Sunday, December 31, 2006

To round off the year in holiday mood, another Quiz

EAST ENDER WITH WEST HAM AND ENGLAND'S BOBBY MOORE. See Anniversaries question 9. (pic from TGWU Record)

These things also happened in 2006:

1) Which MP surprised supporters by announcing he would be absent from the House of Commons, and might face his last election, in January; and was ousted from the House a few weeks later?.

2) "Never have so many owed so much ..." Brits are the most indebted people in Europe. , and many families come under strain from the cost of debts and mortgage. But who announced in March that she was separating from her husband after reports on how he had repaid a mortgage on their north London home?

3) On April 6 a jury at St.Pancras Coroner's Court returned a verdict of unlawful killing on the death three years earlier of Welsh news cameraman James Miller, saying he had been murdered. By whom?

4) Which political party lost 200 seats in local council elections on May 4, and come third in vote totals?

5) On May 7, what happened for the last time in 93 years at Gillespie Rd., North London?

6) Which conflict thirty years ago apparently remains controversial enough for leaflets advertising a commemorative event in September to be banned from the London Borough of Brent's public libraries?

7) In October Chancellor Gordon Brown announced public sector pay restraint to 2 per cent, though some government employees required a bigger rise to bring them up to the legal minimum wage. At the other end, which public employees have put in for a 66 per cent increase?

8) When I saw the slogan "Keep Britain Working With Labour" on my union hq back in May, I thought it might be referring to the Blair government resisting ithe EU working hours directive. But what change announced in the Queen's Speech in November gives it an added meaning?

9) Who issued a press statement in December assuring us his staff had co-operated fully in handing over e-mails and documents to police investigating honours scandals?

10) What investigation was cancelled, supposedly because it would be difficult to get a conviction, but also because it harm Britain's diplomatic and national security interests?


1) What event, involving James Connoly, Padraig Pearse and Constance Markiewicz, among others, had its 90th anniversaty in April 2006?

2) What officially lasted nine days, and had its 80th anniversary in May?

3) How did a flight from Croydon airport to pick up a passenger from the Canary Islands help spark off a major conflict with international involvment, in July 1936?

4) What 60th anniversary was commemorated by former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians on 20 July, 2006?

5) Writer and journalist Peter Fryer died this Autumn. He had written on subjects including Black history, censorship, jazz and birth control; but his coverage of what events fifty years ago led to him quitting the Daily Worker, and being honoured by a foreign government fifty years later?

6) What was Operation Musketeer, whose 50th anniversary was marked in 2006?

7) What major strike in 1966 did Prime Minister Harold Wilson, relying on MI5 advice, blame on "a tightly-knit group of politically motivated men" ?

8) Where is Tel al Zataar, the hill of thyme? Who were besieged there in the summer of 1976, and by what forces?

9) England had its one World Cup triumph so far in 1966, beating Germany 4-2. in the final. Sadly, England captain, West Ham's Bobby Moore, on the right in our photograph above, died in 1993. But the man with him in our picture, one-time cabbie turned travel agent Aubrey Morris, returned to his roots in London's East End in October 2006, to commemorate another famous victory, 70 years before. What was that?

10) Finally, and leading to our next round, who was Pickles, and how did he become famous in 1966?

Animal ...

1) Who were the Tamworth Two, who escaped in 1998 but were recaptured after a week?

2) What are Holsteins and Friesians and how could you tell them apart?

3) What creatures provide the material for an industry which began in China, spread to Europe, and was brought by French refugees to Spitallfields in London, and Macclesfield in Cheshire?

4) Who were Mick the Miller and Master McGrath?

5) What unusual visitor became stranded in London almost a year ago, and died on January 21, 2006, despite rescue attempts?


1) When it was King, its realm included the American South and Egypt, but its capital was in Manchester. What?

2) Where could you have found the 'Rhubarb Triangle'?

3) For the growing of what crop has Ormskirk, in west Lancashire, long been an important centre ?

4) What plant contributes to Irish linen, the decorating trade, and cricket?

5) Trading and speculation in what commodity from 1634-7, in Holland, ended in a market crash, and inspired a novel by Alexandre Dumas?

WE HAD A MINERAL ROUND IN THE LAST QUIZ, so moving on, can you recognise these

True Colours

1) The surname of Richmal Crompton's William.

2) This Earl was a Foreign Secretary with a taste in tea.

3) Nichols had five pennies, Adair put out oilfield fires.

4) Captain Jack joined Irish Citizen Army, and Anarchists in Spain.

5) He gave up Canada to become a Lord, but in America he's charged with fraud.

By any other name....

By what other names did the following people become better-known?

1) Margarita Carmen Cansino (b.1918, Brooklyn, New York)

2) Betty Joan Perske (b.1924, New York city)

3) Norma Deloris Egstrom (b,1920, Jamestown, N.Dakota)

4) Lilian Alice Marks (b.1910, Finsbury Park, N.London)

5) Edris Stannus (b.1898, Baltiboys, Co.Wicklow)

6) Bernard Schwartz (b.1925, Bronx, NY)

7) Thomas Hicks (b.1936, Bermondsey, S.E. London)

8) Maurice Joseph Micklewhite (b.1933, Rotherhithe, SE London)

9) Elaine Bookbinder (b.1946, Salford, Lancs)

10) Robert Davies (b.1945, Birmingham)

11) Mary Ann Evans (b.1819, near Nuneaton, Warwickshire)

12) Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski, (b.1857, Berdichev, Ukraine)

13) Sholem Yakov Rabinovitsh (b.1859, near Kiev, Ukraine)

14) Ján Ludvík Hoch, (b, 1923, Slatinsky Doly, then part of Czechoslovakia)

15) Edson Arentes do Nascimento (b.1940, Três Corações, Brazil)


Charlie Pottins


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

After the Rapture; Video game Crusaders

IMAGINE the headlines. The sensational news. Muslims use video war game to brainwash youngsters that non-believers must be killed.
It would be front-page news. There would be demands to ban the offending game and arrest those purveying it. Mr.Blair and his ministers would call upon moderate Muslims to dissassociate themselves from those preaching holy war.
There would be an outcry against whichever rogue state was permitting the production and export of the offensive item.

