Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Arms of Belgravia

"I'm not an arms dealer!"
with Dennis Thatcher, Rosemary Said, and Baroness T.

THE row over loans to political parties has taken a more serious turn with reports of police interest in both Tory and Labour party finances, and whether they were used to obtain favours, as well as peerages. The Electoral Commission has also asked for details, and questioned whether the loans were made on "commercial" terms.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times has balanced its report on Labour links to an ambitious property developer by bringing an old friend of Tory Baroness Margaret Thatcher back into the limelight. (Cameron took £100,000 from Saudi arms dealer, Robert Winnett and Jonathan Calvert, Sunday Times, March 26).

I'd have thought the "commercial loans" issue is fairly obvious. If a bank or other source of capital lends money to a business it is assuming that it will reap a share of the surplus value produced, in the form of the interest repayments. Indeed a guaranteed profit unless it has really made an ill-advised loan. But political parties, unless you count their bring-and-buy sales and raffles are not likely to become profit-making industries. So what is not obvious is how the loans were ever to be repaid, and if not, what particular advantages -apart from lending as a way to make undisclosed contributions - the lenders could expect to gain.
Hence the issues being belatedly investigated.

In the case of Wafic Said, benefactor of the Tories under David Cameron, the means was different apparently. Said, a Syrian-born Saudi national who denies being an arms dealer, though he profited as a go-between from the massive al Yamamah arms deal, is barred from making political donations in Britain. But before he became a tax exile he did make donations to the Tory party, and since then his Scots-born wife Rosemary has been helping by bidding at fund-raising auctions.

"Last month the Saids bid £100,000 for an eight-person dinner that will be provided by Albert Roux, the chef, at Cameron's first fundraising ball. Nicholas Soames, the former shadow defence minister, and Boris Johnson, current higher education spokesman, were offered as wine waiters.

"Over the past two years the Saids are understood to have given at least £550,000 to the Tories at auctions but none of it has been declared publicly. A friend of Said's said yesterday: 'This is how he continues to support the party, by giving money through auctions.'

"This weekend a spokesman for Cameron said the Tories had complied with the rules and received donations in the name of Said's wife. The party says she is a long-term supporter".

Al Yamamah ("the Dove") was a massive multi-billion-pound deal to sell planes and warships to Saudi Arabia. It was signed by Margaret Thatcher, whose son Mark was said to have received payments for his involvement in the deal in the 1980s. Wafic Said now says his part in the deal was a modest one, compared to that of the Thatchers.

Said, born to a prominent Damascus family in 1939, came to Britain to study in 1960, and became friends with two sons of Saudi Prince Sultan, Khalid (who later commanded Saudi forces during the 1991 Gulf War) and Bandar (now the Saudi ambassador in Washington). In 1969, Said moved to Saudi Arabia and set up a design and construction consulting firm, which obtained big construction and land development contracts during the 1970s oil boom.

His reputation as a negotiator led to him brokering arms purchases for the Saudis, including a $200 million deal in 1979 for the AWACS, American airborne command and control system. In 1981, he received Saudi citizenship. Saudi government arms deals have involved large "commissions" for members of the Saudi royal family. Sharing this with intermediaries across the negotiating table keeps them sweet and stops too much talk about "bribes".

In the 1980s, partly because of alarm raised by the Zionist Lobby in Washington as to how and where Saudi weaponry might be used, Congress started getting restrictive, only for America's arms and aviation industry to watch with chagrin as their British allies stepped into the breach and beat off French competition to secure the deal.

Al-Yamamah, signed in 1986, provided for $31 billion in Saudi purchases of military equipment and services from British Aerospace and other UK military firms over a decade. Since much of the payment was in oil shipments delivered outside the Saudis' official OPEC quota, there are no reliable records of how much was actually paid.

In 1999 a former executive of the arms company BMARC, David Trigger, testified in court that his company paid a 15% commission to Fahd al-Athel, an associate of Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Fahd, to persuade the regime to buy $650 million worth of helicopter weapons. The chairman of Thorn EMI, Sir Colin Southgate, admitted to paying a 25% commission on a $40 million contract for bomb fuses sold under Al-Yamamah.

Some of the money came back into the pockets of individuals in this country. There have been allegations - never proven, but never denied - that Mark Thatcher received £12 million as commission. In 1991, the National Audit Office carried out an inquiry into the Al-Yamamah deal, but its report was suppressed on the eve of the general election by Bob Sheldon, the Labour chairman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, and his Tory deputy. Sheldon admitted that Labour feared being accused of undermining jobs in the aircraft industry.

Alex Sanson, a former British Aerospace marketing director, said in 1998, "You could not do a thing in Saudi unless you went through the Said channel." Said acknowledged helping to broker the deal, but insisted he took no commission. However, part of the deal was for British Aerospace to invest in Saudi Arabia, and he admitted that he "advised British Aerospace in relation to the offset program", later acknowledging "I benefited because the project led to construction in Saudi Arabia that involved my companies." British Aerospace confirmed that Said was paid for "helping this company fulfill its obligations in the Middle East, and Saudi in particular."

A memorandum dated 2nd May 1989, and sent to Labour MP Jeff Rooker, referred to "constant phone calls between Mrs. T and King Fahd and Sir Peter Levene and Prince Sultan. Levene was in fact the person who made the crude oil arrangement... The same source also claims that there is a sizable payment into the Conservative Party...which is being administered by Wafic Said in conjunction with Mark T."

The mystery memo. went on to claim that the Tornado aircraft being supplied were hardened to carry nuclear weapons, at the insistance of King Fahd, and that Saudi officers thought they might carry Pakistani nuclear weapons for use against Israel. A more likely scenario is that the bombers might have been used against Iran. Or this bit about "nuclear hardening" might simply have been invented and slipped into the document by disgruntled US competitors.

Labour MP Rooker, a member of the Commons Public Accounts Comittee, sent a copy of the document to Mrs.Thatcher, who said she had passed it on to "the appropriate authorities", and no more was heard about it. (Lobster magazine, no.26, 1993)

In 1994, reporters ran a land registry search on the home in Eaton Terrace, Belgravia where Mark Thatcher had been living and found it was owned by a Panamanian company, Formigol, registered at the 5th floor of 49 Park Lane - Said's office. In 1998, it was reported that the luxurious Mayfair penthouse of Sir Richard Evans, chief executive of British Aerospace, was registered in the name of another Panamanian company called Knightsbridge Enterprises, which happened to be run from Said's offices at 49 Park Lane.

In 1993, when British Defence Procurement Minister Jonathan Aitken stayed at the Ritz Hotel in Paris at the expense of a top aide to Prince Muhammad, Said Muhammad Ayas, Said's presence at the hotel attracted reporters' notice. Aitken resigned in 1995. Said owned a 30% share in Aitken Hume, a merchant bank founded by Aitken in the early 1980s.

Though Aitken's memory lapse about who paid his hotel bills was to lead to a prison term, Said became a minor celebrity on the Tory scene. He was photographed with Margaret Thatcher and family, and was one of eight guests to sit at her table during a 1987 banquet in Dallas. Politicians and businessmen joined shooting parties at his 3,000-acre country estate in Oxfordshire (which he bought the year after the Al-Yamamah deal). He has homes in Britain, France and Spain, but his Belgravia home is company-owned, which is handy for tax purposes.

Being close to the Thatchers has not prevented ties with the Blair government of course. When the Wafic Said Business School for which he had put up £20 million, overcoming Oxford University's academic reserve, ran into planning objections, the government cleared the obstacles. A leaked October 1998 memo from planning official Avis Gerry to Planning Minister Nick Raynsford noted "we were under pressure from the Prime Minister's office not to delay the decision."

Thatcher foreign policy aide Sir Charles Powell was among Said's friends, and became a business associate. Powell's brother Jonathan became Tony Blair's chief of staff. English Heritage, which had wanted to preserve the old Victorian railway station at Oxford, dropped its objections to the business school building site. Weeks later, Said donated $40,000 to English Heritage.

Said has also been involved in British links with Syria, where he has investments in telecomms and hotels. While the Bush administration and its Israeli allies may like to denounce the Syrian regime and accuse it of supporting terrorism, British strategy has been to keep Syria on board for the invasion of Iraq, as well as for business prospects.

Early in 2001 Peter Mandelson flew to Damascus and met with new president Bashir al-Assad. During the visit, he also attended a party held by Said. Mandelson claimed that the trip was a private vacation to view "ancient ruins," but he had the approval of Blair and the Foreign Office. Later in the year, Said reportedly helped fund a visit to Syria by a parliamentary delegation headed by Labour MP John Austin. In July, Said and Powell joined Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara in addressing a conference at London's Dorchester Hotel, entitled "Syria: A New Dawn for Business, Trade and Investment".

In September 2001, Powell was summoned to an urgent meeting with Blair, who asked him to fly to Syria and persuade Assad to agree to meet with him. He flew to Damascus the next day. A little over a month later, Blair became the first British prime minister ever to visit Damascus.
US policy makers probably have mixed feelings about Wafic Said. Some don't like him for helping Arab governments obtain large quantities of arms. Others resent the fact that the arms were bought from Britain instead of the United States.


Monday, March 27, 2006

The Man of Property and the Owl of Minerva

Minerva is a property investment and development company whose principal strategy is to create shareholder wealth through investment in property.

