Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Call for international solidarity aid to Palestinians

TA'AYUSH CONVOY heading into South Hebron hills to relieve blockaded Palestinian community, January 2002.

ISRAELI peace and human rights groups are joining in a call for international solidarity to break the governmental boycott of Palestine, defend people's rights, and bring practical aid to the people in the occupied territories who are suffering since funds and supplies were cut off to punish them because a majority voted for Hamas.

In an international call this week Gush Shalom, the peace bloc urges "Please join us with simultaneous protests against boycott of elected Palestinian Authority."

Former Knesset Member Uri Avnery, a leading member of Gush Shalom, has met with Sheikh Muhammad Abu-Tir, Hamas Member of the Palestinian Legislative council from Jerusalem at his home in East Jerusalem's Zur Baher neighbourhood. Avnery expressed total opposition to the intention of the Olmert Government to expel Abu-Tir and three other elected parliamentarians from their homes. The four were summoned to the Jerusalem police headquarters on Monday and presented with an ultimatum - to resign from their parliamentary positions or be deprived of their Jerusalem residency status.

Avnery told Abu-Tir that Gush Shalom calls for the immediate opening of negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments, with no preconditions and on the basis of stopping all violent acts on both sides.
Avnery stated further: "I was a Knesset member at the time when East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel. I can testify that no intention was expressed at the time to reduce the inhabitants of East Jerusalem to the status of 'permanent residents', as if they were newly-arrived immigrants asking for an Israeli residence permit which can be revoked at will. Since Palestinians have lived in Jerusalem for fifty generations at least, this is both ridiculous and a grave injustice".

Avnery added: "No less ridiculous is the attempt to boycott the elected, Hamas-headed Palestinian government, which was democratically elected by the Palestinian people".

Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson, is expecting that a large delegation from Israeli peace movements will meet with the Hamas leadership soon. He mentioned that Avnery had been the first Israeli to meet with Yasser Arafat, and said: "We have played that role then, and it seems we have to do it again."

Keller recalled that Shimon Peres undertook on behalf of the Government of Israel when signing the Oslo Agreements, that it would not interfere with Palestinian institutes in East Jerusalem and with the right of Palestinian Jerusalemites to elect and be elected to the Palestinian legislature. "How can we demand of the Palestinian Government to respect signed agreements, and at the same time ourselves tread them underfoot?" Keller asked.

On Saturday evening June 3 at 7.00pm, Gush Shalom and other groups and movements will hold a protest march and rally in Tel-Aviv. "We will protest against the boycott of the Palestinian elected authority, against the siege and starvation of the Palestinian people, for negotiations without preconditions - to sum it up: against the occupation". Former Minister Shulamit Aloni will be among the speakers, and there will be a simultaneous demonstration in Ramallah, where Palestinian political movements will express solidarity with the Tel-Aviv demonstration.

This is to be the beginning of a week of solidarity action that will be both political and practical. In response to a call from Palestinians the campaigners are launching a convoy to carry badly-needed food and medicines into the West Bank, heading for the city of Nablus, where they will join local people in a demonstration on June 10.

"But, you could do more," say Gush Shalom in their call for support.

Does your government also boycott
the elected Palestinian Authority?

Then, why not somewhere in the week between June
3-10, simultaneously organize a protest calling upon your government to respect the result of the Palestinian elections, and not put sanctions on the new Palestinian Authority before it even got the chance to do something

Please, inform us of what you can put together at such short notice and we will include it in further

Israeli organizing groups:
coalition of
women for peace, gush shalom,
ta'ayush, hadash, balad, icahd,
coalition of students, artists without walls,
bat shalom , banki,
yesh gvul

(My Notes: Ta'ayush is an initiative begun by Palestinians of Israeli nationality which has sent convoys before to areas under military closure; hadash in the Communist Party-led Democratic front in the Knesset; Balad is a Palestinian group within Israel, ICAHD is the Israel Committee against House Demolitions; AIC - Alternative Information Centre; Bat Shalom. a women's group; Banki - the Young Communist League; Yesh Gvul - Army reservists who refuse to serve in the Occupation).

The peace campaigners and Israeli Physicians for Human Rights are inviting supporters not only to pass resolutions and hold protests but to put our money where our mouth is.

Here are their appeals for support:

Help Israeli coalition of peace groups
bring aide to the Palestinians
-besieged, boycotted, occupied-

At the urgent call of our Palestinian contacts Israel peace groups got together. Something must be done against the collective punishment of the Palestinian people for how they voted in their democratically held elections.

We begin our protest June 3, in Tel-Aviv, in the week that the occupation enters it's 40th year. A week later, June 10, we will go with a convoy of food and medicines in the direction of besieged Nablus. On that same day Physicians for Human Rights will get medicines to Palestinian hospitals elsewhere.

You can help us by taking part in the effort financially.

In the U.S., Canada, U.K., Holland and Germany tax-exempted donations can be made to Gush Shalom - reply to this mail for the details and don't forget to, earmark it for 'Coalition Campaign Medicines and Food for Palestinians'. Or make your earmarked donation through Physicians for Human Rights-Israel - see attachment - but please, inform us that you did it. Donations to PHR-I are enjoying tax-exemption in Israel and abroad.

. w w w w , g u s h - s h a l o m - o r g

In the UK donations earmarked for Gush Shalom can be sent to Amos Trust attn Sue Plater, Associate Director All Hallows on the Wall 83 London Wall London ec2m 5nd Phone: 020 7588 8064

Donors via Amos Trust can make a 'gift aid declaration' following which the trust can claim tax back on the gift and pass that on NB: Please, advise them by email that you send them a check for Gush Shalom "for the June 10 food & medicins convoy" and let us know how much you send (so we can already forward the sum).and... thanks again.

Beate Zilversmidt, Gush Shalom

***Urgent Appeal to our Members, Friends and Supporters***

Call for Donations to Aid Palestinian Hospitals

The financial crisis affecting the Palestinian Authority (PA) due to the stoppage of international aid and the freezing of the tax revenue by the state of Israel, has had a grave impact on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories and has led to an acute shortage of basic needs, such as medicines and food.

A number of Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have asked us at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel to assist them in acquiring a number of medicines and medical equipment needed for the daily functions of the hospitals. During visits we have conducted to several hospitals we witnessed the harsh reality of a scarcity of life saving medicines and medical equipment to be used in the operating rooms.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, together with several Israeli peace and human rights groups, began a campaign to raise funds in order to aid the Palestinian areas that were hardest hit as a result of the financial crisis, and to provide, as best we can, some of the urgent medical needs of the Palestinian hospitals, with whom we have been in contact for many years.

Additionally, we are handling individual cases of patients from the occupied territories who have not received permits needed to enter Israel for urgent treatment, or patients that the PA is not paying for their treatment, due to the financial crisis. This activity also involves legal costs.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel feels obligated to support our colleagues working in the Palestinian health system, who in this difficult time are doing all they can in order to grant the best medical service to the Palestinian population, and to aid patients and medical teams who are carrying the burden of this difficult crisis.

We turn to you with this urgent appeal asking that you donate to this activity according to your ability. In light of the urgency of the matter, we ask that those who are able to donate contact us as soon as possible, so that we can begin to transfer the aid immediately. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel plans on organizing shipments within the upcoming days.

We kindly request that you pass this message on to others, with the hope that they will answer our request and join us in this aid mission.

More information about the crisis is available on our website:

How to donate:

All of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel’s activities are supported by donations from individuals and organizations. Inside Israel, donations to the organization are recognized as tax deductible. From outside Israel, tax deductible donations can be made through the New Israel Fund. For more information regarding donations please contact: Daniel Hasson, +972-3-687-3718

In Britain, Jews for Justice for Palestinians have added their support and are advising that the British Shalom Salaam Trust will consolidate donations to reduce bank charges. Please give generously and send donations to BSST, P.O.Box 46081, London W9 2ZF.
Full details of the appeals and how to donate.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Boycott that's Academic

BIR ZEIT students protest Israeli military preventing them getting to college.

SO. The about -to-disappear college lecturers' union NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education) has passed its resolution supporting the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Here it is:

Conference notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies,
including construction of the exclusion wall, and
discriminatory educational practices.
It recalls its motion of solidarity last year for the
AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional

Conference instructs the NEC to
facilitate meetings in each university and college,
and to circulate information to Branches,
offering to fund the speakers' travel costs.

Conference invites members to consider
their own responsibility for ensuring equity
and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli
educational institutions or individuals and
to consider the appropriateness of a boycott
of those that do not publicly dissociate
themselves from such policies.

The first two paragraphs were passed overwhelmingly. The last paragraph was passed with 106 votes in favour, 71 votes against and 21 abstentions.

Leaving aside that NATFHE will disappear as a union tomorrow when it is merged with the Association of University Teachers(AUT), this resolution has been hailed as a great victory by supporters of the Palestian cause; and brought a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from Zionists and their stooges. Engage, the home for former apparatchniks of the Zionist-run and financed Union of Jewish Students(UJS) has denounced it as "antisemitism", but these hacks have cried wolf so often and predictably they have almost got "antisemitism" a good name.