Have no fear. I've not heard of any video game like the one described. Except. that is, there is one - but it's a Christian war game, produced in the United States and approved by evangelical Christians. Marketing has not been confined to militaria geeks in obscure right-wing magazines, it was in the big stores ready for Christmas.

"Last year superstore chain Wal-Mart enraged religious conservatives by instructing employees to wish customers 'Happy Holidays.' Well, ’tis the season to be jolly — Wal-Mart switched back to 'Merry Christmas' and now Christian conservatives are happy. This year it is liberals who are protesting — over Wal-Mart’s decision to stock on its shelves the Evangelical video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

"Based on the best-selling 'Left Behind' books, the game’s plotline begins after the Rapture, in that den of sin known as New York City. The player is a member of the newly faithful who must convert or kill evil nonbelievers who are led by the leader of a United Nations-like organization, who, by the way, also happens to be the anti-Christ. Some of the religious conservatives who fought in the front lines in the war on the 'War on Christmas' are commending the sale of the game as educational and wholesome — despite often being the first to condemn 'dangerous' violent video games. 'Eternal Forces is the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior,' declared, an entertainment Web site run by Focus on the Family, a prominent right-wing Christian organization".
Merry Christmas, Now Die, Jewish Daily Forward, Fri. Dec 22, 2006

Besides getting it out to the stores, it seems the producers were rushing a million copies of the game to Churches on their mailing list. "Aimed at 13 to 34-year-old males, it casts the player as a director of God's Earthly militia, left behind in the Rapture to roam the streets of New York, battling Satan's minions and shooting unbelievers". (The Register, ref. below)

The sellers are trying to dispel criticism by claiming their game does not mention the word "Christian" (some Christians might say just as well) and that other people can enjoy it. Sure I suppose some Native American kids could play with a game about shooting Redskins and for all I know some Jews might not have objected to a German game about killing Jews. But most people did object. Anyway, we all know God's Own Country is America, and the game shows the UN as the anti-Christ, which suits both god-squaders and backwoods militia freaks.

Being no theologian, I had to look up the special religious use of the word "Rapture". It apparently refers to the Apocalyptic events when born-again Christians will be raised up to join Jesus in Heaven, while those of us who have not taken out this insurance will be despatched to nether regions. Seems in the game, as in some theology, this is not left to the Almighty.

It may not sound like Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild, or much to do with Seasonal Peace and Goodwill to All Men, but I expect it sells or Wal-Mart would not be stocking it. Mind you, some people who are into games rather than god's militia say it is "crap" and won't make the arcades.

Some versions of the apocalyptic vision which paralleled the rise of the neo-cons, emerging during the Reagan years and again under Bush, envisage a nuclear Holocaust beginning in the Middle East to speed the ascent of the righteous and destruction of non-believers. Israeli Zionists, welcoming fanatical support and big investment from Evangelical Christian fundamentalists, turn a blind eye to the fate cast for them if they don't take advantage of the last-chance conversion offer.

And you thought only Ahmadinejad was meshugge? America not only has more than enough Bombs to destroy the world but too many people prepared to use them. Whereas this is only a game....

Apparently if you are so minded you can download a beta version of the game. I'd resist the temptation. According to one report the game is full of hidden extras. "Watchers of right-wing Christian groups in the States say a new apocalyptic videogame released by cultish Revelations-based fiction series Left Behind is riddled with spyware. Developers have incorporated software from an Israeli firm called Double Fusion. It incorporates video advertising and product placement into the game, and reportedly records players' behaviour, location, and other data to be uploaded to Left Behind's Bible-powered marketing machine."

Maybe with US forces not doing so well outside the virtual games, and talk of a "surge" of troops being needed, the spyware can also be adopted to assist in fast-tracking draft papers for the war game adepts.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Spectres at the Feast?

Just human beings asking to be recognised and paid a decent wage


AS City finance handed out record bonuses before Christmas, low-paid workers who perform essential services were campaigning for a living wage. Five cleaners from the City and Canary Wharf, members of my union the T&G, took up a hunger strike outside RBS - Royal Bank of Scotland, which has made huge profits and can sponsor major sporting events, but like other companies and public bodies puts its cleaning out to low-wage contractors.

"For 16 months we have been part of the struggle for a living wage for cleaners across the capital. Cleaners work so hard but for very little in return; often no sick pay and no basic holiday pay and many companies will not work with the cleaners and our Union to help us overcome this poverty.

