Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shaun? We have been!

A story in today's Observer rather puts all those expensive government campaigns to catch benefit cheats in perspective. I heard about a guy once on invalidity, who claimed housing benefit to pay for his council flat, then let the flat to someone else, having moved in with a girlfriend.
A proper villain!

How does that compare with Labour MP Shaun Woodward? He "represents" St.Helens, the glassworks town and former mining area on Merseyside, not exactly known as a seat of affluence. But as the Observer piece, by Gaby Hinsliff and Conal Walsh, observes:

"As a multi-millionaire by marriage, it is hardly surprising that Shaun Woodward should boast a property portfolio to make his fellow ministers envious. Over the years, he and his wife have been able to shuttle between the handsome mansion a stone's throw from Westminster (since sold to Sting); the Wren-style pile in rural Oxfordshire, complete with organic farm; and lately the home in the Hamptons, summer playground of New York's wealthiest families. What many may find a little more startling is the knowledge that the taxpayer is contributing to his desirable lifestyle.
( "He's worth millions. And we're all paying for his London home", Observer, April 30)

Married to a member of the Sainsbury supermarket family, Woodward
used to be Tory MP for Witney, in Oxfordshire. Sacked from the Tory front-bench by William Hague (for refusing to oppose repeal of the anti-gay local government clause 28), he saw the light of Tony Blair's "New Labour" vision and crossed the floor of the House of Commons. Rather than stand for Labour in Witney he was rewarded with the safe working-class Labour seat of St.Helens South. Last year he became a junior minister in the Northern Ireland office, where he has been responsible for the popular measure of raising water charges.

Last year Mr.Woodward claimed £20,092 - to the penny, the maximum allowed by Commons authorities - in 'additional costs allowance', the fund designed to allow MPs to maintain a second home so that they can carry out their parliamentary duties between constituency and Westminster. Well, it is an expensive business.

As the Observer report explains:
"The money does not go towards his constituency home in St Helens - a modest redbrick terrace bought without a mortgage for only £55,000 - but to his rather more expensive apartment on London's fashionable South Bank. Woodward counts his main residence not as that in his constituency, but his family home in Oxfordshire, where he used to hold the seat of Witney as a Tory before crossing the floor. There is no suggestion that Woodward has broken Commons rules, which allow MPs to stipulate whichever home they wish to fund via the allowance"

The Observer tells us:.
"Woodward's entry on the register of members' interests includes rents from flats in London and France; an estate in Oxfordshire - Sarsdens House is thought to have been sold earlier this year for a rumoured £25m; a plot of land in the West Indies; and a home in New York state. In addition, he and his wife, Camilla, own the house in St Helens. Land registry records show his south London apartment was bought with a mortgage for £1.35m. As a Northern Ireland minister, he also has the use of rooms at the official residence of Hillsborough Castle. Last night Woodward insisted he had done everything according to the rules: 'Everything is done through accountants and I am scrupulous about every bill and every receipt. It is entirely legal, appropriate and double-checked by lawyers.',,1764618,00.html

Shaun Woodward's wife Camilla Sainsbury, daughter of Tory MP Tim Sainsbury, is said to have a personal fortune of £100 million. Shaun owns shares in Sainsbury PLC. On top of his salary as an MP he received £348,057 in MP;s expenses alone between 2001 - 2004, and now receives £90,000 a year as a Minister in Northern Ireland. But keeping up expensive properties isn't all, he is said to be the only Labour MP to have a butler.

According to the Observer, Woodward's successor in Witney, Tory leader David Cameron, has joked about how he could see the spires of Woodward's home from his cottage. Looking at it another way, were we able to gaze with the minister from the windows of one of his stately homes, we might be reminded of a line in Mike Leigh's film "Career Girls" when his eponymous heroines are being shown over a penthouse flat looking down on London's docklands: "I bet on a clear day you can see the class struggle".


Friday, April 28, 2006

Government racism can damage your health

ONE health authority after another announces that it is shedding staff and reducing services. Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt was heckled by delegates at the once-staid and respectable Royal College of Nurses conference for saying the National Health Service was "in good shape". But a nasty little move by this "Labour" government has not had the attention it deserves.

It won't help improve your health service, or answer criticism from the nurses. It will make matters worse, for health professionals and patients. But it should have one group of Labour's political opponents stomping and cheering.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS trust has just announced up to 650 job cuts and 190 bed closures. The trust says it is necessary to cope with a £24 million deficit. This brings the number of hospital job losses announced in the week to over 1,000. NHS trusts were set up under Tory "internal market" policies, which New Labour has continued with talk about "choice", and running the health service on more "businesslike" lines. If you're in business, and losing money, that's what you do.

Barking's Labour MP, since 1994, is Margaret Hodge, one-time leader of supposedly "loony left" Islington council, albeit a millionaire's daughter, who entered the mother of all parliaments as a Blairite, with what was a safe Labour seat. Mrs.Hodge is the Employment Secretary. But she made headlines recently by announcing that eight out of 10 white working people she met felt let down by Labour, and were thinking of voting for the British National Party.

"They can't get a home for their children, they see black and ethnic minority communities moving in and they are angry," said Mrs Hodge. "When I knock on doors I say to people, 'are you tempted to vote BNP?' and many, many, many - eight out of 10 of the white families - say 'yes'. That's something we have never seen before, in all my years. Even when people voted BNP, they used to be ashamed to vote BNP. Now they are not."

Blaming changes in the area which saw black and Asian people moving in while poor white people could not get housing, Mrs.Hodge claimed politicians had been frightened of the issue.
"The Labour Party hasn't talked to these people. This is a traditional Labour area but they are not used to engaging with us because all we do is put leaflets through doors. Part of the reason they switch to the BNP is they feel no one else is listening to them."

What not even their MP?

Could bitterness expressed in racialism be a symptom, rather than the cause, of disillusionment with Labour? Hodge admitted that Labour has not reversed Tory policies that ran down social housing. "It isn't that we have done nothing. But where we haven't done enough is affordable housing for families and the quality of life for families. Were we to blame for the change? No, it happened on the back of Right To Buy. But we could have built more affordable housing. We must do that. It isn't happening yet."

She also blamed failure to clean up run-down estates. "What we haven't significantly addressed are these issues that are the quality of life on council estates. It is the poorest whites who feel the greatest anger because there is no way out for them."

Actually, recent surveys indicate that it is not the poorest people who are most inclined to fear change, blame black people and immigrants, or vote for the racist BNP. Maybe that is because East Enders know that housing space in dockland was not taken away by other working-class people, but by fancy office developments, yuppie gentrification, and property speculation - the process about to be expanded with the Olympic project.

Workers might also consider that it was not immigrants who decided to close industries in east London - as when Ford stopped car production at Dagenham. Has Mrs.Hodge, the Employment Secretary, asked her constituents about their worries on those kind of changes?

Racists and ignorami relying on papers like the Sun often blame immigrants and asylum seekers for supposedly taking beds and putting a strain on the NHS. If your gran was kept waiting for a hip replacement (unlike the late Queen Mother) it is tempting to look for someone to blame. But even before we had an NHS, poor people in many places appreciated the service of an Asian doctor, and everyone knows that without immigrants our hospitals would have few staff. As for "shortage of beds", it is the hospital authorities which, not for the first time, are reducing them.

A few days before the RCN nurses gathered for their conference, another group of health professionals protested outside the Department of Health in Whitehall against a sudden change in visa rules which will bar them from completing training in the NHS. Doctors from India and other countries feel betrayed by a rule change requiring hospitals to give first preference to graduates from within the European Economic Area. They say thousands who came to Britain to study will be denied work permits and forced to leave the country this Summer, heavily in debt and with no qualifications.

The government says it is protecting jobs for British graduates.

Is Britain so overloaded with qualified medical personnel it cannot find work for them? Not according to the patient waiting lists. In fact, as a letter in the Guardian (April 27) points out, Britain has 175 doctors per 100,000 population, compared with 330 per 100,000 in France. There are 34,000 consultants (specialists) and about 46,000 General Practitioners in this country, whereas France has 99,000 specialists and 100,000 generalists for the same 60 million population.

It could be argued that Britain should be widening the medical education intake, to attract and train more of its young people rather than relying on doctors from abroad, particularly from poorer countries. But the government's move is simply damaging people's careers without improving health provision here or in their home countries, where they might have wanted to practice with British qualifications and experience.

Dr Belinda Colaco, 32, from Goa, India, has been in the UK for approximately a year. She completed her graduate medical training in India but wanted to do her final training placements in the UK.
"I sat the PLAB exams [the competency test for overseas doctors], passed and was allowed to come here," she said.
"But since I arrived I have been unemployed. I have spent so much money to come here and study and now the government has taken away our permission to complete our training as doctors.

"I didn't expect a guaranteed job - but I was told I would get equal opportunities to compete along with other doctors in the UK, as so many doctors from India have done all these years. By taking away my right to seek work and finish my training, they have effectively destroyed my life. I just feel utterly destroyed."

"I borrowed a lot of money back home because I wanted to come here to get British qualifications before going into practice back home.
But the key thing is that I would not have come here if we had not received the impression [from the UK medical authorities and government] that they needed us. We got that impression because they offer the Plab tests at home."

