Mr Gove reminds the schools of their legal duty to ensure that where pupils are exposed to issues of a political nature, there should be a balanced presentation of those issues (this duty is set out in the Education Act 1996). The schools have been asked either to provide evidence that they are meeting their statutory duty or to withdraw from the festival. Furthermore, Mr Gove has made clear that if the schools do not provide satisfactory evidence he will consider issuing a direction under the 1996 Act to secure their compliance."

Although I am not a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, I have shared platforms with its leading members, attended conferences and worked with them in the Joint Committee on Palestine, and the Enough! coalition. I occasionally read their magazine. I can't recall any of them spouting racist conspiracy theory or Holocaust denial (in fact they have adopted a resolution against it) or displaying antisemitic cartoons. Nor can I imagine such stuff being acceptible to the Tottenham festival participants, who beside Michael Rosen include I see Hanna Braun, a Holocaust survivor and Israeli national whose memoirs have just come out.

But then though Vivian Wineman and blogger Jamie Slavin appear to be sticking to a similar script, the older Wineman is careful enough to attribute the objectionable views to "some" PSC members, whom he does not name. Maybe they exist. But should any of the people I know get indignant at his accusation, he can always say "But I did not mean you, ..." Now where have I come across that sort of tactic before?

Still, the Board can't have had much trouble getting the ear of Michael Gove. Here is the Jewish Chronicle again:

Gove tells UJIA: 'I am a proud Zionist'

By Jessica Elgot, September 22, 2011

Education Secretary Michael Gove told 700 UJIA supporters at the charity's annual dinner on Monday: "I'm proud to be a friend of Israel."

Mr Gove was the guest of honour at the London Hilton event, which raised £2.76 million for the charity's work in Israel and the UK.

He told an admiring audience that he had been a socialist in his teens and a journalist in his twenties, but one thing had remained constant in his life. "I was born, will live and die proud to be a Zionist.

"One of the more important lessons is that the best memorials we can give for the Holocaust is a Jewish state for the Jewish people." In a wide-ranging address, he also talked about faith schools, problems in the Middle East and rising antisemitism. He reiterated the pledge that "no Jewish parent should pay extra for school security".

It was "disgusting", he added, that a Jewish student at St Andrews University had been racially abused by a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. "We should condemn this vile prejudice wherever we encounter it."

And find it wherever we can, perhaps. (incidentally, though I don't know the details of the St.Andrews case I do know Scottish PSC includes Jewish members, but also that it is not part of the main PSC).

The more we are learning about Michael Gove, we may ask whether the Zionists can feel proud of him as a self-claimed adherent, however obliging he may be. A promoter of so-called Free schools, who gave his former PA a free £500k to 'assist' them, and former Rupert Murdoch employee who held a series of dinners with the press tycoon to persuade him to invest in Academies, Gove,has made the news recently for encouraging civil servants to communicate with him by private e-mail, so the messages are not subject to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act.
Gove faces probe over private e-mails -

Michael Gove reportedly claimed £7,000 for furnishing a London property before 'flipping' his designated second home to a house in his constituency, a property for which he claimed around £13,000 to cover stamp duty. Around a third of the first £7,000 was spent at an interior design company owned by Gove's mother-in-law.[23] Gove also claimed for a cot mattress, despite children's items being banned under the Commons rule. Gove said he would repay the claim for the cot mattress, but maintained that his other claims were "below the acceptable threshold costs for furniture" and that the property flipping was necessary "to effectively discharge my parliamentary duties".[23] While he was moving between his multiple homes, he stayed at the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa, charging the taxpayer more than £500 per night's stay.

Considered by some to be a British neo-con, he was an early supporter of war on Iraq, and stated in October 2004 of Tony Blair: "I can't hold it back any more; I love Tony!" He is a signatory of the Henry Jackson Society, and an adviser to the Atlantic Bridge, which works to affirm the Transatlantic alliance. He has claimed that the invasion of Iraq succeeded in bringing peace and democracy to that country. Just the man to see to it that honest and balanced opinions are promoted in our schools.

Ah well.


L' Shana Tova, Chaverim - Happy New Year Friends and Comrades.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Spirit Among the Sparks

IT'S been 25 years since we faced mounted police riding down trade unionists to clear a path for Rupert Murdoch's papers, produced with the help of the scab Electrical, Electronic and Plumbing Trades Union (EEPTU).