"This week one of the major banks cleaned by our brothers and sisters-RBS – announced £9 Billion in profits. They can afford to treat their cleaners with dignity but do not. And they employ a contract cleaning company, Lancaster who has refused to recognize our Union or work with us to achieve a living wage for cleaners. "

I see the Rail, Maritime and Transport union RMT which organises workers on the London Underground is also taking up the cleaners' fight. My fellow-blogger Janine Booth, an RMT branch secretary in east London, provides a video about her union's demonstration for the cleaners outside Metronet headquarters,
and on a seasonal note the cleaners' topical carol:-

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my boss should give to me ...
an annual pay increase
a shorter working week
a decent pension scheme
twenty eight days leave
full employment rights
free travel pass
proper safety wear
respect and equality
a fair sick-pay scheme
clean changing rooms
unsocial pay
and at least seven pounds and 5p

To bring us up to date, a tube worker reader of Janine's blog says there's action coming up in the New Year, with a lobby of London's mayor:-

Support the Cleaners!
Lobby Ken Livingstone to support Rail and Tube cleaners
Stop ISS TubeLines cutting cleaners by 20%
Sack the contractors not the cleaners
Support RMT's Cleaners' Charter

Monday 8th January 10am, at the Mayor's office, The Queen's Walk, London SE1 2AA - nearest station London Bridge, leave by Tooley Street exit, Lobby Ken Livingstone to support Rail and Tube cleaners.

Which reminds me....

That bit about cutting cleaners might have us worried, as tube users, not just trade unionists. Back in the 1980s some clever dick on London Transport decided they could save money by cutting routine cleaning jobs. On 20 November, 1987 an accumulation of grease, fluff, and litter caught fire under an escalator belt at Kings Cross station, and 31 people lost their lives in the conflagration.

The inquiry decided the fire was probably caused by someone dropping a lighted match (though where you have moving machinery generating friction and heat, and inflammable materials nearby, a match need not be necessary - you have tinder box.) Smoking has been banned, wooden escalators replaced by metal, and fire safety provision and training improved. All the same....

Mayor Ken Livingstone is no longer "red", nor much of a friend to rail unions - it has not been forgotten how he called on workers to cross picket lines - but with the Kings Cross disaster anniversary coming up next year, maybe someone should remind him - we want decent pay and conditions for all the workers on our transport system, and decent and safe conditions for all the workers using it.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Little Quiz for the Holiday

Maurice Man
Ben Uri Collection
IT has been a bloody, awful year, with Israel's wars on Gaza and Lebanon, the escalating slaughter in "liberated" (occupied) Iraq, the resumption of Sudanese government-backed killing in Darfur, and savage sectarian terror attacks in south Asia.
Tony Blair has returned empty-handed from his Middle East "peace" mission, having sown more strife, and done nothing for Britain's abysmal image under his premiership. The Middle East deserves peace with justice. The British, US and Israeli govenments deserve no peace until their leaders are brought to justice.
No doubt those good God-fearing leaders George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair will be taking time from ordering more massively-destructive bombs to say a prayer and talk about "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men". If I believed in prayer I'd hope they choked on their turkey and Christmas Pud.
But seeing as my readers, by contrast, deserve a Winter break whatever their beliefs or non-belief, I thought I'd lighten up a little in offering, with my Goodwill, this quiz to pass your time:


1) Which US preacher had to step aside from a projected 125 acre evangelical Christian theme park near the Sea of Galilee, after announcing that assassinated Israeli premier Rabin and stricken Ariel Sharon had been punished by the Almighty for relinquishing occupied territory? (clue: he also called for Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to be assassinated).

2) Which British MP confessed to the News of the World that he'd had both hetero and gay affairs and used a gay chatline; and which political campaigner magnanimously commented "let bygones be bygones"?

3) Who said of her home town, Erith in Kent, "It's not twinned with anywhere, but it has got a suicide pact with Dagenham" ?

4) Who evidently mistook his judge friend for a quail, while out shooting in February; but went on to score no less than eight standing ovations when addressing the March conference of US Zionist lobby AIPAC, though he only rated 20 per cent approval in US opinion polls?

5) "I used to be a Communist", he has said, "I used to believe in Santa Claus". Once the guest of Radovan Karadzic, he came Home to a new job in May, but who is he?

6) A man was shot during an "intelligence"-led police raid on a home in Forest Gate, east London, in June. Despite thorough searching no terror materials were found. With no national news coverage, two men were arrested in Lancashire in September after police found a record haul of explosive chemicals at a home in Colne. For which political party had one of the arrested men been a candidate?

7) How did Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's 's daughter Dana make news front-pages in her own right last June?

8) Who, from where, got held up with Teddy the bear and a Martian by "the Devil" at Ben Gurion airport, in July?

9) What "Pixie" (not Noddy, but supposedly bravehearted in his passion) had to apologise for giving an antisemitic rant when he was stopped for drunken driving?

10) Which politician founded a new party called Solidarity after winning £200,000 damages against the News of the World this Summer; but has this month faced union protests in solidarity with parliamentary staff he refused to pay?

11) Which notorious Duke was among the guests at a conference hosted in Tehran in December?

12) What job is to be advertised this coming week after Eliza Manningham-Buller announced she was quitting early?

True or False? Relatively speaking

1) Actress Angela Lansbury's grandfather was once sent to prison.

2) Lauren Bacall is a cousin of veteran Israeli minister Shimon Peres.

3) Elsa Lanchester, who starred in Bride of Frankenstein, was daughter of a Midlands motor car manufacturer.

4) Actor Albert Finney was born in Preston, Lancs, the son of Preston North End soccer legend Tom Finney.

5) Jamaica's first Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamente and later prime minister Michael Manley were cousins. (Take care with this one)

Who lived there?

Which famous people once lived at these addresses?
1) Hughenden manor, near High Wycombe.
2) Mentmore towers, Buckinghamshire.
3) Savehay farm, Denham, Bucks
4) Ayot St.Lawrence, Herts
5) 45 Cranley Avenue, Ruislip
6) 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam

What do they make at...?