Dr Sumit Reisinghaney, 28, from Bombay graduated in India and decided to go for the opportunity of a few years' work in the NHS.
"I came to the UK as part of a significant investment in my career and for the opportunity to learn within the British system.
Since I arrived I have had some locum work but no proper placements. I have applied for hundreds of jobs across surgery.
I have applied to every area of the UK, sometimes writing 20 applications a week. The costs of doing this are extremely high.
Today, with this rule change, I feel very, very cheated. We were never promised anything - nor did we think we were. But we were told that if we sat our Plab exams, passed and came to Britain, we would have the same chance as others in getting posts.

"The new system will prefer EU doctors over us - to me that is simply discrimination because the decisions to fill posts will not be made on merit. If I return home now this investment will have been for nothing.
"Had I known how difficult it was going to be, had they been clear with us, I would not have done it."

Gone are the days when narrow-minded British doctors were only concerned to defend their professional fief against refugee doctors coming here from Nazi Europe. The Asian and African doctors protesting the ban have had support from the British Medical Association.

Is "New Labour" looking for applause from different quarters? If it has decided that rather than a shortage of staff it has a shortage of jobs, it has to try something desperate. "British jobs for British workers" is the kind of slogan we'd expect from racists, such as the BNP. Perhaps any remaining "Alf Garnett"s who object to being seen by a "Paki" will look forward to a white European seeing them - even if they'll need to brush up their Polish to be sure of explaining their symptoms.

While the fascists must welcome a concession to their arguments, what about the "anti-fascists"? Can they just keep saying the BNP is evil, which it is, without looking below the rash to see what has caused this disease?

The Health Minister is Lord Warner of Brockley.
I'd be interested to see how much say Labour MPs have had in the new DHS policy, and how much MPs were even told about it. Instead of politicians like Margaret Hodge, suddenly discovering what people say, panicking, and claiming her colleagues are "frightened" to talk about race, we need a party that is not afraid to talk about class , and to pledge housing and health for all, and plenty of jobs providing them, if we change the system.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Slave traffic to Iraq bases

"...rigorous code of business conduct"
KBR Tower, Greenford, Middx.

Bucking the Law, passing the buck, making the big bucks

CONTRACTORS working on US bases in Iraq are breaking US laws on human trafficking and forced labour. General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq has ordered that contractors be required by May 1 to return passports that have been illegally confiscated from workers on the bases.

Thousands of workers from poor countries in Asia and Central America have been brought in for tasks from labouring to security. In some cases people were hired then flown to Iraq without being told that was where they were heading. Some were taken from countries which had barred their nationals going to Iraq.

The Chicago Tribune, which has carried a series of reports investigating the traffic, said last week it had obtained two memos indicating that Casey's office concluded the practice of confiscating passports from such workers was both widespread on American bases and in violation of the U.S. trafficking laws.

"An order dated April 4 and titled 'Subject: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons in MNF-I," or Multinational Forces-Iraq, say the military also confirmed a host of other abuses during an inspection of contracting activities supporting the U.S. military in Iraq. They include deceptive hiring practices; excessive fees charged by overseas job brokers who lure workers into Iraq; substandard living conditions once laborers arrive; violations of Iraqi immigration laws; and a lack of mandatory"awareness training" on U.S. bases concerning human trafficking.,0,7162366.special

Although other firms have contracts supporting the military in Iraq, the main company to which the US government has outsourced vital support operations is Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown&Root (KBR) at a cost to the American taxpayer of more than $12 billion as of late last year. KBR, in turn, has engaged more than 200 sub-contractors, many of them based in countries which the United States has condemned for trafficking and human rights abuses.

KBR's sub-contractors employ people to dish out food, wash clothes, clean latrines and carry out virtually every other menial task.About 35,000 of the 48,000 people working under the privatization contract last year were "Third Country Nationals," who are non-Americans imported from outside Iraq, KBR has said.

A report by Tribune staff reporters Cam Simpson and Aamer Madhani published October 9, followed the journey of 12 men recruited from villages in Nepal. Most of them had contracts filed with their government falsely promising them positions at a five-star hotel in Amman, yet all 12 were sent into Iraq in August 2004. They were ultimately kidnapped from an unprotected caravan traveling along what was then one of the most dangerous roadways in the world: theAmman-to-Baghdad highway. All 12 men were killed.

Often families have been saddled with huge debts to pay fees demanded by brokers, promising good jobs. Even after discovering they'd been deceived, workers felt compelled to head into the war zone, or remain in danger for much longer than they desired, just to pay those debts. Subcontractors and brokers routinely seized workers' passports, deceived them about their safety or contract terms and, in at least one case, allegedly tried to force terrified men into Iraq under the threat of cutting off their food and water.

When Tribune reporters approached the Army, which oversees the KBR privatization deal, they were told "these are not Army issues." , Halliburton said in a written statement that questions regarding "the recruitment practices" of its subcontractors "should be directed to the subcontractor."

KBR now says it supports the US Defense Department probe into abuses. Previously company press releases claimed it "operates under a rigorous code of business conduct that outlines legal and ethical behaviors that all employees and subcontractors are expected to follow in every aspect of their work. We do not tolerate any exceptions to this Code at any level of our company". Maybe the company was looking the other way until the issue was forced on their attention.

Kellogg, Brown&Root is a major partner along with Carillion, Mowlem and HSBC in Aspire Defence Ltd., a consortium that has the biggest ever Private Finance Initiative deal, Project Allenby-Connaught, a 35-year reconstruction and servicing deal for army barracks in Aldershot and Salisbury Plain. A report in Private Eye (28 April) says the deal was only for £3.9bn when Aspire became the "preferred bidder" in 2003, but by the time the contract was signed this month it had risen to £8 bn. KBR and Carillion have also gained a £5.7bn job looking after the grounds and catering.

(for official MoD report:

KBR has been quietly involved in computer and IT services in the National Health Service, not previously its speciality.


Monday, April 24, 2006

"Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living"

WEMBLEY should have
memorial to Patrick O'Sullivan.
SOUTHWARK April 28, 2005. March paused to call site out to meeting.

AMONG pledges from which the Blair government has back-peddled is that of effective Corporate Manslaughter laws, promised when it took office in 1997.

According to the Hazards Campaign formed by various safety groups the government's Health and Safety Executive(HSE) is even moving away from enforcing existing law.

There are fewer workplace inspections, those that are made are less thorough, and the number of prosecutions dropped from 928 in 2003/4 to 712 in 2004/5.

HSE has admitted in the past to being understaffed, but the Hazards Campaign also blames a "business-friendly strategy" shifting towards company "self-regulation", and letting firms with bad records represent themselves as exemplary. It says regulations on working with deadly asbestos are even being relaxed, at the behest of landlords, insurance companies and some employers. Over 115 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion against these proposals.

Doubtless the government will claim it is spending more money on the service, but if so, where is it going? It's the same old story. Spending on safety related consultancies has increased from £19.9m in 2000/01 to £26.2m in 2004/5. A new Workplace Health Connect programme is seen as a pilot privatisation of HSE, taxpayer-funded but privately run. More "lifestyle" health promotion at work will exhort us to take better care of ourselves, while turning the focus away from work-related illness, stress and accidents.

This Friday, April 28, is Workers' Memorial Day. Started in Canada, it has become an international day to remember those whose unnecessary deaths at work often barely rate a mention by the media, let alone a headline. A time to demand justice and protection for the living.

The building trade is among the most dangerous - 73 deaths on Britain's building sites last year, 30 per cent of all reported deaths in the UK. The Construction Safety Campaign, formed by building trades' unionists often working with the families of fatal accident victims, is to the fore of campaigning for justice for them, and better safety laws; but also for union rights at work, so that workers are not afraid to speak out, but can organise and elect safety representatives to see that conditions are safe.

On April 28 we'll think of those hidden behind anonymous statistics, like carpenter John Robinson, who died in the next hospital bed to his son last week. The pair had fallen 12 storeys when scaffolding collapsed on the Jury's Inn hotel in Milton Keynes. Hundreds of fellow workers might have been injured if they had not been at lunch break when the fall happened.

We'll remember Patrick O'Sullivan, crushed to death on January 15, 2004 on the Wembley Stadium construction site. The site had seen several serious accidents before this. Two men had severe back and leg injuries when falling onto a working platform from height. Then last month, while comedians were making wisecracks about the delay in the stadium's opening some 3,000 workers had to be evacuated when a 50-tonne steel roof rafter moved and fell while being welded at the site.

On April 28, 2004 the Construction Safety Campaign marched to the stadium site, and workers walked off the job to attend the rally in honour of Patrick O'Sullivan. Among those addressing them was Pat's daughter, Margaret, who said:

I find it difficult to believe that I am standing here today talking to you with the utmost sadness about my father, Patrick O'Sullivan.
He was a man of great talent, wit and dedicated to his family.
On the 15th January, our lives changed beyond recognition when my father was killed here, at Wembley.

My mother became a widow at the age of 54 and John and I lost our father. How does it feel to lose someone so precious in such a horrific and unjust way? It seems almost impossible for me to convey the trauma and sense of loss my family has been enduring for the past 3 months.

My father arrived at work early on that Thursday morning, and before most people had even started their working day, my father had been killed.

I will never forget identifying his body...
Such a warm, vibrant, wonderful man reduced to a corpse.
Gone was everything we recognised, all the familiarities of our dad. Where we were so used to seeing a smile and hearing him laugh, we saw only a broken body that had been smashed; and the silence and stillness in the mortuary chapel emphasised we would never hear his voice again, never speak to him, never hold him.