Though expelled from the Trades Union Congress(TUC) the EEPTU came back through a merger with the engineers, and Sir Ken Jackson, notoriously right-wing leader of the electrical union became general secretary of the Amalgamated Electrical and Engineering Union.

Some tricks seemed to come with. Building workers who had been trying to organise on a hotel site near Gloucester Road in west London were gobsmacked when a previously recalcitrant management told them there was now a union on site, the AEEU. Without waiting till it had recruited members on site an official of that union had gone in and secured a recognition agreement from management. Workers were even more shocked when they saw the low pay rates the company was getting away with.

Things do change, however. There were some big disputes involving electricians in the 1990s, and though companies have tried to break trade unionism by means ranging from victimisation and blacklisting to pushing people into self-employment, sparks from what were AEEU and the breakway EPIU are forming together in Unite. Though there are still issues with union officialdom, what is motivating members is the continued use of the blacklist by employers, and the move by eight big contractors to pull out of the Joint Industial Board (JIB), deskill electrical work, and drive down wage rates.

Add awareness of the wider struggles working people are facing, against employers and government, and you can understand the movement that is growing, bringing together members of Unite and building workers in UCATT. Besides the possibility of joining public sector workers in action over jobs and pensions in November, these battlers are already bypassing official channels with some imaginative tactics hitting the bosses before they can reach for an injunction.

The media made a beeline for Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire when it
could depict a dispute over jobs and agreements as being about foreign workers. Dirty Desmond's Daily Star even provided models with placards, This time only the Morning Star could find its way there.

2,000 join warning protests at Lindsey oil refinery

Monday 26 September 2011
by John Millington in Lincolnshire

Two thousand workers converged on Lincolnshire's Lindsey oil refinery after daybreak today in a stark warning to bosses who want to tear up national agreements and slash pay by nearly a third.

Workers from the neighbouring Conoco Phillips refinery joined protests organised by rank-and-file Unite union members outside the main gates to the massive site.

A three-hour demonstration began at 6am and gathered momentum when hundreds walked off the job to hold a car park meeting.

The Morning Star was given exclusive access to the event - the latest display of industrial strength since eight key construction contractors announced plans to pull out of the Joint Industry Board deal that sets national terms and conditions in construction.

The companies have threatened to lay off any members of staff who don't sign new contracts.

Most refinery workers have not yet been directly affected by the development, but union representatives warn that the firms' pullout will spark a trend among contractors that will spread "like a cancer throughout the construction industry."

Unite senior offshore steward Kenny Ward, who helped to organise the protests, proposed to the Lindsey workers present that they join a march to Conoco and come back without losing a day's pay.

After some discussion workers declared their support for protests but said they would only come out if all Lindsey workers were involved.

Mr Ward, who used to work at Lindsey, told the Star: "What the government and employers have to realise is that these guys can turn lights off in Britain.

"If the union and union reps don't organise them, they will act for themselves."

But Mr Ward was keen to point out that workers who will be affected by the new inferior contractors were not just looking for a fight.

"The workers just want to earn a living, but if these eight companies are allowed to get away with it, it will be a turkey shoot in the industry," he said.

Union officers organising the demonstrations addressed both Lindsey and Conoco refinery workers.

Unite regional official Steve Syson reminded protesters that one of the eight contractors had recently handed its directors big paydays.

"While the bosses are saying they need to do this, one of the companies made £50 million last year and gave the directors a 20-25 per cent pay increase. And they are saying that our members should get a 30 per cent pay cut.

"We're not going to stand for attacks on our terms and conditions."

Several workers protesting at the refinery's main gate were keen to air their views, but they were reluctant to go on record for fear of blacklisting.

But one worker, "CJ," complained that employers were trying to make workers pay for their own lodgings while working away from home.

"People can work up to a year away from home," he said.

"We have to stand up and fight and make this a national dispute."

The big eight contractors whom workers are targeetting as JIB defectors are named by Jerry Hicks as Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, SES and SPIE Matthew Hall.
"And they better get the message!", says former Rolls Royce engineering convenor Jerry , who came a remarkable second in the four-horse race for Unite general sectretary.