As a gesture of solidarity with the steadfast but suffering Palestinian people this NATFHE resolution is fine. As a gesture of defiance for the Zionists and reactionaries (and let's face it, some academic institutions here would turn down nothing if there;s free trips and money attached) it is to be commended.
But let's be honest. As a guide to useful solidarity action, it is worse than useless.

If anything it demonstrates that college lecturers aren't always the brightest knives in the drawer, and this lot have not learnt much. The academic boycott idea was raised four year ago as a call for a Europe-wide break in academic and scientific research links as one way to apply pressure on the Israeli government. to end its occupation policies and enter into serious peace negotiations.
Israeli and Jewish academics, notably the biologist Professor Stephen Rose, were prominent among the originators, though of course the continuing call for boycott is backed by Palestinian academics and students who are under siege and desperately need some kind of solidarity.

The boycott received some bad publicity when a lecturer at Manchester University, Mona Baker, tried to apply it removing the names of two Israeli academics from a specialist linguistics journal she edits. It was no more than a symbolic gesture, as the two only had honorary places on the journal; albeit an unfortunate one, since the individuals in question happened to have good records of defending civil rights and opposing their government's policies.
Professor Baker insisted her gesture was aimed at the Israeli state and the Israeli academic institutions which had appeared after the two people's names, not against them as individuals or on account of their nationality.

Nevertheless that was how it was widely reported, and even now you can read that she "sacked" the two Israelis. (As the story crossed the Atlantic it grew, so if you ventured into American Zionist chat lists you were likely to read that a full-scale purge of Jews was under way at Manchester). Neither Mona Baker nor Manchester employed the two, who remained in their posts in Israel. The only sacking threat came with the Zionist witch-hunt and hate campaign against Professor Baker.

Having criticised her misguided gesture in a letter to the Guardian (July 9, 2002),,4273,4457592,00.html
I wrote to the university authorities later urging them to resist the pressure for action against her (tactical errors are not sackable offences).
Fortunately I wasn't alone, and though our gobshite prime minister Tony Blair added his voice to those howling for Mona's blood, it seems they did resist. Professor Baker is still in post, and has gone on to produce a useful website discussing the boycott and background issues. Among the articles is one by Tanya Reinhart, an Israeli professor, supporting the academic boycott.

Professor Moshe Machover, one of the original signatories to the boycott call, has emphasised that it should not be aimed against individuals on account of nationality. Nor can we have tests to ascertain whether someone is entitled to excemption. If said individuals are known to have committed war crimes or even propagated racism they ought to be ostracised regardless of nationality. Moshe also goes into what might be legitimate and justified actions, such as opposing institutional links and EU research grants for Israel, and boycotting academic conferences sponsored by Israeli authorities. (Hitting the Right Target, Jewish Socialist, Spring 2006).

Last year's AUT resolution had the advantage of focussing on specific Israeli institutions and the way they were implicated in the occupation and land-grabbing in Palestine. Veteran Israeli peacenik Uri Avnery, not generally a boycott supporter, observed that Bar Ilan University had only itelf to blame for being targetted, since it had a centre on West Bank land running courses for settlers and army officers. Sue Blackwell, the mover of the AUT motion, took trouble to correspond with faculty members at Haifa University, with differing views of the boycott, to get a better picture of the situation there.

Of course her conscientious effort did not stop the Zionist distortions and calumnies against her (balanced incidentally by a continuing hate campaign against her from Israel Shamir, whom she helped expose as either a right-wing antisemite or a provocateur). It did not prevent the AUT resolution being reversed, after an unprecedented effort by its opponents. But it did make for a better resolution, which raised awareness, and could have been built upon.

Unfortunately the framers of the NATFHE resolution haven't done so. They seem to have learned nothing. I'm not one to place too much trust in union leaders, but I can understand why NATFHE general secretary, Paul Mackney, with whom I shared a platform last year when he expressed sympathy for the AUT boycott, spoke against his own union's motion: "Most of us are very angry about the occupation of Palestine," he said, "but this isn't the motion and this isn't the way. Any motion to boycott requires the highest level of legitimacy. As far as I can see no more than a couple of branches have discussed this motion. You cannot build a boycott on conference rhetoric."

Instead of dealing with the brutal reality of Israel's 39-year occupation the NATFHE resolution talks vaguely and inaccurately about "Israel's Apartheid policies", a lazy way of appealing to people's nostalgia for the good old days of student protests and anti-Apartheid boycotts (far less effective than people pretend) rather than analysing the specific character of Zionist oppression, and how we can fight it.

Hence referring to the "exclusion Wall", - when it is an anexation wall - and the lame talk of "equity and non-discrimination", effectively shrinking the Palestinian national freedom struggle into one of individual civil rights in Israel. The latter are important, but not the central issue. (Presumably though the placing of the parts are confusing, the policies which Israeli institutions and individuals are asked to oppose are the "Apartheid policies" mentioned in the first paragraph, and not the "equity and non-discrimination" mentioned in the last).

By coupling individuals with institutions for boycott, the NATFHE motion lays its supporters wide open to accusations that they are the ones doing the discriminating. It ennables the supporters of Israeli policies to hide behind fears that others will be unjustly treated, simply because they are Israelis. Indeed, since it only "invites members to consider their responsibility", it would leave Dr.De'ath from Porton Down free to moonlight at some Israeli institution with grisly military contracts, saying he saw no obvious signs of discrimination; whereas some seasoned campaigner whom the Israeli government would love to silence could find himself having to satisfy some half-baked vetting committee before he was allowed to honour an invitation to speak to a meeting here. (Sad to say something of this sort did happen during the anti-Apartheid struggle. A South African lecturer actively involved in helping black trade unionists was banned because someone in an office in London hadn't given the go ahead).

In reality, I doubt whether the NATFHE resolution will be interpreted so stupidly. The resolution does only ask invite members to consider their responsibilities, it does not propose setting up any committee to advise them(maybe it should) let alone question anybody. Besides, like I say NATFHE is about to disappear. You might even say this "boycott" is purely academic.

The vote is only a declaration of position, and given that the daily injustice, collective punishment and humiliation of Palestinians is far worse than anything anyone is likely to suffer from the union resolution, we have to declare ourselves on the side of the movers of this resolution, against those raving about "antisemitism" and even threatening legal action.

Nevertheless, we are entitled - indeed obliged - to criticise, and wish that it had been a better resolution. I don't know about marks for "effort". I'd put
"Could do better" on this one.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Martyrs in Metroland

OLD AMERSHAM from Rectory Hill


Now in cōparyng the Turke with the Pope, if a question bee asked whether of them is the truer or greater Antichrist, it were easye to see and iudge, that the Turke is the more open and manifest enemie agaynst Christ and his Churche. But if it be asked, whether of them two hath bene the more bloudy and pernitious aduersary to Christe and his mēbers, or whether of them hath consumed and spilt more Christian bloud, he with sword, or this with fire and sword together, neither is it a light matter to discerne, neither is it my part here to discusse, whiche do but onely write the hystorie, and the Actes of them both.

John Foxe, Book of Martyrs

THIS Spring Bank Holiday weekend's not looking very bright, but if you're in London, and fancy getting out without going far afield, let me recommend a trip to Amersham, in Buckinghamshire. You can get there on the Metropolitan Line (and if you're like me a Golden Oldie, get your money's worth on your Freedom Pass), and beside some countryside and olde world pubs, there's a bit of history to be had.

But it's not for the squeamish, or those wishing only for rosy-tinted views. The only rosy glow in our picture of the past is from blood and the smouldering fires on which they burned the Amersham martyrs. It was 500 years ago. when Henry VII reigned, and England was still a Catholic country. The Bishops held great sway. Amersham came under the diocese of Lincoln, whose Bishop was William Smith.

But something had been stirring in the minds of Englishmen and come to that, English women. Already in the 14th century a man called John Wycliffe had started criticising the Church, and he had translated the Bible into English. His followers, dubbed Lollards, possibly from a word referring to them mumbling their prayers, were driven underground, and seen as a threat to Church and State alike.

If people could read the Holy Word, and pray, in their own language, where was the authority of the priest? Who would act if these but common folk formed erroneous opinions about right and wrong? The Lollards had begun to question the Church's authority, saying that what counted was true belief, and even that Christians should be helping the poor rather than amassing great wealth and building sumptuous churches, cathedrals and palaces.

Despite sermons and suppression, this subversive clandestine tendency continued to grow. Among several adherants in Amersham was William Tylseley. John Foxe, in the introductory passage to his account of what happened to Tylseley, quoted above, asked whether the "Turks", i.e. Muslims, or the Church of Rome was the greater or crueller enemy of Christ, saying that he will only write the history.