I remember how cold he felt and the blood and dirt in his hair.
I remember when he was lying in his coffin - he still had that dirt of the building site engrained in his fingers. They just couldn't scrub it out.
His last rites were given whilst he lay in the mud at Wembley. The last words my father heard were 'Run, Patsy, run...!!!
What kind of terror & fear must he have felt?

No one should have to die like that - to be treated like fodder, just another payroll number to be struck from the list. Surely a man's life is worth more than that? It has to be.

People try to be kind and say, 'At least he didn't suffer, it was quick...' and that's supposed to be some sort of consolation to Mum, John and me. But the fact is, he was denied an old age, the chance to enjoy his retirement after working so hard all his life. But more so, he was denied a dignified and peaceful death surrounded by his family who loved him.
It was my mum and dad's birthday last month. They were the same age, born only a day apart. On dad's birthday we went to his grave. That day should have been a celebration of a man's life, not the marking of his death.

I had no real comprehension of the dangers he faced at work. He was a carpenter all his life, so too was his father and his father before that. It was a trade that was passed from father to son and he was proud of this tradition. You can see the buildings he helped build homes where families are now living, landmarks like Canary Wharf , many... and now Wembley. Yet all these landmarks were built on the sweat and blood of carpenters, scaffolders, labourers, and the hundreds and hundreds of men who work and suffer within this industry.

How many men have to die? How many fathers, sons, brothers must be maimed or killed before governments say enough is enough?
The level of complacency that exists within construction would never be tolerated in any other industry. And in this, the twenty-first century, men are injured and killed everyday on building sites around the country - most going unreported by the press. It takes a high profile site like Wembley to highlight the appalling safety record that these men are forced to endure.

It's too late for my dad.

His blood was spilt at Wembley and his blood is on the hands of those responsible for his death.

I had planned to go on the demonstration that day, but due to an unfortunate clash of circumstance found myself having to wait for and load a removal wagon that morning. I did go on the Workers Memorial Day march last year in Southwark and will be on it again on Friday.
Brent Trades Union Council has demanded that the Wembley national stadium should incorporate a permanent memorial to Patrick O'Sullivan.

Workers Memorial Day in London April 28 2006:

9am -10am protest at Canada House, Pall Mall East,Trafalgar Square, against the killer asbestos trade.

10.30 am Assemble Holland Street, by Tate Britain, SE1 for march 11.00am to HSE headquarters, Southwark Bridge Road, rally outside 11.30am..

12.15pm rally outside Greater London Authority,
south side of Tower Bridge, SE1.

More information, including events in other places:


And world-wide:


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Working class hero Des Warren

The man on the right has put on a bit of
weight (ain't we all) since this picture was
taken, leaving the Appeal Court in 1973.

Cue daft joke "What do you call a scouser in a suit?" Back then he was the appellant, Eric Tomlinson, nowadays better known though less often seen in a whistle, as Ricky Tomlinson on TV. (The Royle Family, Mike Basset:Manager, etc).

The man on the left is Des Warren, who died two years ago on April 24, 2004, having been ill for a number of years as a result of his treatment in jail.

Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson were the "Shrewsbury Two", building workers jailed for their part in leading pickets during the national 1972 building workers' strike.

The 1970s had opened with big trade union struggles in which workers took on employers and the state, and sometimes they won. We trades unionists rejoiced over the Battle of Saltley, when striking miners succeeded in closing a Birmingham coke depot. (for any media yuppie readers, this was the grey-black stuff used in furnaces, not the white stuff you take up the nose).

For two days the miners had been kept away from the gates by a heavy police cordon, but on the third morning the workers from Birmingham factories came to join the miners, and the police decided discretion was a better policy and withdrew. "The moment we saw those union banners coming over the hill I knew we were beaten," a young copper who had been on duty at Saltley that day told me a couple of years after.

For building workers, the idea of flying pickets made good sense. They were struggling to organise on scattered sites, in an industry notorious for dividing workers and undermining safety and conditions with fake sub-contracting and the "lump". Blacklisting was (and is) common, to keep out union activists and intimidate the rest. So during the 1972 strike teams of union members would tour weaker areas, encouraging workers to join them. A UCATT branch secretary in Lancashire told me how driving around in a van they chanced upon a site out in the country where workers had posted signs at the end of the lane, and greeted them with "what kept you?" when they arrived at the site to "pull" the workers out.

On September 6, 1972, coachloads of UCATT and Transport and General Workers Union members from North Wales and Chester went to the conservative market town of Shrewsbury to assist trade union members there by picketing the sites. At one place they were greeted by the boss's son brandishing a shotgun, at another site a building company director challenged Des Warren to a fight, but by the end of the day when the men set off for home they felt it hadn't been a bad day's union work, and there had been no trouble with the police.

Des Warren was suprised to find two reporters from the Sunday People waiting at his house. They seemed quite friendly, having played with the kids and accepted tea and sandwiches from Des' wife Elsa. Des told them about the problems in the building industry, the dreadful accident rate, the union's fight for pay and conditions. They pressed for information about his own activity, and how many men he might have brought out. The following Sunday he bought the People, and was confronted by a large photograph of himself headed "The Wrecker", and saying he brought 3,000 men on strike. It also carried his address. The threatening letters and phone calls began. "We're going to kill your kids", "We'll rape your wife", "you Communist bastard", "your house will be blown up" -this one signed "National Front".

Where would we be without a free press?

While we had been toasting the miners' success at Saltley, the bosses, the Tories, and the pillars of "law and order", their order, were planning revenge. If they couldn't take the miners or dockers just yet they would come for the building workers instead. Shortly after dark on February 14, 1973 police swooped on homes in North Wales. Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson were among those taken away. Two dozen men went on trial in Shrewbury, eventually, accused of "conspiracy to intimidate", "unlawful assembly". and "causing an affray". No evidence was given that they had committed violence. The young man with the shotgun was produced as a witness for the Crown.

Although the affray charge was later thrown out on appeal, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson recieved the stiffest sentences and were sent to jail. Before sentence Des Warren made this speech from the dock:

"I have spent a week in jail, and people in there and various other people, not including my counsel, have told me that it was always a mistake to make a speech from the dock, because whatever you are going to get will be doubled. I tried to explain to them that the system that operates is purely for the upper class, and I don't expect any leniency or mercy from it, so I'll continue anyway.

It has been said in this court that this trial had nothing to do with politics. Among ten million trade unionists in this country I doubt if you would find one who would agree with that statement. It is a fact of life that Acts of Parliament have been passed and picketing and strikes are looked upon as a political act. ... (at this point the Judge interrupted, telling Warren he must not use the court as a political platform, but Des continued) It therefore follows that every action taken in furtherance of an industrial dispute also becomes a political act. There are even those who say it is a challenge to the law of the land if a man decides not to work more than an agreed number of hours, and bans overtime. This is something known to many trade unionists as politically motivated interference by governments acting on behalf of, and under political pressure from the employers, and it now means that no trade unionist can enter freely into negotiations with the employers, and they can't withdraw their labour — the only thing they possess as a bargaining lever — without being accused of setting out to wreck the economy or break the law.

On the other hand, employers, by their contempt of laws governing safety requirements, are guilty of causing the deaths of a great many workers, and yet they are not dealt with before the courts. Mr. Bumble said: "The law is an ass." If he were here now he might draw the conclusion that the law is, quite clearly, an instrument of the state. It is biased; it is class law, and nowhere has that been demonstrated more than in the prosecution case in this trial. The very nature of the charges, the delving into ancient Acts of Parliament, dredging up conspiracy, shows this to be so. Was there a conspiracy? Ten members of the jury have said there was. There was a conspiracy, but not by the pickets. The conspiracy began with the miners giving the government a good hiding last year. It developed when the government was forced to perform legal gymnastics in getting five dockers out of jail after they had only just been put there. The conspiracy was between the Home Secretary, the employers and the police. It was not done with a nod and a wink. It was conceived after pressure from Tory Members of Parliament who demanded changes in picketing laws.

Of course, there was a very important reason why no police witness said he had seen any evidence of conspiracy, unlawful assembly or affray. The question was hovering over the case from the very first day: why were there no arrests on the 6th September? That would have led to the even more important question of when was the decision to proceed taken?. Where did it come from? What instructions were issued to the police? And by. whom? There was your conspiracy. -

I am innocent of the charges and I shall appeal. But there will be a more important appeal going out to every member of the trade union movement in this country. Nobody here must think they can walk away from here and forget what has happened here. Villains or victims, we are all part of something bigger than this trial. The working class movement cannot allow this verdict to go unchallenged. It is yet one more stop along the road to fascism, and I would rcmind you that the greatest heroes in Nazi Germany were those who challenged the law, when it was used as a political weapon by a fanatical gang for a minority of greedy evil men.

The jury in this trial were asked to look upon the word "intimidation" as having the ordinary everyday meaning. My interpretation is "to make timid", or "to dispirit", and when the pickets came to this town to speak to the building workers it was not with the intention of intimidating them. We came here with the intention of instilling the trade union spirit into them and not to make them timid, but to give them the courage to fight the intimidation of the employers in this area."

Ricky Tomlinson was sentended to two years. Des Warren to three. "You are no martyr," Judge Mais told him. "I regard you as arrogant, vicious and prepared to impose your views on others by violence if need be. You have the power of speech and the power of leadership which you apparently used to ill purpose."

