Friday, June 30, 2006

Naftana answers TUC's man

HASSAN JUMA'A AWAD of the Iraqi General Union of Oil Employees, in Los Angeles during a tour last year hosted by US Labor Against the War.
Iraqi union leaders spoke at meetings and had talks with American union leaders including John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO unions.
(photo from People's Weekly World, June 25, 2005)

THE Iraqi government has frozen the bank account of the General Union of Oil Employees, an independent trade union that has sought to unite oilworkers across Iraq and resist moves to let foreign big business gain control of Iraq's oil wealth.

In response to a call for help to the oilworkers' union, Owen Tudor, head of the TUC's European Union and International Relations Department, said "The TUC is unaware of what has happened to the Oil Workers Union (it doesn't help that they seem only to communicate with small campaigning organisations rather than the global oil workers federation (ICEM) or the global trade union movement (ICFTU)".

Concerning the Iraq government's use of Decree 8750 to intervene in the lawyers union and others, Tudor regretted it, but accused Naftana(Our Oil), the London-based support group for the oilworkers' union of "a massive exaggeration" in describing this as "the September 2005 decree making all trade union activity illegal".

"This is not intended to stop people protesting about Decree 8750, as theTUC, ICFTU and Iraqi unions have been for nearly a year. But hyperbole doesn't help, it sends people off in the wrong direction", the TUC's international officer said.

We have commented on this, and quoted comments by Iraqi academic Sami Ramadani. Now NAFTANA has issued this response to the comments issued by Owen Tudor, which would seem to put paid to the claim that the Iraqi oil union only communicates with "small campaigning organisations". It also makes clear that GUOE and its supporters have taken a principled stand - something which the TUC, if it is to defeat anti-union laws in Britain, as well as Iraq, could learn from.

Almost two years ago in July 2004, the General Union of Oil Employees issued a letter, detailing the formation of the federation and asking for affiliation to ICEM. This was translated into English and sent to Jim Catterson, Director of Organisatiom, at ICEM. This was the firstmajor move from the union towards international recognition, support andprotection. Since then, Hassan Jumaa,
President of the GUOE has met with Jim Catterson in London to further discuss affiliation.

The union has invited ICEM to send a delegation to Basra twice, both on a private fact-finding visit and for the union’s first anti- privatisation conference in May 2005. The GUOE communicates with ICEM, on a regular if infrequent basis. The Union was invited to and sent a delegate to ICEM’senergy industries seminar in Jordan in last April 2006.It is therefore untrue to say that the union has not pursued links withinternational union federations.

The GUOE has tried to forge links with the TUC’s Iraq Solidarity Committee too. The GUOE was represented at the TUC’s Iraqi
Union’s conference in February 2005 by Hassan Jumaa, the union’s president. Upon Hassan’s second visit in December, when Owen Tudor was asked if the solidarity committee could in any way help with Hassan’s accommodation costs, we were told that no assistance could be offered. When we askedif Hassan could attend an Iraq Solidarity Committee meeting last December 2005, we were told,
bluntly and with no explanation or fraternal apology, that it would not be possible for Hassan to attend.

No support has ever been offered to the GUOE from the committee.The above represent attempts by the GUOE to cultivate links with the TUC in the UK, which have been rebuffed.

The GUOE was not created through any political party apparatus – unlike other trade unions in Iraq. It had no international representatives or members in exile. It had no support structure outside of Iraq whatsoeverwhen it was first established. It is a grassroots trade union and the solidarity and support links – both in the UK and internationally -which have been cultivated so far, have been generated and organised, equally, at a grassroots level without the help of political parties orgovernmental organisations.

The GUOE does not take dues from its members as they are too poor to afford them. They have not been able to form an accountancy
and payment processing structure due to being unable to open an account in Iraq.

The union has refused funding from the British Council and receives no funding from any other government or occupation related sources. It has no sponsoring political party to give it any funding either. The unionis in an incredibly vulnerable financial position. The Jordan account was created to process solidarity donations from NGOs, trade unions andanti-war organisations.

For Owen Tudor to not take seriously the predicament that the union is facing displays either ignorance of the situation independent unions arefacing on the ground in Iraq or a wilful disregard for the GUOE’s predicament. Again on the issue of the GUOE ‘only communicating with small campaigning organisations’, the union has in fact, solidarity links with the over 3 million member strong US Labor Against War based in the US, the FIOM – Italy’s national trade union federation, plus trade unions,civil society and anti war groups in Germany, the Philippines, Australia, Canada, Poland, France and Denmark. In the UK, it has the support of the TGWU,
the NUJ, NATFHE and the GMB.

This again points to the false impression Owen has given of the natureof the relationships the GUOE has.Naftana – the UK based support committee for the GUOE has been approved and empowered by the union to act as a channel of information andcommunication with trade unions and civil society organisations worldwide and also to work with the union to help it achieve one of its key aims: combating the privatisation of Iraq’s oil through Production Sharing Agreements in order to keep Iraq’s oil as a public asset to be used for the maximum benefit for All Iraqis from the North to the South.

We regularly issue statements from the union in order to promote itswork and try to keep it safe from attack. Keeping up the flow of information; creating meaningful links with civil society groups, unionsand NGOs; raising funds for the union; facilitating international visits; and crucially, offering advice and up to the
minute information on the plans for oil privatisation to the union have been Naftana’s main tasks.

Naftana is independent of all political parties both within theUK and Iraq and is made up of volunteers, all organising in their spare and
limited time. Naftana would love for the union to have its own fully functioning international relations department so that there would be no need for us to exist and it is our mission to develop this and turn it into a reality.

To sum up, Owen’s statement is factually incorrect and appears to betray personal political disagreements – which Owen is of course free to have- with the GUOE and its support mechanism here in the UK. Some clarity and honesty as to whether his position is representative of the TUC’s International Department and the TUC Iraq Solidarity Committee would be appreciated

.Naftana, June 29th 2006

Over to you, brother.

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Does Israeli army give a damn?

- demonstrator in Tel Aviv gets straight to the point.
(photo by Rachel Avnery from Gush Shalom,

ISRAELI armed forces have destroyed bridges and electricity supplies, thereby also hitting water supplies, in Gaza, thereby committing a war crime under the Geneva Convention by depriving civilians of essential services. They have shelled a university, and threatened to destroy the town of Beit Hanoun, warning its inhabitants to flee.

They have kidnapped Palestinian MPs and the deputy prime minister, claiming that Western categorisation of Hamas as "terrorist" gives them the right to arrest the leaders elected by the Palestinian people.

We are supposed to believe that all this is just an operation designed to secure the release of one captured Israeli soldier, 19-year old Gilad Shalit. The young man was taken prisoner during a legitimate Palestinian attack on an Israeli military base in which both sides suffered casualties. His captors called upon Israel to release Palestinian women and children it is holding prisoner. The Hamas authority appealed for the captors to ensure Shalit's safety and see he is well-treated, while they offered to negotiate his release.

But the Israeli government has so far shown no interest in negotiating. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has threatened "extreme measures", and only criticised his Labour Defence Minister's plan to attack Beit Hanoun as being too limited.
The right-wing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who continues to enjoy big support from American Zionists and some in Britain, boasted recently that Israel could "wipe out Gaza".

Britain's new Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has feebly asked Israel to exercise "restraint", going no further than Condeleeza Rice in this reespect. But we must be patient with Mrs.Beckett. At one of her first engagements last month, a meeting with Arab ambassadors including the PLO's representative, she turned up with her entourage three quarters of an hour late, spoke for a few minutes saying she did not know much about the Middle East, then departed without time for questions or discussion.

As Israel - "the only democracy in the Middle East" as they say - behaves like a ruthless colonial power smashing Palestinian society and rounding up popular leaders, we are supposed to believe its leaders only want their soldiers' release, only want a "partner for peace", only want the Palestinian leaders to recognise Israel's "right to exist", so they can resume negotating for peace.

As another military figure, the "Iron Duke" once said, "if you can believe that, gentlemen, you can believe anything!"

  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign vigil this evening, Friday June 30, 5.30pm -7pm in Parliament Square, Westminster.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thanks, Brother...Now how about some solidarity?

NOT content with handing over lucrative government contracts and juicy chunks of public services to big private interests, Blair's New Labour has felt it only right to decorate the rich bosses for showing interest. It was revealed the other week that Riley Bechtel, billionaire head of the American Bechtel Corporation, was awarded a CBE in 2003 for "services to UK-American commercial relations".

Besides moving into London Underground privatisation and taking over the Crossrail project, Bechtel has plans for the nuclear business. The US company has done well from the Iraq war, just as it previously did from doing business with Saddam Hussein, and in Saudi Arabia of course.

Bechtel became an honourary Commander of the British Empire, approved by HM The Queen, on 25 April 2003, a week after his company won a £430 million contract to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure. Jack Straw was Foreign Secretary. There have been suggestions the award was kept quiet at the time to avoid political controversy.

As I passed US firm Haliburton's building at Greenford the other day then came into Hammersmith where Bechtel has it's European HQ, I was thinking what more we can do to raise support for Iraqi trade unionists who are confident they could rebuild their country better without carpetbagging foreign companies, and want to stop their country's oil wealth falling prey to privatisation.

So far the only bit of infrastructure the Americans have been keen on reconstructing have been prisons, and of course their own bases -which are beginning to look rather permanent for a "temporary" occupation.
We heard last year how the General Union of Oil Employees had to chase Halliburton-KBR people out of the southern oil refineris, and since then the union has held a conference against oil privatisation, and taken steps to unite oil workers and other trade unionists across Iraq on this issue.
While maintaining its own independence, the oil union has begun discussing how Iraqi workers can have a distinct, but united, political voice.

Last week we heard that the Iraqi government had intervened, freezing the GUOE's bank accounts. This followed actions against lawyers associations and others. The Iraqi government is keeping Decree 8750 which is aimed against workers right to organise in unions.