A week ago Jerry Hicks reported:
"In the battle to protect the JIB agreement from being ripped up five of the eight companies have upped the stakes. Balfour Beatty, Crown House Technologies, Spie Matthew Hall, Shepherd Engineering Services and NG Bailey have issued Unite with legal notice of their intention to dismiss, by giving the legally required 90 day notice to thousands of employees before re-engaging them on inferior contracts on December 7th.

"So answering the TUC’s call this week for "Civil Disobedience" against the cuts, on Wednesday we obliged and the action kicked off at across the country. At the Grangemouth site in Scotland sparks and pipe-fitters working for BBES voted to walk off the job marking a major advance in our struggle against de skilling and the vicious attacks on JIB agreement. Also in Scotland some sparks protested at the Faslane site.

"In London 150 protested at Olympic site blocked the main gate and then marched to the A12 main road and blocked the highway in to Stratford for 20 mins causing a major traffic jam. Eventually PC plod moved us on but it certainly caught the public attention which is great.

"Manchester chipped in with a protest at the BBES Papermill site. It all amounted to another fantastic day of rank and file activity but the 8 have declared war and 5 of them are going for a rout by issuing the December 7th deadline letters. The rank and file workers on these sites must respond by downing tools and walking off site.

"Unite are slowly getting involved. Two officials were at Olympic protest and, while we welcome the support, let’s be wary of a takeover followed by a sell out. This is a rank and file dispute and it’s our future that is at stake. Unite has told employers that these bullying tactics will lead to a sharp deterioration in industrial relations on major sites up and down the country, putting into jeopardy the ability of companies to deliver projects on time and within budget. Unite has called on eight break-away construction companies, who are imposing semi-skilled grades into the mechanical and electrical sector, to ‘pull back from the brink’ before industrial relations deteriorates to harmful levels.

Calling for Unite to ballot workers on nationwide industrial action, Brother Hicks is nevertheless supporting them taking actions without waiting. As he reports:

"Yesterday, Wednesday 21st saw another fantastic morning of protests and civil disobedience. In Newcastle 150 sparks brought the Tyne tunnel site to a halt for 2 hours today even the employer accepted that the lads had a right to protest. While in London 300 sparks invaded Farringdon station Crossrail site. Manchester had 3 protests at BBES and 2 at NG Bailey.

"More on the invasion! In a magnificent show of rank and file union workers power 300 angry sparks, [and one carpenter] and supporters gathered at the Farringdon station Crossrail site at 6.30am.

"A music box was booming out and Unite the union were out in force at last! Not sure if Bernard MCaulay was out doing his Xmas shopping, but we did get AGS Gail Cartmail to speak as well as London officer Harry Cowap and NEC construction member John Sheridan, speakers from RMT, UCU, CWU, and John McDonnell MP. Michael Dooley a candidate for the UCATT General Secretary summed it up brilliantly when he said ” The multinational companies and their shareholders intend to take from you to ensure that they and their children prosper. Your future and that of your children’s is being sacrificed at the expense of theirs. We will not let it happen”.

'The scene was set, music, speeches, flags a waving and raw anger, it could only mean one thing. Invade the site! What ensued was amazing, the gates were no problem neither was the barrier, and the startled security soon disappeared. Don’t you just love a party with an atmosphere!

'We didn’t find the site offices, but surrounded by diggers and cranes and workers on the site stood in awe and listened to more thunderous speeches this was it whose site our site rang out! After half an hour we marched off the site to the sound of ‘a message to you Rudy’ by the specials booming out of the sound system.

'Site invasions are the way forward, main contractors will be asking “what’s going on” and it will pressurise these jib firms to back off while telling unite ‘organise a ballot of all its construction workers starting with the sparks’!

Today we hear that the employers are breaking ranks.

"The ‘Rogues Gallery’ just got smaller. When 8 became 7!
MJN Colston have been forced by rank and file action to jump ship".

Seeing workers boldly invading sites to spread the message, which probably also makes it harder for firms to single out individuals among their own workforce for victimisation, and reading that members of the builders' union UCATT are involved alongside the electricians, I was reminded of another UCATT brother, no longer with us.