THE row over "New Labour"'s turn to old capitalist ways, with party Treasurer Jack Dromey revealing that neither he nor anyone on the Party's National Executive Committee was told about £14 million in loans from fat cat friends, has dragged the party and government into wider and deeper mire.

The affair of Culture Minister Tessa Jowell, separating from her lawyer husband David Mills after insisting she knew nothing about money from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi channeled through offshore trusts to pay their mortgage, is starting to look like an amusing tit-bit, just a taster for the main course.

The device of taking loans rather than donations was a way of evading laws requiring political parties to reveal the sources of finances. It turns out that Tony Blair knew the identity of the lenders who contributed £14million before the last election, money brought in care of his confidente and roving Middle East envoy Lord Levy. Blair then nominated these generous individuals for peerages.

This is the Labour leader who boasted that he would not be beholden to the trade unions which founded the Labour Party, dismissing them as "sectional interests". New Labour is a party for the millionaires, not the millions.

Blair's deputy prime minister, Environment Secretary John Prescott, the one-time seafarers' union activist whom he relied upon to keep union leaders happy while reforming the Party, has been caught up in an embarassing disclosure that he approved planning decisions benefitting those who lent money to the Party.

A report in the Sunday Times by Gareth Walsh and Robert Winnett, ("Prescott Caught in Loans Row" , March 26) says: "JOHN PRESCOTT made planning decisions in favour of two property developers who had given secret loans and a donation to the Labour party, it emerged this weekend. The deputy prime minister gave his backing to a controversial £600m scheme proposed by Andrew Rosenfeld, chairman of the Minerva property company, only months after Rosenfeld had secretly loaned Labour £1m last year.

"It was the second time Prescott had favoured the company. In 2003 he approved planning permission for a controversial skyscraper in London.
At that time the chairman of the company was Sir David Garrard, who had only months earlier given Labour £200,000. Garrard went on to lend the party £2.3m last year and was nominated for a peerage.

"Given the company’s links with the Labour party, critics say Prescott should have stood aside because of the potential conflicts of interest. Prescott, however, insists that he did not know about the secret loans and that he was following his planning inspectors’ advice.

"Minerva has been chaired by Rosenfeld since April last year, after Garrard stepped down. Six months later — and after Rosenfeld had loaned Labour £1m — Prescott made his decision in favour of Minerva’s plans for Park Place, a 1m sq ft US-style shopping mall in Croydon, south London. The £600m mall had previously been granted planning permission but the development was at risk from a rival scheme, a proposed extension to a nearby existing shopping centre which, if allowed to go ahead, would have scuppered Minerva’s project.
Prescott killed the rival scheme, put forward by a consortium called Whitgift, by rejecting its appeal against an earlier refusal by inspectors to give it planning permission.

"Before the decision, Minerva had suffered heavy losses. Days after Prescott’s announcement, shares rallied, boosting the value of Rosenfeld’s personal shareholding by £4m.

"Park Place was the second of the company’s developments to benefit from a Prescott decision following cash support for Labour from a Minerva chairman. Prescott decided not to “call in” for further scrutiny plans for the 50- storey Minerva tower, due to become the tallest building in the City of London — despite intervening in two similar developments by other companies.
Prescott was asked to decide the fate of the £500m tower six months after a £200,000 donation to Labour in June 2003 by Garrard, then chairman of Minerva.
Garrard later gave his loan of £2.3m to Labour, although by the time of Prescott’s announcement on the Croydon scheme he had stepped down as chairman and sold his shares in the company.

News of the link between Minerva bosses and Labour has attracted particular attention from teachers and trade unionists, including Labour Party members, in the London Borough of Brent. On 15 November last year the Labour-run council in this north-west London borough officially announced plans for a second City Academy, on a site near Wembley Stadium.

"Brent Council is proposing to launch the borough's first school to meet the educational needs of three to eighteen-year-olds on one site in September 2009. The council's Executive last night approved a recommendation to submit an expression of interest to the DfES to create a new academy in partnership with sponsor Andrew Rosenfeld, who would provide £2m towards the capital costs. It also agreed, in principle, to buy a site for the proposed academy at Wembley Park Sports Ground, adjacent to Wembley Park tube station, from Transport for London (TfL).A second academy is needed in the borough to meet the acute demand for extra school and nursery places in the borough, the council believes. A comprehensive report that it commissioned earlier this year has estimated that an additional 2,100 secondary school places alone will be needed in Brent by 2014 as the number of young people living in the borough increases. "Our proposal is to create an academy that sets the highest standards of aspiration and achievement for its students," says Councillor Michael Lyon, Brent Council's Lead Member for Children and Families.

Even before the decision was announced, the Wembley academy plan was the subject of fierce controversy, with council leader Ann John determined to push it through. Many opponents are against Labour's whole City Academy policy, which has handed schools over to businessmen and religious outfits and diverted resources away from elected authorities. "They are given £m's of public money to deliver their educational experiments with no accountability to local electors, parents or even Ofsted", says a contributor to Brent Trades Union Council's online discussion.

They are also opposed to the loss of the Wembley site which has been providing sports facilities and other amenities for the community (some sports stars first trained there). What's more, they say a major school by Wembley Park would be a "white elephant", at the wrong end of the borough, and requiring children to bussed to an already busy main road location.

Brent already has the Capital City Academy, formerly Willesden High School, now officially specialising in sport and run by a wealthy sports good manufacturer. Eight out of the 13 governors are appointed by Sir Frank Lowe. The proposed academy at Wembley is to specialise in "family".

When Tony Blair was asked about academies in the North-East which had adopted Creationism (teaching the Bible account in Genesis as literally true, and treating Evolution as "just a theory"), he said he didn't care so long as they gopt good exam results. Well that's not something Brent's academy can claim.

A report in the Times Education Supplement, 'Academies hit rock bottom', by Graeme Paton, published on 18 March 2005, says:
"The Government's city academies have been branded an expensive flop after nearly all were among the worst in the country for key stage 3 test results.
Nine out of 11 academies, independent state schools backed by private sponsors, featured among the bottom 200 schools in England in last year's tests for 14-year-olds, the results of which were published this week.

"The results, in maths, science and English, will raise further questions about the academy programme, which has already been attacked for diverting resources away from other schools and placing too much power in the hands of private sponsors. ....

"Capital City in Brent, north London, was the worst-performing academy, with just 28 per cent of pupils reaching the level expected of 14-year-olds in English, 35 per cent in maths and 23 per cent in science".

Of course, it could be argued that a person ought to be free to fund the party of their choice, or take part in its programmes, without suggestion of undue influence. Until recently Andrew Rosenfeld was not widely known as a Labour supporter. In fact in 2001 he offered his services to be treasurer of the Tory party. Evidently not a man who puts all his eggs in one basket.

Andrew Rosenfeld and Minerva are not newcomers to the education game, though. As the London School of Economics announced three years ago:
" Minerva plc, the FTSE 250 property company, has launched a ground-breaking joint venture with LSE's Cities Programme. The venture will undertake new research into key factors impacting on urban development.
Minerva is making an initial investment of £500,000 in the joint venture project, which will be named The Minerva LSE Research Group. The group will undertake a continuing stream of original research initiatives targeted at addressing the practical issues that will influence development in major urban areas, the arena in which Minerva's development activities focus. The group also aims to enhance the awareness and clarity of the issues that are impacting upon urban areas and, in turn, help shape the future of public policy.

The move represents the first time that a UK property company has independently created an entity dedicated to long-term research into those issues that affect its industry. The results will provide Minerva with an exclusive resource to be considered when formulating future strategy and the findings of the group will constitute a public knowledge base, giving advice on how best to plan cities that will be of value to city governments and mayors on a world-wide basis.

Andrew Rosenfeld, chief executive of Minerva, commented: 'The property industry has for too long made major investment decisions that have enormous impact on our environment and infrastructure that are based on little or no practical research. No other industry makes commercial decisions on this basis. This initiative, conducted with one of the world's leading academic authorities on urban design and regeneration, will go some way towards redressing this and provide Minerva with a platform of considered research which will enhance its performance as one of London's major developers.' .'
newsAndEvents/ archives/2000-2002


This set me wondering. As Minerva's own mission statement says, its prime aim is to "create shareholder wealth through investment in property". Not unreasonable -it is a property company, not a charity. Transport for London has just opened the new rebuilt and expanded Wembley Park station. With the new Wembley Stadium when it eventually opens, expected to bring new business as well as traffic, one could expect a rise in land values.

Brent council is very keen on what it calls the "regeneration of Wembley". It even fancied a big American-financed casino complex near the stadium, and its plans for Wembley Central look like pushing out the Somali cafes and others curently using the run-down shopping plaza. The Owl of Minerva, symbol of wisdom, flies at dusk it has been said. Could it be that having acquired the land next to Wembley Park for development, Brent's second academy might make a moonlit flit to a less potentially profitable site? Perhaps with the row now threatening "New Labour" and its best-laid plans we'll never know what might have been.

Council elections are due in May. Unfortunately the liquidation of the Socialist Alliance, which might have challenged Ann John in her Stonebridge ward seat, means opponents of the City Academy have yet to pack the punch they could be doing.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Triangle inferno - and the terrible story goes on


"The life of men and women is so cheap, and property is so sacred."