In prison, Des Warren refused to co-operate, spending time in solitary, "on the blanket" (refusing to don prison uniform) and hunger strike. Outside, we signed petitions, went on marches, demanding "Free the Shrewsbury Two!" A group of Wigan building workers marched to London, and we held a rally with them in Trafalgar Square. After Ricky Tomlinson was released he joined the Wigan builders demanding action at the TUC in Blackpool.

But the campaign was largely wound down by building union officials, the TUC, and Des Warren's own "comrades" in the Communist Party leadership (though some rank and file worker members stuck loyally by his campaign). We were told the new Labour government would be more sympathetic. Home Secretary Roy Jenkins made it clear they were not. Des Warren served his full three years. When he came out, knowing that those who led the Wigan campaign were Trotskyists, he joined the Workers Revolutionary Party like them. When the WRP expelled its long time leader Gerry Healy in 1985, Des sided with the members fighting corruption against Healy and his acolytes.

But Des Warren's treatment in prison, specifically the "liquid cosh" tranquiliser administered to "difficult" prisoners like him, which caused symptoms similar to Parkinsons Disease, put a limit on his active political life, eventually causing him to need constant healthcare, provided by supporters. He died of pneumonia and complications caused by the Parkinsons. The gods of capital and state are jealous gods, never forgiving those who stand up to their power.

Des Warren did write a pamphlet about his case, and a book "The Key to My Cell" (New Park 1982), now sadly out of print, but vital reading to understand developments in the workers' movement over the period. Ricky Tomlinson -whose politics were not left-wing at all when he found himself in the dock with Warren - has made a new career in showbiz. But he has not forgotten past struggles, or those he learned were his comrades (he was at a commemoration meeting for Des Warren at the Casa dockers club in Liverpool). It's worth reading his entertaining autobiography, "Ricky" (Time Warner, 2004).

And for an insight into what it's like to be the son of a working-class hero, sitting in the car hoping Dad will remember the packet of crisps he promised, you can read 'Thirty Years in a Turtleneck Sweater', by Nick Warren (Ebury Press, 2005).


The Lump - system of pretending workers are self-employed, paying them a lump sum and leaving them to worry about tax and national insurance. Against a background of low wage rates, many were tempted, but employers used it to smash unions, and undermine conditions, setting workers competing with each other, and worsening accident rates. Those on the "lump" had no security or employment rights, and if they dodged their insurance they found themselves in trouble later when sick or unemployed.

UCATT - Union of Construction and Allied Trades and Technicians. Includes carpenters, brickies and plasterers, plus labourers, but not plumbers and electricians.

Workers Revolutionary Party - split in 1985. Those who had been in the majority then eventually disbanded at the end of 1996 in the hope of building a broader movement. Some have since been active in the Socialist Alliance and various campaigns, and joined the new Liverpool-centred United Socialist Party. The group now still calling itself the WRP, with the paper News Line, was formed by people who went with Gerry Healy.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Was St.George a Palestinian pork butcher?

St.George in a 17thC
Ethiopian manuscript.
(picture copyright British Library)

WHAT with the Queen's 80th. birthday today and St.George's Day on Sunday, the flags and bunting are waving, the telly "news" teams have been trying to outdo each other in loyal bollocks, and patriotic publicans are praying they'll pull enough extra pints this weekend to please those mean and miserable gits at the brewery.

It might take people's mind off such boring facts as that Peugeot is closing one of the country's few remaining car factories, or the crisis in the once-proud National Health Service. The latest hospital in money trouble, about to lay off 300 staff, is in Tooting, south London. St.George's.

Back in the 1980s under the Tories several good hospitals in that area were closed to concentrate provision at St.George's. The authority still contrived not to gain from disposing of the real estate. What with the number of factories that had also closed St.George's maternity wards were the last productive industry left in SW London.

The fewer things that are left to hoist flags over, the more the mania has grown in recent years for patriotic flag-flying. Some people fly it from their back yard, some along the High Street seem to use it in place of curtains. Sometimes their patriotic pride, or income, doesn't run to cleaning their windows.

OK, so the St.George's flags like the Union Jacks are made in some far-flung outpost of empire (not necessarily British Empire, either), and the pubs with the most flags may not be selling a decent pint of traditional British ale.
But what about St.George himself?

"Who was he anyway?", asked one of my local's regulars, so traditional he still wears his moustache trimmed halfway between that made famous by Sir Anthony Eden and the one sported by Arthur English.

"He was Turkish, I think", opined I, trusting to my vague idea about where Capadoccia lay, and taking a swig of my pint. Just then, as we were all reflecting, Nessie the landlady (who I hasten to say keeps her ale in good condition and does serve a decent pint) came downstairs saying "See what the brewery has sent?" She was bearing a sort of Knight's helmet, a St.George's shield, and a short broad sword. "There you are," I pointed out, "that's for cutting off slices of doner kebab."

This was on St.George's Day a couple of years ago, and we never did find out what the sword and tat were for, but maybe the kebab connection was not so far off, if we substitute pork for lamb. According to a story I found on the web, anyway (and we all know that information on the Internet is accurate and reliable).

"St George's links with England are decidedly tenuous. Needless to say, there is no evidence at all to link him to the killing of a dragon. Is there even any evidence that George himself existed? Working backwards through the centuries of self-serving pious fable (the ‘knightly’ George was brought back to England by the crusaders in the twelfth/thirteenth centuries and was subsequently popularised by Caxton) we find that in the eighth century it was believed that George had visited Caerleon and Glastonbury while serving as a member of Emperor Constantine's staff! Yet when we reach the fifth century we find that neither the Syrian list of saints nor the so-called Hieronymian Martyrologium commemorate a St George at all. About this time, however, Pope Gelasius records that St. George was among those saints ‘whose names are justly reverenced among men but whose actions are only known to God’. "

The supposed passion of St George involved an endless variety of tortures which the saint had endured and had miraculously survived. It seems these indicate possible links with Ethiopic, Syriac and Coptic tradition, and a possible Greek original. Apparently some writers in olden times made up stories of tortured saints relying on what they knew about the way the Church itself treated heretics.

The 4th or 5th century Coptic texts variously related George to the Governor of Cappadocia, the Count of Lydda in Palestine and Joseph of Arimathea. Because these churches weren't under the sway of Rome, and the tales were told by heretics, the Acta Sancti Georgii were outlawed by Pope Gelasius in AD 496.

Later the Catholic version restored our George, but placed him in the reign of Diocletian. "George was given a noble birth, Christian parents, and a tenacious commitment to the faith. He is made a Roman cavalry officer, who bravely complains to the nasty Emperor of the harshness of his decrees. George refuses to carry out orders to persecute the Church and for his defiance is thrown into prison and tortured. But George doesn’t go quietly. In fact, he is brutally tortured to death, yet is raised to life again three times. Much of his passion was modelled on that of Christ himself, and it was for that reason that the Feast of St George was celebrated near to Easter (18 and 23 April)".

"The future archbishop of Alexandria began his career as a humble cloth worker in Cilicia (now southern Turkey). By ‘assiduous flattery’ or other means he acquired the contract to supply the Roman army with bacon. Says Gibbon:
‘His employment was mean; he rendered it infamous. He accumulated wealth by the basest arts of fraud and corruption; but his malversations were so notorious, that George was compelled to escape from the pursuits of justice.’
Making his way to Palestine, George set himself up in the religion business at Diospolis (Lydda), where he became a profane grandee of the ruling Arian Christians. As a wealthy and influential opponent of the Catholic Athanasius he was well-placed to take the bishop’s chair in Alexandria when Athanasius was driven into exile. In his new lofty station George gave free reign to his greed and cruelty, establishing several commercial monopolies and pillaging the ancient temples. ‘The tyrant…oppressed with an impartial hand the various inhabitants of his extensive diocese.’ (Gibbon). So incensed were the inhabitants that on at least one occasion he was expelled by a mob and it required troops to get him back into the bishop’s palace.

"His end came with the elevation of Julian to the purple. The angry pagans of Alexandria (probably aided by Catholics) took their revenge on George by throttling the bishop and dumping his body in the sea. Emperor Julian himself sequestered the extensive library which George had acquired. Yet the notorious prelate was to achieve a nobility in death which had been denied to him in life. His family built a tomb and a church to house it at Lydda, and attracted a profitable traffic in pilgrims. The venality of his life was white-washed and, thanks to the creative scribblers for Christ two hundred years later, his name was attached to a colourful story of piety, fortitude, divine deliverance and – ultimately – a princess and a dragon. As Gibbon famously records:
‘This odious stranger disguising every circumstance of time and place, assumed the mask of a martyr, a saint, and a Christian hero, and the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the renowned St. George of England, the patron of arms, of chivalry, and of the Garter.’ "

This information comes from a decidedly irreverant (putting it mildly) American site called "jesus never existed", and the author concludes that George's sanctification, and commemoration in the white ensign and other flags is "Quite a success story for an unmitigated rogue – and bacon salesman."

Well, I like a bacon sarni myself (though over Passover I breakfasted on bacon and matza bry) so let's not get snobbish about what George might have sold for a living. Didn't they go on like this about Bartolomeo Vanzetti being a fish peddler?

How about the dragon? The picture of St.George slaying the dragon and rescuing a fair maiden is not unlike that of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from the sea monster. In some versions this happens near Jaffa, which is not far from Lydda. The Greek hero returns Andromeda to her home in Phoenicia, and is given permission to marry her. Earlier, Perseus, like King Solomon, had. hired carpenters from Phoenicia (in the Bible they're loaned by Hiram, King of Tyre) to build his ships from cedar wood. Phoenicia was the Greeks' name for the people on the sea coast of Lebanon and northern Cana'an.