Des Warren, jailed for his part in the 1972 building workers strike, died of pneumonia in 2004. He had been suffering from Parkinson's disease attributable to his treatment in prison. In 2009 and 2010 we had demonstrations in Shrewsbury demanding that all the Shrewsbury pickets including Des be rehabilitated, and all the documents made public. Of course so far as his reputation among trade unionists is concerned, Des Warren does not need rehabilitating. The ballad of American trade unionist Joe Hill concludes that "Where workers strike and organise, that's where you'll find Joe Hill".

It's not hard to see the ghost of Des Warren among those invading the sites today.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Voices Raised for Free Palestine and Against Settler Terror

IN GAZA TOO. Women's demonstration reported by Ma'an.

PALESTINE premier and PLO chair Mahmoud Abbas has made his call for Palestinian statehood and international recognition at the UN, with a ringing reminder of the daily obstacles to peace and normal life that his people have to endure from occupation - the road blocks, the wall, the land confiscations and harassment of farmers and others trying to go about their work.

Recalling hopes raised by the first talks with Israel in 1993, and how Yasser Arafat had appealed to the UN in 1974, "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand", Abbas said Palestinians were holding out their hand to the Israeli government and people. But they would continue to resist the occupation by popular, peaceful means.

This was the moment of truth, the Palestinian leader said, also revealing that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had told him the Palestinian state should have been declared years ago. Earlier he had begun his speech by praising Ban Ki-Moon but also congratulating the UN's newest member - South Sudan. The unstated message was clearly that if independence was good enough for the South Sudanese, why not for the Palestinians after more than 40 years of occupation? And with the 'Arab Spring' already almost a cliche in the mouths of Western politicians and media, Abbas went on to say that the overdue 'Palestinian Spring' was beginning.

No one imagines that the bid for statehood and recognition is going to solve the Palestinian problem overnight, or that the path it opens will be easy. Palestinians have been wary of walking into a trap. But the opposition from the Israeli government (though it has suddenly discovered it wants talks with the Palestinians) and the expected US veto have clarified something. This is a moment of truth, when friends of the Palestininians will have to stand up and be counted. Forcing their fight for freedom on to the world's attention and agenda this way is a worthwhile step.

There have been rallies throughout the Palestinian West Bank to support the bid for statehood and recognition, and today a huge crowd in Ramallah watched Abbas's UN appearance on giant screen TV, bursting into applause at moments such as when he remembered Arafat.
In East Jerusalem youths clashed with Israeli police. And though Hamas had reportedly ruled out any demonstrations in Gaza, the Ma'an news agency today reported a women's demonstration there in support of the bid for statehood.

There were demonstrations in New York too, one supporting Palestinian independence, and a counter-demonstration waving Israeli flags and opposing the Palestinians. For once it looked as though the pro-Palestinian demonstration was bigger. But then the born-again Christian and right-wing Zionist backers of Israeli belligerance do not need to turn out big numbers. They are confident that the US government will do their bidding.

In Israel itself, on the other hand, Peace Now supporters began a banner-drop on motorway bridges with slogans such as "Netnyahu and (Foreign Minister) Liberman do not speak for us".

In Tel Aviv, about 80 leading writers, intellectuals and other respected figures gathered at the call of Combattants for Peace for a rally and to sign a statement supporting Palestinian statehood, outside the very hall where David Ben Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel in May 1948, situated as it happens on Rothschild Boulevard, where tents sprang up this Summer for Israel's social justice movement.

That campaign avoided facing the occupation issue even when the right-wing settlers attacked it, but many of the participants knew the issues were related, and argued that justice must be for all. 'Protest leader Dror Shalom, 35, insisted criticism of the occupation was implicit in their challenge to Netanyahu's rightwing government. The majority of people who protested in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, he said, would extend their calls for justice to Palestinians.

"Palestine, you don't need our permission to have a state. Negotiations on its borders can follow," agreed author Sefi Rachlevski.

A recent poll conducted by the Hebrew University found that 70% of Israelis believe that if the UN votes in favour of a Palestinian state, Israel should accept the decision. But the Israeli government is opposed, and so are the right-wing settlers whom it has armed, and who have already begun a campaign of provocations, including arson of mosques.

Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer was among those outside the Independence Hall in Tel Aviv signing their own declaration of support for Palestinian statehood. He said the majority of Israelis would support the establishment of a state alongside Israel.

But he warned it would be met with an armed rebellion by the rightwing, nationalist orthodox minority: "The fear I have of is not so much that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will march to the 1967 borders. I am afraid of the violent orthodox who have openly established a separate entity [in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory]. They pose the real danger to Israel."

The settlers have already been promising to hold provocative marches into Palestine Authority territory, and to use live ammunition against Palestinian protesters. Hilltop Youth leader Meir Bertler expressed his hope that Israel would annex the West Bank settlements. "As far as we're concerned, we're going to feel right at home in the West Bank, and this week we'll hold marches, begin construction and show our presence in order to make it clear to everyone exactly who this country belongs to."

Far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir stressed that his counterparts will not be "waiting at home so the Arabs might get close to their fences."
"We're going to go out and make it clear to the Arabs who the home owners are. We're going to take the initiative and march towards Palestinian towns."

Police, IDF prepare for worst
Meanwhile, security and police forces have begun preparing themselves for expected riots in the West Bank. Thousands of police officers have undergone training for possible scenarios, including riots, mass rallies and attempts to break into West Bank settlements.,7340,L-4123495,00.html

In fact, while expecting the Palestine Authority - the state-whom-it-will-not-recognise - to suppress Palestinian demonstrations, the Israeli government is both tooling up with arms and new measures to deal with the Palestinians, and arming the settlers to stage more provocations.

Some Israelis now fear that the state's failure to halt the right-wing settler extremists -who make little secret of their contempt for democracy and ordinary Israelis, let alone Palestinians - reflects not just ineptitude by the security services but something worse. They say that while Shin Bet security was supposedly infiltrating the far Right, the religious right which had been encouraged by the occupation regime and the military has in turn infiltrated both the army and the security services.

It may be too much to compare some Israeli yeshivot (such as the one where Yitzhak Rabin's assassin studied ) and Pakistani madrassas, but there are people saying that in both countries the religious right is out of control. Still, though comparisons might extend to the encouragement given extremists in both countries by the support which came from the United States, it is a safe bet that the US won't be employing drones to curb Israeli settlers who have got out of hand.

That they can still count on US support is a big part of the problem.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Warmonger at large (and getting ever richer) remains a menace

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AS though the prospect of the British government loyally tagging along with Washington was not worrying enough, worse news has come this week. It came in yesterday's Independent:

"David Cameron is secretly receiving political advice on foreign affairs from Tony Blair – most recently on how to resolve the international deadlock over Palestinian statehood, The Independent has learnt.

Mr Cameron has buried party political loyalties and privately invited the former Labour Prime Minister to Chequers to discuss the impasse, according to Foreign Office sources.

The two men have since stayed in regular touch on the issue, as the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, prepares to submit a formal application to the United Nations for membership this week. The Chequers meeting was set up at the request of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton".

This comes as Palestinian diplomat Nabil Shaath has observed that Blair, supposed "peace envoy" for the quartet (UN, EU, Russia and the US), sounds more like an Israeli government representative sometimes.

The former Labour prime minister who lied to get Britain into war on Iraq, has apparently been as unfazed by discovery of his lucrative deals with Colonel Gaddafi as he was by the findings of Iraq war inquiries. Exulting in the NATO-backed Libyan rebellion he has said similar interventions could be tried in Syria (incidentally another regime with which he was happy to expand business) and Iran.

He has also apparently tried telling the Palestinians they should ditch their bid for statehood and recognition in favour of entering yet more fruitless negotiations with Israel. Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas says there need be no contradiction between applying for recognition and negotiating. What is evident is that the kind of "negotiations" Israeli prime minister Netanyahu - and former British prime minister Tony Blair - are proposing, would depend on the Palestinians dropping their demands before they even go in to negotiate.

Many Palestinians, particularly in the Diaspora, have voiced doubts about the statehood and recognition strategem. But there have been big demonstrations in the West Bank in support of the move, while in Gaza, Hamas has forbade demonstrations for -or against. If we had any doubt about our position and responsibility we should only look at the expected US veto and the Republicans and right-wing Zionists screaming that Obama is "selling out Israel" by not going further.