Like others, I tried to spread word of this, copying a message from the oil workers' support group here Naftana (Arabic for Our Oil), in the hope we could raise some voices here in solidarity with Iraqi trades unionists. I think, as I've said in more than one meeting, that as we in Britain are fighting against privatisation, as well as an end to anti-union laws, we should form a united front with the Iraqi trade unionists. We're even facing some of the same companies.

I received this message below from the head of the British TUC's International Department:
The TUC is unaware of what has happened to the Oil Workers Union (it doesn't help that they seem only to communicate with small campaigning organisations rather than the global oil workers federation (ICEM) or the global trade union movement (ICFTU), but it is certainly true that Decree 8750 has been used to intervene in the lawyers union and others (note that this organisation and others affected are more professional associations than trade unions, not that that makes the government's actions any better).

However, it is a massive exaggeration to describe Decree 8750 as "the September 2005 decree making all trade union activity illegal", and things are bad enough without exaggerating and giving completely thewrong impression. Unions in Iraq are clearly still functioning, and have been since the Decree was announced (in August by the way).

This is not intended to stop people protesting about Decree 8750, as the TUC, ICFTU and Iraqi unions have been for nearly a year. But hyperbole doesn't help, it sends people off in the wrong direction.

Owen Tudor
, Head of TUC European Union and International
Relations Department
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

Maybe it's because I've just been writing about the fire service, but I get the feeling that if I'd called these people to a fire they'd say I'd rung the wrong alarm, tell me off for exagerrating, then pour cold water over me rather than hastening to put the blaze out.

On "small campaigning organisations", I should point out that it was one of these, Iraq Occupation Focus, which arranged GUOE president Hassan Juma'a 's first trip to Britain, at a time when official trade union links were only being extended to the "official" Iraqi Trade Union Federation which had a full-time officer here.
It was as a result of his trip that Naftana was set up, and that the TUC invited Hassan Juma'a along with other union leaders to a seminar in Congress House about Iraq. There I felt the privatisation issue raised by Hassan was played down by officialdom (maybe because there were elections coming up). But it was Owen Tudor who, if I'm not mistaken, encouraged lay union members to go ahead with an Iraq Trade Union Solidarity Campaign, suggesting they could do more campaigning than the TUC itself.

Still, feeling a half-hearted TUC response was better than none, I forwarded Owen Tudor's letter to friends and fellow-activists, and this has brought the comment below from Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi political exile from Saddam Hussein, now teaching in London University. I think it blows away the bureaucratic fog and lets us see issues more clearly, so I'm glad Sami says to circulate it:

The head of the TUC European Union and International Department, Owen Tudor, has written a letter criticising Iraq's oil workers' union, for not building links with certain international union federations, and lambasting solidarity organisations for issuing statements alerting the trade unions and general public to the escalating anti-trade union measures and oil privatisation plans in Iraq.

Instead of directing his fire at the anti-trade union measures in occupied Iraq, Owen Tudor prefers to level a false accusation against a besieged trade union representing impoverished workers, languishing under a ruthless occupation. He also takes a swipe at "small" solidarity organisations in Britain and USA, and engages in diversionary nitpicking and making light of the grave problems facing the Iraqi people and trade unions.

But despite Owen Tudor's attempt to cloud the issues and downplay the seriousness of the problems facing Iraq's genuinely independent trade unionists, the facts are plain and simple to understand. The Iraqi government has, in the past few months, accelerated the implementation of Decree 8750. The Iraqi Ministerial Council approved Decree 8750 in August 2005 (probably not published in the official gazette till September) promising "a new paper on how trade unions should function, operate and organise," dissolving one government committee and replacing it with a new ministerial committee that includes the minister for National Security, to be in charge of Labour and Social Rights, and stating that the new committee would control all trade union funds.

Using wording rivalling the deviousness of the Saddam regime's 1987 anti-trade union law, decree 8750 does not ban trade unions. In 2004 US administrator Paul Bremer issued a notorious directive, still in effect, reviving Saddam's 1987 anti-union decree, which also did not ban trade unions as such, but merely deemed all workers in the state sector to be civil servants. Civil servants were of course banned from joining trade unions. Similarly, decree 8750 is worded such that it effectively makes all union activity illegal.

The decree states that the new ministerial committee "must take control of all monies belonging to the trade unions and prevent them from dispensing any such monies." How trade unions can function legally when it is illegal to dispense a penny on their activities, only Owen Tudor knows. He also knows how to stay calm and not resort to "hyperbole" when "Unions in Iraq are clearly still functioning, and have been since the Decree was announced."

In English, this means that his TUC department will not launch a serious campaign to defend Iraq's independent trade unionists until they all stop functioning. While the country burned and cities were at the receiving end of trigger-happy US Marines, US air and land bombardment, and occupation-induced terrorist attacks, the government proceeded this year with the implementation of the anti-union policies and decrees. As if it was not bad enough that his TUC department did not campaign to defend the Iraqi lawyers' and writers' unions, Owen Tudor tries to downplay nakedly anti-union measures by describing properly constituted unions, with elected officers, as "more professional associations than trade unions."

In April the government accelerated the implementation of its 8750 anti-union decree. Contrary to Tudor Owen's accusations of "hyperbole," the Naftana statement below understates the scale of the problem facing Iraqi trade unions by highlighting the actual freezing of the accounts of only the oil workers' union. The government decree in fact ordered control over the accounts of all trade unions (including those close to the government).

I find it astonishing that he chooses to accuse the oil workers union, whom the TUC officially invited to Britain last year, of not communicating with international union federations. He knows very well that the oil workers' union has been trying very hard to establish such contacts in the face of insidious, but polite and patronising disregard. He also knows that this union is financially strapped -(the price of true independence under occupation)- and relies heavily on its supporters in Britain to communicate its news in English to the British and world trade union movement.

Instead of publicly criticising the union, he should be writing to them expressing concern at the news of freezing their account, ascertaining the full facts and offering financial and other help. He should also be asking them how the TUC could help the union's planned second anti-privatisation conference in Basra.It is deeply regrettable that some in the TUC international department prefer to turn a blind eye to certain international events, which are seriously threatening trade unionists abroad, if such events are deemed to be politically embarrassing to Blair's government. For them Iraq is building a democracy, and strangling independent trade union activity does not fit in with that fictitious Blairite image of Iraq, an image designed to lull trade unionists into silence about the gravity of the situation in Iraq, and thwart calls for the swift withdrawal of the US and British occupation forces.

In the name of supporting a fictitious democratic process, they are in effect helping to crush democratic activity. And by not exposing the consequences of the Blairite (Thatcherite) alliance with the Bush administration, some in the TUC international department are, probably with good intentions, helping prolong the occupation of Iraq and privatisation and theft of Iraqi oil and other wealth by the transnationals.
In doing this, they are also damaging the reputation and proud record of most of Britain's unions, strongly opposed to the war and continuing occupation of Iraq. Instead, Tudor Owen should also be alerting Britain's unions to the fact that the Iraq's oil minister is preparing the ground for signing privatisation agreements, deceptively called Production Sharing Agreements, with the transnational oil barons.

The TUC is perhaps not aware that the occupation authorities have spent millions of dollars on so called civil society and other 'sweetheart' organisations to prop up activities designed to draw attention away from the war crimes of the occupation forces and plans to privatise Iraq's oil and main industries. The implementation, probably selectively, of Decree 8750 will hit the genuinely independent organisations hardest, because they rely heavily on the pennies they collect from impoverished workers and donations collected by solidarity organisations .

Decree 8750 is aimed at strangling the truly independent trade unions and other mass organisations. International solidarity helps them stay independent and to resist pressures to turn them into 'sweetheart' unions, docile apologists of the occupation and the transnationals.

Best wishes,
Sami Ramadani

See previous blog, Iraqi government attacks oil union:

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Herts burns

BUNCEFIELD. Smoke reached Continent.

FIRE ENGINE moves in among still dangerously explosive fuel tanks.

BUNCEFIELD oil depot, near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire was the site of the biggest explosion and fire in western Europe since the Second World War.

It broke out early on the Sunday morning, December 11. Had it occurred later and on a weekday the effects could have been far worse, as the blast hit vehicles and workplaces. As it was, 43 people were injured. About 2,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes, many of which suffered serious damage. The M1 motorway had to be closed, and flights into Heathrow airfield twenty miles away were disrupted by the pall of smoke.

On the Monday morning more than 220 schools in Hertfordshire and neighbouring counties were kept closed, out of concern for safety. It was Tuesday before the fire brigade started to bring the blaze under control, amid fresh blasts and blazes in remaining fuel tanks.

The fire brigade had difficulty getting near enough to tackle the blaze, and did not have enough foam for the first 24 hours. Over 150 firefighters using high pressure hoses and foam were in action on the Monday, and it took about 75 per cent of Hertfordshire's fire service with help from other brigades several days to put the Buncefield fire out.

On March 28, despite months of campaigning by firefighters, residents and business owners in Hertfordshire, county councillors approved cuts in the fire service which meant closure of fire stations at Radlett and Bovingdon, up to 50 front line staff jobs lost, and fewer crews available at night or at weekends at Watford and Royston.

Despite the firefighters' warnings that provision and response time will be affected, Hertfordshire's Tory councillors insist the cuts will not put lives at risk, but will enable them to invest more in safety teams who focus on fire prevention. As though giving people leaflets advising them to buy smoke detectors could avoid a disaster like Buncefield, the causes of which are still being investigated. Fire officers already inspect premises and give advice on fire prevention.

Hertfordshire Fire Brigade Union representative Tony Smith said 40 people (like in Ali Baba!- RP) had decided that the other million in Hertfordshire did not need part of their fire service, and they were going to remove it.