Foxe was writing while the bitter events were still in living memory.

in the towne of Amersham, be yet alyue both men and wemen, whiche can and do beare wytnes of this that I shall declare. Also there is of the sayd companye one named William Page, an aged father and yet alyue, witnes to the
same. Also an other named Agnes Wetherley wydowe, beyng about the age of an hundreth yeares, yet lyuing and wytnes hereof: That in the dayes of kyng Henry vij. an. 1506. in the dioces of Lyncolne in Bukynghams shyre (William Smith beyng Byshop of the same dioces) one William Tylseley was burned in Amersham, in a close called Standley, about 60. yeares agoe. The daughter cōpelled to set fyre to her

At which time one Ioane Clerke, being a maryed womā, which was þe onely daughter of þe said W. Tylseley and a faithfull woman, was compelled with her own hādes to set fire to her deare father.

THOSE who were not burned themselves were sent about to do penance, or tortured to recant. The persecution continued for some years, with more burnings in 1521. Here's a historian's account:

BETWEEN 1414 and 1532, more than a dozen people from, or connected with, Amersham were executed as Lollards dissenters in one way or another from the Catholic church.
John Wycliffe, a priest and academic at Oxford, was the man who created this movement. Despite initial renown for his work, in about 1379, he undertook a translation of the Bible into the English language, which brought the wrath of the church hierarchy upon him.
Wycliffe died peacefully in 1384, but his followers were to be subject to much persecution which would eventually result in the Reformation of the church.

The word Lollard' was a contemptuous term for a follower of Wycliffe's teachings. The Lollards referred to themselves as the Justfast Men' or Known Men', because of their steadfast allegiance to God. They had many opinions on the way the church should be run but the main objection was that it was forbidden to read or possess the Bible in an English translation.

When Henry IV usurped the throne in 1399 he passed a statute which gave authority to the Bishops. If people were found guilty of heresy, they would be condemned to be burned at the stake.
Amongst those subsequently sentenced we find four men from Amersham. William Turnour, Walter Yonge and John Hazelwoode were all executed. Richard Spotford, a carpenter, was pardoned.
John Fynche of Missenden was also put to death.
After these executions, things became quiet. Although there were some milder sentences passed, much of Wycliffe support was underground.

However, in 1506, Bishop Smith of Lincoln initiated an inquiry into religious dissent in Amersham. Among those charged and tried was William Tylsworth. He refused to recant, and was sentenced to be burned to death. His daughter Joan was sentenced to light the fire herself. The persecution of the Amersham Lollards continued with their surviving leader, Thomas Chase. He was tortured in an attempt to force him to recant but it eventually killed him.

The last local man to suffer martyrdom for the Lollard cause was Thomas Harding. He was executed after his third trial of heresy at Botley Dell, North Chesham.

(From Michael Andrews-Reading's book, ' The Amersham Martyrs'). /

In 1931, a monument to the martyrs was erected on the hillside above old Amersham, by a Protestant organisation, which claimed them as Protestant martyrs . Whatever its particular motives may have been, it has performed a service in providing a reminder that here in "Merry England" too, people were cruelly persecuted in the name of religion; and that the rights we hold today to read and form our own ideas were not gained without courageous defiance of authority and those with power, nor won without martyrs.

There's more on the Amersham martyrs in the town museum, and they have been remembered in recent years by a community play, , and walks. You can get to the monument by turning left out of Amersham station, left again and walking down Station Road, then cross the road to enter Parsonage Wood, walking the footpath till you see a view of old Amersham below you, across the sloping field. Taking the path to the left-hand side of this field, you find the memorial behind a hedge.

It can also be reached by taking a path from behind the church diagonally across the same field.

And it's all on the Metropolitan railway.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Libyans held: Has MI5 arrested former MI6 assets?

now America's ally? Gaddafi, a man to do business with.

TEN Libyans have been detained in an "anti-terrorism" operation in Britain which involved some 500 police officers and was under MI5 direction. Eye-witnesses told of men in black smashing doors down in the early hours of the morning. The ten are supposedly being held over claims they channeled funds to insurgents in Iraq.

But the organisation with which they are being linked was allegedly involved in backing anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya which Britain's Secret Intelligence Service MI6 had supported.

Police raids led by Greater Manchester Police took place in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Liverpool and Middlesborough. Among the 19 addresses across England which were raided were the offices of an Islamic charity called Sanabel. Three people were last night being held under the Terrorism Act, and five people were arrested under immigration powers and face deportation because they allegedly threaten national security. Two people were arrested and then released without charge.

In February the US Treasury department froze Sanabel's assets, alleging that it had raised money for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which it accused of connections with al-Qaida. One of those arrested yesterday under immigration powers was Tahir Nasuf, 44, who is listed by the Charity Commission as a trustee of Sanabel.

Sanabel offices in Birmingham and Manchester and its personnel were reportedly under surveillance for some time before yesterday's raid. Last night computers and financial documentation were being examined by officers for possible links to terrorism - links the charity says do not exist.
In February, after the US published allegations against the charity, Mr Nasuf said: "It is wrong what they said. I am just a volunteer worker. There is no relationship, nothing at all. I have done nothing. Sanabel is nothing to do with the other group. I am angry."

Yesterday, outside Mr Nasuf's Manchester home, his sister-in-law said the raid had terrorised the family. "My sister told me that before fajr [early morning prayer] policemen came to the house dressed in black. She was very scared, she has four children, and didn't know what was going on.

"There was lots of shouting. They took her husband away, she doesn't know why. He's been arrested before and he had done nothing wrong then."
Charity Commission records show that in the financial year ending in 2004 Sanabel spent around £44,000 on work it described as providing clean water and education to children in the developing world. (The Guardian)

The security services are evidently feeding the press with the line that the raids have to do with Iraqi insurgency. 'A counter-terrorism source said that investigations into fund raising are finding that time after time money is going to Iraq, which the source described as a "hotspot for us". The source said: "People involved in jihad need to have money to live and travel. Money is also needed for bombs and other jihad activity."

Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said the raids were not connected to any threat to the UK. "We are talking about the facilitation of terrorism overseas. That could include funding, and providing support and encouragement to terrorists.

A leading British Libyan dissident has claimed Britain was being duped by the Libyan regime into arresting its opponents. Ali Zew, from the the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition, said: "The regime can feed false information to Britain, and the regime has done so in the past. Libyan dissidents in the UK have no connection to terrorism, they are just against the regime."

Tunworth's Terrorists?

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group(LIFG) which US authorities have accused Sanabel of assisting is the same group that former MI5 agent David Shayler claimed was paid by the British intelligence services to make an attempt on the life of Libyan leader Colonel Muamar Gaddafi.

Formed by Libyans who had returned from the Western-backed war in Afghanistan, LIFG aimed to set up an Islamic state in Libya. After its first few operations it launched a bomb attempt on Gaddafi on February 17, 1996 that left the Libyan leader unhurt but killed several of his guards, and watching civilians. This was financed by British intelligence to the tune of $160,000, according to ex-M15 officer David Shayler.

Shayler, who was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, said an MI6 officer codenamed "Tunworth" handed £100,000 to an Arab agent to mastermind the assassination. Tunworth's MI6 handler--PT16B--met Shayler while he was in MI5 section G9, responsible for monitoring Libyan activities. Shayler's girlfriend and former MI5 colleague Annie Machon, says he "headed up" the section for two years from August 7, 1994. PT16B told Shayler that a bomb exploded under the wrong car, Gaddafi was unhurt and several civilians were killed or injured. He said that authorisation for the operation, "went all the way to the top."

The late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tried to dismiss Shayler's allegation as "fantasy", but Annie Machon handed Special Branch a sheaf of documents relating to the Libyan operation.

Since then Gaddafi has handed over a Libyan -some say a scapegoat - for the Lockerbie plane outrage, and patched up relations with the United States and Britain. US oil companies are sending their men out to Libya, and British trade with Libya, no longer "under the counter", is increasing. If former demon Gaddafi has joined the "good guys" of anti-terrorism, dissident Libyans, including the kind of people MI6 once backed, must be seen as a nuisance by the state that was once prepared to support some of them.

David Shayler's account:

In summer 1995, I was head of MI5’s Libyan sub-section. One afternoon, David Watson, codename: PT16/B, my counterpart in MI6, asked to meet to discuss an unusual case which he could not mention over the phone. At the subsequent meeting in MI5’s Thames House HQ, PT16/B told David that:
A senior member of the Libyan military intelligence service had walked into the British embassy in Tunis and asked to meet the resident MI6 officer.
The Libyan ‘walk-in’ had asked for funds to lead a group of Islamic extremists in an attempted coup, which would involve the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi, the head of the Libyan state.