A chance visit to a site called Jewschool, at http://www.jewschool.com/ (reached by following links via Ireland and Hungary as a matter of fact) brought a reminder from someone called Ruby K. that today is the 95th anniversary of the Triangle Fire. New York garment unions and the Workmen's Circle are holding commemorative events. I turned to an article in Jewish Socialist Spring 2001 about this man-made disaster, whose echoes continue in horrific fires today.

It was late on a Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911. The workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, on the upper floors of the Asch building in New York, mainly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, some no more than teenagers, were getting ready to go home. With Spring in the air, some may have been hoping a bit of extra pay would not only cover their rent and necessities, but stretch to some special Passover groceries, or an Easter bonnet.

Suddenly the word "Fire!" was heard. Within minutes the blaze spread through the factory's floors. Workers struggled through the narrow aisles between machines and blazing bales of cloth, many only to find themselves trapped behind locked doors. The Triangle factory's only fire escape, leading to an inner yard, buckled in the heat under the weight of those who reached it.

Some managed to get out on to the roof and escape across neighbouring buildings. Three men formed a human chain to help fellow-workers across a gap between window ledges, but then growing exhausted, lost their balance and fell 80 feet to their death. As the flames grew fiercer those trapped leapt desperately from windows. The firefighters' ladders and hoses could not reach the upper floors nor could their safety net cope with the people leaping from the inferno.

Horrified watchers saw two girls burned to death at a window. The sidewalks and the yard at the rear were soon littered with bodies, some with clothes smouldering or scorched. By the end of the day 146 workers were killed, either burned to death or crushed on the pavement. Dazed and traumatised survivors continued to have nightmares for many years.

Two years before this blaze, trades unionists striking at Triangle had demanded not just decent pay but adequate fire safety provision. The strike was broken with the help of hired thugs, and sacked strikers were replaced by newcomers desperate for the work. New York city employers succeeded in blocking city fire legislation.

Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, the owners of Triangle, escaped the fire. Socialist lawyer Morris Hillquit noted how they didn't go down with their workers, "what a tremendous difference between the captains of ships and the captains of industry!" In fact, with several previous fires to their name, the pair still collected a tidy sum in fire insurance. They generously offered to pay Triangle victims' families a week's pay ("as though giving them a vacation" workers wryly commented). Within a few days, backed by a big brokerage firm, they were advertising for new workers for another factory they opened up. A jury eight months later acquitted the two of any wrongdoing.

Some 400,000 people marched in pouring rain to union-organised funeral for the Triangle victims. At a memorial meeting held in the Metropolitan Opera House on April 2, 1911, Rose Schneiderman, who had been one of the leaders of the 1909 strike, spoke:

I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting. The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today; the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch on fire.
This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
Public officials have only words of warning to us – warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.
I can't talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.

The place of the Triangle fire in American memory literature and poetry is discussed by Janet Zandy at http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pinsky/zandy.htm

There are pictures from the time at www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/

Capitalism has changed. Of course it has. There are still sweatshops in the rich United States, particularly in the garment trade, but capital has gone abroad in search of pastures new, while wise men and politicians told us of a new "post-industrial" , "information society" and "leisure age", making all our notions of toil and struggle, unions and solidarity obsolete..... Oh yeah?

For 82 years the Triangle Factory fire held a record for deaths. Then on the afternoon of May 10, 1993, a fire broke out in a four-story factory complex in Nakhon Pathom Province in Thailand, near Bangkok. The complex belonged to the Kader Industrial Toy Company, a giant sweatshop operation that over the years had manufactured toys that were distributed and sold by some of the most prominent names in corporate America, including Toys "R" Us, J.C. Penney, Fisher-Price, Gund and Hasbro.

Listen to Lampan Taptim, who survived the fire:
"There was the sound of yelling about a fire. I tried to leave the section but the supervisor told me to get back to work. My sister who worked on the fourth floor with me pulled me away and insisted we try to get out. We tried to go down the stairs and got to the second floor. We found that the stairs had already caved in. There was a lot of yelling and confusion. I couldn't do down farther. In desperation I went back up to the windows and went back and forth looking down below. The smoke was thick and I picked the best place to jump on a pile of boxes. My sister jumped, too. She died."

Described by witnesses as a "living hell," the Kader factory fire killed 188 panicked and screaming workers, of whom 174 were women and teen-age girls.


Then there's "People's China", entering capitalism's embrace as sweated sub-contractor for big foreign companies:
Chen Yuying was 15 years old when she began working in the Zhili Toy factory. She worked there for three years, earning seven cents an hour. In order to help pay for her older brother's schooling, Chen would send home what she could of her $26 monthly salary. When the factory caught fire in November 1993, 87 workers were killed, and hundreds, including Chen, were severely injured. The number of people killed and injured might not have been as high if it weren't for the unsafe conditions of the factory. There were no sprinkler systems, fire alarms, fire hoses, or fire escapes, and heavy mesh covered all of the windows. The doors of the factory were locked to prevent workers from escaping or leaving without having met their daily quotas.

The Secret Life of Toys
Child Slave Labor in Barbie Sweatshops
The Kader Toy Factory Fire

November 2005:
Factory Fire Kills 22 in Bangladesh
NARAYANGANJ, Bangladesh -- A fire raced through a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing 22 people who were trapped because most of the exits were locked, officials said Friday.
Rescuers recovered the victims' charred bodies after the fire destroyed the Sun Knit garment factory late Thursday in Siddhirganj, an industrial town near Dhaka, the capital, fire brigade official Nurul Islam said.

And to bring us right up to date, this came today:
Bangladesh factory fire toll 65, may rise
CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - A fire that gutted a textile mill in Bangladesh's port city of Chittagong has killed at least 65 workers, many of them women, and left dozens missing, witnesses and hospitals said on Friday.
About 80 people were injured in the country's biggest factory fire on Thursday, while several workers could still be trapped in the debris, rescue workers said.
The blaze at the KTS Textile Mills was believed to have started when a boiler exploded.
Firefighters said they were yet to completely stamp out the blaze, more than 12 hours after it started, prompting local authorities to call in the army for assistance.
"Charred bodies are still being removed to hospitals," a Reuters' reporter said from the site of the fire. Wailing relatives crowded into the hospital corridors to identify the victims.
The death toll is likely to rise, said a doctor at the main hospital in Chittagong. "We are struggling to treat so many burn injuries," he said.
Some 500 workers, mostly women, were working the late evening shift when the disaster struck.
Police said the main gate of the three-story factory, which employed about 1,500 workers, was locked from the outside and the gatekeeper could not be found immediately.
Textiles are Bangladesh's biggest export fetching the country some $6 billion annually, but safety standards at the mills are poor, officials and employees say.
More than 350 workers have been killed and some 2,500 injured in garment factory fires in Bangladesh since 1990, textile industry officials estimate. Reuters

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Ethnic Cleansing in Essex

I complained last year to the BBC about a misleading news report concerning the cost of cleaning up some land in Essex "after the Gypsies left". I pointed out that I had visited the site at Paynes Lane, near Broxbourne with friends, just a week before the eviction - which the media did not cover -and there was no sign then of the rubbish strewn on site. The families there had purchased this site for their homes and were taking care of it. In fact it was the council's hired bulldozers which piled up stones and debris, and spilled poisonous chemical toilet fluid on the land. The BBC report came months later.

This week the BBC and other news media reported the High Court ruling ordering a travelling family off council-owned land near Leeds. Once again we were given images and sound-bites suggesting Gypsies and Travellers are a public nuisance. But off-camera so far as the BBC and other bourgeois media are concerned, Gypsies and Travellers continue to be evicted from land which they own, families' homes are destroyed, and those hired by the councils charged with protecting the environment are the ones wrecking it.

When "squatters" were evicted in South Africa it sometimes made our television. We heard about "ethnic cleansing" in former Yugoslavia. When Israeli forces demolish Palestinian homes and bulldozers uproot olive groves there is quite rightly an international solidarity movement, and it occasionally - though all too rarely these days - gets news coverage. Since the mainstream British media don't want to let the public in Britain, let alone abroad, know what is happening in this green unpleasant land, I am posting two reports from longstanding Gypsy rights campaigner Grattan Puxon.

Ustiben report March 22, 2006


Grattan Puxon

Yesterday the bulldozers were sent in yet again to crush the homes of Travellers who by the British Government's own admission have nowhere legally to live. Basildon council, fulfilling its pledge to rid the district of unauthorised caravans, smashed up the homes of four families at Five Acre Farm. It was a merciless operation conducted by hired thugs. I saw small children on bicycles weaving past heavy machinery, dangerously close to a giant JCB. Huts and caravans were crunched flat like card-houses, as mothers stood by helpless.

Within hours, huge earth mounds had been piled around each yard. The stench from splintered drains and broken cesspit tanks was nauseous. The earth banks, blocking people from entering their own land, are illegal. The contractors, Constant & Co., and subcontractors H.E.Services and Terranova, are breaking the law and ignoring safety regulations.

One of the H.E.Services machines, during a previous eviction, smashed through the fencing on a yard which is under protection by a High Court injunction pending the outcome of a judicial review. Basildon council, led by Tory Malcolm Buckley,who pushed through the decision to spend up to five million euro ethnically-cleansing Gypsies, is undoubtedly the arch villain in this case.