"There is this thing about prevention being better than the cure but it's a bit more complex than that when you are talking about fires, deaths and injuries. There are far more people saved by the fire and rescue service through intervention than by prevention each year anyway."
"We're not against prevention but we believe it is the front line crews that make that relationship with their local communities and do that work admirably, all we want is a bit more support to do that."
"They are using this community safety task force as a vehicle to cut jobs, far more jobs are going than are going into this task force, the numbers just don't add up."

David Lloyd, Hertfordshire County Council executive member responsible for Community Safety tried to square the circle between economies of provision and safe cover.
"If the government hadn't said to us following the 17.5 per cent pay rise which went to the fire service, you've got to now fund it yourself and make efficiencies, possibly we wouldn't have had to look at the efficiencies across the whole of the system."

Arguing that the south west of the county had "a vast provision of fire fighters and fire stations", he went on:
"The whole point is that we run the fire service for the people of Hertfordshire, Buncefield is a good example as during that time there were hundreds and hundreds of calls that went on whilst we were also putting out the largest fire since the Second World War. What that goes to show is how well we can cope."

Note that "we". If there's credit to be claimed or honours going around you can bet the bosses will accept them. But the firefighters' reward for bravery and doing their best at Buncefield is to be told that not so many of them are needed.

There is good reason for adequate provision - Lloyd calls it "over provision" - of fire and emergency services in south-west Hertforshire, not only in its industries and towns, but its strategic relationship to the metropolis. The Buncefield fire did not just disrupt Heathrow flights by its smoke pall. Used by four major companies - Texaco, Total, BP and Shell - the depot supplied 30 per cent of the airport's fuel, sending it by direct pipeline. The fire caused fuel shortages necessitating rationing, and leading to cuts in long-distance flight schedules.

Mainline rail services from the north and north west enter London via Hertfordshire, and the emergency services have had to attend rail crashes at Berkhamstead (1969), Bushey(1980), Watford(1996), Hatfield(2000) and Potters Bar(2002).

On March 31, Hertfordshire FBU Brigade committee adopted four demands in response to the council's cuts:

  • Withdrawal of all 11 measures endorsed by the county council which would reduce front line service provision.
  • Confirmation that no other measures will be approved that include job losses, station closures, or reductions in appliance numbers, no changes in working hours unless agreed with the union, and no reduction in fire cover or attendance standards,
  • Agreement that sufficient firefighters will be recruited to maintain a minimum of five riders on all fire engines throughout Hertfordshire.
  • Acceptance that improved community safety provisions will not be at the expense of emergency response personnel and resources, combined with commitment to utilise the dual role skills of professional firefighters to deliver both community safety initiatives and emergency response cover from the fire stations in their communities.

There have been three short strikes to help concentrate the minds of councillors, and Hertfordshire firefighters have also visited the House of Commons to speak to MPs about their struggle. Some of them will be back again tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday June 27, joining other public service workers in a rally and mass lobby in defence of public services against cuts and privatisation.

For more information:

And for more on the Buncefield fire,
there's various places including
which has excellent pictures, and
an article on Wikipedia:


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fudge's escape from Southport


BY way of a break from states and strife, I've been reminiscing, and looking again at a literary hero who was a major influence on me. I don't know what sort of influence. All I know was that in my childhood I waited eagerly each evening for the "Manchester Evening News" to clunk though the letter-box into our lobby so that, if my parents did not get there first, I could turn to the page with the latest episode in the adventures of Fudge the Elf, and his pal Speck.

I still remember their woodland home, their adventure under water, their trek through a boulder-strewn wilderness to a city which turned out, not unlike parts of our own cities in those post-war years, to be much in ruins. Before long, me and my pal Barry were setting out on similarly intrepid expeditions.

I had not realised these chronicles would be available in book form until some years ago I came upon a copy of "Fudge and the Dragon" in a second-hand bookshop where I had been doing some work. Such was my enthusiasm over it, the manager, Andrew Burgin, who was waiting to shut the shop gave me the copy as my bonus. It sometimes pays to be a nudnik.

I've just discovered there are more of us, and a website,
dedicated to Lancashire artist Ken Reid's finest creation (he also drew the original Roger the Dodger series in the Beano). Starting to draw when he was confined to bed with a tubercolar hip as a lad, Ken Reid went to Salford Art School, then launched the Fudge strip in the Evening News in 1938. Apart from a break during his army service he continued it till 1961.

Around the time I was following Fudge and Speck some kids were absent from school for periods, not from measles, mumps or chicken pox etc (on which we traded playground boasts like servicemen comparing campaign ribbons ) but because they had "been to Delamere". This was the Jewish Fresh-Air home on the edge of Delamere forest in Cheshire, and to judge from those who returned with excited tales of what good times they had had, a great place to be.

Whether the object of this institution was to take children from grimy Hightown and Broughton and give them a breath of holiday fresh air their parents could not afford, or to give their hard-working parents a badly-needed break from the noisy kids, I'm not sure. But having enjoyed an all-too-brief Sunday afternoon trip to Delamere forest with my parents, and caught a glimpse of the school's sun-bathed verandahs, I was overjoyed when I heard it would be my turn.

Alas, the next news was that for some reason there was no room for me at Delamere, but I could go to Southport instead. Still, Southport was OK, wasn't it? It was a seaside place, and I imagined going on to the beach each day, paddling in the waves and making sandcastles.

Have you been to Southport? It's a kind of Victorian suburb of Liverpool, without the fun of that city. My Mum might talk about the posh shops on Lord Street, but sea? On a clear day you might just see it from the sea front, and someone even ran trips across the beach to the water's edge in war surplus DUKWs. From the Victorian children's institution where I stayed we were marched in two's down to the promenade one day, and then to a park, then back. That was it.

In the institution, whether sitting on a bench waiting for lunch or later in the noisy dormitory before lights out, I had one consolation. My mam had sent me the cut-out Fudge cartoon strip from the "Evening News". But as I was reading Fudge in the hall one day a strange child sitting next to me snatched it from my hand, and as I tried to snatch it back, he thrust the paper into his mouth and started chewing.

I suppose this kid was not just hungry but had some syndrome or other. Whatever was wrong with him I was not in a tolerant, understanding mood after being deprived of my essential reading, and so I hit him. He cried and yelled, and this brought the horse-faced harridan who was in chage of us striding over to berate me, quite uninterested in my protests that he had stolen my cartoon strip and eaten it, and now I might never know what happened next to Fudge and Speck.

It is hard defending cultural interests against barbarism in an unsympathetic environment. Maybe they should have given my neighbour something to read, printed on rice paper, like a special Readers Digest.

Out in the playground at the back of the institution we were lined up in ranks like soldiers one morning, to be inspected. They may even have given us a ration, one small bar of chocolate. I remember next we stood in files waiting to go back in, and some girl wanted us to join in singing a song, I think it was "Swanee". It wasn't to my taste, I did not know the words, and anyway I wasn't interested. I was interested in weighing up the alley at the side of the building, and wondering if I could get out by it to the street before anyone noticed.

What happened next is subject to uncertainty. According to my memory I did make a break via the alley to the steet and found my way through Southport. I remember seeing a fine big bucket and spade set hanging outside a shop doorway, and regretting wryly that I would not now be needing it. I found my way to the railway station, and slipped on to the platform from which the Manchester train departed.

As I was mounting the train however, a train guard stopped me and asked where I was going, and if I had a ticket. "I gave it to the man", I improvised, being a bit vague on railway procedure. "What man?" he asked. "The man on the barrier". So I ended up back in a waiting room while they fetched someone to take me back to the children's home, where I did not want to go.
It was the horse-faced dragon again, though she had to be nice to me because the railwaymen were listening. "What would you like to eat?", she asked, amid my wails and tears. "Beigels", I sobbed. She looked mystified and asked me what was that? "Beigels!" I said again. In those days that was a culturally-specific reference which was probably why I chose it, just to be awkward.

Actually this escape bit may not have happened. It might have been just a childhood dream which I remembered as though it was reality. Perhaps I was influenced by popular wartime escape films. Anyway, my Dad said when I told him some years later that he had never heard about it. What he did remember was that when he and my Mum came to see me at the weekend I wailed and begged them to take me home. (he reminded me of this when I started going to Summer camps, as though he expected a 14-year old enjoying freedom under canvas with girls in Wensleydale was going to be in a hurry for his parents to rescue him!)

I did go home with my parents that weekend, and remember waiting with them at a bus stop when a big black motor car pulled over. I think it was a chauffeur-driven Roller. An old lady in it spoke with my parents. It was my mother's rich Aunt or something in Southport, whom my Dad referred to as "the Old Dutch" or Duchess of that place (I think that side of the family made their money in shoes). Having inquired what we were doing there, she asked my mother "What did you put him in that place for? It's for the illegitimate children of servant girls". Then the Rolls drove off again.

I heard my Mum talking to my Dad about this later. Of course I did not know what "illegitimate" meant. My dad was just annoyed the "Dutchess" hadn't offered us a lift to the station in her Roller. Back home, I wan't bothered. Even school seemed preferable to Southport. I had my pals, my toys, my Mum and Dad, and tomorrow when they had finished with the "Evening News" I would be able to read Fudge the Elf at my leisure again.

(the illustration is from Fudge and the Dragon, by Ken Reid, first published in 1949, by University of London Press, and published 1981 by Savoy Books in association with the New English Library)

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Looking back at Grunwicks

Indomitable..... JAYABEN DESAI
(thanks for this excellent photo to
Homer Sykes

IT will soon be 30 years since a group of mainly Asian women working in a backstreet factory in Willesden, north-west London took a decision that would lead to one of Britain's toughest industrial disputes, lasting two years and involving clashes with police, hundreds of arrests, legal battles and a Cabinet crisis.

A few of us from Brent Trades Union Council were in the Tricycle Theatre, in Kilburn, on Saturday discussing arrangements to commemorate the Grunwick strike with a major event in September.