In the story Perseus thinks he sees a statue on the rocks, but finds it is a real woman being sacrificed, Could this be a story of how the sacrifice of humans to appease the sea god was replaced by the offering of statues? Maybe the Perseus story was borrowed by the Greeks from Phoenicians, then later re-issued as St.George standing up to Diocletian (who was sometimes called "the dragon"), at a time when the Church was confronting a pagan revival. Whatever the truth, the stories place St.George's background in the Middle East, particularly in the vicinity of Palestine.

According to Michael Collins:
"The legend may have been particularly well received in England because of a similar legend in Anglo-Saxon literature. St George became a stock figure in the secular miracle plays derived from pagan sources which continued to be performed at the beginning of spring. The origin of the legend remains obscure. It is first recorded in the late sixth century and may have been an allegory of the persecution of Diocletian, who was sometimes referred to as 'the dragon' in ancient texts. The story may also be a christianized version of the Greek legend of Perseus, who was said to have rescued the virgin Andromeda from a sea monster at Arsuf or Jaffa, near Lydda (Diospolis), where the cult of St George grew up around the site of his supposed tomb

"George was adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. Many similar stories were transmitted to the West by Crusaders who had heard them from Byzantine troops, and were circulated further by the troubadours. When Richard 1 was campaigning in Palestine in 1191-92 he put the army under the protection of St George.

"Because of his widespread following, particularly in the Near East, and the many miracles attributed to him, George became universally recognized as a saint sometime after 900. Originally, veneration as a saint was authorized by local bishops but, after a number of scandals, the Popes began in the twelfth century to take control of the procedure and to systematize it. A lesser holiday in honour of St George, to be kept on 23 April, was declared by the Synod of Oxford in 1222; and St George had become acknowledged as Patron Saint of England by the end of the fourteenth century. In 1415, the year of Agincourt, Archbishop Chichele raised St George's Day to a great feast and ordered it to be observed like Christmas Day. In 1778 the holiday reverted to a simple day of devotion for English Catholics.

"The banner of St George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard 1, and later became the flag of England and the White Ensign of the Royal Navy. In a seal of Lyme Regis dating from 1284 a ship is depicted bearing a flag with a cross on a plain background. During Edward 111's campaigns in France in 1345-49, pennants bearing the red cross on a white background were ordered for the king's ship and uniforms in the same style for the men at arms. When Richard 11 invaded Scotland in 1385, every man was ordered to wear 'a signe (sic) of the arms of St George', both before and behind, whilst death was threatened against any of the enemy's soldiers 'who do bear the same crosse or token of Saint George, even if they be prisoners'.

Very nice, what these people with crosses get up to, not least against fellow Christians. But whatever the true George from Lydda did, the Saint, like Perseus, seems to have got around, and besides England he is the patron saint of, among other people and places, agricultural workers, soldiers, butchers, Georgia, Malta, Greece, Russia, Germany (don't tell England soccer fans!), Genoa, Moscow, Istanbul, Portugal, Lithuania, Beirut and yes, Palestine.

Legend has it George even visited England a couple of times, going to Caerlaeon and Glastonbury (perhaps he liked mud and rock music). Wonder if these days he would make it through immigration, and how long before he and that carpenter from Nazareth would find themselves in Harmondsworth, if not Belmarsh?


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

From Boston Tea Party to Liberation Seder

Photo Jonathan McIntosh

SEVEN days ago, while I was writing about the famous Sarajevo Haggadah (book read from at the festival of Passover), and liberation struggles in Bosnia-Hercegovina, a group of young Jews in the city of Boston, where a famous "Tea Party" signalled the start of America's struggle for independence, were using their own Haggadah in a seder( Passover ceremony) for the liberation of Palestine.

A friend in the United States has forwarded this note and report from Hannah, a Jewish woman who has been working as a volunteer in Palestine and was one of the organisers of the seder in Boston:

Dear friends,
I'm writing tonight with great joy after helping to organize and participating in a protest seder today outside the offices of major Jewish institutions in Boston. Our group came together quite organically specifically to try to break open the false idea of "consensus" in the Jewish community when it comes to support of Israeli policy.

On Tuesday, April 11, at 5:00 pm, 20 young Jewish people gathered for a seder (traditional celebration of Passover) outside 126 High Street in Boston, the building that houses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Boston's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). The group expressed their support for Palestinian human rights and opposition to AIPAC’s and JCRC’s unquestioning support for Israel and its governmental policies.

With a banner that read “Passover means liberation for all. Justice for Palestine,” they conveyed the message to the organizations inside and to the media that AIPAC and JCRC do not speak for all Jews. The group set up a seder table and recited Passover's traditional four questions, with newly written answers that included facts about Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes, confiscation and destruction of Palestine's land resources for the expansion of settlements and the Separation Wall, and malnutrition and poverty in Palestine caused by Israeli closure and movement restrictions. (supplement attached)

According to Marjorie Kent, one of the organizers of the seder ,
“During Passover, every generation of Jewish people is commanded to remember that we were slaves and to tell the story of the Exodus so that we can recognize oppression that happens today and work to stop it. Today we committed ourselves to this task.”

AIPAC pushes the US government to support Israeli policies which result in the brutal oppression of Palestinian people and denial of their internationally recognized human rights. JCRC, while claiming to speak for all Jews, invests enormous time and energy suppressing any voice of opposition to Israeli policies, especially Jewish voices.

"Our generation has had enough of AIPAC’s and JCRC's complicity in Israel's human rights abuses of Palestinians," said Hannah Mermelstein, another seder organizer. “Their support of these policies betray the libratory message of Passover.”

The group called on people leaving the building to take the message of “liberation for all” home with them this Passover. They handed out supplements for people to add to their traditional Passover seders. The text of the supplement follows. As the group left, the police arrived with specific instructions to arrest them. (my emphasis added- CP).


Just thought I'd add that emphasis. Hopefully the young people won't have been dealt with too harshly. But can you remember the campaign for freedom for Soviet Jewry? Imagine the outcry then if Jews were arrested for holding a seder! A few years ago Masorti Jews were arrested by Israeli police, for praying at the Western Wall (they'd enraged the Orthodox by allowing women to wear prayer shawls and tefillin, arm bindings). Now the cops are called (by AIPAC?) to arrest Jews celebrating Passover! It won't make headlines I suppose, but good for end-of-the- year quizzes "In which country were Jews arrested for...etc"

Just recently there's been a controversy among the chattering classes at least as to how much influence AIPAC and co. have on US policy, and whether it serves US interests. Meanwhile Christian Zionists are boasting their pro-Israel Lobby will be bigger than AIPACs. Kol hakoved, all honour, to these young Jews in Boston, for taking their principled stand on to the street for justice in Palestine; and full marks to them for showing that the Zionist Lobby does not speak for "the Jews", nor even for American Jews.

It's a small contribution to the Palestinians' liberation, but may prove as big as the Boston Tea Party for ours.

Photographs available at:


From Tev Aviv, a comment on the bombing

Sadly, ordinary innocent people, poor working people, are victims of another bombing, in a Tel Aviv market.
Sadly, it was almost predictable, given the Israeli military's killing of other innocent people in the Gaza Strip and Nablus, and the steps announced by Israel, the United States and the European Union to punish ordinary Palestinians for the way they voted, discredit peace hopes and make it impossible for Palestinian society and government to function.
Sadly, too, the reporting by the BBC and other media was also predictable, giving none of the background, but anticipating "retaliation".
Fortunately, though they seldom get a hearing, there are other voices, and here is one of them.

From: Adam Keller in Tel Aviv:
Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:04 AM

Subject: Comment on the day of the suicide bombing
We had just heard about the explosion and were busy making phonecalls: "Wanted just to know you are okay. You heard about the bombing, did you?" Then we saw an email coming from overseas to the Gush Shalom mailbox, a very short one: "Any comment on the latest terror attack assholes?"

As a matter of fact - yes.

One o'clock. In the noon news magazine on the radio, the commentator speaks in a rather bored way of the ongoing army raid into Nablus, words nearly identical to the reports of yesterday and of last week: "The Palestinians claim that the boy shot in central Nablus was unarmed... The soldiers assert that they had shot only at armed militants, as per orders... This is part of a continuing operation to root out terrorists in Nablus and Jenin, which is already going on for several weeks... When soldiers arrive, dozens of youngsters start throwing stones, which complicates the detention of wanted terrorists..."

Suddenly: "We interrupt this report. A large explosion just occurred at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv. Dozens of casualties. Stand by for further details"

The Old Central Bus Station. The least fashionable part of Tel-Aviv. The lively dirty streets which are the haunt of migrant workers one jump ahead of the notorious Immigration Police and the most poor and disadvantaged among Israel's own citizens. The place where people have again and again to endure suicide bombings, too. Today, once again.

As always, the dilemma: Should we go there, to the scene where six people have just perished and forty others wounded, a place which is just a short bus ride away and where we just a few days ago went to buy sandals? Go there, as Israelis and human beings and and peace activists - but to do what? To say what?

Sure, we are horrified by the senseless random killing. But we have also something to say about why it happened, how it might have been prevented, how the next one can still be prevented. But how to say it on this day and in that location? How to make comprehensible, to shocked and angry and traumatized people, that the occupation is the root cause of our suffering as well as the Palestinians'?