As for Britain, the Independent says:
'The UK Government is agonising over how it should respond. One Whitehall source admitted: "They can't even decide what to do within the Foreign Office." Mr Blair is trying to fashion a united response to the Palestinians' move. The task is daunting, with Israel and the US instinctively hostile to the application, without the Palestinians also agreeing to recognise a Jewish state.'

(This is typical of media talk befogging issues. The PLO long ago recognised Israel, and Hamas has indicated that it would in effect do so in entering talks. But what the Israeli government and its backers are demanding is not just ordinary diplomatic or de facto recognition, but de jure recognition of the legitimacy of Israel as a "Jewish state" - in other words one in which Jews as an ethnicity or religious group have primacy, and others are at best tolerated. And that rules out the Palestinian right of return while upholding Israel's Law of Return to guarantee Jewish supremacy. And this along with Israeli leaders insisting they have the right to settle anywhere in Palestine.)

'The Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived in New York yesterday, where he was due to meet Mr Blair at Mr Cameron's behest for further talks on the Palestinian situation. Mr Cameron has also been anxious to involve the Liberal Democrats, who have traditionally been more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, in all discussions. "We need to approach this issue, with all its sensitivities, with a single Coalition voice," said one government source. Insiders say that Mr Blair and Mr Cameron, who held their Chequers meeting in mid-July, have a warm and respectful relationship, although their conversations are limited to international issues, also including Libya and other uprisings in North Africa.

There has been concern that Lib Dems' readiness to take up Palestinian rights has gone the way of other good things with their discovery of the delights of government.

Looking at the Lib Dems' website I could not find any statement or conference resolutions about Palestine, though apparently Simon Hughes has said they back the Palestinian bids for recognition and statehood.

Looking elsewhere, mind, neither the Palestine Solidarity Campaign nor the Stop the War Coalition seem to be campaigning clearly to support the Palestinian move or demand the British government votes for Palestinian recognition. Socialist Worker meanwhile seems keener on telling the Palestinians what they already know about the shortcomings of Abbas and the UN, rather than focussing on the responsibility of the British labour movement to put an end to the Tony B.Liar legacy.

During the Bosnian war the SWP refused to oppose the arms embargo or support Workers Aid, in effect ending up with Douglas Hurd's position against supposedly "creating a level kiling field", albeit admonishing Bosnians on the need for "workers unity". On the Iraq war on the other hand SWPers in Stop the War opposed calls for support for secular and democratic forces in Iraq, saying this would mean choosing allies and "telling Iraqis what to do". But now on Palestine apparently it is OK for some on the Left to proffer advice while witholding support, (in SW's case, advice to wait for the revolution in Egypt) , oblivious that we end up letting our own government, US Republicans, Zionists and Tony Blair get away with their opposition.

Who says Crime does not Pay?

ONE thing the Stop the War Coalition is doing usefully is keeping a watch on Tony Blair and his vast fortunes. Here's one extract from an article posted on its website

'However, it is Blair's post-PM activities that have made him a serious financial heavyweight, and it has been estimated that he has earned at least £15m since leaving Number 10.

He is a senior advisor at investment bank JP Morgan (salary estimates range between £500,000 and £2.5m) and advises the Swiss insurance firm Zurich Financial Services on climate change issues for a reputed £1m a year, not to mention his consulting role with luxury goods firm LVMH. And he was said to have been paid an estimated £1m for writing a report for the government of Kuwait on the future of the oil-rich state.

Indeed, such is the demand for his advisory services that he has set up a commercial consultancy firm, Tony Blair Associates, which has banked at least £2m advising foreign countries and businesses.

Although still dogged by certain decisions made when PM, such as his unpopular wars, Blair is cashing in on his popularity and has received an estimated £5m for his memoirs, although he has vowed to give the money to charity with the Royal British Legion the beneficiary.

The royalties from sales – autobiographies by former PMs Margaret Thatcher and John Major sold around 500,000 and 200,000 copies respectively - are likely to earn millions more for the charity.

And for those that couldn't wait for the memoirs to be published, Blair has been active on the after-dinner speech circuit. Signed to the Washington Speakers Bureau for £500,000, Blair typically commands up to $250,000 for a 90-minute speech.