He has his evil eye on nearby Dale Farm where nearly a hundred families know they are in line for the same treatment.; unless Buckley can be stopped. All human appeals and attempts at reasoned persuasion have so far failed. But the UK Government itself, in particular Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, must take its share of responsibility. He has exposed the shortfall of at least 4,000 yards or pitches needed by Travelling families. Yet his department have done nothing to curb the relentless ethnic-cleansing.

Local councils, hiding behind a smoke screen of planning regulations, are brutally hounding Gypsies from one part of the country to another. Moreover, they are not only behaving in an anti-social manner as Gypsy Affairs spokesman Joe Jones points out, but are habitually breaking the law. Millions have been spent erecting earthbanks around land owned by Travellers and trenching possible stopping places.

"This is wanton destruction of people's property," says Jones, who has reported increased harassment in neighbouring Kent. "Just who is being anti-social here?" A delegation from the new UK Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Forum will be urging the ODHM to step in and stop some of these illegal practices - which clearly contravene the Human Rights Act - when they meet Government officials on 6 April in London.



We, the undersigned, condemn all acts of ethnic-cleansing and forceful removal being perpetuated against Roma and Travellers around the globe. Aware of the mass forced exodus from Kosovo, pogroms in Romania, the raising of Romani homes in cities from Athens to Kaliningrad, from Budapest and Belgrade to Novisibirsk, we wish through this appeal to draw attention to the courageous stand being made by the residents of Dale Farm in England, among them eight pregnant mothers.
They are the victims of constant move-on operations and evictions up and down Britain, where thousands of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma have been "cleared" from their own land. Despite a racially-tainted vote by Basildon District Council to spend up to £3 million on destroying their 86 homes, they continue in the name of Travellers everywhere, a non-violent campaign to save their community from the bulldozer.We call for common sense, reason and tolerance.
Stop UK ethnic-cleansing: leave Dale Farm alone.
Add your names by emailing dale.farm@ntlworld.com

Ustiben report March 24, 2006


By Grattan Puxon

Burned out caravans alongside the London M25 motorway bear witness to the ever worsening plight of Britain's 350,000 Gypsies. Scorched by the flames of a seemingly unquenchable racism, Travellers are determined to step up efforts to gain respect for their homes and their human rights.

Earlier this week, I reported on the home-crushing that has taken place at FiveAcres Farm, only a few minutes drive from the charred trailers at Birchfield Lane. And much, much more is going on unseen and unreported. Hundreds of families face eviction following the failure of Law Lords to protect caravan-dwellers with nowhere legally to live.

This has given a green light to local authorities bent on ethnic-cleansing who know that despite a new Government circular urging land provision for Travellers, councils are unlikely to get much stick if they carry on "clearing encampments". For the past four years, the Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition has lobbied for legislative change. It has had a moderate success through the inclusion of assessment needs for Gypsies in the 2004 Housing Act. But no results from this are likely to be seen on the ground for some years yet. Moreover, it is now apparent that hiring a lobbyist cannot be a satisfactory substitute for self representation.

Indeed, bringing in outsiders was almost bound to cause uncomfortable inner tensions. Some have begun to complain, I think unfairly, that salaried staff in the burgeoning Gypsy industry, benefit a tad more than their Traveller "clients". However, it is the upsurge in eviction activity let loose by the Lords ruling and the frightening rise of racism which has led to a demand for a radical change at the top in the UK Gypsy rights campaign. A meeting of the most influential Gypsy leadership took place in Matlock, Derbyshire last Saturday (18 March) to call for the dismemberment of the flagging G&TLRC.
It could hardly continue without them unless prepared to tough out accusations of blatant usurpation.

DISBAND COALITION A proposal for a formal dissolution of the coalition is to be tabled, I understand, at its annual general meeting on 3 April. Waiting in the wings to take forward the campaign, under Gypsy control, is a new federation of frontline Traveller groups. "The coalition did some great work,"says Cliff Codona, chair of the UK Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Forum. "But it has gone as far as it could and needs to be replaced." Codona, who has just returned from a meeting with Roma leaders in Budapest, says the Forum is giving the UK campaign a growing international dimension. He is confident the federation will provide the grass-roots, working eventually to a common strategy in England, Scotland and Wales.

Links with Ireland, through yard-owners at Dale Farm and Smithy Fen, Britain's two largest Traveller communities, are already assured. Here the defence of homes and human rights has its footings in the firmest ground, a fact of which the Government, and a besieging anti-Gypsy opposition led by Tory MP John Baron, are well aware. Significantly, the historic assertion of rightful leadership, by Romanies and Irish Travellers alike, is happening on the eve of Roma Nation Day, 8 April. The Forum-sponsored Red Wheels Against Racism festival, an event which promises to bring togetherall those involved in this powerful resurgence, also marks the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the original Gypsy Council.

Meanwhile, in the run up to a meeting with the Office of Deputy Prime Minister on 6 April, a name and shame initiative has started against private companies hired to carry out ethnic-cleansing operations. It is on these firms, which have looted and burned Gypsy property across Britain, that racist councils depend to do their dirty work. We are already well acquainted with Constant & Co., the self-styled Gypsy eviction specialists. They tore up Cliff Codona's model Woodside caravan park, in Bedfordshire, and fired trailers and huts at Meadowlands and Twin Oaks Farm, in Essex and Hertfordshire. The total of their crimes against humanity builds by the month. Joe Jones, of Gypsy and Traveller Affairs, reports that Constant has cut a swathe of destruction through Kent.

At the same time, and often in partnership with Constant, police officers in that county, as elsewhere, ignoring recent efforts at diversity training in Travellers' needs, continue to hound families on a daily basis. But there are also new boys on the block earning their living off the suffering of others.H.E.Services, of Rochford, again sent their heavy vehicles to Basildon last week. For the first time, during the Five Acres Farm eviction, I also saw Terranova Group machines in action alongside Constant. For anyone who cares to let this Reading-based outfit know that you know what's going down, the email is: cranes@terranovagroup.co.uk

Please also add your name to the Worldwide Save Dale Farm Petition

* GRATTAN PUXON is co-author with Donald Kenrick of "The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies" (1972), republished as "Gypsies Under the Swastika" by University of Hertfordshire Press (1995).

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Israel election: Vote X for Murder?

URI AVNERY (left, in Gush Shalom tee shirt)

AN extreme Right Israeli election candidate has warned left-wing peace campaigners that they "are bringing destruction on themselves", and called for the murder of veteran peace activist and journalist Uri Avnery.

National Jewish Front leader Baruch Marzel says left-wingers and peaceniks are as harmful as external enemies. Speaking at meetings in Jerusalem and Ramle on Monday, Marzel denounced the leaders of the Kadima party formed by Ariel Sharon as "traitors" and "criminals" . But he especially called on the army, the Israel Defence Forces, to assassinate the leader of the Gush Shalom movement, Uri Avnery.

Although reporters dismiss Marzel's speech as "the raving of a fascist", and say his miniscule National Jewish Front is unlikely to get more than one Knesset seat, Gush Shalom are taking the murder call seriously. They know that the Israeli Right has been ready to kill before, and whatever the supposed injunctions against shedding "Jewish Blood", it barely discriminates between Arabs and Jewish opponents in this respect.

In February 1983 rightists threw a hand-grenade into a peace march, killing Emil Greenzweig and injuring Avraham Burg, son of a government minister. The marchers had been demanding the removal of then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon over his part in the Sabra and Chatila massacres.
On November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a rightist opposed to the Oslo Agreements and any recognition of the Palestinians.

Uri Avneri knows how the Zionist Right thinks and acts, having spent his youth in the Irgun Zvei Leumi. A veteran of Israel's 1948 war, he became a campaigning journalist and convinced that Israel must find its place in a rising Arab world and make peace with the Palestinians, held a knesset seat for some years. He was one of the first Israelis to defy a law against contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and was at Arafat's funeral. In more recent years, working with Gush Shalom, he has become internationally known for his trenchant articles and determination to remain active. On his 80th birthday he was with the anti-Wall demonstrators dodging tear gas and rubber bullets at Bil'in.

What has upset hard-rightwingers like Marzel is Avnery's comment on Israel's seizure of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmed Sa'adat in the Jericho prison raid. Recalling that the 2001 assassination of General Rehava'am Ze-evi, which Sa'adat was accused of planning, was in reprisal for the killing of a PFLP leader; Avnery also reminded people that Ze'evi was an extremist who called for ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians. Avnery commented that the PFLP had not gone for indiscriminate terror against civilians, that the.assasination of Ze'evi was a "targeted killing" - the term the IDF uses for the assassination of Palestinian leaders.

Marzel said the IDF needs to target Avnery. Marzel also said, "Traitors sit in Kadima. They betrayed their own principles, Judaism and Zionism."
On Monday evening, Peace Now called on Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to examine Marzel's statements for suspected illegal incitement.
"Marzel forgot that he receives immunity only if and when he is voted into the Knesset - not before. Marzel is doing everything he can to make headlines and to shock people," Peace Now said.

In addition to attacking his political opponents, Marzel also launched an offensive against Israel's legal system and system of rule, claiming.
"Israel is ruled by the junta", and that "if polling stations were placed in the Supreme Court, it is reasonable to assume that a coalition of MK Ahmed Tibi and Meretz would win." (An Arab Knesset member and a left-zionist party).