The workers at Grunwick photo processing were earning around £28 for a forty hour week when the national average was £72 a week. Conditions particularly in the mail order department were bad, and work was being speeded up to meet Summer demand. The women's toilet breaks were timed, and the management instituted compulsory overtime. There were complaints of harassment and bullying, and allegations that white workers had been paid more than the others.
When Mrs Jayaben Desai was told to work overtime she refused and, together with her son, who also worked at the plant, walked out. She returned to stand outside the factory collecting signatures demanding trade union recognition. Other workers joined her. They'd got a picket.
The clerical union APEX, far from the most militant in the country, made the strike official.

Gone was the myth that Asian women were docile and uncomplaining. Workers from elsewhere rallied to the support of these workers standing up against injustice and exploitation. The right-wing National Association for Freedom (NAFF) and racist Lady Birdwood's Self-Help group organised strike-breaking operations. Police swarmed into Chapter Road, the street outside Grunwick, to battle pickets.

Some 600 arrests were made, including miners' leader Arthur Scargill who had brought some of his members to join the pickets, and some Labour cabinet ministers who were members of APEX. Some policemen plainly enjoyed brutally attacking workers and student supporters, and some magistrates boasted of their harsh treatment of those brought before them for alleged picketing offences.

One group of workers who took vital action in support of the Grunwick strikers were the postal workers at Cricklewood who refused to handle Grunwick mail. Post Office management responded with a lock-out, stopping other people's mail. The NAFF helped Grunwick boss George Ward take legal action against the Union of Postal Workers, which dropped its ban in return for a supposed promise of arbitration.

Grunwick was a turning point for the workers, who showed their willingness to fight, and found they were not fighting alone. Unfortunately it was a turning point in another sense for the unions.
With powerful allies, the company refused to back down even when an inquiry under Lord Justice Scarman recommended re-instatement of strikers and union recognition. The unions which could have closed Grunwick by cutting essential services backed off, partly fearing legal action - the UPW actually disciplined its Cricklewood members - but also waiting for a call from the all-too 'moderate' APEX, which never came. The Grunwick strikers were reduced to calling a hunger strike outside the TUC headquarters, Congress House.

To reclaim a saying from the right, moderation in the defence of liberty is no virtue, and in the following decade we paid the price for being too reasonable. While the TUC leaders bleated about "partnership", the police were used en masse against the miners, and the printworkers at Wapping, while the Tories armed themselves with the anti-union laws which Blair's New Labour has still not repealed.

More recently it was the Gate Gourmet workers who tried to hold the line against sackings, pay cuts, union busting and organised scabbing, and the baggage handlers at Heathrow who stopped British Airways in solidarity, and were victimised. With the law threatening in the background the TGWU accepted a compromise which has left striking workers outside the gate.

Jayaben Desai is getting on these days, and not in the best of health, but she has promised to attend the Grunwick commemoration at the Tricycle on Sunday, September 17. TGWU deputy secretary general Jack Dromey who was secretary of Brent TUC at the time of the strike will be there, and so will Derek Walsh, who was UPW district organiser, and Arthur Scargill too.

But most important, if you were involved in the strike at Grunwicks, or came down to show solidarity on the picket line, or if you are too young but would like to know what it was all about, and what it means for working people now, this is going to be an occasion for you.

There'll be a film, "Stand Together", an exhibition, and some Indian food. It will be a celebration of solidarity, a time to remember and look back at our history, but also a time to gather our forces and think about the issues that are facing us today.

more info. and scope for comments at

see also:

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Iraq government attacks oil union


IRAQ's shiny new "democratic" (or denominational) government has shown its teeth to please its master, and taken a bite from the only people who are really uniting Iraqis for freedom, and against the corporate rip-off off the people's wealth - the trade unions.

Naftana (Our Oil) - the UK Support Committee for the General Union of Oil Employees says it has confirmed reports that the Iraqi regime has frozen all the bank accounts of the Iraqi oil workers' union, both abroad and within Iraq.

The committee says the Iraqi regime's decision follows a series of anti-union measures, including the disbanding of the council of the lawyers' union, freezing the writers' union accounts and the September 2005 decree making all trade union activity illegal. For that anti-union act the regime used the pretext of promising the promulgation of a future law to 'regulate' trade union organisations and their activities.

"This action follows in the footsteps of US administrator Paul Bremer", says a Naftana press release. "In 2004 Paul Bremer, the occupation's then pro-consul in Iraq, declared trade union activity in the state sector illegal. That decision re-enacted Saddam Hussain's 1987 decree banning workers' unions in the state sector by declaring them to be 'civil servants' rather than 'workers'."

The Oil Workers' Union has played a leading part in opposing IMF-backed measures which raised Iraq's domestic fuel prices out of reach of poorer people, and aim to take its resources into the hands of big foreign companies. As Naftana's spokesperson Ewa Jasiewitz says:

"Iraq's enormous oil wealth is being groomed for Production Sharing Agreements, which would transfer effective control over all aspects of oil policy, production and marketing to multination oil companies. The oil workers' union is one of the most effective opponents of this policy, organising an anti-privatisation conference last year and another one to come this year".

The GUOE organises over 23,000 oil and gas industry workers Naftana was set up by UK activists after contact with the GUOE, and is in regular contact with the leadership of the union. In August 2003 the union halted oil exports for two days as a protest over low wages. The GUOE is independent of any political party or union federation.GUOE executive committee members, including its President, were part of the opposition against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and many were imprisoned by the regime.

The GUOE is opposed to the military occupation of Iraq and to the privatisation of the oil and industrial sectors of Iraq. The GUOE is a successor to the Southern Oil Company Union (SOCU), set up immediately after the fall of the Saddam regime. In October 2003 union activists kicked US company KBR out of oil industry workplaces.

  • GUOE president Hassan Juma'a is due to visit London next month and will speak at various meetings, including Iraq Occupation Focus on July 13, 7.30 at the Indian YMCA, Fitzroy Square, W1 (nearest tubes Warren Street or Great Portland Street.

For more information on GUOE visit

For Iraq Occupation Focus:

For news alerts from Naftana:

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Freedom from torture isn't in Britain's foreign policy

Backed by Punch against Tsar in Crimean War (1855).

Lord Palmerston, who secretly and from motives unknown to the people at large, to Parliament and even to his own colleagues, managed the Foreign affairs of the British Empire... (K.Marx, in New York Tribune, 1861)

REMEMBER Lord Palmerston? The pub named after him in the Kilburn High Road has changed its name, I think, and the one in Penge has lost its licence and become a pizza joint, but I still remember learning at school about this old 19th century Tory, always ready to send a gunboat to avenge infringements of a Brit's right and privileges abroad, a believer in freedom so long as it advanced the British Empire.

Having bought his seat in parliament he was firmly against extending the franchise to the majority of Brits at home, of course. Nor did he care that his tenants in Ireland starved in the Famine. He might have sided with the slavery South in the American civil war, had opinion in Britain not been otherwise, and besides, the United States won. But he saw advantage in supporting freedom struggles in Greece and Italy, to a point.

I've sometimes wondered how Tony Blair and co. might compare with Palmerston. Since they got in, a day has not passed without British forces being in action somewhere around the globe, not to mention those whom Britain trains and arms, and it's all in the name of freedom, isn't it? Poor old Robin Cook wanted to give foreign policy an "ethical dimension", which his civil servants at the FCO thought was "bollocks" (comment scrawled on the Secretary's memo), and he has been misquoted ever since. Some lackey shifted Cook by phoning the press about his romantic indiscretion, and he has since moved on to Another Place, but how fare the ethics?

Four British men who claim they were tortured in Saudi Arabia have vowed to take their claims for compensation to the European human rights court after the House of Lords ruled that foreign states and their officials enjoyed immunity from civil actions.

The unanimous judgment, supported by UK government lawyers, was received with bitter disappointment by the men and condemned as "a sad day for British justice" by human rights groups. One of the men, Bill Sampson, who has joint Canadian citizenship, said: "This gives the lie to Britain's ethical foreign policy. [The government is] more concerned with having cocktail parties for torturers than doing justice for their own citizens."

Cocktails for the Saudis? Soft drinks only, surely. Les Walker said he was disgusted. "It's all down to money and oil and planes. Don't upset the Saudis. That's the British government's view."

Asked in the Commons what redress there was for UK citizens when tortured abroad, Tony Blair said the government had only intervened in the case "to ensure that rules of international law and state immunity are fully and accurately presented and upheld. We utterly condemn [torture] in every set of circumstances."

Sampson, Walker and an anaesthetist Sandy Mitchell were arrested five years ago after a series of bomb attacks. Ron Jones, a tax accountant, was injured in one of the attacks but held for 67 days and tortured before his release. The Saudi authorities claimed the bombings were part of an alcohol turf war between expatriates. The regime was trying to cover up the rise of political terror in Saudi Arabia by groups frustrated with the monarchy's monopoly of power.

Sampson and Walker, who say they were sentenced to death by partial beheading and crucifixion, and Mitchell made televised confessions which they say were beaten out of them. All three were freed in 2003 without explanation. The case was the first time that the Lords had looked at the issue of whether a foreign country could claim state immunity over civil proceedings brought against its officials for torture.

The judgment followed an appeal by the Saudi government against a court of appeal decision in October 2004 allowing the men to sue officials for damages. Five law lords agreed that the officials were protected by the 1978 State Immunity Act from proceedings brought in this country. Lord Bingham said in his lead judgment that the issue at the heart of the case was the relationship between two principles of international law. One was that a sovereign state will not assert its judicial authority over another.

The second, and more recent, principle was one that condemned and criminalised the official practice of torture. He concluded: "A state is either immune from the jurisdiction of a foreign court or it is not. There is no halfway house and no scope for the exercise of discretion." Lord Hoffmann said: "It is not for a national court to develop international law by unilaterally adopting a version of that law which, however desirable, forward-looking and reflective of values it may be, is simply not accepted by other states."