For what particular products have the following English towns been traditionally known:
1)Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire?
2) High Wycombe, Bucks?
3) Willenhall, Staffs
4) Witney, Oxfordshire
5) Kidderminster, Worcs
6) Keswick, Cumbria
7) Pontefract, Yorkshire
8) Honiton, Devon

Out of the Ground

Delving deeper, what mineral products have been obtained at these places:-

1) Whitby, in Yorkshire.
2) St.Austell, in Cornwall.
3) Blaenau Ffestiniog, in N.Wales.
4) Castleton, in Derbyshire.
5) Egremont, in Cumbria
6) East Leake, Nottinghamshire
7) Portland, Dorset
8) Wytch Farm, in Dorset
9) Alva, in Clackmannon, Scotland.

What famous persons made the following statements, in the years in parenthesis:

(1948) "We are nationalised now, but the same engines still work the Region. I am glad too, to tell you that the Fat Director, who understands our friends' way, is still in charge, but is now the Fat Controller".

(1956) "We are not ar war with Egypt. We are in armed conflict".

(1957) "If you carry this resolution will send a Foreign Secretary, whoever he was, naked into the conference chamber".

(1979) "The nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons..."

(no date, but born 1966) "I am very mistrustful of people who are constantly overintellectualising things. It kills passion. You have to allow yourself to lose control from time to time."

Yuletide knowledge

"FANCY them making such a fuss over some Yiddishe fellow's birthday!", marvelled Mum. With a drink and some good grub I'm all for it. But leaving religion aside, what do we know about this festival's traditional ingrediants and their international origins?

1) "Good King Wenceslas", sing the carollers. But where was he king, and became patron saint?

2) 'Twas the night before Christmas...", originally titled "A visit from St.Nicholas"; but where, and of what nationality, was St.Nicholas born?

3) Rudolf was a red-nosed one, according to the song. But how are they related to North American caribou?

4) We know the sprouts were first grown around Brussels, but who first ate the bird that English-speakers call turkey?

5) Your children may be hoping Santa Klaus will fetch their gifts tonight, but from whom do Spanish children hope for their presents on January 5?

On which note, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, and Froehliche Weihnachten, and while I'm at it:

Ideh Saiden wa Sanah Jadidah!

(all answers will be given in the fulness of time and the New Year)


Saturday, December 23, 2006

While in Royal David's City

(try clicking on pic to activate. It worked for me!)

AS most people around me are rushing around getting ready for the midwinter festival called Christmas, a word from the place where it is all supposed to have started.

An independent school in Bethlehem has issued a worldwide appeal after hearing the news that part of their building is going to be demolished by the Israeli 'security wall' being constructed around the town.

Based in the Al Khader district of "Royal David's City", the Hope Flowers School is internationally renowned for its approach to peace and democracy education. Co-director Ibrahim Issa said: "The building of the wall near the school has started. Despite almost eight years of legal protest the school cafeteria has received a demolition order from the Israeli army."

The school is continuing its work: "Our peace programme continues. Last month we organised two interfaith conferences with the Israeli Interfaith Encounter Association from Jerusalem. It is vitally important to keep peace education going".

Because funds to the Palestinian government have been withheld by the US and EU governments, and Palestinian revenues have been seized by Israel, many neighbouring schools have closed.

In a Christmas email message to supporters Mr Issa said: "The school needs your support, like never before. The school is a beacon of light within a harsh reality. Today the 'Little town of Bethlehem' is imprisoned behind a giant concrete wall and a winding electronic fence. Huge Israeli checkpoints surround the area completely restricting the freedom of movement for Palestinians, preventing them from reaching the outside world, from gainful employment, from their agricultural lands, from pursuing higher education, from adequate medical treatment or worshipping where they choose."

Pam Perry, co-director of Jerusalem Peacemakers UK, whose
movement supports Hope Flowers School, said: "The situation is heartbreaking, more than half the children are malnourished. The plight of the West Bank is totally unacceptable. Please support Hope Flowers by writing to or emailing your local MP.” To make a donation, click on "How to Help" on the website at:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor are making a pi;grimage to Bethlehem this Christmas and have urged other Christians to visit Bethlehem

Meanwhile, a small group of friends from varied backgrounds raised their voices in London before being moved on by the powers that be. (See previous blog, A Maccabee puts Meaning back in Christmas! )

Over to singer Debbie Fink who was at Euston station on Thursday evening:

Dear all,

Thank you to those who came carol singing (some for the 2nd time) and thanks to Lizzie for bringing ‘Raised voices’ ! Thanks also to Gill’s husband Salaam, for making a special journey to drop off and pick up the placards. I thought today went well and it was a good time to catch commuters.

For the first time ever, we ‘raised’ money for this without asking/having a collecting box! Apparently, £8 was put in the leaflet box! I don’t know why we don’t actually have proper collecting boxes? We’d need permission, but we perhaps wouldn’t tell authorities in advance what the words of the carols are!

For those who weren’t there, the station manager asked us to move – he’d had complaints.......We did put up a fight as this was about free speech and some of them sang the protest song ‘international’ (I think that’s what it’s called....). I asked him to show us in writing what grounds he had to move us on – we were only singing - and why he’d not done anything about the drunks. Then, the police came out and told us we had offended people who had accused us of being racist. I explained that they are offended because they are in denial about what Israel is doing, whereas some of us (5) are also Jewish (and
Israeli), and offended by what Israel is doing.

At times like this, it is very useful to have Jews singing carols! After
that, half of the choir went home and the few of us left, sang to the bus queue –Thanks again and Merry Xmas, Chanukah and Happy New Year!