How to explain convincingly that we must dry at source the oppression which makes young Palestinians don explosive belts and throw away their lives together with those of others?

In the end, we don't do anything except stay tuned to the non-stop broadcasts on radio and TV. At least the extreme-right people, who in past years used to rush to such scenes with their hate placards, are not there either today. It seems that they no longer find the public so receptive to their simplistic "solutions".

The flood of news reports continues. The number of fatalities has grown to nine, and doctors at Ichilov Hospital are still fighting to save the life of a very severely wounded sixteen year-old boy. At least two of the women killed were foreign migrant workers, and the Israeli consulate in Romania is trying to locate the family of one of them.

Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Jihad, and the perpetrator was a young man from the West Bank town of Quabatiya. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian boy (age not mentioned) was killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment (probably, somebody again instructed the artillery to decrease the range to the Palestinian inhabited areas...)

The bombing had targeted the very same cheap restaurant which was attacked in the previous Tel-Aviv bombing, three and a half months ago. Three and a half months ago. Nobody seems to remember the time when suicide bombings were taking place every week, or also several times each week. Nobody mentions that that had been when Hamas was the main initiator of suicide bombings. Nobody mentions that Hamas has been carefully keeping their one-side truce for more than a year now, that Jihad is a small organization with limited resources, that the Hamas self-restraint has saved the lives of quite a few Israelis in the past year.

A TV, reporter speaks smugly from the scene of the bombing: "The police had carried out massive detentions of Palestinian workers. Illegal Palestinians were found in all the restaurants and workshops around the site of the bombing. Why couldn't the police arrest them before it happened? (Because they had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing, because they came to Tel-Aviv for no other reason than to feed their families - but nobody says this on the air...)

In Jerusalem, the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Knesset goes ahead as scheduled, and is broadcast live. The eternal Shimon Peres is Acting Speaker. Not always our favourite among politicians. But in his speech today, he at least admits that the Palestinians are not solely to blame for the absence of peace, and that some Israeli mistakes also have something to do with it. This is not nothing, especially on such a day.

The late night news is sometimes less tightly controlled than the prime time. The commentator reports about Defense Minister Mofaz holding consultations with his generals on the coming military response, and remarks: "So, there will be a retaliation, and the Palestinians will retaliate to the retaliation, and we will retaliate again, and then what?" No answer was forthcoming.

Adam Keller. April 17, Tel-Aviv


Monday, April 17, 2006

Israeli forces destroy crops of Negev Bedouin


This is continuation of racist policy aimed at dispossessing the Negev Bedouins, possibly also the first 'down payment' in Olmert's coalition talks with arch-racist Avigdor Lieberman.

- Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc

Gush Shalom: Today, Sunday April 16, the Israeli authorities destroyed 400 dunams of Bedouin crops - no this is not the West Bank, but Israel proper. By chance we heard about it, and we want to let you know - without having an idea what you could do about it, other than helping to spread the message.

Press release 14/4/2006

Police and Israel Land Authority destroy crops on 100 acres of Bedouin "unrecognized" fields. Inhabitants: due to low rainfall, we had meagre harvests anyway - now all we had is lost.

At 6.30 am this morning, personnel of the Israel Lands Authority, equipped with tractors and accompanied by a huge force of police and Border Guards, launched a large-scale raid on the "unrecognized" Bedouin villages in the Negev. The semi-military operation started at the village of Bir el Hamam, east of Tel Sheba, where the Authority people ploughed and destroyed the crops in the fields belonging to Ali Abu Issa and his family.

Then they moved to the fields of Al Horam Family in the same village, and thence to those of Al Horti Family in neighboring Hirbat al Watan and of the Abu Kef Family at al-Garin. Altogether, some four hundred dunams (roughly 100 acres) of wheat and barley were completely destroyed, source of livelihood for dozens of people."There was low rainfall this year, and we expected only meagre harvests - now everything which did grow is completely destroyed" said the villagers. "When there is low rainfall, the government gives compensations to Jewish farmers. What they send to us is destruction of the little we have".

The Israel Lands Authority defines these villages as "unrecognized" and "illegal" and does not recognize the Bedouins' ownership of the fields - though these families and tribes have been cultivating them for generations, long before the state of Israel came into being. Land ownership laws in Israel have been amended in a way which makes it next to impossible for Bedouins to prove in a court of law ownership of their ancestral lands.

"Government policy in recent years regards the Negev Bedouins as 'an obstacle to the development of the Negev' and implements a systematic campaign of home demolitions and crop destruction, with the intention of causing the Bedouins to lose hope and abandon their land" says Sliman abu Obeid, Field Coordinator for the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Villages.

"The treatment of the Negev Bedouins, citizens of Israel, is a badge of infamy for our country" says Adam Keller, spokesperson of Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc). "The intensified aggression against the Bedouins might also be the first 'down payment' in Acting PM's Olmert courting of the arch-racist Avigdor Lieberman, slated to be a government coalition partner. Lieberman's entire elections campaign in the recent parliamentary elections consisted of racist demagoguery against Israel's Arab citizens. Specifically, Lieberman and his partner Pini Badash, Mayor of the Be'er Sheba suburb of Omer, spent much time and energy on inciting Jewish inhabitants of the Negev against their Bedouin neighbors.

H'sein al Rafia'a, Chair of the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Villages +972-507-716645

Contact Gush Shalom at:

Meanwhile, the El-Okbi tribe makes a desparate effort to keep at least some of their land - to start an agricultural community, and not be pushed into 'Bedouin Townships' where they would be turned into a cheap labour pool.Association for the Defence of Bedouin Rights in Israel

Press release 14/4/2006
"Down with Poverty, down with discrimination!"

Members of the el-Okbi Tribe erect a protest tent against the authorities' harassmentdemanding the right to create an agricultural community on their ancestral landIn these days of the holiday commemorating the Jewish people's emergence from Slavery to Liberty we, members of the el-Okbi Tribe and citizens of the state of Israel from its very inception, decided to embark on an accelerated struggle against the authorities' harassment. It is intolerable to continue enduring gross discrimination in the land which is our land from time immemorial.

Therefore, we have decided to erect a protest tent where we can receive guests who are willing to listen to the story of the el-Okbi tribespeople, citizens of this nation, and we expect to receive our guests at the protest tent in Al-Arakib and at the tribe's present residence in Hora. We will tell and show our guests our sorry and intolerable situation, in the hope of getting the support of human rights adherents in our struggle for a better future - specifically, the creation of our own village on our own land.In front of our eyes, enormous government resources are spent for the creation of "Giv'ot Bar", a community earmarked for the settlement of Jews on el-Okbi tribal land which was our fathers' and their fathers' fathers.

Looking in the other direction we can see how in another part of our ancestral land there are brought in bedouins of another tribe, Tarabin a-Sana, whom the authorities want to remove from where they now live, in order to expand the affluent Be'er Sheba suburb of Omer. We have nothing against either these nor these. The whole of our legitimate and elementary demand is to be allowed to create an agricultural community on the part of our ancestral land which is still free - an agricultural community of our own, rather then being "concentrated" into the government's "bedouin townships", a "solution" which we completely reject.

In the place where we want to settle down, and which we know as we know the palm of our hand., there already exists the necessary infrastructure - a road, electricity and water lines. All that is needed is for the authorities, who are responsible to our present difficult situation, to take the appropriate decision. That is what we struggle for in our protest tent.The public - and also the representatives of the government authorities - are hereby cordially invited.

Have a Happy Passover!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dagenham Des and Miliband Dave

Wembley land earmarked by London Borough of Brent for Stadium Academy, under Andrew Rosenfeld of Minerva Properties, who lent Labour Party £1 million.

But will a Headmaster's reference cut short Dave Miliband's career ambitions?

LET me begin with my confessions. My early experience of education was blighted by a school head who seemed to enjoy inflicting fear, pain and humiliation on small children. Having scarcely veiled prejudices and a sense of class, he sought out anxious middle class parents so he could supplement his income by offering private after-school tuition before the dreaded 11-plus. I'm surprised he had the energy left after wielding his strap all day.

We dreamed of the day when we'd be big enough to beat him up. But he was dead by the time I took what revenge I could with a bitter though humourous article, "Bandits of Cheetham Hill", in the short-lived magazine Casablanca.

Education issues change like fashion. When I wrote that people were arguing whether kids could benefit with more old-fashioned discipline, i.e. more beltings like what we had (though we also got free milk and cheap but nourishing school dinners). A few years later the talk turned to giving more independence and authority to school heads.

By then some of my best friends were teachers. One of them wondered why the school rolls at his inner city school did not reflect the local population's changeing make up. He found the head was already exercising enterprise and skills in customer relations with parents and unofficial selection. She had also managed to set up a business on the side. But before staff could dig out anything worse the head stepped out from under a cloud of suspicion and into a better-paid job with OFSTED, which inspects school standards.

I'm sure most heads are decent, dedicated and hard-working, and I even know some. Gillian Cross' Demon Headmaster is just good fun in children's books and television (there, given away some of my sophisticated viewing tastes).
But as the Blair government's wheeze for handing schools and schooling over to businessmen (including some with funny religious ideas) falls over its bright ideas for dispensing honours and fundraising, one particular government minister must wish he hadn't had a mention from a helpful headmaster.