Incidentally, it says something about the way Israeli politics is skewed that the Ha'aretz journalist who reported Marzel's rant referred to Uri Avnery, whose outlook has generally been liberal, as "far Left". As Einstein might say, it's all relative.

GUSH SHALOM has issued the following statement:


At an election meeting, the leader of the "Jewish National Front" list, Baruch Marzel, called upon the Israeli army to kill Uri Avnery - this was reported by the right-wing Haaretz reporter, Nadav Shragai on March 21. The story was also published in Maariv, and the day before in all the important on-line papers.

Clearly, the Israeli army was mentioned only in order to disguise the incitement to murder - a criminal offence - as a proposal to the military.

The call came after the official radio, Kol Israel, broadcast remarks made by Avnery to a reporter during a demonstration against the Israeli army attack on the Jericho prison. The declared aim of this action was to capture the leader of the Palestinian Popular Front, who allegedly ordered the killing of the Israeli minister, Rehav'am Ze'evi, after the killing of the former leader of the Popular Front. Answering a question, Avnery said that the killing of Ze'evi was a Palestinian 'targeted killing", much like the killing of Palestinian political leaders by the Israeli army. The radio did not quote his next words: "I am against all assassinations, both by Israelis and Palestinians."

On the day of publication, one of the most popular Israeli TV programs, "Five in the Evening", asked him to take part in a joint interview with Marzel. Avnery refused, of course. But "Channel 10" interviewed Marzel at length, with a huge picture of Avnery in the background.

Marzel's participation in the elections contravenes Israeli law, which prohibits racist lists. Marzel vows to realize the program of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose election list was prohibited years ago by the Supreme Court. However, in his election broadcasts, which were confirmed by the chairperson of the Election Committee, there appears a picture of Kahane.

The news of the call for murder was published abroad. It alerted several peace and human rights organizations, who issued statements of condemnation and sent protest letter to the Israeli embassies. Especially active was the "AAchen Peace Prize" committee in Germany, which years ago had awarded its prestigious prize to Gush Shalom and Uri Avnery. It demanded that the German Foreign Ministry and the Israeli ambassador in Berlin intervene in order to induce the Israeli government to indict Marzel for incitement to murder.

Visit Gush Shalom's website http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Halabja - Lest We Forget

The 18th anniversary passed recently of one of the most terrible atrocities against civilians since the end of the Second World War. On March 16, 1988 the news came that thousands of people had been killed and many more injured in a poison gas attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja, in northern Iraq. Up to 20 aircraft, including Iraqi Migs and Mirages, were seen overhead at around 1100 local time in Halabja. The chemicals dropped may have included mustard gas, the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX and possibly cyanide.

Halabja has been cited several times by supporters of the US and British government's war on Iraq, and it should quite rightly form part of any trial of Saddam Hussein. Yet at the time of the attack, Western governments had largely been backing Iraq. US intelligence and military disinformation efforts sought to cast the blame on Iran, while some British Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials claimed not to have any proof the atrocity had taken place!

This year sees the 60 th anniversary of the first short-lived attempt at a Kurdish state, the "Mahabad republic" formed by Kurds in northern Iran reinforced by Mulla Mustafa Barzani's followers from northern Iraq. With the withdrawal of Soviet forces that had entered Iran during the war, the Shah's army regained control and crushed the rebellion. Barzani retreated at first into Iraq, then took his followers on a long march into exile in the Soviet Union. With Turkey a member of NATO, and the Baghdad Pact's extension of this strategic alliance along the Soviet Union's southern flank, the Kurds and their aspirations were supressed from Western governments' memory except when useful for playing against Iraq. Now the Kurdish Cinderella has apparently been found a place at the nation's ball, though we wonder for how long. Freedom does not extend to Turkish Kurds, and as we see below, all is not yet well in Iraq Kurdistan, though the British government thinks it fine to deport Kurdish asylum seekers there.

During Iraq's war with Iran, Jamal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) entered an alliance with Khomeini's Iran fight Saddam Hussein. At the end of February, 1988, Iraqi forces were ruing their initial confidence in the war on Iran, and decided to step up the "war on the cities" with missile attacks on Teheran, hoping to force Iran to negotiate, if not immediately, by provoking its armies to become extended and luring them into a trap. This account is based on one published by Human Rights Watch on genocide in Kurdistan.

Halabja was a busy Kurdish town with business and government offices, its peacetime population swollen by villagers forced from their homes. The Kurdish peshmerga had been strong in the area for almost thirty years, and besides Talabani's PUK there were clandestine political parties active--including Socialists, Communists and the pro-Iranian Islamic Movement Party (Bizutnaway Islami Eraqi). As a reprisal against support for the peshmerga, Iraqi troops had bulldozed two entire quarters of the town, Kani Ashqan and Mordana, in May 1987. Since 1983, Iranian troops had made night reconnaissance sorties into Halabja. It lies just seven miles east of Darbandikhan Lake, whose dam controls a significant part of the water supply to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi intelligence, assisted by CIA aerial reconnaissance photographs, had noted a build up of Iranian pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) and PUK peshmerga. On March 13, Teheran radio announced that a new offensive named Zafar 7 had been launched in the Halabja area, in retaliation for the Iraqi regime's recent chemical attacks on the Kurds. A second attack, apparently coordinated, followed the next day. This was called Bait al-Maqdis 4, and the Iranians claimed that it had taken their forces within twelve miles of Suleimaniyeh.

Halabja had been subjected to three days of Iranian shelling from the surrounding hills, beginning on March 13. One by one, the small Iraqi military posts between Halabja and the border were routed, and their occupants pulled back to the safety of the town. The Baghdad regime did not reinforce Halabja with large numbers of ground troops. It had other plans.

Some Iranian pasdaran had reportedly entered Halabja as early as March 13. By the night of March 15 they were openly parading through the streets, accompanied by Iraqi Kurds, greeting the townspeople and chanting "God is Great! Khomeini is our leader!" They billeted themselves on local Kurdish families and ordered them to prepare dinner. Some rode around Halabja on motorcycles; others were very young, barely teenagers, and carried only sticks and knives. Many also carried gas masks. They asked bewildered people in the streets how far it was to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

Militants of the Iraqi Islamic Movement did a victory dance outside the headquarters of Amn and the Istikhbarat building, which they took over for themselves. But among the townspeople as a whole there was grave apprehension, especially when public employees were ordered on March 15 to evacuate their posts.

The Iraqi counterattack began in the mid-morning of March 16, with conventional airstrikes and artillery shelling. Most families in Halabja had built primitive air-raid shelters near their homes. Some crowded into these, others into the government shelters, following the standard air-raid drills they had been taught since the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. The first wave of air strikes appears to have included the use of napalm or phosphorus.

"It was different from the other bombs. There was a huge sound, a huge flame and it had very destructive ability. If you touched one part of your body that had been burned, your hand burned also. It caused things to catch fire."

The raids continued unabated for several hours.
"It was not just one raid, so you could stop and breathe before another raid started. It was just continuous planes, coming and coming. Six planes would finish and another six would come."

The planes came in low enough for their markings to be seen, so people on the street could see they were Iraqi planes. About 3pm people in the shelters became aware of an unusual smell. Like the villagers in the Balisan Valley the previous spring, they compared it most often to sweet apples, or to perfume, or cucumbers, although one man says that it smelled "very bad, like snake poison." No one needed to be told what the smell was.

The attack appeared to be concentrated in the northern sector of the city, well away from its military bases--although these, by now, had been abandoned. In the shelters, there was immediate panic and claustrophobia. Some tried to plug the cracks around the entrance with damp towels, or pressed wet cloths to their faces, or set fires. But in the end they had no alternative but to emerge into the streets. It was growing dark and there were no streetlights; the power had been knocked out the day before by artillery fire. In the dim light, the people of Halabja could see nightmarish scenes. Dead bodies--human and animal--littered the streets, huddled in doorways, slumped over the steering wheels of their cars.

Survivors stumbled around, laughing hysterically, before collapsing. Iranian soldiers flitted through the darkened streets, dressed in protective clothing, their faces concealed by gas masks. Those who fled could barely see, and felt a sensation "like needles in the eyes." Their urine was streaked with blood.
Those who had the strength fled toward the Iranian border. A freezing rain had turned the ground to mud, and many of the refugees went barefoot. Those who had been directly exposed to the gas found that their symptoms worsened as the night wore on. Many children died along the way and were abandoned where they fell. At first light the next morning Iraqi warplanes appeared in the sky, apparently monitoring the flight of the survivors. Many kept away from the main roads and scattered into the mountains, despite the ever-present menace of landmines.

Iranian helicopters arrived at Lima and Pega in the late afternoon and military doctors administered atropine injections (an antedote to nerve gas) to the survivors before they were ferried across the border. In Iran, all agree that they were well-cared for, although some had injuries that were untreatable, and they died on Iranian soil. The sickest were transferred to hospitals in the Iranian cities of Teheran and Kermanshah, and the smaller town of Paveh. The remainder spent two weeks in a converted schoolhouse in the town of Hersin, where they received medical attention. From there, they were taken to two refugee camps.