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Maccabee puts Meaning back in Christmas!

AT this time, when Tory newspapers are trying to make the Season of Goodwill a time for yet more hatred, by claiming that "They" (anti-racists, lefties and non-Christian minorities) are threatening "Our" Christmas; poor people are desperately trying to keep up with the exhortations to spend, spend, spend; the homeless are still seeking room at the Inn; and the casualty wards are gearing up for their busiest time....

Let us praise some people who are not only putting meaning back in Christmas by seeking Peace on Earth, but drawing attention to what is happening right now in the place where it is all supposed to have started.

You may not see them on television, but you might have heard them beneath the tree in London's Trafalgar Square some years back, and more recently around the statue of Edith Cavell. Tomorrow evening, December 21, you can catch them at Euston Station, singing what sounds at first like traditional carols, but with a difference. For instance....

O come all ye faithful,
All who care for justice,
O look ye, O look ye at Bethlehem.
Come and behold it
Under occupation.
O come, let's not ignore it,
O come, let's not ignore it,
O come, let's not ignore it,
Tell the world.

Sing, all ye people,
Sing in indignation,
Be with the citizens of Bethlehem.
Sing out for justice,
Freedom from oppression.
O come, let's not ignore it,
O come, let's not ignore it,
O come, let's not ignore it,
Tell the world.

Once in royal David's city
Stood a big apartheid wall;
People entering and leaving
Had to pass a checkpoint hall.
Bethlehem was strangulated,
And her children segregated.
Though this city is a symbol
To the world of peace and love,
Concrete walls have closed around her,
Settlements expand above.
And apartheid Israel stands
All around on stolen lands.
David's people once instructed
All the world in righteousness;
Once they spoke of truth and justice;
Now they ravage and oppress.
Nations, look at Bethlehem
And speak out the truth to them.

Hark, the herald angels sing,
"Look what's really happening,
While you sing of peace on earth,
Eat and drink with festive mirth.
Nations, open up your eyes,
Stop the silence and the lies,
And throughout the world proclaim:
There's a Wall round Bethlehem!"

Hark the herald angels sing:
"Look what's really happening!"
Symbol of our lack of peace,
Symbol that our woes increase,
Symbol of the hate and fear
Filling places far and near.
If peace comes to Bethlehem,
It will radiate to them;
Nations, join with us to call
For the downfall of the Wall!
Hark the herald angels sing:
"Look what's really happening!"(repeat first verse)

The singers at Euston will include members of Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians (Opera singer Debbie Fink should be in fine voice), but the honours for initiating this fine new tradition belong to another mainly Jewish group, Just Peace UK, and particularly to amateur song-writer Deborah Maccoby, who penned these carols. I hope Deborah won't mind me giving her this publicity.

The Zionists have already been trying to get Deborah victimised from her job, and those upholders of cultural freedom at "Engage" get enraged all year round about these "Christmas carols"; but one other person has launched a bitter attack on Deborah Maccoby, after she dared to criticise him (blasphemy!).

More Balmy Gilead

Israeli sax player and self-appointed scourge of left-wing Jews Gilead Atzmon uses the online magazine Palestine Chronicle this week not to attack what Israeli forces are doing in Bethlehem, or proclaim goodwill to all men and women campaigning for peace with justice, but to denounce Deborah, whom he calls "professional goy critic Maccoby". It seems that, replying to his earlier attack in "The Protocols of the Elders of London", she took issue with his treatment of Jews as Christ-killers. Atzmon says:-

"Again the question I would like to raise is how come a Jew like yourself is so concerned with the association with Christ killers. Why Italians aren't that concerned with very similar accusations? At the end of the day, it was their Roman ancestors who made the crime. The reason is simple. While Italians developed an ethical thinking, your resemblance to the murderous great priest is shockingly apparent. It is something you try to push under the carpet. You know so well that you are a modern day Christ killer".

Maybe if there was a history of pogroms in which priest-led mobs inflamed by the Christ passion and too much vodka descended on Italian communities, burning homes and murdering entire families, then people of Italian origin would get a little sensitive now and then about the crucifixion story, and scholars would even spend time trying to prove the Romans were innocent.

But Atzmon, perhaps still a bit hazy about religion in his new milieu as he is about history, warms to the idea that Jews like Mark Elf and Deborah Maccoby who have criticised him or replied to his attacks are really attacking Christianity. "Living in London surrounded by Christmas decorations and millions of Christmas shoppers must make some tribal secular Jewish activists feel alienated. While the religious Jews have Hanukah, a Jewish alternative holiday of lights, the Tribal secular Jew has no collective bond rather than anxiety. At Christmastime Elf and Maccoby are apparently threatened by Christ the ordinary human being (rather than a Son of God). I can't wait and see what kind of fears they may bring up at Easter".

I've no doubt some of the friends who were trying my home-made latkes at the Jewish Socialists' Group secular Hanukah party last weekend (the theme was anti-occupation. Oh there we go, stealing what Atzmon think is solely religious property!) will also be singing Deborah Maccoby's alternative carols tomorrow night. When the event was held in Trafalgar Square first time (with PLO envoy Afif Safieh and family as guests of honour) there were not just singers but several musicians with an odd but pleasing array of instruments.

Had we not got to know his views I expect people would have happily welcomed a certain accomplished saxophone player. As it is, detecting a certain identity wish in his Palestine Chronicle article, I might turn up with my hammer and nails if I thought Gilead Atzmon was coming.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Mysterious Mr.Mughrabi

THIS is the mystery figure involved in the 1994 London bombings, for which two Palestinians, both claiming innocence, are half-way through a 20 year sentence. The portraits are of
RIDA MUGHRABI, as described separately by Jawad Botmeh(version on left) and Samar Alami (version on right). Close enough to be the same man. But police were not interested.