In exchange for MI6’s support, the Libyan – later codenamed Tunworth by MI6 -- offered to hand over the two Lockerbie suspects after the coup. Getting them to the UK for trial had at the time been one of MI6’s objectives for about three years but there is no guarantee that the coup plotters could have done this.
In December 1995, James Worthing3, R/ME/C at MI6, circulated CX95/ 534524 report to Whitehall and other addressees, warning of a potential coup in Libya, confirming that the MI6 agent was involved in, rather than simply reporting on the plot:

“In late November 1995 [Tunworth’s identity removed]5 described plans, in which he was involved, to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi. […]”:
“The coup is scheduled to start at around the time of the next General People’s Congress on February 14, 1996. Coup will start with unrest in Tripoli, Misratah and Benghazi.” […]
“Plotters would have cars similar to those in Gaddafi’s security entourage with fake security number plates. They would infiltrate themselves into the entourage in order to kill or arrest Gaddafi…
“One group of military personnel were being trained in the desert area near Kufra for the role of attacking Gaddafi and his entourage. The aim was to attack Gaddafi after the GPC [General People’s Congress], but before he had returned to Sirte. One officer and 20 men were being trained for this attack.”6
Around the same time, Christmas 1995, Watson told me that he had met Tunworth, in Geneva and paid him $40,000. Jackie Barker, an MI5 transcriber on secondment to the Libyan sub-section, confided to me that Watson had told her the same information. Watson then met Tunworth on two further occasions early in 1996 in Geneva mentioning to me that he had paid ‘similar sums’ to Tunworth on each occasion. Although PT16/B never specifically mentioned it, it was tacitly understood that Watson was working with the approval of his direct line manager, PT16, Richard Bartlett.
At some point — I can’t be sure when exactly — Watson mentioned that the submission7 was going to go “all the way to the top”. In about January 1996, Watson told me that the submission had been successful, indicating that the Foreign Secretary himself had signed the document permitting the operation.8 But I knew we only had Watson’s word for this. Despite my efforts with MI5 management, no one there had the courage to ask ministers whether MI6 had in fact been given legal immunity for these crimes abroad. After I blew the whistle the Foreign Secretary of the day, Malcom Rifkind, denied giving permission for the operation.

Around February/March 1996, at least two intelligence reports quoting independent sources — the Egyptian and Moroccan intelligence services -- confirmed that an attack had been made on Colonel Gaddafi in Sirte, Libya. Two of the reports indicated that the attackers had tried to assassinate Gaddafi when he was part of a motorcade but had failed as they had targeted the wrong car. As a result of the explosion and the ensuing chaos in which shots were fired, civilians and security police were maimed and killed.

At a meeting shortly after, Watson ventured to me in a note of triumph that Tunworth had been responsible for the attack. “Yes that was our man. We did it” was how he put it. He regarded it, curiously, as a triumph even though the objective of the operation – the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi had not been met -- and there had been civilian casualties

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Knife attack on Merseyside trade unionist

A leading Merseyside trades unionist and anti-racist campaigner has been attacked at his home by a knifeman. Alex McFadden was almost blinded in the attack.
A local reporter takes up the story:

Union boss slashed in face
May 19 2006
EXCLUSIVE by Neil Hodgson, Liverpool Echo

A LEADING trade unionist was slashed in a knife attack in front of his two young daughters in their Merseyside home. Anti-racist campaigner and left wing activist Alec McFadden was almost blinded in the attack, and was cut in his head, arms and wrists as he tried to fend off the knifeman.
His daughters, aged nine and 13, watched in horror as he was slashed with a craft knife, spraying blood on the door and hall of his Wirral home.
The 59-year-old believes racists are behind the attack, as he has received death threats before.
He said: "He missed my eye by half an inch. The doctors say I am lucky."

He was attacked at 9.30pm after hearing banging on his door.
He said: "I saw a man slumped on the garden wall. I thought he was hurt and opened the door.

"He tried to force his way in and slashed me. I shouted to my kids to call the police, and I think when he heard my daughter on the phone saying, 'I want the police now,' it distracted him.

"I got the strength from somewhere and managed to force the door closed."

Earlier, he had been celebrating news his nephew, Everton player James McFadden, had made the Scotland national squad. He said: "I was so elated that I forgot to check my car mirrors and this person must have followed me."
Police were today carrying out forensic testing.

The knifeman was white, 5ft 10ins, with dark receding hair and a local accent. He wore a light coloured top.
Contact Wirral police on 0151 777 2265.

Alex McFadden, originally from the North East, is a well-known figure among trade unionists and anti-racist activists, on Merseyside and more widely. Last year I met him at the national trades union councils' conference in Liverpool where he chaired discussions on what trades unionists can do to combat racialism and organise migrant workers. I had a chat with him again a few months ago in the Casa, Merseyside dockers' club on Hope Street.

Racists might not be the only people to make attacks like this, but they are the people who boasted their hatred for Alex McFadden, and it is not the first time he has been their target. Three years ago the notrious right-wing website Redwatch published details on the Merseyside trade unionist including his address and photograph.

21.11.2003 Liverpool
Targets of right wing extremists
Nov 19 2003 by Thomas Martin, Liverpool Echo

A Merseyside trade union leader is under police protection today (Wednesday, November 19) after being targeted by right wing extremists.

CCTV cameras have been installed by police at the home of Alec McFadden, president of the Merseyside TUC. Another union leader, Nigel Flanagan, chairman of the north west region for Unison, and children's author and primary
school teacher Alan Gibbons, have also been targeted in a website campaign by a fascist organisation.

Photos of all three have been posted onto the fascist
website which also publishes the addresses of Mr McFadden and Mr Flanagan and has described them as "freaks" and "scumbags".

All three men have reported what has happened to Merseyside police who are now investigating. The website has direct links to the extreme right wing groups Combat 18, Aryan Unity and Order of White Knights. It purports to
raise awareness within the community of marxists who threaten society by revealing personal details such as home addresses, photographs, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
The website says: "When the time comes to revolt, we must be prepared to unleash the furies of hell." The site, which the ECHO has chosen not to name, is registered to a Simon Shepherd, a former BNP organiser from Hull who was arrested and imprisoned in 1999 for producing antisemitic material.

Mr McFadden, a single father-of-two, recently set up the
Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism. He said: "I know what these people are capable of because in 1988 my car was blown up and I received death threats - no one was ever caught for that. "Since then I have been very careful to never release my address or phone number so these people must have followed me home to
get these details. "I have contacted my children's school and asked them to be vigilant - if someone threatens me I will make sure my children are safe."

Mr McFadden has also received a disturbing email from Merseyside BNP candidate Joey Owens featuring photos of his home and his car. The e-mail purports to raise concerns over how he could afford such items, or lead such a lifestyle as a committed socialist. Today Mr Owens admitted sending the e-mail but claimed it was not hreatening in any way. He said: "Mr McFadden has been doing this towards BNP members for years. The boot is on the other for now and they do
not like it. "The reason I did this was because Mr McFadden is the one who is doing this campaign to stop the BNP in the democratic campaign for the elections next year."

Alex McFadden decided to hold an anti-racist festival last year after a Birkenhead mosque was attacked, following the London bombings. The murder of black teenager Anthony Walker was a further spur and brought a rush of offers to take part. The ‘Say No to Racism’ event was held in Princes Park, on Sunday, September 4th 2005, and Alex was interviewed by the BBC.

Joe Owens, who has been a minder for BNP leader Nick Griffin and helped provide security for visiting French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen on his trip to the North West, is a convicted criminal with a reputation as a gangster.

But oddly enough, the attack on Alex McFadden comes after former BNP Merseyside organiser Owens broke with the party and went public with accusations that London BNP organiser Tony Lecomber had tried to recruit him to an assassination scheme.

Gangster and BNP member reveals all

Apr 17 2006

Jessica Shaughnessy, Daily Post

THE former organiser of the right-wing British National Party on Merseyside has renounced it and says he regrets his violent past.
Joey Owens, who once acted as personal bodyguard to BNP leader Nick Griffin, will be the subject of a hard-hitting book later
this year, named The Nazi Assassin. In it he will be portrayed as an underworld gangster whose name has been linked to a number of alleged assassinations.
Last night, Owens told the Daily Post that he had left the
BNP part of his life behind him, and wanted to warn others about going down the same path.
He said: "I had just had enough of the life I was leading with
the BNP. "When I first joined the party in the eighties, it was very
different to how it is now. It was violent and dangerous, that has changed now, but the stigma still follows you around.
"I just didn't want to be part of it any more."
Owens, from Norris Green, who has a daughter who lives abroad,
says he is now wanted by other members of the underworld and is a target for assassination. He constantly wears a bulletproof vest for his protection.
He said: "I wouldn't say I am living in fear. I am used to that kind of
pressure, I have lived with it for most of my life.
"But I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone else."