For those who decided it might be safe to return there were no homes to return to, for virtually every structure in Halabja was leveled with dynamite and bulldozers after Iraqi forces finally retook the city. So, too, was nearby Sayed Sadeq, a town of some 20,000. In both Halabja and Sayed Sadeq, the electrical substations were also dynamited. Even after the razing of Halabja, many bodies remained in the streets to rot where they had fallen four months earlier.

Not until July did the Iraqi regime move to recover Halabja, which was left under de facto Iranian control. In the days following the mass gassing, the Iranian government, well aware of the implications, ferried in journalists from Teheran, including a number of foreigners. Their photographs, mainly of women, children and elderly people huddled inertly in the streets, or lying on their backs with mouths agape, circulated widely, demonstrating eloquently that the great mass of the dead had been Kurdish civilian non-combatants. Yet the numbers have remained elusive, with most reports continuing to cite Kurdish or Iranian estimates of at least 4,000 and as many as 7,000. The true figure was certainly in excess of 3,200, which was the total number of individual names collected in the course of systematic interviews with survivors.

Halabja Protest Turns Violent

(from Institute for War and Peace Reporting, http://www.iwpr.net/)

One person is killed as thousands voice their anger at authorities who they believe exploit their misery and do nothing to help them recover from Saddam’s gas attack.
By IWPR contributors in Halabja (ICR No. 168, 16-Mar-06)

The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan faced a major challenge today, March 16, as residents of Halabja – scene of a chemical attack 18 years ago - took to the streets in anger at what they said was cynical exploitation of their plight by local politicians.A 17-year-old boy was killed and dozens more injured in clashes with Kurdish security forces after around 2,000 locals – mostly young men – staged street protests to prevent officials getting into Halabja and taking part in ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the 1988 gas attack by Saddam Hussein’s military, in which 5,000 people died.

Officials from Halabja, in Sulaimaniyah province, had rolled out red carpets for the day of mourning. Earlier in the week, protest organisers had promised a peaceful sit-down action designed to embarrass the visiting dignitaries and block their access to the town. But a build-up of security forces in the town suggested the authorities were determined to ensure everything went according to plan.

International delegates from Hiroshima and Italy visited the memorial on March 15, the day before the official anniversary. On March 16, the ceremonies were called off after three hours of unrest during which demonstrators burnt tires, rolled rocks into the road or lay down there themselves to prevent officials driving into the town. One group of stone-throwing demonstrators stormed the monument to the victims of the chemical attack, torching it and sending black smoke billowing over the town. Some said the memorial was no more than a "bank" which helped officials raise cash to line their own pockets.

Protesters also set fire to a museum honouring victims of the gas attack after smashing furniture and windows and ripping down photos there."Is this a place of martyrs or a bar?" asked Kameron Aziz, emptying out a refrigerator stocked with drinks including beer for the visiting officials. "Why shouldn't we set it on fire? This is a day of mourning, and our officials want to drink."

IWPR reporters witnessed Kurdish security forces opening fire on those who had stormed the memorial. Kurda Ahmed, 17, was hit in the abdomen by a police rifle bullet, said eyewitnesses, who also alleged that a member of the security forces shot him again in the side, firing a pistol at close range. Ahmed died in Halabja hospital. A doctor who treated him but asked not to be named confirmed that he was hit by two different bullets. Ten others were treated for injuries, the doctor reported, including four who were still in critical condition with gunshot wounds. Demonstration organisers said at least 100 people were beaten by security forces.

"This is a repeat of the Halabja tragedy," said Mariwan Halabjaee, one of the organisers. "What police and security have done is the same as the Baathists."A security official who asked to remain anonymous said police responded with gunfire after demonstrators fired at them first. He said several protesters were detained briefly but all had been released. The northern Kurdish territories have largely been immune from the violence plaguing the rest of Iraq. Police in Baghdad found 25 bodies of men shot execution-style on March 15 and 16, while to the north of the capital, United States and Iraqi forces launched major air assaults on Samarra. Kurdistan may be the safest part of Iraq, but young people here have grown increasingly angry at the regional authorities who should be looking after them but whom they accuse of inaction, complacency and corruption. As the placards carried by protesters made plain, there is a strong sense in Halabja that officials quietly ignore the real needs of survivors at the same time as playing up the town’s terrible history, which is emblematic of Saddam’s oppression of the Kurds and thus serves justification for a strongly decentralised Kurdish entity.

Year after year, politicians from the two leading Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, come to pay tribute to the victims and pledge help to regenerate the town. But local people say nothing gets done – infrastructure is in a state of collapse, the roads are unpaved, houses still bear the damage they suffered in Saddam’s war with Iran, and healthcare provision is poor even though the attack left thousands of survivors with a legacy of respiratory disease, cancer and other problems."I want compensation," said Ali Hassan Saleh, who lost two children in the chemical attack and accuses the PUK of failing to provide the house it promised him. "The government hasn't paid attention to this town. We need proper services." The authorities in Sulaimaniyah, the seat of one of Kurdistan’s two administrations, appeared unrepentant, with the PUK branding the protestors as "terrorists" and deputy prime minister Emad Ahmed saying, "This is an act of sabotage, and we are investigating."

Mahdi Mahmood, who represents the Islamic Union of Kurdistan in Halabja, said all the main political parties had agreed to investigate the violence and also to form a committee to address residents' demands. It may take more than that to rebuild public confidence. "We were just asking for our rights," said Habi Taoufiq Abdullah, who was treated in hospital after being shot in the hip. "We didn't deserve this response."

Reporting by IWPR Kurdish editor Mariwan Hama-Saeed and IWPR trainee journalists Amanj Khalil, Ayub Karim and Ismail Osman in Halabja.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

When Dutchmen wore those helmets

ENGLAND soccer star John Barnes has been over in Israel, taking a football kick-about photo opportunity with the kids at Sakhnin, and advising the Israel Football Association on how to "Kick Racism out of football.

Meantime, some UK Muslim groups and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are irate over Arsenal signing a sponsorship deal to promote Israel tourism next season. Having heard some Arsenal supporters singing about what they'd like to do to Jews, and heard about Betar Jerusalem fans who spend the entire 90 minutes chanting "death to Arabs" before going out to beat up anyone they dislike the look of, I'd be happy to see both sets of fans brought together in one stadium. Never mind the football, if they don't kill each other we can always make a Santiago.

Some say the Arsenal chants are just to wind up Spurs, but when they are heard on tubes and buses across London a lot of people, particularly nervous overseas tourists, don't appreciate that. The Gooners are quite a multi-racial crowd, although the gangs I've heard singing away from the park were all-white. Mind you, compared with some Chelsea, say, they're quite an amiable lot. Some of my best friends and family are soccer fans, of various persuasions, so I better be careful what I say, but - well let's face it, it may be "The Beautiful Game", but it has some damned ugly supporters.

Kick racism out of the game, along with mob-violence? Admittedly their causes lie in what happens during the rest of the week rather than on the pitch, but they are what some "fans" go for. And anyone who knows the British media will know that however much papers and politicians affect to deplore "mindless hooliganism", jingoism and thuggery, they will be happy to profit from them wherever possible.

The Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) has barred its football fans from wearing Dutch replica "Nazi helmets" during the World Cup in Germany this summer. Frank Huizinga of the KNVB says the orange-colored helmets which have become a top-selling fan product will be banned from all World Cup stadiums and practice sites of the Dutch national football teams in Germany. "Everything that can be seen as offensive to others whether chants or a product, are banned in the stadium," Huizinga told the daily Telegraaf. "And we find this product extremely offensive."

This has not unduly troubled the manufacturer. "We are now selling three times the previous average daily volume," said Florian van Laar. "We are thinking of sending the KNVB a gold helmet in thanks." His firm sells around 5000 to 7000 orange helmets per week and has added helmets in the national colours of Australia, England, Germany, France and Italy to its range.

"This is simply meant as a joke," Van Laar said. But the KNVB is not amused.
"We don't see the joke in wearing these helmets and think they are in bad taste," said Frank Huizinga. "A lot is possible in Holland, but we will not accept everything."

Germany has launched a marketing campaign to rebrand itself with reference to famous composers, poets, philosophers and scientists, but is still bracing itself for the invasion of foreign fans obsessed, however ambivalently, with Nazi images. Of course there is nothing intrinsically "Nazi" about a helmet. Helmets this shape were worn before the Nazis came, and worn by other forces than Germans, but what would be the point in wearing them if it was not to wind-up the Germans, or, paradoxically, because some like dressing up as Nazis, even if orange seems a surreal colour.

If German fans are riled by the arrival of Dutchmen wearing these helmets they could find some way of reminding the Dutch fans that last time this happened the Dutchmen thus attired were being sent to fight on the eastern front for Germany. It's said the Netherlands produced the highest recruitment of any occupied country. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Brigade Nederland brigade comprised two Regiments, the 48.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Regiment General Seyffardt in honour of their dead figurehead, and the 49.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Regiment de Ruyter named after the seventeenth-century Dutch Admiral Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter.

Dutch forces served on a wide front, from Latvia to the Caucusus, and were also sent into Yugoslavia. A military historian writes: "During its time in Croatia, elements of the brigade were engaged in anti-partisan operations against Josip Broz Tito's forces. The fighting was brutal and no quarter was given on either side, however the Brigade showed itself capable in combat". Which is more than Dutch UN forces did when surrendering Srebrenica to Ratko Mladic's Serb nationalist butchers (Though admittedly because that was what French and British UN commanders expected them to).