SAMAR Alami met Rida Mughrabi in the spring of 1992, at a lecture in London on the Middle East. He also attended various political discussions and poetry readings at the Arab Club in London.

Apparently Mughrabi was from the West Bank. He had been detained by the Israelis in the late 1970s, had taught at a refugee camp in Jordan and had been involved in fighting Israeli forces in occupied southern Lebanon during the 1982 war. Samar, and then Jawad, were impressed by his seeming experience and knowledge of resistance.

Samar and Jawed had mixed feelings about the "peace process" which the 1993 Oslo Accords were supposed to open up, promising Palestinian "self-government". Samar had hopes of using her studies on Water Resources, a vital issue in the region. Jawed started a business to send high-tech products for development in the West Bank. But fearing to place too much hope in the Oslo deal, they had also secretly experimented amateurishly with home-made explosive devices, and use of radio-controlled model planes, seeking a modern equivalent of David's slingshot which Palestinian villagers might be able to use against the heavily-armed Israeli Goliath.

They wanted to keep this their secret. But in 1993 Mughrabi began discussing methods of resistance open to Palestinians inside the Occupied Territories. He knew a lot about electric and electronic aspects of military surveillance. He seemed to have direct experience in the field during the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon. Indeed, Mughrabi told Samar that he had been doing some experimenting of his own and what he was giving her was the product. She thought that he had actually been performing his experiments for the same reasons as she and Jawad had e.g. directed at what could be done inside the Occupied Territories. (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, with which Samar and Jawad sympathised, had decided decades before to carry out no more operations in overseas countries).

Later, piecing together what he told them, it seemed Mughrabi had left Lebanon in the early 1980s after falling out with the PLO and with Arafat's opponents, and then came to Britain via Cyprus. In the mid-1980s he moved to Saudi Arabia, then Kuwait, but when Iraq invaded he returned to Britain and went to live in Birmingham.

Jawad Botmeh had a hobby. He had started buying and selling cars while still an engineering student. Friends and acquaintances often sought his advice. So he was not surprised when Rida Mughrabi contacted him on June 14, asking Jawad to come with him to a car auction. They had been on such trips before. They drove up to Northampton together later that day, but did not find anything worth buying for the £1,000 that Mughrabi had to spend.

The following day they went to an auction in Milton Keynes, and this was where Mughrabi bought an Audi. This was to be the car used in the Israeli embassy bombing, though by then it was equipped with fake number plates. The car used in the Balfour House bombing was a Triumph Acclaim, also with false plates, but traced back to an auction in Birmingham on June 13, where it was bought by a man calling himself "George Davis".

Jawad Botmen had not been at the Birmingham auction, nor had Rida Mughrabi said anything to him about having bought another car. But when police started enquiring about those car auctions they became interested in a distinctive old white BMW seen at the auction in Milton Keynes. Trawling though the owners of old white BMWs they came up with Jawad Botmeh. In fact while driving up to Northampton with Mughrabi on June 14, Jawad had overtaken a police car, and was stopped on the M1 for speeding, having to show his licence. Evidently he was not being as careful to avoid attention as someone might have been who knew the significance of what seemed a casual car-shopping trip.

The fingerprints and handwriting on the purchase documents of both cars, and the descriptions of the purchasers as given by witnesses, match none of the defendants. There is no trace of the people who bought the cars and neither is it known where they were stored and made into car bombs.

But Jawad had been at the wrong place with the wrong person. He was put under sustained police surveillance from September 1994, at least, onwards and then arrested at home in January 1995 in a dawn police raid. On January 17 police acting under the Prevention of Terrorism Act raided the homes of four other people of Palestinian origin who had been observed to be his 'associates'. Their homes were searched without any legal representatives being present. One of his friends was also arrested by the army while she was on holiday in Israel. Those arrested in Britain included Jawad's friend Samar Alami, his friend and business partner Mahmoud Abu-Wardeh and Mrs Nadia Zekra whom he only knew slightly because he sometimes used to play football with her son.

Jawad and Nadia were charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in the United Kingdom. They were detained as 'Category A'prisoners, imprisoned in London at Belmarsh and Holloway respectively. The others, including Samar and Mahmoud, were released without charge and allowed to go home.
Successive police swoops over the next few months concentrated on the same group of people. Samar's sister and Jawad's wife Elizabeth were among those arrested. Jawad's friend who had been detained in Israel was arrested when she returned to Britain, she was detained until the next day but then released without charge.

In March 1995 Samar was arrested again by the Anti-Terrorist Branch, in a 7.00am raid. She too was charged with being involved in the conspiracy and was remanded in custody at Holloway prison, where she met Nadia for the first time. Samar's sister was also arrested, but later released without charge, and their shared family home was again searched by the police without anyone being present.

Samar was released on bail a couple of months later in May. More than fifty letters were written in support of her bail application and the judge granting it said that he had never seen such serious and significant tributes to any single individual. Nadia was also released on bail in May.

But then, in June, Samar was arrested again after the police investigated a small locker unit at Nationwide Storage in west London. This locker contained a small quantity of TATP explosive powder, a little more made into two tiny basic explosive devices, two guns, some chemicals, timers, electronic circuitry, an aerial, some political books and magazines and various other items. The three timers were linked to an order of six bought under a false name in May/June 1994 and as the judge confirmed, "There is absolutely nothing to connect any of these defendants with the purchase of the timers."