Owens, who served eight months in jail for sending razor blades to members of Liverpool's Jewish community, was the BNP organiser for Merseyside and Cheshire.
He says he has relaxed some of his racist views, though he does still feel there are issues on immigration in the UK. He spoke to the Daily Post after it was revealed that his story will be told in the book, The Nazi Assassin, to be published later this year.
The book was written by Liverpool author Graham Johnson, former
investigations editor for the Sunday Mirror, with Owens's co-operation.
Owens added: "He approached me and asked me if I would help him, and I decided it would be better to make sure he got everything right.
"I also thought it might clear a few things up and warn others not to get involved in the same lifestyle."
The book details how Owens was one of the top suspects
for the slaying of TV presenter Jill Dando. It also reveals that a Merseyside Police file describes him as a £100,000-a-time gunman for the criminal gang led by cocaine baron Curtis Warren, currently in jail in Holland.
Last night, Mr Johnson said: "This book does not glorify organised crime or Joey Owens. It is a rigorous investigation into the two very different worlds he lived - the BNP and Liverpool's underworld."
But president of the Merseyside TUC and anti-fascism campaigner Alec McFadden said: "This book is supposed to blow away
any respectability the BNP has, but they didn't have any respectability in the first place.
"As far as I am concerned, Joey Owens, like a lot of the BNP,
has a criminal record and I don't regard that organisation as a genuine political party."
The BNP is putting up one candidate in each Merseyside
borough in the May local elections.
Mr McFadden continued: "It is a good thing for Merseyside that he is no longer involved and the BNP activity will be diminished.
"I am convinced Merseyside will continue its record and will
remain a fascist-free zone in May".

According to a report in the current Searchlight, Owens claimed in a statement issued in April that Lecomber, who has convictions for attempted bombing and for beating up a Jewish teacher, came to see him with talk about "direct action". Asked what he meant, Lecomber replied "targeting members of the establishment who are aiding and abetting the coloured invasion of this country". Asked what exactly he meant by targeting, he replied "killing them".

J'accuse. Gangland hitman points finger at BNP. Nick Lowles, Searchlight, May 2006.

see also:

Lecomber claims the discussion in a Pizza Hut in Liverpool was just "hypothetical", though travelling 200 miles for a "hypothetical" chat with a supposed hitman seems a bit dedicated. Owen evidently suspected a set-up. Since Owens went public, Griffin has been forced to let his lieutenant take a rest, though Searchlight claims Lecomber is still on the BNP payroll.

  • While the search goes on for who attacked Alex McFadden, we may wonder why this attack, and for that matter the criminal background of leading BNP fascists, has not attracted more attention from the national media.
  • Not to mention, why Merseyside police seem to have left it to a reporter to investigate Joe Owens while the alleged hitman was looking after visitors like Le Pen, and standing for the BNP in local politics.

Meantime sympathetic greetings to Bro.McFadden and his family. Here's wishing Brother Alex a full and speedy recovery, good health, and more power in continuing to battle the enemy.

(Thanks to fellow-blogging socialist Dave Osler for drawing attention to the report of the attack on Alex McFadden.
see Dave's Part)

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Grapes of wrath for Negev Bedouin

Pylons on the hillside, water station in front, but neither power nor water supplies to this Bedouin village not far from Be'ersheba
(see 'Unrecognised villages in the Negev expose Israel's apartheid policies'
Bangani Ngeleza and Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 21 December 2005 )

ISRAELI authorities are carrying out a new scheme in the Negev to negate the rights of the Bedouin to live on their land. Since expelling many Bedouin when it was established, the Israeli state has adopted a policy of treating the remainder as a nuisance, a novelty for tourists, or a potential source of cheap labour and soldiers (mainly trackers), but never as full human beings, citizens with rights, and certainly not rights to live in dignity and develop their communities on their own land.

They tried to herd the Bedouin population into a small area that forms only a very small part of their original tribal lands, the land from which they had been expelled. As Neve Gordon, professor of politics at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Be'ersheva writes, "These Bedouins had to give up all claims to their ancestral land in order to be granted the dubious privilege of living in these overcrowded townships".

"The remaining half of the Bedouin population, which today totals about 75,000 people, were unwilling to give up their property rights and are now scattered across the Negev in forty-five villages that have never been recognized by the state".

Not being recognised means you can go to work. pay tax, and have electricity pylons marching over your head, but don't expect electricity, or piped water for your home. You can come home and find the Green Patrols have harassed your kids and confiscated the flock they were herding, your crops have been sprayed with poison, or the army has demolished your shack. But such seeming random attacks are forming into a definite plan.

In an article called "Bitter Wine for Israel's Bedouins" in the May 23 online edition of the US magazine The Nation, Neve Gordon describes a new Israeli government scheme that enlists private entrepeneurs and the tourist industry in disregard, not to say deliberate contempt for Bedouin rights.

The Israeli government is currently carrying out a land-use scheme that further violates the land rights of the Bedouins and intensifies their alienation from Israeli society. The "Wine Route" plan authorizes the construction of thirty private farms, which are supposed to cater to Israeli tourists. Some of these farms have already been built and are located on the same land that the Bedouins consider their own; all of the farms--built and planned--will receive the services that the Bedouins have been denied for several decades: running water, electricity and paved roads.

The "Wine Route" plan exposes the lie informing Israel's treatment of
the unrecognized Bedouins. For years, Israeli officials have emphasized the need to concentrate the 75,000 Bedouins in large townships, stating that their forty-five villages are too small and scattered along a fairly large area, making it very difficult to provide them with infrastructure. This served to justify the policy of not recognizing them. And yet now, the very same officials
are handing out permits to scores of scattered farms, which stretch across thousands of dunams (a dunam is approximately a quarter of an acre), each one home to a single family.

But the "Wine Route" does much more than expose Israel's lie. The
farms, explains Ariel Dloomy of the Negev Coexistence Forum, insure that only Jewish citizens have access to large segments of the Negev; in this way they undermine the Bedouins' attempt to reclaim their ancestral land. One government document clearly states: "The reasons for initiating [these farms] is for protecting state land...and offering solutions for demographic issues." Incidentally, Dloomy adds, one farm was given to a Bedouin to serve as a fig leaf covering Israel's blatant discrimination against them.

Professor Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer from Ben-Gurion University whose work focuses on the relation between space and ethnicity, adds that the "Wine Route" initiative "draws a link between, on the one hand, Israel's longstanding efforts to restrict and circumscribe the space which its non-Jewish citizens are permitted to occupy and, on the other hand, new entrepreneurship projects. The state, in other words, is using entrepreneurs to advance its
discriminatory practices, adopting, as it were, a new mechanism to prevent the Negev's Bedouin inhabitants from returning to their ancestral lands. Thus, in addition to demolishing their homes and spraying their crops with poison, now the government is building farms on their land."

"How," Abu Sheita asked the members of the Negev Coexistence Forum, "will you help us counter this initiative?"
"Our friends don't have access to the corridors of power, and we can't expect them to stop the longstanding discrimination of all past Israeli governments," the person next to him immediately answered.

"Perhaps not," Abu Sheita continued, "but we can expect them to try." And after a short silence he added: "The discrimination against the Bedouins is like a big boulder; a pickaxe can never break it with one fell swoop, but if you continue hitting for many years, it will eventually shatter."

Well-aimed blows can reduce the time it takes to shatter a rock. Even at a distance, if the resonance is right. As Joshua found out, you have to make enough noise. By linking their anti-Bedouin policy to investment, tourism, and presumably an export crop, the Israeli authorities could find they have made it vulnerable to well-aimed blows from outside. If we make enough noise.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Standing up to AIPAC

TROUBLED times for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee?
AIPAC of lies, as it has been accused of purveying, AIPAC of hounds, as it bays after opponents. But the leading, highly professional Israel Lobby outfit that likes to boast how many people it could bring flocking to Capitol Hill has not been having things all its own way, lately, in spite of all those Washington neo-cons and Evangelical fundamentalists who hardly need lobbying

First there was the "divided loyalties' charge over an AIPAC official filching confidential information for Israel, then the disappointment that the politician whom AIPAC delegates cheered loudest at their convention, right-winger Benyamin Netanyahu, flopped with the Israeli electorate.

On top of all this, two Harvard academics have produced a paper criticising the influence the Zionist Lobby, and particularly AIPAC, has in US politics, saying that the United States is unable to pursue a rational Middle East policy servng its interests because it has to bow to domestic pressures. Hardly a new complaint I'd have thought, but it has brought a great clucking controversy among the chattering classes and the usual cries of "antisemitism" from the usual highly suspects - those who cry wolf, not even from over-anxiety to protect Jews, but from their fervour to censor any criticism of US backing for Israeli policies.

For my part, being as opposed to US imperialism as I am to Zionism, I'm not over-concerned with the tail-wagging-dog controversy. But it does trouble me that the Israel Lobby has too long provided a cover for imperialist aggression, and by claiming to speak for all Jews, has not only dragged the Jewish people's name in the gory muck of supporting oppression, but given US policy-makers a ready-made scapegoat should they ever decide to switch their policy. It is already in use by reactionaries in the Arab world, the US, and Europe who wish to explain and criticise US policy without reference to imperialism. Bit like indulgent relatives explaining that the lad's OK really, if it was not for bad influences, or Russian peasants accepting that the Czar would be on their side if only he did not have such bad advisers. And of course, not all those using the "Jewish power and influence" story are that innocent. Some are antisemites.

Still, the Lobby does play its part, and while apologists may deny its influence when countering criticism, when lobbyists are raising funds or assuring Israeli opinion of their importance they boast about it.

Whether or not the lobbyists could make US governments do anything they don't want to, they have been effective sometimes in shutting up liberal critics, both in Congress and the Jewish community. (Not just on Palestine or the Middle East. Unease over dictators in Central America or Argentine's military junta was muffled in the Reagan era by evoking Israeli interests).