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador in Britain, added: "The principles are well entrenched in UK law and as such the judgment does not come as a surprise in a country known for its fair legal system and respect for the rule of law."

Maybe people intending to work in Saudi will think twice about going for the big money promised if they ask what protection they can expect from the British government, should things go wrong with that marvellous Saudi law and order we used to hear about from expats. Not that we've anything to feel superior about in this country. The Saudi police are often British-trained, and British companies have supplied them with torture equipment. As the directors of British Aerospace can tell you, relations with the Saudi monarchy are very profitable, and worth every bit of the bungs subsidised by the British taxpayer.

Trouble brewing in the Borough

I don't suppose Lord Palmerston would have done any better than Blair and co. in those circumstances. Mind you, he was prepared to stand up to dictatorial foreign regimes occasionally, and even backed the right of working class citizens to do so.

Among various VIPS and celebs invited to look over the Barclay and Perkins' Brewery in Southwark as part of a visit to London in the 19th century was the Austrian General Haynau, notorious for the brutality with which he put down insurrections in Hungary and Italy, even flogging women. The workers at the brewery had heard about Haynau from an Austrian refugee. The ink had scarcely dried on the General's signature in the visitors' book in 1850 when word spread that the 'Hyena' was in the brewery.

Easily recognisable by his moustache, Haynau was crossing the yard with his companions when he was attacked by draymen and brewery workers with brooms and stones. 'Down with the Austrian butcher', they shouted, "down with the hyena!" Haynau fled along Bankside pursued by the angry workers and took refuge in the George pub , from which he was rescued by the police with difficulty, and spirited away by boat across the river. The Austrian ambassador demanded an apology, but the Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston said the brewery workers were just 'expressing their feelings at what they considered inhuman conduct' by a man who 'was looked upon as a great moral criminal'.

Only after the intervention of a furious Queen Victoria and the threatened resignation of Palmerston was a more conciliatory letter sent to Vienna. Public feeling in England was completely on the side of the draymen, who became the heroes of many a street ballad. When the Italian revolutionary Garibaldi visited England in 1864, he insisted on visiting the brewery to thank 'the men who flogged Haynau'.

Following a succession of mergers, the brewery became a bottle store, then closed in 1981. When I was sent there to do some work a couple of years later most of the buildings had been demolished, and replaced by a car park. There went a proud bit of history. Nowadays the papers would denounce that refugee -if he had been allowed in. Their idea of opposing foreign tyrrany is to denounce the European Human Rights Court to which four British citizens are appealing. And no British government would allow you to say boo to a visiting reactionary like Haynau, there'd be armed police out.

We've got the aggressive imperial foreign policy beloved by Palmeston, but in tandem with Bush, and without any amusing fringe benefits like being rude to torturers and dictatorships.

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Who looks after the security people?

FRIENDS who went handing out leaflets at a Home Office building in London where asylum seekers have to sign on regularly- sometimes not knowing whether they'll walk out free - found something odd happening. Those who came out reported that the leaflets - giving information such as where to get free legal advice - were confiscated from them by the uniformed security guards on duty.

Immigration control and detention of asylum seekers are providing plenty of work for private security firms like Group 4-Securicor, along with electronic tagging of offenders. Last year the Home Office spent more than £100m on tagging, and there are plans to extend it to asylum seekers.

Security staff working for private firms are among the lowest-paid workers, usually doing the job because they can't get anything else. Working long unsocial hours, and often treated like dirt by employers, whether their own or those to whom they are contracted, some unfortunately take it out on those who they get to push around, in places like detention centres.

Government and public services have been "out-sourcing" security for years, just like cleaning and other work seen as unimportant. If this rebounds we can only hope that unlike dirty hospitals, it hits those in charge for once instead of Joe and Joanne Public. But better still if security workers can get organised. So here's some good news, and a call for support:


Indonesian workers employed by global security giant Securicor have been through a lot. Over a year ago, they took the decision to strike -- and were promptly (and illegally) sacked by the company. Since then, they have tried every means, including online campaigns, to win back their jobs. Most recently, the Supreme Court of their country has ruled in their favour. So the struggle is now over, right? Surely a transnational corporation is not going to ignore a Supreme Court ruling ...But Securicor is refusing to give the workers their jobs back -- and the workers have decided to occupy the company's offices in Jakarta.

These workers have been through a tremendous struggle -- a strike, lengthy court battles, and now an audacious act of defiance by occupying Securicor's offices. They have appealed through their sister unions to trade unionists around the world to send off a simple message to thecompany demanding that it obey the law and give them their jobs back.

Please take a moment and send off your message now:
This campaign will appear in additional languages here:

Group 4 Securicor, formed by a merger, and quoted on the stock exchange, gets around, employing more than 100,000 workers in more than 100 countries, not always operating under its own name. One company it now controls is Hashmira in Israel. Here's a report from the Guardian a few years back:

Group 4 security firm pulls guards out of West Bank
Company acts after Guardian investigation reveals how armed patrols work with Israeli settlers to control Palestinians Peter Lagerquist and Jonathan Steele in Jerusalem
Wednesday October 9, 2002

A Guardian investigation in the settlement of Kedumim showed that Hashmira's guards work closely with Israel's military and security apparatus. In the name of "security" the guards, many of whom are settlers, routinely prevent Palestinian villagers from cultivating their own fields, travelling to schools, hospitals and shops in nearby towns, and receiving emergency medical assistance.

Intimidation and harassment are common, causing many villagers to fear for their lives. With prisons in the United States, Australia and South Africa, as well as the UK, Group 4 Falck has earned a reputation for pushing private security into new domains.

Group 4 security firm pulls guards out of West Bank,2763,807149,00.html

While the company may have reduced its operations in the occupied territories, it is still being criticised for violating rights of its own workers. The Workers Hotline Kav LaOved reported recently that in the past year there were more than 360 complaints to the country's Labour Courts about Kvutzat Hashmira, which employs 13,000 workers.

Kvutzat Hashmira, which is 71.5 per cent owned by Group 4 Securicor, failed to set aside sufficient funds for employees' pensions, then claimed that the workers had waived their rights when they joined. The Labour Courts rejected this claim.

Kvutzat Hashmira promised to remedy matters, and its licence was renewed, but the workers' rights hotline accuses the company of failing to honour its promises. "We stress that the workers are low earners who barely make minimum wages "., weites Kav LaOved's Evan Golan "Their job entails putting their lives on the line in a company that obtains a government license to employ these people"

Originally formed to help Palestinian workers from the Occupied Territories who commuted to jobs in Israel, Kav LaOved has widened its remit to advise new immigrants on their rights and assist the growing army of migrant workers from around the world filling low-paid, menial jobs which Israelis don't want, and doing work from which Palestinians have been excluded.

Kav LaOved petitioned the Licensing Department in the Israeli Ministry of Justice to reconsider the renewal of the company's licenses. Last year the licensing committee renewed the license despite information regarding the violation of workers' rights as well as verdicts given by the courts. with a letter of recommendation from the Israeli Federation of Trade Unions (Histadrut).The company did not fulfill its obligation to the Licensing Department as can be inferred from the verdicts given by labor courts against the company, as well as the complaints lodged by workers to Kav LaOved during 2005.

The security group employs 13,000 workers. Some 360 complaints were lodged in the Labor Courts, but Kav LaOved says not all the workers whose rights were violated complained. "Therefore we surmise that the company systematically violates the rights of most of its employees. Reviewing the verdicts handed down by the courts shows that the company avoided setting aside funds for pensions for all eligible workers, and that the company consistently claimed before the court that it is not obligated to set aside such funds, because the workers waive their rights to this basic form of social security. The labor courts systematically rejected these claims."

"Our standpoint is that this situation must not be allowed to persist, as, in practice, it allows the company to continue violating workers' rights. We stress that the workers are low earners who barely make minimum wages. Their job entails putting their lives on the line in a company that obtains a government license to employ these people."

After this record and the complaints, the news came on May 29:

Despite violations of worker rights,
Hashmira wins operating license

by Ruth Sinai, HAARETZ

The Ministry of Justice extended the operating license of Hashmira, the country's largest employer of security guards, despite a large number of rulings against the company for violations of workers' rights. In 2005, more than 350 workers at Hashmira, which employs about 7,000 security guards, sued the company over labor law violations. In 2005 the Justice Ministry renewed the company's license despite its record. The decision was based partly on Hashmira's promise "to make sure its employers enjoy the rights guaranteed to them by law."

The Justice Ministry committee responsible for licensing security companies asked Hashmira to provide information about the suits filed by employees against the company, which promised to submit the material within a month. Last December, attorney Eran Golan of the Kav La'oved workers' rights organization asked the licensing committee to tell him when it would be considering Hashmira's license extension for 2006.

After receiving no response, he repeated his request in late February, again in late March and on May 21. "As far as we know, no similar number of lawsuits has ever been filed by employees against a company," Golan said about the legal action taken against Hashmira. "The company violates its employees' rights on a regular basis."

A ministry spokesman told Haaretz recently that Hashmira's 2006 operating license had been renewed in October, 2005. two months before Golan's initial request to the committee. Golan is planning to take legal action against the committee's decision and its failure to notify Kav La'oved of its actions. Hashmira released the following statement through its public relations representative: "We have no intention of responding to every letter sent to us by some organization or another that chooses to promote itself through the media."

In his letter to the committee of March 20, Golan included a detailed list of rulings against the company in 2005-06. On April 10, 2006, the Nazareth Labor Court ordered Hashmira to pay NIS 1,938 to an employee for failing to pay into a pension fund for him. On March 1, the Haifa Labor Court ruled that a waiver of severance pay signed by an employee at the company's insistence was not legally binding. The court ruled that Hashmira's behavior was unreasonable, and that it was not acting in good faith.