He is widely believed to be the highest paid speaker – commanding even more than former US President Bill Clinton – and has reportedly earned over £5m for his speaking engagements. Last year he earned almost £400,000 for two half-hour speeches in the Philippines.

On top of this, Blair receives £84,000 of taxpayers' money to run a private office, and he is also entitled to draw a pension of £63,468.

Most recently, the former PM named as the 2010 recipient of the annual Liberty Award in the US - including a £67,000 cash prize.

Blair's vast property portfolio

Finally, Blair, who is married to Cherie Booth QC, the barrister daughter of actor Tony Booth, also boasts an enviable property portfolio.

Most recently, the Blairs paid £1m for a house for a three-bedroom maisonette in a Georgian townhouse in central London for their daughter. It becomes the eighth home in the Blairs' seemingly ever-expanding portfolio.

It was bought mortgage-free in the names of Mrs Blair and her 22-year-old daughter Kathryn, Land Registry documents revealed in August 2010. Their three eldest children now each have a £1m home in central London, all bought with substantial help from their parents.

Kathryn and her older brothers Euan, 26, and Nicky, 24, all live within striking distance of their parents' £3.7m mansion in Connaught Square.

The Blairs have amassed property worth £15m since Mr Blair entered Downing Street in 1997. Mrs Blair is understood to have paid for the two-storey property for Miss Blair, who until recently studied European law in Strasbourg, where she had a scholarship. She previously studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. It follows the purchase of a £1.3m Grade II-listed townhouse for Euan and a £1.13m 'lad's pad' for Nicky.

Since leaving Downing Street in 2007, Mr Blair is estimated to have made £25m from lectures and lucrative consultancy deals. Claims that he has earned up to £60m have been dismissed by his office as 'simply ludicrous'.

The true figure for Mr Blair's wealth is impossible to pin down. He has set up a complicated web of companies through which he channels his earnings without having to declare them publicly.

See also:


Israelis and Palestinians celebrate Palestinian independence together in Beit Jala, Thur., Sept 22, 18:00
Thur., Sept 22, 18:00
Israelis and Palestinians celebrate Palestinian independence together at the Orthodox Club, Beit Jala, West Bank, organized on the Israeli side by the Combatants for Peace and Solidarity movements. Transportation from Tel Aviv: Arlozorov Train Station 16:00, Tel Aviv - Rakevet Merkaz (Arlozorov Train station) 16:00 Tel Aviv - Rakevet Merkaz (Arlozorov Train station), Jerusalem - Gan Hapaamon 17:00, Haifa and Beer Sheva: upon demand.

We will shortly take a look at the different ways the Israeli peaceniks and the IDF are mobilising for the situation following the UN vote.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Make governments recognise Palestine

PALESTINIAN President Mahmoud Abbas is leading a delegation to the UN in New York this week to seek international recognition for Palestinian statehood. Should this be blocked at the Security Council, by the United States' veto, it will go on to the UN General Assembly, where it should at least gain support from near 130 countries which have to some extent already recognised Palestine.

The first thing to say about this step is that it is not only justified, but long overdue.

It was on November 29 , 1947, that the United Nations General Assembly voted for Resolution 181, proposing that as Britain withdrew from its Palestine Mandate, the country be partitioned into Jewish and Arab states, with a UN protected international zone around Jerusalem.
Among the villages that lay in that protected zone was Deir Yassin, scene of the infamous massacre by Zionist forces on April 9, 1948, which helped send thousands of Palestinians fleeing in terror.

The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 15, 1948, and promptly recognised by the United States and the Soviet Union. Though Arab armies entered Palestine, the Israeli state emerged from war with a larger share of the land than it had been allocated by partition, and thousands of Palestinians denied the right to return became homeless and stateless refugees. By agreement with the Israeli state which they pretended not to recognise, Egypt took the Gaza strip , and Jordan got the West Bank.

Palestine was wiped off the official map. The great powers spoke only of guaranteeing the armistice lines as "secure borders between Israel and neighbouring states", and it was not until young Palestinians began waging armed struggle that the world was reminded there was a people called Palestinians. Even then, Israeli leaders and their allies tried to insist there was "no such thing", while doing everything they could to suppress them.