Dutch SS men also ran their own concentration camp and took part in actions against their own countrymen in Holland. I should add that it was Dutch anti-Nazi resisters who killed General Seyffardt. Also, SS Haupsturmfuhrer Henk Feldmeijer, who had been responsible for killing Dutch civilian hostages in reprisal for resistance attacks was himself riddled with bullets on 22 February 1945. Some say his car was strafed by an Allied plane, others that he was killed by his own men.

Holland has not had a bad press, compared with say Croatia or the Ukraine, or even the Flanders region of Belgium. So it is time we restored some balance, even if it means recalling unpleasant things. It may be not quite the aggressively liberal, secular and progressive image that the Dutch government is currently promoting, but it suggests those hemets might not be as ironic as the wearers pretend, or intended.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jewish Socialists' Group on March 18 anti-war demo

I was on the big peace demonstration in London yesterday. If you believe the police there were 15,000 people, according to Socialist Worker it was 100,000.
I wasn't counting, so you can take your pick - think of a number in-between.
There were more demonstrations in cities from Vancouver to Sydney. (In France, the Iraq war was temporarily overshadowed by the battle between the French government and youth).
Meanwhile, in Iraq the US forces were bombing and shooting up cities they have supposedly "liberated" while their man Allawi warns that the country is in a state of civil war. Meanwhile, having shown its hand by conniving at the Israeli raid on Jericho, the British government, despite a show of withdrawing some troops from Iraq (having sent more to Afghanistan), has not a peace policy in sight.
Though Saturday's demonstration was mainly about Iraq, the desperate situation in Palestine and the threat of war on Iran were much in mind, as shown in speeches, placards, and this leaflet below distributed by Jewish Socialists' Group members on the march:

'My feeling is that the blood of left-wing activists and the Palestinians is cheap,' says 17-year old Matan Cohen, hospitalised after being hit in the eye by a rubber-coated bullet, fired by the Israeli Border Police, on 24th February. Matan, a member of Anarchists Against the Wall, had joined Palestinians and Israelis demonstrating peacefully together at Beit Sira, against the uprooting of olive trees to make way for Israel's annexation fence.

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has pledged to make this Israel's 'permanent border', effectively reducing what remains of Palestine into a walled ghetto for Palestinians. The British government suppressed its own report for the European Union on Israeli annexation measures. British media gave us nightly showings of the Gaza settlers' protests but have shown not a glimpse of the anti-Wall protests and repression at places like Bil'in and Beit Sira. We heard an outcry about boycott calls against Israel, but the US, EU and Israeli governments are using economic sanctions to punish the Palestinian people and their children because of the vote for Hamas - itself a protest against 'road map' that had led nowhere. Now we've seen the British government's collusion in the Israeli military assault on Jericho prison - an election stunt and a bloody provocation.

Jewish Socialists support the Israeli Peace Bloc, Gush Shalom, in demanding that Israel cease building the Apartheid Wall, negotiate with whoever the Palestinians choose, and end the occupation and theft of Palestinian land.
A just peace can only be based on equality and freedom, recognising both people's rights.
Read the EU's supressed report on our website http://www.jewishsocialistorg.uk/,
and read about Matan Cohen's ideas and aims in the latest issue of JEWISH SOCIALIST

Send £7.50 for four issues to: Jewish Socialist, BM 3725, London WCD1N 3XX. Please make cheques/POs out to Jewish Socialist Publications.

JEWISH SOCIALISTS have taken part in every demonstration against war with Iraq. We demand withdrawal from Iraq, and support the Iraqi people's right to run their own country democratically and control its resources to rebuild their lives. We support Iraqi democrats in combatting threats to their human and civil rights from imperialists and fundamentalists.

JEWISH SOCIALISTS also oppose war with Iran. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is a reactionary who uses anti-Western and anti-Jewish rhetoric as a diversion from his attacks on the Iranian people. It suits the governments of Britain, the USA and Israel to build up this bogeyman as a threat, even though they ignored similar rhetoric when they armed Khomeini's Iran. They pretend to take seriously his threats to 'wipe Israel off the map', linking it with alleged nuclear ambitions - but Palestinians want the right to return to their homeland not a radioactive wreck. It is Israel that has nuclear weapons and has not signed the non-proliferation pact.

We oppose nuclear weapons anywhere in the world
We oppose war with Iran
We say the labour and anti-war movements must give support to the Iranian working people and struggle for democratic rights in Iran
The Jewish Socialists' Group is affiliated to European Jews for Just Peace

We oppose 'community leaders' who tie our fortunes to right wing politics and to Israel.

JEWISH SOCIALISTS participate in the peace, labour and anti-racist movements to aim for a better world for all.

Jewish Socialists' Group

Sunday 26th March 7.30pm Indian YMCA. Fitzroy Square London W1
(nr.Warren Street tube)
What are the prospects for peace in Middle East?
with Moshe Machover (former editor of Khamsin)
Ahlam Akram {Arab Labour Group)
Torab Saleth (Iranian Workers Left Unity)


Friday, March 17, 2006

What nobody told the Minister

Above: London Vigil for Mordechai Vanunu.
Seated in the cell with Vanunu figure is
nuclear scientist Prof.Joseph Rotblat

Left: Tony Benn "wasn't told". Did Harold Wilson know?

AS the British government backs Bush in warning Iran against nuclear weapons, and connives at Ehud Olmert's bloody election stunt in Jericho, reporters have dug out some hitherto secret history on how Britain helped Israel become the first and, so far sole, nuclear power in the Middle East. And whether or not they were kept in the picture, Labour's late prime minister Harold Wilson and his ministers are right in the frame now.

In 1960 an American U2 flight took pictures of the Israeli nuclear reactor and reprocessing plant at Dimona. It has been known for some time that the French government helped build the nuclear complex, which Israel had officially described as a desalination project, or a "textile plant" - anything but what it was. The main men behind the nuclear arms policy were David Ben Gurion and his deputy defence minister Shimon Peres, who went on to collect a Nobel peace prize, and having failed to recapture the Israeli Labour leadership is now no.2 for Ehud Olmert.

A research team at BBC Newsnight has unearthed top-secret files which show how Britain helped Israel get the atomic bomb. "We can reveal that while Harold Wilson was prime minister the UK supplied Israel with small quantities of plutonium despite a warning from British intelligence that it might "make a material contribution to an Israeli weapons programme". This, by enabling Israel to study the properties of plutonium before its own supplies came on line, could have taken months off the time it needed to make a weapon. Britain also sold Israel a whole range of other exotic chemicals, including uranium-235, beryllium and lithium-6, which are used in atom bombs and even hydrogen bombs".

During Harold Macmillan's Tory government Britain supplied the heavy water that allowed Israel to start up plutonium production at Dimona - enough heavy water to enable Israel to make "six nuclear weapons a year".according to British intelligence analysts. After the heavy water story was revealed on Newsnight last August, the British government assured the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that all Britain did was sell some heavy water back to Norway. But using the Freedom of Information Act, Newsnight reporters have obtained previously secret papers which show that Norway was a mere cover for the Israel deal, and that Britain made hundreds of other secret shipments of nuclear materials to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s.

Tony Benn is nowadays a favourite star of Left-wing and anti-war platforms, who seems to improve with age, but as Mr.Anthony Wedgwood-Benn he became Wilson's technology minister in 1966, when the plutonium deal was going through. Nuclear power was part of Benn's brief, but he insists nobody told him, or his predecessor Frank Cousins, about the materials shipped to Israel. "I'm not only surprised," he told reporters "I'm shocked." As Transport and General Workers' Union general secretary Frank Cousins had led Labour's turn to nuclear disarmament in 1960.

Benn says he always suspected civil servants of doing deals behind his back, "it never occurred to me they would authorise something so totally against the policy of the government". In August 1960, photographs of the mysterious site at Dimona reached the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) in Whitehall. An analyst called Peter Kelly saw immediately that they showed a secret nuclear reactor. "Today Kelly, physically frail but mentally acute, lives in retirement on the south coast, and as he leafs through the 'UK Eyes Only' reports he wrote about Israel for MI5 and MI6, he smiles. 'I was quite perceptive,' he says. Kelly recognised that the Dimona reactor was a French design, and he very soon discovered where the heavy water needed to operate it had come from.
(Britain's dirty secret, Meirion Jones, New Statesman, Monday 13th March 2006)

"When we explain that the government has told the IAEA that Britain thought it was selling the heavy water to Norway he laughs heartily.What really happened was this: Britain had bought the heavy water from Norsk Hydro in Norway for its nuclear weapons programme, but found it was surplus to requirements and decided to sell. An arrangement was indeed made with a Norwegian company, Noratom, but crucially the papers show that Noratom was not the true buyer: the firm agreed to broker a deal with Israel in return for a 2 per cent commission. Israel paid the top price - £1m - to avoid having to give guarantees that the material would not be used to make nuclear weapons, but the papers leave no doubt that Britain knew all along that Israel wanted the heavy water 'to produce plutonium'. Kelly discovered that a charade was played out, with British and Israeli delegations sitting in adjacent rooms while Noratom ferried contracts between them to maintain the fiction that Britain had not done the deal with Israel. The transaction was signed off for the Foreign Office by Donald Cape, whose job it was to make sure we didn't export materials that would help other countries get the atom bomb. He felt it would be 'overzealous' to demand safeguards to prevent Israel using the chemical in weapons production. Cape is 82 now, tall, clear-headed and living in Surrey. He told us the deal was done because 'nobody suspected the Israelis hoped to manufacture nuclear weapons', but his own declassified letters from March 1959 suggest otherwise.