Once again, Rida Mughrabi was involved. He had met Samar in central London one afternoon, at the end of June 1994, and given her some boxes. He said that he no longer needed the products of his experiments because he was leaving England. Samar felt uncomfortable, and unsure what to do, did not feel she could say no and so she accepted them. "I guess I was a bit naive." she said at the trial, "I never felt threatened by Rida Mughrabi. I didn't take nearly enough precautions."

Samar and Jawad used a little of the TATP Mughrabi gave them to make up two little 'bomblets' on 15 July. But Samar was about to join her parents in France on holiday two days later and she and Jawad did not have time to try them out before she went, so she rented the locker on 16 July to store them safely. When the bomblets were discovered by the police they were not in any state to have ever gone off and the two metal rods stuck into the TATP had corroded and were useless.

Samar had returned to Britain after that holiday in France, just as she also returned from her trip to Lebanon later in the year to carry out some research for her MSc thesis. She made no attempts to escape from Britain, despite having every opportunity to do so -- hardly the actions of a guilty person.

The chemicals in the locker turned out to have been part of a much larger order collected from Hays Chemicals in Birmingham in June 1994 by someone giving the name 'G Davis' - more or less the same name used in the car purchase. The contents of this locker unit became a major part of the prosecution case despite the fact that nothing in the locker has ever been connected with the Israeli Embassy or Balfour House explosions. The explosive used in the bombings has never been identified, but both British and Israeli government scientists ruled out TATP, which experts say is not suitable for car bombs.

Jawas and Samar had been reluctant to talk about their experiments or involvement with explosives. Even if they got off they feared being deported, and becoming marked targets for the Israeli But once they came to realise they had been set up, named Rida Mughrabi, and talked about his involvement they found the authorities were not interested. The police did not even ask for a detailed description. It was left to their solicitor, Gareth Pierce, to arrange for a portrait to be compiled. When it was, after Samar and Jawad had each been in separate prisons for over a year since the trial, their descriptions ennabled the sketch artist to draw two faces, similar enough to be the same man, who was clearly involved in the bombings.

As lawyer Daniel Guedella comments in his pamphlet "Justice Denied", "The police admit that the case is not 'solved', that the actual bombers have not been caught. So it is odd, to say the least, that they have so little interest in Rida Mughrabi".

Could it be that they were told not to follow up this trail for fear of where it leads? Perhaps by whoever had decided to do nothing with the information which the intelligence services had before the bombings took place? We don't know. But whatever the bigger picture, it looks like those in power would sooner keep two most likely innocent people in prison than pursue the real culprits, or the truth, which may be "undiplomatic". Those happy to refer to Jawad and Samar as "the embassy bombers" and retail lies about them being "linked with Hizbollah" are helping in the conspiracy.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Justice Denied: Ten years inside, the "bombers" who never were.

HAPPIER DAYS. Samar Alami on graduation (right), and Jawad Botmeh (below). Sentenced to 20 years on circumstantial evidence in December 1996.
Despite appeals and petitions they remain imprisoned, Despite being caught out lying, the security services continue suppressing evidence.

LAST week saw the tenth anniversary pass by of the imprisonment of two Palestinians on "conspiracy" charges arising from the bombing of the Israeli embassy in London on July 26, 1994 and of the Zionist Federation's Balfour House headquarters, in Finchley, north London, some twelve hours later.

Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh have both denied involvment in either of the bombings, and in fact neither of them were caught near the targetted premises, nor did any forensic evidence link them with the explosions.
Hence the charge of "conspiracy" which supposes they were somehow involved with others in the bombings.
But these others -including whoever actually delivered the bombs -have not been found. Nor have the police apparently made any effort to trace a third person whom the two identified and described, a possible suspect by the name of Rida Mughrabi.
In fact, the British security services have been less than transparent throughout this case. They initially claimed that the embassy bombing took them by surprise, although MI5 defector David Shayler revealed they had been given advance warning. They appear to have ignored claims from an Iranian defector that London was next after bombings perpetrated in Buenos Aires. They have used secret hearings and Public Interest Immunity certificates to conceal large amounts of evidence, and they have gone out of their way to discourage witnesses from appearing with other evidence that might spoil or complicate their case.

ANYBODY who has been to, or near, the Israeli embassy in London will know that it is on Kensington Palace Green, a private road of embassies and exclusive residences with gates at each end, patrolled by armed police. Demonstrators are not even allowed near the gates, and traffic is monitored of course.

On the afternoon of 26 July 1994 a woman drove an Audi car into the road, and parked outside the Israeli embassy. She asked PC Duncan, the armed officer of the Diplomatic Protection Group, to let her leave it while she went for some cigarettes.

Soon after she had gone the car exploded. The explosion caused extensive damage, and injured fourteen people, but fortunately nobody was killed.

According to the Israeli embassy, their security cameras on either side of the building had no film that day, so there is no visual record of what happened or who was there. The only description of the woman driver is that she was middle aged, of Middle Eastern appearance, and carrying a Harrods shopping bag; and that she was not Samar Alami.

When Samar Alami was questioned a year later she could not remember off hand where she had been that afternoon, not having thought she would need an alibi. It was ascertained that she had been in the library at Imperial College, of which she is an M.Sc graduate, and had made a phone call from there to a relative which was recorded. Jawad Botmeh had been in Sussex, taking a younger family member to see a language school.

There were no witnesses to the bombing at Balfour House. However, the day before, a woman who lives nearby became concerned about some men whom she described as looking of Middle East origin, sitting in two cars outside the building. They were blocking her drive, so she asked them to move. They went away, but she reported the incident, and did so again after the explosion. The cars and these men were not traced. In fact, a police presence on Balfour House that day was removed, an hour before the explosion. Again, nobody was killed, but the building was damaged and six people were hurt.