One Ha'aretz reader commented from experience, and from the heart:
"This is just another example of how Israel has become a 3rd world nation. Salaries of workers are illegal (below minimum wage) and the government does nothing to stop it. The owners of Hashmira live like kings in upscale Kvar Shariyahu while they employ new immigrants and those who can hardly feed their families for slave wages. Only in Israel is someone expected to put their live on the line by stopping a suicide bomber at the enterance of a public place for 7 shekel an hour. Heroes are cheap in Israel".

In case you're wondering whereof I speak, yes I have been a security man, though it was here in Britain, and less dangerous than working in the building trade and other industries. I didn't have to do anything more distasteful than guarding the rich man's property and one occasion, escorting a "trespasser" off what really was public property though the Tory council was selling it off. (The following day one of our pillocks of officers told me I should have arrested the man - though that was against both my principles and the law. Nothing like a few stripes on a uniform to bring out the dickheads among us).

Not all security men are bullies or fascists, though some are, and they probably enjoy the opportunities afforded to mistreat people, just like their counterparts in the police, though they are nothing like as well paid.
Remember though, however angry they make you feel, it's the people making money at the top and their system that's to blame.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bush's Mission Impossible

The speakers at last night's Iraq Occupation Focus meeting in London were good.(Anthony Arnove, Tariq Ali, Glen Rangwala).
But sitting in the audience was an Iraqi writer, former prisoner of Saddan Hussein's regime, refugee and brilliant advocate for Iraqi freedom.
Here, from the Guardian's "Comment is free" is her latest piece challenging US imperialism's rule - and tame media complicity.

Bush's mission impossible

by Haifa Zangana
June 14, 2006

All media outlets, including the Guardian, reported that Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad. In a style befitting the ageing Don Corleone, Bush staged "an escape from his own rural retreat at Camp David. He slipped away on Monday night, with a baseball cap pulled down over his ears, in an ordinary helicopter rather than the distinctive Marine One. He was heading for Baghdad."

Correction one. Bush did not visit Baghdad: he visited the fortified "green zone", where the Anglo-US occupation embassies are and where Iraqi and foreign employees and subcontractors of the occupation reside.
Correction two. George Bush, president of the most powerful military state in the world, cannot visit Baghdad. For obvious reasons: despite its famous hospitality, Baghdad does not welcome invaders, which is why the resistance in Iraq is relentless. It does not celebrate an imposed ruler, which is why in the late 19th century within one year 23 tough Walis (Ottoman governors) were appointed to rule the city. Most of them did not even make it to the capital as they were killed on the way. Neither does Baghdad tolerate dictators, oppression and injustice.

Baghdad has been the heart of Iraq for the last 1,244 years. With its classical works in the fields of Qur'anic studies, sciences, arts, literature, music, philosophy, medicine and history, as well as its universal character and its sophisticated intellectual life, it has always been a welcoming oasis for friends - but never for foes. Bush, as a symbol of the Anglo-US occupation, is incapable of understanding this.

Occupiers choose to see the people in the occupied country through their handmade filters. Occupiers often speak a different language to those occupied. Their power is an amalgam of military might, arrogance and ignorance, and this has manifested itself openly during Bush's visit to the green zone.

The trip was kept secret even from Nouri al-Maliki, whom Bush and Blair have hailed time and again as the new prime minister, democratically elected by millions of Iraqis. Maliki only found out Bush was in Iraq five minutes before they met. Yet the "sovereign" prime minister managed to play his role. With a forced smile, he voiced the ventriloquist's words in Arabic peppered with "inshallah" (God willing): that Iraq was "determined to succeed", and that "We have to defeat terrorists."

What about Baghdad and its people? Baghdad is where more than 40,000 occupation troops, backed by tanks, have launched this morning an "anti-insurgent" crackdown, calling in air strikes if necessary, in what would be one of the biggest such operations since the 2003 war. "Armoured personnel carriers and tanks will be used. We will depend on intelligence to find suspects," said Major General Abdel Aziz Mohammed.

In the next few days, occupation military spokesman will issue a series of statements reporting the success of their assault on Baghdad. We will be told that "insurgents" and "terrorists" have been killed.
We, the occupied, know very well that occupiers speak a different language from us. For instance, women and children killed in the Haditha massacre and many other places in occupied Iraq were called "insurgents" and "terrorists".


Thursday, June 15, 2006

When it's a duty to protest


Viking marauders went to Valhala, Israeli officers go to Tzahala, an exclusive estate north of Tel Aviv first. But on Saturday night last week their rest was interrupted by these young people who demonstrated outside the home of air force general and chief of staff Dan Halutz, to protest the shelling of Gaza and death of Palestinian civilians.

They came at less than 24 hours notice, but there were Gush Shalom peace campaigners, supporters of the Israeli-Palestinian initiative Ta'ayush, Young Communists, and Anarchists Against the Wall.

The police moved in with clubs and dragged away some young militants. But the media reporters were more excited when one of them recognised a young black-haired woman, who had made no effort to draw attention to herself: Dana Olmert, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's daughter would have preferred to demonstrate as herself rather than her father's daughter, but Yediot Aharonot placed her photo on its front page with the caption "Demonstrating against Papa". But the sign she was carrying got into the front page, too: "Stop Murdering Civilians!"

Meanwhile in Westminster...

"When Injustice is the Law, to protest is a duty!", said one improvised hand-written placard carried by a demonstrator outside Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, in Westminster. Inside the court, five campaigners for Palestinian Rights charged under the Serious Organised Crimes and Police Act pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of taking part in an illegal demonstration opposite Downing Street on March 14th 2006. That was the day that Israeli armed forces stormed the prison at Jericho, demolishing the wall, killing one prisoner, and taking away others whom they wanted in Israel, including the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The raid, which some Israelis saw as a reckless election stunt by acting premier Olmert, was made easier because British officers who had been overseeing the Jericho jail under an international agreement were suddenly withdrawn, less than a half-hour before the Israeli army moved.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denied in the Commons that there had been any collusion with the Israelis. The demonstration in Whitehall that evening was deemed illegal because although the organisers had notified the police, they had not given 24 hours notice.

The police took names of those taking part, and five were charged. The defendants are: Mike Cushman , Wilf Dixon, Betty Hunter, Aqil Shaer and Ruth Tenne. Some are members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, some of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Betty Hunter, General Secretary of Palestine Solidarity and one of the defendants, said:
"We did not have 24 hours notice of the Israeli army's attack on the prison. It is necessary to be able to respond to events quickly if protest is to be visible and appropriate, especially since the British media soon forgets about atrocities committed against Palestinians. It is shameful that our government is more concerned with curbing our right to protest effectively than in fulfilling its responsibility to uphold international law."

She added, "I liaised with the police about the demonstration throughout the day of the protest, and we all behaved peacefully and dispersed in an orderly fashion. These charges show that the British government is seeking to erode our civil liberties."

The Serious Organised Crimes Act, introduced by Labour last year, starts by talking about serious crime and even money-laundering (watch out the City of London! Only joking.) Then incongruously it moves on to giving police stronger powers to curtail or ban demonstrations. Thus it is that while the government can connive at an organised criminal act of war, outraged citizens who respond with a peaceful demonstration are being treated as serious criminals!

Orwell could not have bettered this Newspeak. Welcome to Blairland!

...and back in the West Bank

Matan Cohen, a 17-year old from Tel Aviv, spoke for some time, without a note in sight, and answered questions, at a meeting in the Red Rose club, Finsbury Park last year. A friend interviewed the young man from Anarchists Against the Wall for Jewish Socialist.

Then we heard that Matan had been struck in the eye by a metal-lined rubber bullet fired by Israeli Border Police, while taking part in a demonstration, and was in Tel Hashomer hospital. His friends blocked a Tel Aviv road with a sit-down protest, and a few of us protested at the embassy in London. What next?

I've recently been in touch with a young guy who was at that London meeting and has been working in Ramallah. I asked if there was any news about Matan.

"Matan is doing OK. He's looking into suing the army at the moment, and although he hasn't been going to demos again yet (understandably) he is still active and was visiting friends in Budrus recently when the IOF rolled in for no aparent reason other than abuse:

He is still due to get some more surgery on his eye. He only has
partial vision in the eye, and it is unlikely he will ever regain full vision".

So I looked up that report from Budrus:

On Friday the 26th of May 2006, about six jeeps belonging to the border police unit and gunner unit that is currently serving in the Macabim division drove around the village of Budrus firing in every direction. The forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and sound bombs. Almost every point in the village received a gas attack and there was nowhere to escape to.

We and an international friend were on the roof of a building visiting some friends.

After a few failed attempts to communicate with the Ramallah area District Coordinating Office (DCO), Matan called Dov Chanin, a Knesset member from the Hadash party. Eventually, a decision was made by the commander of Macabim division to remove the forces from the village.

As the forces were on their way out they shot two tear gas canisters into the house we were in. We sat in a small room with around five children, aged 2-10. The house was dense
with tear gas and the children were crying. It was very difficult to breathe.

The father of the family decided to take the children outside. He, his wife, and a family friend went outside with the children.

The soldiers shouted to us "Get out of the house or we will blow it up!". We went down the stairs - everyone who went was beaten by the commander (a Druze Border Police officer) and thrown against the wall with his or her back to the soldiers. We were forced to our knees and ordered to put our heads down.
"You will be humiliated this evening," they said to us, "You came to say a Sabbath blessing in the village? We will say a mourning prayer over you".

Matan was recognized as the guy from Beit Sira who had been shot in the eye with a rubber-coated steel bullet (one soldier even apologized to him a little), and I as a participant of demonstrations in Bil'in. To our non-Israeli friend,
they claimed I throw stones in Bil'in.

Our IDs were checked. The international was interrogated in English and at one stage a rifle was aimed at his head, with a canister containing a number of rubber-coated steel bullets that fire simultaneously. I shouted at them that they should point the rifle away and got another beating.

They asked us if our mothers know what we're doing. I asked them the same and they said "Of course!". I said that she probably isn't very proud. They asked "Who?" and I
said "Your mother". I got kicked twice and they shouted at me not to talk about their mothers.