"They show, for example, that the Foreign Office knew Israel had pulled out of a deal to buy uranium from South Africa when Pretoria asked for safeguards to prevent it being used for making nuclear weapons. It also knew the CIA was warning that "the Israelis must be expected to try and establish a nuclear weapons programme". Just weeks later, however, Britain started shipping heavy water direct to Israel: the first shipment left in June 1959 and the second in June 1960. There was another problem: the Americans. There was no US-Israeli alliance in those days and Washington was determined to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. If Britain told the Americans about the Israeli deal they would stop it. Donald Cape decided on discretion: "I would rather not tell the Americans." When Newsnight told Robert McNamara - John F Ken-nedy's defence secretary - about this he was amazed. "The fact Israel was trying to develop a nuclear bomb should not have come as a surprise, but that Britain should have supplied it with heavy water was indeed a surprise to me," he said.

Kelly's reports for the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) on "secret atomic activities in Israel" show that Britain's defence and espionage establishment had no doubt about what was going on in Israel. Kelly wrote of underground galleries at the Dimona complex; there were such galleries. He correctly described the French role in the project. He identified the importance of the heavy water: with 20 tons of this material, he estimated, Israel could have a reactor capable of producing 'significant quantities of plutonium. British intelligence also knew about the reprocessing facility at Dimona and stated: 'The separation of plutonium can only mean that Israel intends to produce nuclear weapons.'

Kelly says his views were challenged by other officials, notably Michael Israel Michaels, a senior official at the Science ministry under Lord Hailsham during the Macmillan government, who went on to serve at the Technology ministry under Benn. He was also Britain's representative at the IAEA. In 1961 Michaels was invited to Israel by the Israeli nuclear chief Ernst David Bergmann, and given VIP treatment. He met not only Bergmann but Shimon Peres, and Ben-Gurion.Michaelss report gave Israel the all-clear, and he handed it to Hailsham at an important moment, two days before Ben-Gurion met Macmillan at Downing Street.

In 1962 the Dimona reactor started operating (thanks to the heavy water Britain had delivered). Israel managed to convince the United States that the Dimona plant was only for peaceful purposes. But at the beginning of 1966, the UK Atomic Energy Authority made what it called a "pretty harmless request" to export ten milligrams of plutonium to Israel. The Ministry of Defence strongly objected, with Defence Intelligence (Kelly's department) arguing that the sale might have "significant military value". The Foreign Office duly blocked it, ruling: "It is HMG's policy not to do anything which would assist Israel in the production of nuclear weapons." But eventually the Foreign Office backed down and the sale went ahead.

Tony Benn believes Michaels lied to him about what was going on. Michaels is dead now, but after he retired from the IAEA in 1971 the Israelis found him a job in London.

In November 1959 someone at the Foreign Office allowed through the export of a small quantity of uranium-235 to Israel, although it was a core nuclear explosive material. In 1966 UKAEA supplied Israel with 1.25 grams of almost pure lithium-6. When combined with deuterium, this material provides the fusion fuel for hydrogen bombs. Britain also supplied two tons of unenriched lithium, from which lithium-6 is extracted - enough for several hydrogen bombs. Deuterium, incidentally, is normally extracted from heavy water, which, of course, Britain had already shipped to Israel. Throughout this period, Defence Intelligence repeatedly complained that Israel was the only country getting nuclear export licences "on the basis of the meaningless phrase 'scientific and research purposes'".

"The Department of Trade tried to exempt Israeli deals completely on the grounds that these were government-to-government transactions, but DIS was outraged, saying such deals were meant only for 'people like most of ourNATOo partners who can be trusted . . . Israel however is a very different kettle of fish.' In August 1966 the Israeli armed forces ordered advanced radiation dosimeters. The Foreign Office said yes and overruled the strong objections of the British MoD that they were obviously for use by troops. DIS wanted to know why Israel was always given special treatment, adding: 'We feel quite strongly about all this'.

"Tony Benn wonders whether these deals could have gone ahead without the knowledge of the British prime ministers of the time, Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Wilson. The evidence is unclear. The newly declassified papers show that in 1958 a member of the board of UKAEA said he was going to refer the heavy-water deal to the authority's executive, which reported directly to Macmillan, but there is no record that this happened. We know that Lord Hailsham learned about the heavy-water deal after it had gone through and concluded that Israel was 'preparing for a weapons programme'.Benn's initial reaction to whether Wilson knew about the atomic exports to Israel was that it was "inconceivable". Then he hesitated, observing, 'Harold was sympathetic to Israel', but concluded that no, he probably did not know. Benn believes that the exports were probably pushed through by civil servants working with the nuclear industry.

There was no plausible civilian use for heavy water, plutonium, U235, highly enriched lithium and many of the other materials shipped to Israel. The heavy water allowed Israel to fire up Dimona and produce the plutonium that still sits in Israel's missile warheads today. The small sample of plutonium could have shaved months off the development time of the Israeli atomic bomb in the run-up to the Six Day War. In a letter this year to Sir Menzies Campbell, the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells has quietly conceded Britain knew the heavy water was going to Israel. He has yet to find time to tell the IAEA that, or indeed to tell it about the plutonium or the uranium-235 or the enriched lithium. Howells and his boss, Jack Straw, are too busy telling the IAEA about the dangers of nuclear proliferation in another corner of the Middle East."

Yuval Ne'eman goes out West

IN 1958, the year that nuclear disarmamers set out on their first march to the Aldermaston nuclear weapons establishment, an Israeli engineer officer called Yuval Ne'eman arrived in London to study at Imperial College. He took a doctorate in particle physics under Professor Abdus Salam, a Pakistan-born Nobel-prize winning physicist.

Ne'eman doubled as an official at the Israeli embassy, but when he missed some lectures he was able to catch up by borrowing a fellow-student's notes and photo-copying them - not an easily accessible technology in those days. His fellow-students were even more impressed when he arrived and unloaded crates of drink from an embassy car for an end-of-term party.

In those days, as now, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had many Jewish supporters, and among the faith groups there was a Jewish CND group led by Reverend Saul Amias. Blue-shirted members of Habonim, the Labour Zionist youth movement, stopped off en-route to an Easter weekend activity near Reading to join the Aldermaston marchers. Later some of us rejoined the march as it entered London. As the news began to come out that Israel too was developing nuclear weapons, it became a more "difficult" even "divisive" issue. At the movement's Winter conference in the Lake District in 1961 myself and a distant cousin from Huddersfield led a commission reporting against Israel's nuclear policy. But when an Israeli embassy attache came to speak at the movement's Eder Farm in Sussex, we didn't know about his interesting sideline. It was Yuval Ne'eman.

In 1966, British forces were fighting Nasserist and left-wing guerrillas in southern Arabia. Though this probably wasn't the only reason, the Foreign Office may well have decided that giving Israel the confidence and if necessary means to go to war on Egypt in 1967 was not a bad idea. As for Wilson, "sympathetic to Israel" is an understatement.

Mordechai Vanunu's revelations were still a long time in the future, though in 1981, four years before Vanunu's daring trip to speak to the British press, Prof.Moshe Machover spoke to a small meeting in the University of London Union about Israeli nuclear weapons, calling for a campaign for a nuke-free Middle East. (As all too often happens, at least half those who bothered to attend were more interested in deriding others' lack of "theoretical" purity, and the Left missed an opportunity to get ahead of the game).

Since then Yuval Ne'eman has served as chairman of the Israel Space Agency and the Atomic Energy Commission, and as Israel's Minister of Energy and Minister of Science and Development. Under his IDF cap, he served as Director of Planning, Deputy Director of Military Intelligence, and Chief Defence Scientist. In the academic world, Dr. Ne'eman has been President of the Tel Aviv University, where he founded the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the School of Engineering. In the United States, he founded the Center for Particle Theory at the University of Texas at Austin and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Ne'eman has been a recipient of many major academic and humanitarian prizes and recognitions.

This year he has acquired a new post.

Press Release
Source: HiEnergy Technologies, Inc.
Yuval Ne'eman, Israel's Preeminent Scientific Leader, Joins Advisory Board Of HiEnergy Technologies
Wednesday January 4, 9:00 am ET

IRVINE, Calif., Jan. 4 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ --
HiEnergy Technologies, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: HIET - News) announced today that Yuval Ne'eman, world renowned nuclear particle physicist and a mastermind of Israel's military strategy and nuclear R&D program, has joined the Scientific Advisory Board of HiEnergy Technologies. HiEnergy Technologies is the homeland security industry leader in neutron-based diagnostic technology and creator of the world's first "Atometry" explosive detection devices.

As an advisor, Dr. Ne'eman will periodically assess HiEnergy's counter-terrorism technologies and their effectiveness to Israel's security. His conclusions and proposals will be communicated on a strictly confidential basis through consultations in Israel and the U.S.