Not content with labelling opponents "antisemitic", AIPAC and its allies have resorted to smearing them as "supporters of terrorists". Some people are starting to stand up to AIPAC though, as this item from the New York Review of Books, relayed by Jewish Voice for Peace, reveals:

Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, has banned AIPAC from her office until she receives a formal, written apology from them for equating her vote in the House International Relations Committee against HR4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, with "support for terrorists". This is the bill that AIPAC backed to cut all US aid to Palestinians to punish them for Hamas elections victory.

The bill would place so many restraints on aid and on Washington's ability to deal with the Palestinians, that even the State Department has opposed it. AIPAC has strongly backed it. The Senate version of the bill, S. 2237, would allow the administration far more flexibility. On April 6, the House International Relations Committee passed H.R. 4681 by a vote of 36 to 2; McCollum was one of the two nays. As of May 11, AIPAC has yet to respond to her demand for an apology.

In a letter to Mr. Howard Kohr, AIPAC's executive director, the representative writes:

Dear Mr. Kohr:

During my nineteen years serving in elected office, including the past five years as a Member of Congress, never has my name and reputation been maligned or smeared as it was last week by a representative of AIPAC. Last Friday, during a call with my chief of staff, an AIPAC representative from Minnesota who has
frequently lobbied me on behalf of your organization stated, "on behalf of herself, the Jewish community, AIPAC, and the voters of the Fourth District, Congresswoman McCollum's support for terrorists will not be tolerated."

Ironically, this individual, who does not even live in my congressional
district, feels free to speak for my constituents. This response may have been the result of extreme emotion or irrational passion, but regardless, it is a hateful attack that is vile and offensive to me and the families I represent. I call on AIPAC to immediately condemn this un-American attack and disavow any attempt to use this type of threat and intimidation to stifle legitimate policy differences. I will not stand to be labeled or threatened in a manner that questions my patriotism or my oath of office. Last week, I did vote against H.R.
4681 during mark-up of the bill in the House International Relations Committee.

As a Member of Congress sworn to uphold the Constitution, and ensure the security of the US and represent the values and beliefs of the constituents who I serve, it was my view that H.R. 4681 goes beyond the State Department's current policies toward Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and potentially undermines the US position vis-à-vis the coordinated international pressure on Hamas. The language contained in S. 2237 accurately reflects my position.Keeping diplomatic pressure on Hamas to renounce terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, and honor past agreements and treaty obligations, while preventing a humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people, are all policy goals already strongly supported by myself, the Bush administration, Congress and the American people. But, if the purpose of H.R. 4681 was to send another strong message to Hamas and the Palestinian people, as
Congress already has sent with the passage of S. Con. Res. 79, then I disagree with the vehicle for that message.

In my opinion, Congress should be articulating clear support for the
Secretary of State's present course of action; not creating a new law which likely diminishes the diplomatic tools needed to advance US policy goals with regard to the Palestinian people, potentially cuts US funding to the United Nations, and largely restates current law while creating on-going and burdensome unfunded reporting requirements. As you well know, in Congress we do not shy away from condemning the vile words of despots and dictators who use anti-Semitism as a weapon to incite hatred, fear and violence. AIPAC should not
have a lower standard for persons affiliated and representing its organization when they label a Member of Congress who thinks for herself and always puts the interest of our nation and people first a supporter of terrorists.

You and your colleagues at AIPAC have the right to disagree with my
position on any piece of legislation, but for an AIPAC representative to say that I would ever vote to support Middle East terrorists over the interests of my country will never be tolerated by me or the families I serve. This incident rises to a level in which a formal, written apology is required.Mr. Kohr, I am a supporter of a strong US-Israeli relationship and my voting record speaks for itself. This will not change. But until I receive a formal, written apology from your organization I must inform you that AIPAC representatives are not welcome in my offices or for meetings with my staff.

Betty McCollum
Member of Congress4th District, Minnesota, Washington, D.C.

Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Jewish group campaigning against Israel's occupation and the 'Apartheid Wall' on the West Bank has urged supporters to write to Representative McCollum thanking and congratulating her on her stand, and says "While you're at it, let her know that she should oppose the HR 4681 not only because it is too harsh, but because we should not be punishing Palestinian citizens for exercising their democratic right to vote".


Meanwhile, Jewish Voice for Peace has also drawn attention to this criticism of AIPAC by a US Rabbi, which was published in "St.Louis JewishLight"

'Israel Lobby' bad for Israel, the U.S.


May 10, 2006

Oh my God, someone has publicly outed the "Israel Lobby." For those readers who do not closely follow the machinations in academia, let me explain. John Walt, the academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, have written a blistering critique of the Jewish lobby, focusing primarily on AIPAC.

Their main complaint is that "the thrust of US policy in the region (the Middle East) derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the 'Israel Lobby'." There is much with which to disagree in the paper, including their assertion that Israel is not a vital strategic asset (there are many generals who would challenge that assertion). But there is also much truth, if we would only be honest with ourselves.

The usual suspects have jumped on the bandwagon, not merely to criticize but to condemn the paper in vitriolic words. Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat who represents the Bronx, declared it "anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel." This is somewhat ironic since one of the complaints of Walt and Mearsheimer is that anyone who criticizes Israel is automatically labeled anti-Semitic. The ubiquitous Alan Dershowitz accused the authors of cribbing from neo-Nazi Web sites, which was a sophisticated way of tarnishing them as anti-Semites without using the phrase. The right-wing New York Sun called it a "scandal" and warned that if Harvard is not careful, "the Kennedy School will become known as Bir Zeit on the Charles."

The Forward was most responsible. Before writing an extensive critical analysis of the paper it acknowledged that "the authors are not fringe gadflies but two of America's most respected foreign-affairs theorists. ... Though it's tempting, they can't be dismissed as cranks outside the mainstream. They are the mainstream."

I agree with Walt and Mearsheimer that AIPAC controls our American government policy toward Israel. But in their paper the two political scientists point out that, "In its basic operations, the Israel Lobby is no different from the farm lobby, steel or textile workers' unions, or other ethnic lobbies. There is nothing improper about American Jews and their Christian allies attempting to sway US policy; the Lobby's activities are not a conspiracy of the sort depicted in tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Coming from South Florida, I am acutely aware that our government policy toward Cuba is dictated by the Cuban Lobby. Why else would we have such an absurd opposition to Castro? If we can make peace with Red China and the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, why do we continue an embargo against an obscure Communist island, if it were not for domestic political pressure? So it is with the Jewish domestic lobby. My complaint is that the self-appointed Jewish leaders who control AIPAC and other positions of power within the Jewish community do not represent the best interests of Jews, Israel or the United States in the long run.

Let's zero in on AIPAC. It is controlled by right-wing, rich Jewish neo-conservatives. As one manifestation of the truth of this assertion one merely has to look at its annual meeting this past month. At a time when Vice President Cheney's popularity has dropped below 20 percent, the 4,500 delegates to the AIPAC convention gave him a standing ovation for almost a minute before he even opened his mouth and then proceeded to give him 48 rounds of applause in a 35-minute speech. (As my colleague Leonard Fein pointed out, that's once every 43.7 seconds). Considering that 75 percent of American Jews voted for Kerry, it is obvious that these people are out of the mainstream of Jewish thought.

At the same conference, preceding the recent Israeli elections, these delegates were addressed by Ehud Olmert (Kadima), Amir Peretz (Labor) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) by video link from Israel. Olmert and Peretz received polite applause. The AIPAC delegates cheered enthusiastically for Netanyahu, especially when he presented his hard line that was overwhelmingly rejected by the Israeli electorate. Once a great organization, today AIPAC does not even represent the feelings of the average Israeli, let alone the average American Jew.

This American Jewish neo-conservatism is unhealthy not only for America but for Israel as well. A prime example: The Israeli press reports that Israel is trying to find a way to deal with the Palestinians while not dealing with Hamas. Official public statements aside, they realize that they cannot cut off all contacts with the Palestinians and that the world cannot discontinue financial help; otherwise Israel will find a million starving Palestinians on its border, and this will not lead to peace or security for Israel. Privately, the Israeli government was against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (the Ross-Lehtinen-Lantos bill) which recently passed the House of Representatives.

It would cut off all American contacts with the Palestinian Authority, even with its president Mahmoud Abbas, who is a moderate seeking peace. Despite Israel's private reservations, AIPAC not only pushed this bill, it was instrumental in writing it. Even though the AIPAC candidate lost in Israel, he won in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hopefully, the Senate and the White House will correct this.

Beware that you are reading treasonable material. If you "out" the Israeli lobby and you are Gentile, you're branded an anti-Semite; if you are Jewish, you're obviously a self-hating Jew. The Jewish establishment abides no criticism of Israel. You don't agree with me? Take this example: Last month a pro-Palestinian play entitled 'My Name is Rachel Corrie' was to open at the New York Theatre Workshop, a "progressive" company on East Fourth Street. The play is based on the writings of a young British girl who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer when she was protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza two years ago.