When Matan told them there was an order from the commander of Macabim division that they exit the village, they got very angry and pushed his head against the concrete wall of the house, at a point with barbed wire.

Throughout the entire incident, the soldiers refused to identify
themselves. After about half an hour they got into their jeeps and drove off. They left the village at about 9pm.

The trauma suffered by the children of the village is clearly visible on their faces and is evident by their nightly crying. These are innocent children whose streets are flooded every few days with dozens of soldiers who turn their village into a war zone.

The so-called IDF is a terrorist organization.

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Why CIA kept shtum about Eichmann

EICHMANN in Argentina.
ALLEN DULLES in quandary?

ISRAELI politician Menachem Begin, the former Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist commander who went on to become prime minister and launch the 1982 Lebanon war as well as picking up a Nobel peace prize, was involved in a 1952 bomb plot against West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, according to a story in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The bomb was detected, but killed a disposal expert and injured two colleagues. French police arrested five Irgun members in Paris. Both Israel and West Germany played down the affair.

Elieser Sudit, who was one of the conspirators, claims "The intent was not to hit Adenauer but to rouse the international media.",,1797768,00.html

Begin and his right-wing party were opposed to the German Reparations agreement under which West Germany paid compensation for Nazi war crimes against Jews to the Israeli government. There were big emotional demonstrations in Tel Aviv against acceptance of this 'blood money', protests which temporarily seemed to unite Right and Left, though as Sudit makes clear, the motives were not the same. "We thought the Germans should pay directly to the survivors of the Holocaust and that the government of Israel should not take the money from them in the name of the Jewish people and buy tractors with it for the kibbutzim".

Begin's Herut(Freedom) party was not just nationalist, but dedicated to private capital, and bitterly opposed to the then dominant labour co-operative economy linked with Zionist institutions and protected by Ben Gurion's Labour government.

But the German Reparations agreement was backed by the United States, which underwrote this form of aid to the Israeli state so as to ease West Germany's acceptance as a business partner and ally, sapping opposition to German rearmament and membership of NATO. At this stage Begin's brand of nationalism, like his party's attachment to private capital, was just a petty-bourgeois nuisance.

It is quite probable that Israeli security services got wind of the plot against Adenauer and thwarted it, just as they later tipped off the French authorities about a scheme to help the liberation fighters in Algeria. The bomb plot story follows disclosures about another aspect of US-German Cold War collaboration.

IT'S probably not much of a surprise, but the US intelligence services knew where Adolf Eichmann was hiding all the time that the hunt was supposed to be on to find him.

The revelations came in 27,000 pages of material released in the United States by the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), including biographies, correspondence, reports, memorandums, messages, telegrams and other records that were kept from public view for decades..

The information on Eichmann came in a memo to the CIA from their allies in the West German Federal Intelligence Service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). This was a direct successor to the so-called Gehlen Org, the US-backed spy organisation run by Reinhardt Gehlen and largely staffed by his former Nazi colleagues.

"The March, 1958 memo from the West German Intelligence to the CIA that confirmed Eichmann’s alias and his whereabouts in Argentina confirms what Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal had already discovered from his own sources and forwarded to Israel and West Germany in the early ‘50s," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

"This shocking memo also confirms what Mr. Wiesenthal often said: ‘When the Cold War finally ends and history will ask who won, the answer will be neither the West nor the East but the Nazis.’ "

"Prosecuting former Nazis "was of no interest to U.S. officials at the height of the Cold War," said Neil Sher of the US Justice department's Office of Special Investigations. "Eichmann was then hiding in Argentina; he had absolutely no value to the United States. It’s just a callousness in not disclosing it." It was also a function of the government’s determination not to reveal its extensive use of former Nazis in intelligence activities, he said.

Critics of the policy of using former Nazis say they often provided little useful information, rather using their position to pursue their own interests, and settle scores. Sometimes they were vulnerable to blackmail, or turning, by the Soviet Union.

Heinz Felfe, a former SS officer said to be bitter over the Allied firebombing of his native Dresden rose in the Gehlen Organization to oversee counter-intelligence, before he was uncovered as a KGB agent.
A newly-released 1963 C.I.A. damage assessment, written after Felfe was arrested in 1961, found that he had exposed "over 100 C.I.A. staffers" and caused many eavesdropping operations to end with "complete failure or a worthless product."

But the Nazi officers who found new positions in various countries, often with the help of the CIA, did not only provide a spying network that the Americans and more directly, the BND could turn to. They put some of their old techniques to use, whether torturing communists in Egypt or murdering dissidents in Chile (Walter Rauff, the SS officer who devised the mobile gas chambers used on the Eastern Front, became an adviser to General Pinochet) .

As head of the Gestapo's Jewish affairs office, Eichmann organised the deportations and extermination of European Jews, making sure the trains ran to the camps. Captured by US forces at the end of the war, he gave a false name and went unrecognized, hiding in Germany and Italy before fleeing to Argentina in 1950.

According to Timothy Naftali, of the University of Virginia, Israeli agents hunting for Eichmann came to suspect that he was in Argentina but did not know his alias. They temporarily abandoned their search around the time, in March 1958, that the BND told the CIA that Eichmann had been living in Argentina as Clemens, said Mr. Naftali, of the University of Virginia.

The West German government was wary of exposing Eichmann because officials feared what he might reveal about figures like Hans Globke, a former Nazi government official then serving as a top national security adviser to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Mr. Naftali said.

In 1960, also at the request of the West German authorities, the C.I.A. persuaded Life magazine, which had purchased Eichmann's memoir from his family, to delete a reference to Globke before publication, the documents show.

Dr.Hans Maria Globke was responsible for drafting the infamous Nuremburg Race Laws which as Eichmann said, were "the basis for the Final Solution". Escaping prosecution to become Adenauer's attorney general, he helped many old Nazi cronies back into top jobs in the Federal Republic.

Ironically, in view of the information the C.I.A. received in 1958, documents previously released by the C.I.A. showed that it was surprised in May 1960 when the Israelis captured Eichmann. Cables from the time show that Allen Dulles, the C.I.A. director, demanded that officers find out more about the capture.

The documents also provide new information about the case of Tscherim Soobzokov, a former SS officer who was the subject of a much-publicized deportation case in 1979 when he was living as an American citizen in Paterson, New Jersey. He was charged with having falsified his immigration application to conceal his SS service, which ordinarily would have barred his entry. But the charge was dropped when a CIA. document turned up showing that he had disclosed his SS membership.

The newly declassified records show that he was employed by the C.I.A. from 1952 to 1959 despite "clear evidence of a war crimes record," said historian Richard Breitman of American University. Because it valued Soobzokov for his language skills and ties to fellow ethnic Circassians living in the Soviet Union, the C.I.A. deliberately hid details of his Nazi record from the Immigration and Naturalization Service after he moved to the United States in 1955. But Soobzokov ultimately did not escape his past. He died in 1985 after a pipe bomb exploded outside his house. The case has never been solved.

(C.I.A. Knew Where Eichmann Was Hiding, Documents Show
By SCOTT SHANE, New York Times, June 7)

Paragraphs in bold above are my own.

After Eichmann's trial, the Israeli government lost interest in pursuing Nazis. Even the campaign against German scientists in Egypt was called off, and the Mossad chief replaced, as better relations with West Germany extended to collaboration with the BND, including a deal with ex-Nazi Otto Skorzeny.

In Latin America, Mossad and the ex-Nazi networks found themselves on the same side, at least for a time. This probably explains the lack of interest in pursuing Klaus Barbie, the "Butcher of Lyons", who became an adviser to a right-wing Bolivian military regime.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office also sat on documents in its possession concerning Barbie. We may wonder how much the British "secret state" knew about Eichmann too.

  • Lastly, a word about Allen Dulles, who headed the CIA from 1953-1961. A former director of the Schroeder Bank, he and his brother John Foster Dulles were partners in Sullivan and Cromwell, a Wall Street law firm whose clients included IG Farben. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State notorious for Cold War brinkmanship, had been a director of the German combine's US subsidiary GAF.
  • As well as handling the CIA's relations with post-war Nazis, Allen Dulles initiated its coup plots in countries like Guatemala and Iran against governments which tried to free their people from the rule of American Big-Business.
  • Dulles was sacked by President Kennedy in 1961, it's said after his plots against Cuba included a plan to stage incidents in the United States for which the Castro regime would be blamed, in order to prepare the American public for war.
  • After Kennedy was assassinated, Allen Dulles sat on the Warren Commission which many people regard as having suppressed rather than investigating what was known. He sat on what he knew about the CIA-Mafia links in anti-Cuban conspiracies.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

IDF in denial over shelling Gaza beach

GUERNICA. Legend has it a Nazi officer seeing the work in Paris asked the artist "did you do this?"
No, replied Picasso. "YOU did".

Fascist propganda claimed for years that Basques destroyed their own city with landmines. Grmany has apologised to the Basque people.
In February 2003, the Guernica tapestry at the UN was screened off so as not to provide a backdrop when Colin Powell made US case for war with Iraq.

Israeli military blames "landmine" for death of kids

IT has happened. As Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert completes his mission to shore up Western support, the Israeli military has fallen back on an old formula for explaining away the killing of "enemy" civilians.

Ten people, including seven members of one family, three of them children, were killed when Israeli shells hit a beach at Beit Lahiya, on the Gaza coast where families were picnicking and bathing. The atrocity came after artillery barrages pouring hundreds of shells into the Gaza strip.

Demonstrators shouted "murderer" and "terrorist" as Olmert's car left Britain's Houses of Parliament yesterday with a heavy police escort. Armed police were on duty in Whitehall. Earlier Olmert had sought backing from Tony Blair for what the media called "partial withdrawal" - in reality, unilaterally imposing permanent seizure of Palestinian lands.