The Sunday Times (April 16, 2006), probably not the friendliest of papers to Labour, though its owner Rupert Murdoch has been close to the Blair Which project, had a story today headed:
"Loose talk from Dagenham Des that could wreck Blair's legacy"

It recounts how Des Smith, head of a school in working-class Dagenham, Essex, has had another role in the evenings, "wooing some of Britain’s wealthiest businessmen over dinner in the capital’s most exclusive restaurants on behalf of Tony Blair".

Last November, an undercover reporter approached the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, whose chairman Sir Cyril Taylor was in charge of persuading wealthy backers to pay £2m each to turn poor schools into “city academies”.
The reporter said she represented a businessman interested in sponsoring an academy. The "businessman" was really another undercover reporter using the name Malcolm Johnson.

"Within weeks the reporter found herself ushered in to a private room at Mosimann’s, an exclusive Knightsbridge restaurant in a converted church, and placed next to Smith, another member of the trust. Around the table were powerful guests. They included Sir Michael Barber, former head of delivery at No 10, two multi-millionaire businessmen and two representatives of an American multinational. Also present was 'academy sponsorship consultant' Rona Kiley, wife of Bob Kiley, former head of Transport for London.

The next day Smith e-mailed the undercover reporter, known as “Claire”, to thank her for a “stimulating and enjoyable” evening. “I would be very happy to facilitate a meeting with Malcolm [the fictitious sponsor] to discuss the issues of sponsoring an academy.”

A few weeks later, Johnson and Claire met Taylor. Over lunch he explained that Smith would be the perfect choice for Johnson to develop his academy project. But what was the payback, Johnson wanted to know.

“There’s no question that sponsors of academies have access, they get invited to No 10, meet the secretary of state and people like that,” said Taylor, who is the rare recipient of two knighthoods — one from the Tories and the other from Labour.

“Some people say, ‘I’m going to buy a knighthood by doing this,’ but I think they should not think that at all because, first of all, that’s a form of corruption. “But the fact is a lot of sponsors do get recognition.”

Nevertheless, some meetings and meals later he set out what appeared to be a tariff system, in which a benefactor who gave to “one or two” academies might receive an OBE or a knighthood while a donor who funded five of them would be “a certainty” for a peerage. “The prime minister’s office would recommend someone like Malcolm for an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood,” said Smith. “It will either be an OBE, a CBE or a knighthood . . . But also what would be great is, you could go to the House of Lords and . . . become a lord.”

Two days later The Sunday Times reported Smith’s comments under the headline: “Revealed: cash for honours scandal”. The government quickly distanced itself. John Reid, the defence minister, said: “All I can say about this story is it seems to be based on one guy who I don’t know who he is, and he certainly doesn’t speak for the government.”

Within 24 hours of the Sunday Times’s story, Smith had resigned, saying he had been “naive”. But though teaching unions, parents and MPs continued to battle Blair's education schemes, and even deputy prime minister John Prescott expressed unease, Blair won a parliamentary vote with Tory support and enough Labour MPs who came round, and punched the air in triumph.

Meanwhile Scotland Yard had been persuaded by complaints to look into whether honours had been offered in exchange for secret loans to political parties. The funding of city academies also came under scrutiny.

So far 27 academies have been opened, and eight of the financial backers have been honoured. There is no reason to think the knighthoods were their motivation, nor evidence the academies were all they did to earn them. But some people in Whitehall have not been happy with other nominations, according to the Sunday Times. Nor were the police satisfied everything was kosher. Last Thursday, at breakfast time, two officers arrested Des Smith at his home in east London. And that was not the end of the matter. It may be just a beginning.

It was reported today that in his conversation with the Sunday Times undercover reporter, thinking she represented a potential sponsor, Dagenham Des promised : "I'll introduce him to David Miliband and say 'Knighthood? This is the man'." Smith was said to have referred to Mr Miliband, a former education minister, as "mate" during their conversations. In another extract, Mr Smith said: "Miliband is going to be the next leader after Blair".

The Right Honourable David Wright Miliband (born 15 July 1965 in London) is Labour MP for South Shields., and Minister of State for Communities and Local Government. Before becoming a minister he was Blair's head of policy.
In his present job, invented last year, he shoulders deputy PM and Environment Minister John Prescott out. As a Blair protégé, one of those for whom safe seats in the North East were found, he has been tipped as a possible future Prime Minister. His younger brother, economist Ed Miliband, was elected MP for Doncaster North in 2005.

David and Ed are the sons of the late Ralph Miliband, who came to this country as a young refugee from wartime Belgium, and served in the Royal Navy before going on to an acdemic career at the LSE. Miliband pere was author of "Parliamentary Socialism, the politics of Labour",

"Of political parties claiming socialism to be their aim, the Labour Party has always been one of the most dogmatic - not about socialism, but about the parliamentary system. Empirical and flexible about all else, its leaders have always made devotion to that system their fixed point of reference and the conditioning factor of their political behaviour."

His other works included The State in Capitalist Society (1969), Marxism and Politics (1977), Capitalist Democracy in Britain (1982), Class Power and State Power (1983), Divided Societies: Class Struggle in Contemporary Capitalism (1989) and Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994). He died on May 21, 1994.

Perhaps he was mercifully spared seeing his sons' successful careers. Relatives I met in Belgium a few years ago only asked how the books had fared. As a friend of mine, Steve Marks put it last month; Ralph Miliband spent his life arguing that the Labour Party has nothing to do with socialism. His sons are loyally committed to proving their father was right.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rekindling vision in Jenin, Arna's Children come to Westminster

The late ARNA MER KHAMIS (holding red flowers) with friends in London, drawing attention to children killed by occupation forces during the first Intifada.

ANYONE worried about how to get youngsters interested in the theatre might be advised to seek tips from the people running a modest theatrical effort in the Palestinian town of Jenin. The Freedom Theatre has only recently reopened, replacing a previous venture that was trashed by Israeli troops, and a fortnight ago the theatre was 'stormed' again - this time by over 1,000 enthusiastic kids who came to see a play performed by a visiting troupe from Haifa.

The Freedom Theatre has been created to provide not only enjoyment but an oasis of peace and hope for children who have seen more than their share of fear and conflict, and whose parents don't know how they can feed them, as the powerful punish their people.

The idea was started by a remarkable Israeli woman, the late Arna Mer-Khamis, and as part of efforts to back her vision, a film called "Arna's Children" is being shown in Britain, started with a screening at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, April 18. Before I move on to more details of that, here is an appeal, in English and Arabic, from the team that is working in Jenin:

13 April- 2006

The Freedom Theatre

Today, more then ever the children of Jenin refugee camp need your help.
When the world is cutting its aid to the Palestinian people, when Israel is launching unilateral attacks and killings; starving, imprisoning and besieging a whole nation, your help is crucial. Without hope, hungry and desperate, the children of Jenin are doomed to slow mental and emotional death.

Help us to bring some hope and a bit of a normal life to the children of the camp. They are not to be blamed for the choice of the democratically elected Hamas.

Your donation for The Freedom Theatre very important. Although your moral and spiritual support is important, at this moment your financial support is crucial for our survival, however much you are able to give, we are entirely relying on individual donations such as yours.

Two weeks ago The Freedom Theatre was “stormed” by over 1000 children! When the Palestinian theatre group from Haifa- “Jbeny Theatre” - performed in The Freedom Theatre over 1000 enthusiastic children stormed the theatre. For most of them this was the first time they had ever seen a dramatic work. On stage the children’s play Juha and Bahloul was performed by Shady Facher el Den, Ayman Nahas and Widad Sarhan. The play is a comedy about the fool Bahloul and his neighbour Juha and relates to subjects such as relationship and greed.

We present to you on our web site a small documentary of the historical day, when “Bahloul” visited Jenin refugee camp:

The Freedom Theatre team

بيان صحفي، 13 نيسان 2006

مسرح الحرية

اليوم، أطفال جنين بحاجة إلى مساعدتكم أكثر من أي وقت مضى.

في وقت يقوم فيه العالم بقطع المساعدات عن الشعب الفلسطيني، و إسرائيل من جانبها تقوم بخطوات أحادية الجانب تتمثل بتنفيذ سلسلة من الهجمات على الفلسطينيين، و تتابع سياسية القتل، التجويع، و الحصار، تُعتبر مساعدتكم حاسمة. بدون أمل، بجوع و يأس، حُكم على أطفال مخيم جنين بالموت البطيء، ذهنياً و عاطفياً.

ساعدونا لإعادة الأمل و الحياة الطبيعية لأطفال المخيم. فهم ليسوا الملامين على الخيار الديمقراطي للشعب الفلسطيني بانتخابه حماس.

دعمكم لمسرح الحرية حاسم و مهم جداً. و مع أن دعمكم الأخلاقي و الروحي مهم ، إلا انه و في هذه اللحظات بالذات دعمكم المالي - مهما تكن قيمته- حاسم جداً و يساعد في بقاء المؤسسة.

قبل أسبوعين، غصّ مسرح الحرية بأكثر من ألف طفل!

عندما قدمت فرقة مسرح فلسطينية من حيفا "مسرح جبينة" عرضاً في مسرح الحرية، حضر العرض أكثر من ألف طفل يملؤهم الحماس. بالنسبة للغالبية العظمى منهم، كانت هذه أول مرة يشاهدون فيها عرضاً مسرحياً. كما عُرض أيضا مسرحية الأطفال "جحا و بهلول"، و مثل فيها كل من شادي فخر الدين، أيمن نحّاس و وداد سرحان. و المسرحية كوميدية تروي قصة "بهلول" الساذج و جاره "جحا" و تتناول قضايا عديدة مثل الجشع و العلاقات بين البشر.