In 1967, Israeli forces were able to seize and occupy both the Gaza strip and West Bank, as well as the Golan and Sinai. But this time Palestinians stood their ground. And it was after the 1973 war, which led to Egypt and Israel negotiating return of the Sinai, that Yasser Arafat declared the PLO would establish a state in any part of Palestine from which the Zionist enemy was forced to withdraw. This was an assertion of independence from the Arab states as much as from the Zionists. It may also be seen as a seed of the Two State policy, by which a Palestinian state could co-exist with Israel, with mutual recognition.

It was Said Hammami, the PLO's man in Britain, who began to raise that vision openly, and for this he was assassinated. He was not to be the only one on either side who paid that price. Israeli prme minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a Zionist religious fanatic for having been prepared to negotiate with the Palestinians.

Indeed, there were two wars in Lebanon, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, aimed if not at wiping out the Palestinians, at breaking their will and spirit and erasing the PLO as a factor to be reckoned with. It didn't work. And the first Intifada in occupied Palestine, from 1987, made it clear that Israel could neither silence the people with brute force nor find sufficient stooges through which to rule them.

In 1988, the PLO leadership took the step of proclaiming a Palestinian state. Then in 1993 the Israeli government which had previously objected to any negotiations, and even jailed citizens for meeting with Palestinian organisations, revealed itself partner in the Oslo Accords. However inadequate the agreements, providing for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and limits on settlements, and allowing some Palestinians to return, they were seen as paving the way for Palestinian recognition and statehood. Alas it was not to be. US president Clinton told Yasser Arafat to delay a declaration of statehood. And President Arafat ended up humiliated, a prisoner in his own compound.

Much has happened since, and too much blood been spilt. Israeli siege and war on Gaza, and expansion of West Bank settlements, dividing the West Bank into beleaguered enclaves and creating a ring around Jerusalem, have led many people to see no hope of "two states" or indeed any other peaceful solution.

But now Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues are making a fresh attempt. Many Palestinians have understandable doubts about Abbas as well as fears that a compromise might leave out the Palestinian Diaspora and refugees, or settle for a mockery of statehood. But there are also those hoping that the upheavals in the Middle East may compel Israel's Western backers, if not their stubborn protege, to re-evaluate the balance of forces (Note that they have given up on expectations of moral considerations). The West claims to want freedom in Libya and Syria (though not Bahrain) so why not Palestine? We've seen the popular feeling in Egypt lead quickly to the Israeli embassy in flames. But hitherto stalwart US allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also anxious for change.

So far the signs are not good. The US Senate, apparently paying more attention to the AIPAC Zionist lobby than to America's allies, insists the US should veto Palestine's bid. President Obama spoke of a solution within 1967 borders, but made no move to restrain Netanyahu expanding settlements. Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian diplomat and member of Abbas's team said he "gulped" when he saw US proposals for new negotiations with no mention of settlements, Jerusalem, or refugees. The US, he said, was "not a neutral observer, but a strategic ally of Israel".

As for Britain and the "quartet"'s so called "peace envoy" Tony Blair(!) "Mr Blair doesn't sound like a neutral interlocutor, he sounds very much like an Israeli diplomat sometimes," he said. In contrast, "the Europeans have played a much more serious and positive game. The Europeans were seriously engaged." But the EU had failed to unite around a common position and "they are also being threatened by the US".

Indeed Palestinians cannot have forgotten that EU Foreign Policy chief Kathy Ashton last year called for Israel to be raised to a "strategic partner", just as now she talks glibly about "staying the peace process".

The British government has officially not yet made its mind up over the Palestinian bid for recognition, though if true to form it will wait for Washington to make its mind up for it. But there is just a chance it might see advantages in taking an independent position. Especially if enough voices are raised in support of Palestinian rights. The Israel Lobby here is not as strong as in the United States, nor as unwavering.

Whatever the concerns and legitimate debate there may be among Palestinians as to whether this is the right move right now, there can be no doubt from our side of their right to make it. Palestinians are a people. They have a right to freedom and a right to recognition. They have a right to take their place among the nations.

We have a duty to support their efforts and demand our governments stop backing the longest occupation. It's the least we can do.

Here are a couple of online petitions:

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