As Olmert moved on to Paris, an Israeli military inquiry announced that the people killed on the beach had not been killed by them.

Israel blames Hamas for beach deaths
· Military says landmine exploded after shelling
· Palestinians accuse army of trying to protect Olmert
(Guardian, Wednesday 14 June).

An Israeli military investigation has blamed the killing of seven members of a Palestinian family including five children on a Gaza beach, on a landmine planted by Hamas or other buried explosive, not shelling by the army.

But Palestinian leaders described the army's conclusions as a cover-up and a former Pentagon analyst, sent by a US human rights group to investigate the deaths, said the military had ignored evidence that left little doubt the family and an eighth casualty were killed by a stray Israeli shell.

The Palestinians accused the army of rushing to clear itself to save Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, embarrassment as he tours Britain and other European countries to win support for his plan to draw the Jewish state's final borders by annexing part of the West Bank.

Television pictures of 10-year-old Huda Ghalia crying on the beach over the bodies of her dead father, step-mother and five siblings on Friday had threatened to derail Mr Olmert's public relations drive and severely embarrassed the army at home. Mr Olmert initially said he regretted the killings, but in London on Monday he sought to distance Israel from responsibility.

Yesterday the defence minister, Amir Peretz, said a military investigation had ruled out any possibility the army was involved. "The accumulating evidence proves that this incident was not due to Israeli forces," he said.
The military says that it fired six shells on to and around the beach where Huda Ghalia's family died, and one of them fell about 100 yards away, but by coincidence another explosion - probably a mine planted by Hamas or a buried shell - occurred in the same area at the same time. The military backed its claim with analysis of aerial photographs, shrapnel and intelligence that Hamas had mined beaches to stop Israeli forces landing, although it is not known to have used such a tactic before".,,1797065,00.html

Some of my Israeli friends sadly say that what used to be said of Prussia is true of Israel - it is not so much a state with an army, but an army with a state. Having aroused hopes that things might change when he became Labour leader, Amir Peretz has betrayed them, and sold his own working class, by all too quickly learning what is expected of him as a Moroccan boy allowed into the Defence Ministry. He has announced that Israel is launching an international propaganda campaign to counter criticism over attacks like that on the beach at Gaza.

If it is, maybe it could do with something more original to explain away the beach deaths. Landmines? The story is as old as the Nazi bombing of Guernica. It was market day in the old Basque town, April 26 1937. After news reports appeared in London and New York stating whose airplanes had attacked Guernica, and how, in consistent eyewitness reports, the fascists denied the attack, saying that bomb craters had been caused by land mines and the fires by "Red incendiaries."

Then there was the killing of 68 people in a market area of Sarajevo on February 5, 1994, during the Serb nationalist siege and mortar shelling. Seeing the world's horror, Serb propagandists, and some UN officers too claimed "the Muslims" had fired the shells responsible, but they could not all get the story right (Britain's General Sir Michael Rose gave two versions), and some brought remotely-detonated explosives planted beforehand into the tale.

"First General Milan Gvero, still in the uniform of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), claimed that no one had fired on Sarajevo that day. Rather confused, and wearing the same uniform, he claimed that evening that the shells were in fact anti-infantry landmines, and that the Bosnians were killing themselves in order to lay the blame on the Serbs. It turned out the next day that the shells in question were mortar shells. Karadzic's propaganda still clings to the same theory without proof. Without counting the July 25, 1993 attack on UNPROFOR, a similar thing happens every time a mortar or shell kills ten or more people at once. It is always the Bosnians who are shelling their own people in order to lay the blame with the Serbs".
February 14, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 125

The Guardian's report continues:-
According to the head of the Israeli inquiry, Major General Meir Klifi, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals was not shell fragments. "There is no chance that a shell hit this area. Absolutely no chance," he said.

But an expert sent by the New York-based Human Rights Watch to investigate the death of the family has concluded that there is little doubt they were killed by an Israeli shell dropping from the sky.
"All the evidence points to the fact that it couldn't have been a mine," said Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon adviser on battlefields who led the US military's battle damage assessment team in Kosovo and worked for its intelligence wing, the Defense Intelligence Agency. "You have the crater size, the shrapnel, the types of injuries, their location on the bodies. That all points to a shell dropping from the sky, not explosives under the sand," he said.

The army says an eight-minute gap between when the last shell was fired and when the Palestinians were killed means there is no connection. However, there is a dispute over the timings, with the Palestinian ambulance service logging an emergency call just before Israel says it stopped firing shells.

The army also says that aerial pictures of the blast crater show it is more likely to have been made by a mine under the sand than a explosion from above. But after investigating the scene, Mr Garlasco concluded that the army's explanation was deeply flawed. Among the new shrapnel he collected at the scene was a piece stamped with the figures: 155MM.

"The 155mm shell is what Israel uses in the howitzers that regularly shell northern Gaza," he said. "The Israelis have been postulating that it's a land mine. I've been to hospital and seen the injuries. The doctors say they are primarily to the head and torso. That is consistent with a shell exploding above the ground not a mine under it. If it were a mine or kids playing with an old shell you would expect severe leg injuries as well, even legs blown off."

Doctors also said that the shrapnel pulled from the survivors included copper used to case or line shells. Mr Garlasco said the crater where the family was killed closely resembles others scattered the length of the beach caused by Israeli shells. Each is lined with a white power left by the explosion.
"To say you have five or six rounds in an area and coincidentally there's a land mine next to it and it goes off at the same time is asking a lot," said Mr Garlasco.

see also:-
the shrapnel evidence that points to Israel's guilt
By Donald Macintyre
in Beit Lahiya, Gaza
14 June

And while the Israeli Defence Minister was announcing his international campaign, back in Gaza the real Israeli campaign was continuing:
"An Israeli air strike on a busy Gaza City street killed 11 people yesterday, including two young children and their father, after Palestinians who ran to help those wounded by the first missile were caught by the blast from a second rocket.

Nine civilians, including two ambulance men, and two members of Islamic Jihad died. The Israeli military said the missile strike was against a minivan "loaded with Katyushas [rocket launchers]" destined to be fired into Israel.
(Guardian June 14)

And now, let's hear from the Other Israel;

Adam Keller reports:

Demo against IDF Chief Of Staff, Dan Haultz,
in front of his home

June 10, 2006,

The horror on the beach of Gaza once again drove hundreds of us into the streets on short notice. This time we are not facing the closed gates of the Defence Ministry compound but, at the idea of the Anarchists, went after Chief of Staff Dan Halutz at his own home at Tzahala – the affluent Tel-Aviv suburb especially for serving and retired military officers.

Among these neat houses and well-manicured lawns demonstrations are not a usual phenomenon. Certainly no processions of angry mostly young people full of moral indignation, waving militant banners and fists in the air and ceaselessly shouting at the top of their voices: "Dan Halutz, Child Murderer - Get out of the Territories!"; "Peretz, Peretz - After Murder Apology is not Enough!"; "No Mistake Nor Error - Occupation Kills!"; "All Ministers War Criminals!"; Halutz to the Hague, Peretz to the Hague!"; "Blood on your hands, blood on your hands!"; "A brave Minister of Defence drops bombs on children!"; "Pilots rape, and murder too!" (referring to a recent horrific story of sexual abuse at an Air Force base); "Occupation is Terror - the Refuser is the Hero!"; "Gunners and Pilots - Refuse to be Murderers!".

The flustered police were mainly concerned to stop this tide short of the chief general's home. Their cordon managed to block the procession two streets before the target, in the midst of a well-appointed playground, equiped with everything needed for the hours of happy play which is the due of all children. This setting made all the more poignant the spreading of colour photos of the torn and bleeding children, yesterday there in Gaza.

"Peretz, Halutz, hey hey hey, How many kids did you kill today" went on the chant again and again. "Ooops, another light blow on the wing" read a banner, referring to what Halutz had said following an earlier day of bloodshed in Gaza. The well-known Gush Shalom two-flag round signs also made their appearance. A merry-go-round became a highly improvised podium for the recently elected Hadash Knesset Member Dov Hanin, veteran human rights lawyer and environmental activist:

"We are all dazed and shocked about something which was in fact highly predictable. The writing was on the wall all the time! When you constantly shoot artillery shells into the most densely populated area in the world, sooner or later you are going to hit somebody. And this is not the first time, either! What happened yesterday is not just a military matter. It is a political matter. It has everything to do with what Olmert is saying and doing: Not caring about the Palestinian referendum, dismissing out of hand the Palestinian Prisoners' Document which is to be voted on in that referendum, not wanting to hold any negotiations with the Palestinians, ignoring any chance to have such negotations, actively torpedoing any such chance when it shows its face... What we must demand is very simple: make an all out effort to reach cease-fire with the Palestinians. No artillery shells, no Qassam rockets, no killing on either side, no hostile act of any kind. An immediate cease-fire on the way to full-scale negotations! (Applause).

Following the speech the demonstrators backed out of the playground. Daring young activists led a procession through the streets. At the corner of the IDF Street and the Strategists' Street - a confrontation with police blocking the way and shouting demonstrators spilling over into side. For unclear reasons the police picked on Uri Weltmann, and dragged him away with far more than the "reasonable force" which the law prescribes.

But they did not have enough manpower to break up the entire procession. After some more turning back and forth and some playing of cat and mouth in the neat side streets, the police was outwitted and the demonstrators streamed at last into Halutz's street. We got as close as two houses away from his home, and though many people were weary, the calls "War criminal! "War criminal!" were audible to a much greater distance.

It was about this time that a journalist present discovered the identity of a young black-haired woman, who had made no effort to draw attention to herself: Dana Olmert, the Prime Minister's daughter and a long-time refuser and peace activist. She would have preferred to demonstrate as herself rather than her father's daughter.

The media had other preferences, Yediot Aharonot placing her photo on its front page with the caption "Demonstrating against Papa". But… the sign she was carrying got into the front page, too: "Stop Murdering Civilians!"

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