Although the play was widely praised in London last year, it never opened in New York. The theater producers spoke to the ADL and other Jewish leaders, including big-money Jews on its board, and that was the end of that. But, of course, we don't "censor" discussion concerning Israel. We just politely give our opinions and the voice of the other side disappears.

Another example: 400 rabbis, including myself, signed a letter sponsored by Brit Tzedek v'Shalom that appeared in the Forward this past month. It was a mildly liberal statement that proclaimed that "we are deeply troubled by the recent victory of Hamas," but went on to urge "indirect assistance to the Palestinian people via NGO's, with the appropriate conditions to ensure that it does not reach the hands of terrorists." Pretty mild stuff. Yet pulpit rabbis across this country who signed the letter have reported a concerted effort to silence them. The letter has been branded a "piece of back-stabbing abandonment of the Jews of Israel." Synagogue boards have been pressured to silence their rabbis by that loose coalition called the "Israel Lobby."

Just another example of the Jewish establishment stifling any discussion of Israel that does not conform to the neo-conservative tenets of AIPAC and its cohorts. Beware of these self-appointed guardians of Israel and Jewish values. In the end they will destroy everything that makes Judaism a compassionate religion, and if in their zeal they do not destroy Israel, they certainly will not make it more secure.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

See London and die

Turn on the TV news this week and chances were you'd get something on immigration. Top news items headlined by BBC news the other evening were "illegal immigrants" and Paul McCartney's marital problems.
Has the corporation already been sold off to Murdoch, or are the editors just looking after their futures?
This followed closely on a Panorama programme on Immigration Office "whistleblowers" revealing the extent of "the problem", and was followed by a shock! horror! BBC news investigation revealing that five "illegal" Nigerians were working as cleaners at the immigration office. (No suggestion there was anything wrong with private contractors hiring the cheapest labour).
Wow! We don't mind arms dealers, drug runners and war criminals coming to Britain but ....cleaners!
Amid this manufactured hysteria - keeps people's minds off the war in Iraq, the chaos in the NHS, and the creeping economic crisis - congratulations to the Independent, not my normal paper, for a story revealing the human side of anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner measures, and the way they take society down the slope away from human decency.
What price the Hippocratic oath against politicians hypocrisy?

i n d e p e n d e n t

Mother dies because of rules to stop health tourism Ese

Elizabeth Alabi, 29, was denied the chance to have an urgently needed heart transplant because she was not a British national. She died after she fell ill while on a trip to Britain and was told she could not fly home.

Mother consigned to certain death by harsh new rules

A young mother fell ill and died on a visit to Britain - an innocent victim of the hysteria over so-called health tourism

By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent Published: 18 May 2006

When Ese Elizabeth Alabi fell ill while on a trip to Britain and was told she urgently needed a heart transplant, she comforted herself with the knowledge that she was in a democratic country with an excellent healthcare system. Instead, she was consigned to a certain death by draconian new rules brought in to quell the hysteria over so-called health tourism and immigration.

Ms Alabi was denied the chance of a heart transplant simply on the grounds of her nationality and died in hospital on Monday night at the age of 29, leaving three-month-old twin boys and a two-year-old son. Desperate attempts to get a High Court judge to overturn the rules were delayed as Ms Alabi was forced to fight a deportation battle even as she lay dying in hospital. Her partner, Abiodun Abe, attacked the restrictions that relegated his partner to a lower priority than less sick patients. He said: "I am so angry. I love Britain and I thought it was a fair place but my wife has died because of these laws.
Ese was devoted to God and was a good person. She always had faith that the judge would be good to her and that she would get a heart but it didn't happen."

Ms Alabi's case offers a graphic illustration of the other side of Britain's immigration debate, fuelled this week by the Home Office's admission that it has no idea of the number of illegal immigrants in the country. The Government's new rules, brought in last year in an effort to quell fears of foreigners coming to Britain to take advantage of the NHS meant that Ese was effectively denied any chance to live. A last-ditch bid was launched last week to persuade the High Court to overturn that decision but Ese's condition deteriorated before a judge could rule.

Richard Stein, a solicitor with the law firm Leigh Day and Co, who represented Ms Alabi, said: "I accept that there is a shortage of organs and that there was no guarantee that Ese would have got one, but she should not have been denied the chance because of the country she came from. " After all, organs transplants are not decided on the basis of the colour of a person's skin. "She was not a health tourist - she simply had the misfortune to fall ill here."

He added: "I accept that we have to have rules to stop people from taking advantage of the NHS but they should not discriminate against people with genuine need because of this obsession about immigration. "I think it is appalling that a civilised country like Britain treats someone like that. "Her death was unnecessary." Ese lived in Nigeria with her two-year-old son from a previous relationship and met Mr Abe when he returned for a visit there. He has indefinite leave to remain in Britain and until recently worked for the Post Office.

As their relationship flourished, Ese made regular visits to Mr Abe at his home in Grays, Essex, but never overstayed her six-month tourist visas. She travelled to Britain in September last year while pregnant with twins by Mr Abe and intended to return to her family in Nigeria to have the babies, but began feeling ill and breathless and was told she could not fly home. The twin boys, Jamal and Jazar, were born on 13 February but Ese's condition continued to worsen and she was taken to hospital in March. She was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to become enlarged, and was told her only hope was a transplant. But she was then told that the new rules meant that while British, EU citizens and people from some other countries were put on a priority "group one" list for donor hearts, she would only put on a lower, group two list.

With about 100 people on the group one list at any time and a shortage of organs, it meant she had no chance of receiving the heart she needed. Lawyers went to the High Court asking for a judicial review of the rules but then had to fight on a second front after it emerged that Ese's illness meant she had overstayed her visa, which expired on March. The judge adjourned the case for inquiries to take place about Ese's application for exceptional leave to remain, but by last Friday she had become so ill that doctors said she would not withstand a transplant even if a heart became available and she was at the top of the list.

Mr Abe said: "She was a very strong person and she tried to hold on. I took the babies to see her on Monday night and she gave them a kiss and touched them. I took them home and as I was taking them upstairs to bed the phone rang to say she was dead." He now wants Ese to be buried in Britain so that the sons who never knew her will at least have her grave to visit.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This is a tragic case, and we wish to express sympathy for Ms A and her family. It has involved an extremely sad and difficult process. Whilst no person is wholly excluded from receiving an organ, priority is given to those who are entitled to NHS treatment. We believe this to be a lawful, fair and reasonable way of allocating organs, and it is clearly supported by those who work in the field."

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Children's bodies found in Hindu fascist's car

AHMEDABAD BURNING. Mobs in 2002 operated with precision and timing showing a guiding hand - that of the VHP, with connivance from the state, say opponents.

NEWS from the west Indian state of Gujarat took a new sensational and grisly turn yesterday with the discovery of two dead children's bodies in a leading right-wing activist's car in the town of Dabhoi, in Vadodara district. The area has already been the scene of violence following the destruction of Muslim shrines ordered by the authorities. Thousands of Muslims were killed in Gujarat five years ago in pogroms encouraged if not stage-managed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The children's bodies, showing injuries from burns, were found in a car belonging to Jagdish Pankit, an activist in the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), or "World Hindu Council"). The children had been reported missing two days ago. Pankit claimed the car had not been used for months, and said he had no idea how the children's bodies came to be in it. Vadodara was just recovering from riots a fortnight back. Local police said everything was under control, and there had been no new incidents.

The VHP was founded in 1964 as a broader front for the older Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), which shares roots with Hitler fascism and was banned more than once by Indian governments, accused of fomenting inter-communal violence. The VHP itself includes martial arts and paramilitary training for its youth wing and was accused of involvment in the 2001-2 Gujarat attacks. Its slogan is "Dharmo rakshiti rakshitah", or "By defending what is righteous, you will be protected." Standing for Hindutva (Hindu supremacy), it accused the right-wing BJP government of being too soft, and advocated war with Pakistan.

A team of human rights activists from Delhi and Vadodara which visited the riot areas recently said the violence in Vadodara shouldn't be seen in isolation from the 2001 riots, and accused the authorities of having an agenda to raze structures belonging to a particular community. Holding the city's mayor, municipal commissioner and police responsible, they called for their resignations, and demanded the imposition of Article 355, which authorises central government to intervene if local government fails to uphold the constitution or maintain order.

The recent trouble was sparked when the authorities moved to demolish an old dargah, the shrine of a Sufi saint, claiming it encroached on the road.

''The demolition was not out of the blue. It was a systematic agenda to demolish the cultural sites and heritage buildings of a particular community. The fact that the dargah was present even in the map of 1912 itself shows that it was there even before the road was constructed,'' alleged Hashmi of Anhad, a member of the human rights team.

She added, ''This is an extreme example where the administration, including police officials, has completely surrendered to the Hindutva forces."

The activists said the violence that erupted after the 200-year-old dargah in Champaner Darwaza was razed was an "extension of Hindutva politics''. The politics was being played out by the police, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the State Government against a particular community, and should not be seen in isolation from the 2001 riots . If nothing was done the future would be worse.