نقدم لكم من خلال موقعنا الالكتروني فيلماً قصيراً عن هذا اليوم التاريخي، عندما زار "بهلول" مخيم جنين للاجئين:

فريق عمل مسرح الحرية

Arna's Children screenings

ARNA'S CHILDREN tells the story of a theatre group that was established by Arna Mer Khamis. Arna was born to a Jewish family in Mandate Palestine, and fought in the pre-state Palmach commandos. In the 1950s, seeking a way to peace and a fairer society, she joined the Communist Party, and married a Palestinian Arab, Saliba Khamis.

Arna quit the Party in disgust after witnessing the Warsaw pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. But she never wavered from her commitment to the aims of justice and humanity that had led her to join it.

On the West Bank, she opened an alternative education system for children whose regular life was disrupted by the Israeli occupation. The theatre group that she started engaged children from Jenin, helping them to express their everyday frustrations, anger, bitterness and fear. Arna's son Juliano, director of this film, was also one of the directors of Jenin's theatre. With his camera, he filmed the children during rehearsal periods from 1989 to 1996. Now, he goes back to see what happened to them.

Yussef committed a suicide attack in Hadera in 2001, Ashraf was killed in the battle of Jenin, Alla leads a resistance group. Juliano, who today is one of the leading actors in the region, looks back in time in Jenin, trying to understand the choices made by the children he loved and worked with. Eight years ago, the theatre was closed and life became static and paralysed. Shifting back and forth in time, the film reveals the tragedy and horror of lives trapped by the circumstances of the Israeli occupation.

* 18 April at 6.30 p.m. FREE showing at the House of Commons, Portcullis House, Bridge Street, Westminster with Howard Brenton. Advance reservation essential at*

19th April, Cafe Forever, 3 Glengall Grove, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3NE. Doors open 7.00 p.m. Film and talk at 8.00 p.m. Food will be available. Tickets £5 (concs £3.50) Contact Henk on 020 7987 4219*

20th April, Nottingham at 7.30 p.m. at the New Mechanic Institute, 3 North Sherwood St (cr Shakespeare St), NG1 4EZ, E-mail*

25th April, Manchester contact Leonie at Olive Co-op 07835 907781*

26th April, Barbican, London as part of the Palestine Film Festival

Destroyed during the occupation forces' assault on Jenin in 2002, Arna's theatre has been re-oped by determined volunteers in February this year.
It is already offering Jenin’s children workshops for music and painting, the chance to see films, make theatre themselves and engage in therapeutic psychodrama. Plans are afoot for music classes, for projects designed specifically for traumatised children and for a network of children’s theatre projects throughout Palestine. To establish the theatre on a permanent basis in Jenin will require the purchase of land, constructing a building from scratch and the acquisition of theatre equipment. The British Shalom Salaam Trust is fundraising to aid the project.

For further details on how to donate please e-mail
Supporters of the project include many of BSST’s Patrons and Board members of the Jenin Freedom Theatre Juliano Mer Kamis, Noam Chomsky, Howard Brenton, Dror Feiler and Professor Judith Butler.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Call to Europe -Stop punishing Palestinian people!


The European Union has joined the United States and Israel in punitive economic measures against the Palestinian people, ostensibly for having voted in the wrong government.

Although they pretend this will not affect humanitarian aid, going via non-governmental agencies, this is a cynical fig-leaf of respectability to still liberal fears. They know perfectly well that the Palestinian Authority, already being deprived of its own revenues by Israeli measures which amount to highway robbery, will be prevented from providing services and forced to lay off thousands of workers, into a society already reduced to penury and mass unemployment by Israeli land and water- grabbing, closures and isolation.
Israel's tightening grip is confining what remains of Palestine into walled ghettoes.

Israeli leaders celebrating the Passover will probably passo over the repeated Biblical injunction to "oppresseth not the stranger, for ye were strangers in Egypt". If they sing "Avadim Hayinu", Slaves Were We, they can add "But now we are Pharaohs!"

The British government and its allies hypocritically say that Hamas must "give up violence". But Hamas has already mainted a cease fire for two years, and says it is willing to talk. It is the Israeli government which has refused to negotiate even with President Abbas let alone the elected Palestinian leadership, and this week has been pumping 300 shells a day into the Gaza strip.

While Mr.Blair and others will no doubt be saying their prayers this Easter weekend and bleating about peace, they are crucifying the Palestinian people as a whole, and their children, for their elected representatives, and not even for what these have done but for whether they will accept humiliating conditions for future policy. One thing this does is take away any argument against boycotts and sanctions on Israel once its government's actions and policies are seen for what they are. Right now an economic boycott would be no more than tit for tat if it were effective.

Palestinians and solidarity campaigners have naturally protested against the EU decision. And they are not the only ones, as we see below. First we have a call from Israeli peace campaigners, which has been published this week in three Israeli newspapers, and was forwarded to us by veteran campaigning journalist Uri Avnery. Then there is a letter which European Jews for Just peace have sent to top EU officials.


We, Israeli patriots concerned about the future of our state, hereby call upon you, the leaders of the European Union and the heads of European governments:

Stop the blockade on the Palestinian government!

Don't starve a whole people in order
to overthrow its elected government!

Only three months ago, European monitors supervised the Palestinian elections. They confirmed Palestine as the first democracy in the Arab world (holding its second democratic elections, the first having been won by the Fatah movement.)

This time, a Parliament with a Hamas majority was elected. Now you are giving the Palestinians a lesson in democracy: you are telling them that, unless they overthrow the government they have just elected, there will be no milk for their children, no medicines for their sick, no work for their unemployed, no salaries for their doctors and teachers.You are fulfilling the cynical prescription of the advisor to our Prime Minister: "We need to make them lose weight, but not to die."

This is not only a barbaric policy, it is also a terrible mistake: no people in the world would submit to such brutal and humiliating pressure from outside. The inevitable result will be a further radicalization of Palestinian opinion, and a deepening of the hatred for Israel and the West in the whole of the Arab and Muslim world. That will make the prospect of peace even remoter, the peace we all need like air to breathe. It will lead to a bloodbath, which will cost the lives of thousands - Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans and Americans.

Talk to the Palestinian government! Start a dialogue with Hamas! Certainly, they must recognize the State of Israel's right to exist, just as Israel must recognize the right of the State of Palestine to exist. But such recognition will grow out of negotiations, not the other way round. Certainly, they have to stop violence, just as Israel must do so. But even at this stage a prolonged armistice can be achieved.Certainly, they must accept the Two-State solution, and so must Israel. But their leaders have already hinted that they are ready for it - and this must be put to the test of negotiations.

We call upon you, leaders of Europe: It is in the interest of Europe, as it is in the interest of Israel and Palestine, to achieve peace. Don't succumb to pressure from outside interests, whose policy has already led to several recent disasters in the Middle East. For the sake of all of us: follow an independent line, guided by wisdom and morality!

GUSH SHALOM The Israeli Peace Bloc
P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
* *

EJJP letter sent to President Jose Manuel Barroso, and to Sr Javier Solana High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union on 10th April 2006

It is with great dismay, shock and concern that we note the proposed cutting of aid from the European Union to the Palestinian population. This amounts to a collective punishment meted out to approximately 3,500,000 Palestinians. Forcing people to go hungry is not an acceptable tool of international diplomacy. Yet that is exactly what this policy amounts to...

The Karni checkpoint has been closed for goods, leaving the people of Gaza without basic staples. At the same time Gazan fishermen are being denied access to fishing grounds prevented from catching fish, in grounds defined by international agreement as Palestinian, by the Israeli navy. The Israeli Army’s repeated shelling of the Gaza Strip has killed children as young as five years old.
In addition, one Israeli bank, the Bank Hapoalim, has now stopped the transfer of money to the Palestinian territories. If others follow suit, there will be no way of transferring funds to organizations and even family members from abroad because all funds must go through Israeli correspondent banks.

These are measures enacted against a population many of whom are already forced to live as recipients of charity from abroad because of the Israeli occupation. A people is being starved and humiliated. They are losing their property and being put in ghettos erected by the State of Israel, with its wall and settlements. Despite these being illegal, punitive measures such as those now proposed against the Palestinians have not even been considered against Israel. Indeed, any call whatsoever for divestment, boycott - or even for compliance with the EU’s own trade association agreement rules - are dismissed as unconstructive. We must ask then, how is this decision to cut aid a constructive one?

The European Union – among others - cannot demand democratic elections and then proceed to punish people because they do not like the result. Hamas has taken no anti-Israeli action since their election victory. Indeed, Hamas has taken no action against Israel for over a year.

This policy risks catastrophe, first and foremost for the Palestinians. It is bound to lead to more violence for Israelis as well. A people – not a government - frustrated and humiliated as the Palestinians are being will react with anger. Is it possible that the European Union is not aware of this?

Both as Jews and as European citizens to whom the EU is ultimately responsible, we urge in the strongest possible terms that this decision is reconsidered to prevent further violence. This policy cannot but bring more tragedy to both peoples living in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Yours sincerely,
Dror Feiler, Chairman, and Dan Judelson, secretary
for the EJJP Executive Committee for more information about European Jews for Just Peace.

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