The team had visited the home of Mohammed Rafiq Vora who was burnt alive by a mob, and met his family. Hashmi said that though charges had been registered against 12 people no arrests have been made so far.

Times of India,May 15, 2006


Shabnam Hashmi

Three fragile looking women wearing sarees, with their colourful bindis shining in the sun, tugging their children along, were rushing towards Yakutpura. There was a feeling of urgency in their whole mannerism, the way they walked, the way they conversed with each other, the way they carried the flowers, which kept slipping down.

It was the last week of April, 2006. There was enough tension in the atmosphere and any sensible person would have avoided going to that sensitive area. They stopped a few yards away from the Chapaner Gate, near a small light blue structure, which stood on the footpath. They lit candles, offered flowers and tied some threads to the beautiful carved lattice. They sat there with their children for 15-20 minutes, prayed and before leaving requested the 81 year old Sultan Mian Mallik to bless their children.

There was a strange melancholy in their expression, their eyes were wet, when they bid farewell to Sultan Mian. It seemed that they had the premonition that they were leaving never to return again. They could sense that in a few days time bulldozers would ruthlessly turn the beautiful little structure into rubble. The symbol of love and humanity, which had witnessed the city grow, which knew more history than the inhabitants of the area themselves.

The notice to demolish the centuries old Hazrat Rashiduddin Chishti's dargah was left on the mazar about a month ago. Baroda's Mayor Sunil Solanki had declared that if he does not get enough forces, he would demolish the dargah with the help of the bhajpa karyakartas (BJP supporters). Representatives of the Muslim community were meeting the authorities and finding ways to diffuse the tension.

Rashiduddin Chishti is supposed to have come to Baroda during the Babi dynasty, which ruled Baroda till 1732 before the Geakwads. His dargah was perhaps the only space in that area where people from both the communities interacted with each other. All such spaces were like thorns in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar.

Syed Kamaluddin Refai, a soft spoken, learned gentleman, inheritor of the famous Refai Sufi tradition, whose great grandfather was invited by Maharaja Khande Rao Gaekwad (1856-1870) to establish a Sufi shrine in Baroda, was leading the negotiations. He even offered the authorities to move the outer wall by three feet on all the sides and remove the canopy. On May 1, the meeting was again called at 9 am and it continued till about 10.20am.The authorities were adamant.

Refai pleaded with them asking for a month's time, to convince the community and move the dargah to another place. The commissioner got up. Negotiations broken for ever. Almost simultaneously as the delegation came out of the Baroda Municipal Corporation's building the bulldozers reached Yakutpura.
Thirteen BJP municipal counsellors present at the site gave instructions to the Police.

While the police fired indiscriminately, the VHP, Sangh Parivar mobs threw stones at hundreds of people who were sitting on a peaceful dharna, as the last attempt to save the Dargah. The police did not find it necessary to use safer methods to disperse the crowd. Most of the people who refused to see the larger designs during the first few days, fell pray to the official version: 'religious places encroaching the roads are being removed'. The mayor added fuel to the fire by saying that only Muslims are objecting to the removal of their places of worship. The Baroda City survey map of 1921 showing the dargah had no significance for them.

The difference between removing a few years old encroachments and demolishing a centuries' old Dargah, which stood at that spot even before the road came into existence, became blurred. Emboldened by successfully selling their story to the nation, the Sangh planned the next step.Residential colonies were surrounded, well equipped mobs, hurling abuses, shouting slogans, brandishing weapons torched shops, handcarts, homes and factories situated near the 'borders'.

A young man Mohd Rafiq Vora while returning home in his Tata Siera, was surrounded by a mob and burnt alive in his car on Ajwa Road. The first round of burning killed Rafiq and destroyed the car but the tiers were too stubborn. The crowd collected again on the second day and burnt the car again, this time the tiers also turned into ashes. Rafiq's sister crying inconsolably narrated that while her brother was burning, the crowd clapped and danced.

The police crane brought the charred remains of the car and dumped it in front of Rafiq's house in front of us. Rafiq had recently built the Navjeevan Bus Stand with his own money so that passengers who wait for the bus are saved from the scorching heat. Would his killers burn the bus stand too to wipe off his memory from the minds of those who might use the shade?

Mohd Mian Haji Mian Shaikh, Arif Yaseen Khan Pathan, Salim Khan Pathan and Sarfraz while deposing, from their hospital beds, before the Citizen's Fact Finding Team on May 4, 2006 (Fact Finding Team- Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Prasad Chako) narrated similar stories. The policemen asked their names and then fired at them point blank. The VHP cadre can take a back seat now. We have our police to identify, attack, kill and maim minorities. In the middle of all the mayhem and further plans of spreading violence to more areas, there were hundred of phone calls, fax messages from across the world asking the UPA government to take action, activists, national media worked through the night. The UPA Government told Modi in no uncertain terms to stop the violence or face consequences. After a hectic day of meeting hundreds of victims, administration, police, witnessing again the broken stories of people's lives, we started our journey back to Ahmedabad.

Thanks to Awaaz South Asia Watch for keeping us posted on Gujarat. Awaaz, which organised protests to stop Gujarat Chief Minister Modi from coming to Britain, has also denounced sectarian attacks by Muslim extremists in Kashmir.
see also previous blog: Asians United against religious violence,

The Hindu fascists have reached their tentacles out to raise support among Hindu communities in Britain and the United States. I was interested to see that articles by American Zionist and Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, a Harvard professor crusading against opinions he dislikes on the American campus, feature prominently on the VHP website:


Israel's Dr.Strangelove goes

NAHAL SOREQ reactor,
and Plutonium extraction control room, Dimona.
(pix courtesy Mordechai Vanunu)

THE MIDDLE EAST has one warmonger less with the death last month of Yuval Ne'eman, 80 year old pioneer of Israel's nuclear weapons programme and head of its space agency. Ne'eman, an army officer turned scientist who also played an important part in developing electronic intelligence-gathering techniques, also founded Tehiya (Renaissance), a far-Right splinter party from the Likud which wanted Israel to grab yet more Arab territory.

Born in Tel Aviv, Ne'eman enlisted in the pre-state Hagana underground army, going on to command the Israeli army's Givati brigade and then become head of its planning department, and in the 1960s, deputy head of Aman, military intelligence. He collaborated with French military intelligence in its war against Algerian freedom fighters and preparations for the 1956 Suez war, and obtained their help in obtaining nuclear technology.

Ne'eman took a degree in chemical and electrical engineering from the Haifa Technion, and joined Israel's nuclear energy commission from 1952-61.
It was while serving as Israel's military attache in London from 1958-62 that he enrolled to study nuclear physics at Imperial College, under Pakistan-born Nobel physicist Abdus Salam. He went on to develop Israel's nuclear weapons programme at Dimona.

After an American U2 flight took photographs of the Dimona facility and the US government began asking questions, it was Ne'eman who drafted the official replies, and when Kennedy sent US scientists to inspect Dimona in 1962 it was Ne'eman who was back to show them around and make sure they did not see anything too sensitive.

Besides his government work, founding Tel Aviv University's physics and astronomy department and becoming Israel's first science minister in 1982, and the Space Agency the following year, Yuval Ne'eman found time for research in sub-atomic particles. He made a contribution to theoretical physics, and co-authored a book "The Particle Hunters" that was highly rated.

But whatever his brilliance as a scientist, Ne'eman's political evolution took him to the realm of the certifiably insane militarist. As Moshe Dayan's adjutant in the 1950s he had drawn up plans for attacks on Damascus, the Saudi oilfields, and the Lebanese port of Tripoli. He founded Tehiya in 1979 to oppose the US-backed peace treaty with Egypt, which entailed returning the Sinai peninsula, seized in the 1967 war. In 1982 he set up camp in the northern Sinai settlement of Yamit, vowing to resist, until just before the Likud government demolished it.

This extreme stand did not stop him being a cabinet minister. Not only did Ne'eman oppose any withdrawal from Gaza or the West Bank; but when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, he was the only cabinet minister to advocate annexation of southern Lebanon, including the port of Sidon and all the land up to the Litani river. This had not even been part of Biblical Israel, nor come to that was Gaza, but Ne'eman was a secular chauvinist rather than a religious fanatic. He supported the most extreme activists, however, including the Jewish terror network that made bomb attempts on three Palestinian mayors, in 1984.

When the first Intifada began, Ne'eman was for mass expulsions of Palestinian refugees. He rejoined a Likud-led coalition in 1990, again becoming science minister. But he left in January 1992, saying the "peace process" to which the government payed lip service was a "mortal danger" to Israel. But Tehiya was finished at the polls, and Ne'eman's super-military chauvinism rejected as off the wall and abhorrent by most Israelis. He gave up the parliamentary game, but did not retire completely. A new career beckoned him to the boards of American companies and institurions, and with the "war on terror" he joined a US firm specialising in electronic surveillance. Their loss is our gain.

· Yuval Ne'eman, physicist, intelligence officer and politician, born May 14 1925; died April 26 2006.