Both of these bombs exploded without leaving any traces behind. Nothing is known about what explosive was used or how the explosions were triggered. As the judge said, "We do not know what the explosive was...There were no residues, and that indicated a high performance explosive. There was no trace of any timing or remote control device or of any detonator or other initiating process."

Letters claiming responsibility for the bombings, written in Arabic, were posted on the afternoon of 26 July to the London offices of two Arab newspapers, Al-Quds and Al-Hayat, and to the London offices of the PLO. These letters were signed by the 'Jaffa Unit' or 'Jaffa Team' of the 'Palestinian Resistance', an unknown organisation that has never been heard from before or since.

Both Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh were known Palestinian political and social activists, and both hoped to use their training and skills to help their people back home. Samar, whose MSc was in water resource engineering, had worked as an environmental engineering consultant and part-time as a health adviser for the immigrant Arab community in Newham in east London. She was a prominent member of the Palestinian Women's Group and the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) in the UK, and had lectured on Palestinian culture, helping with her sister Randa to organise an exhibition of Palestinian costume and embroidery at the Museum of Mankind.

Jawad, born in Bethlehem, where he and his family had directly expereienced the brutality of occupation, was on the national executive of the General Union of Palestinian Students, and organised conferences and seminars for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Jawad was also involved with the National Union of Students, having been vice-president of Leicester University's students union, and sometimes acted as 'peacemaker' when there was tension between Arab and Israeli students.

Like many people at the time, and even more with the benefit of hindsight since, Samar and Jawad were not happy with the Oslo agreements, feeling the PLO leaders, negotiating behind the backs of the people, had conceded too much to Israel, with too little to show in return. Leaning politically towards the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, they hoped to work constructively -as indicated by Samar's specialising in water resources - but sensing this was not yet freedom, that people's armed resistance might still be needed, they tried some amateurish experiments with explosive devices that might be useful to the people back home.

They did not intend carrying out bombings in Britain, says Jawad, or they would not have devoted their time to open political work. They considered the London bombings detrimental to their cause.

No known Palestinian opposition group nor any Muslim organisation in Lebanon accepted responsibility for the London bombings. The language and ideas in the letter claiming them were not those of the defendants. Neither the letters nor the envelopes contained the defendants' fingerprints. As the judge summed up, "There is nothing in the type to link [the claim letters] to any of the defendants nor, indeed, in the paper or copying or anything."

Although the prosecution naturally used the defendents' contact with explosive materials to present them as violent people, it had to admit that they had not possessed the kind of sophisticated explosives used in the bombings, which were of a kind only governments and state-backed terrorist organisations would have been able to obtain. Yet the security services continued to dismiss suggestions that any such forces were behind the bombings.

As for the mysterious Rida Mughrabi, who had asked Samar to look after some boxes of chemicals for him a month before the attacks, and got Jawad to go with him to some car auctions - where the Audi was purchased that was used at the embassy - not only was he nowhere to be found; the police appeared to have no interest in finding him. We'll have a look at this character next.

For the full background on this case and efforts to obtain justice and free Samar and Jawad, see

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Shaikh Yamani and Shut Your Mouth!

DOES YAMAMA KNOW YOU'RE HERE? Reports claimed Margaret Thatcher's son Mark did well with go-between Wafic Said in Saudi arms deals. Here he is accepting a lift downtown to help police with their inquiries - but this was in South Africa two years ago, over his involvment in funding aborted Equatorial Guinea coup plot.

The long-running investigation into the multi-billion pound al Yamama arms deal with Saudi Arabia has been stopped because the Saudi rulers threatened to pull out of a deal to purchase 72 Eurofighter jets from BAE Systems, putting millions in profits and thousands of jobs at risk; but also because the British and US governments are hoping the Saudis - and arch rivals the Iranian regime -can help pull them out of the bloody Iraq quagmire.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith insisted the decision was made in the interests of national security and that economic and commercial interests played no part. In a statement to the House of Lords, amid claims the Government was hiding bad news on the day Lord Stevens released his report in to the death of Princess Diana, Goldsmith said the Prime Minister and other ministers were concerned.

"They have expressed the clear view that continuation of the investigation would cause serious damage to UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic co-operation, which is likely to have seriously negative consequences for the UK public interest in terms of both national security and our highest priority foreign policy objectives in the Middle East. ..The heads of our security and intelligence agencies and HM Ambassador to Saudi Arabia share this assessment."

The announcement followed reports that the Serious Fraud Office had uncovered details of a "slush fund" used to pay Saudi dignitaries for contracts, followed by reports that British Aerospace(BAE) feared the Saudis were preparing to switch the Eurofighter contract to France. BAE shares fell by 10% in the last month, and there was uncertainty for the jobs of 9,000 workers at BAE's aircraft division in Warton, Lancashire.

The Serious Fraud Office says: "It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest. No weight has been given to commercial interests or to the national economic interest."

Lord Goldsmith said there were serious doubts over whether the investigation into the £40 billion contract secured by Margaret Thatcher, would result in a successful prosecution. It would also have taken another 18 months to bring to a conclusion, he said. "I consider, having carefully examined the present evidence, that there are obstacles to a successful prosecution so that it is likely that it would not in the end go ahead," he said.

Al Yamama (the Dove!) has been the subject of controversy for many years, from several points of view (including those of US and French competitors).
How come Saudi Arabia needed such a huge military expenditure, and was reportedly paying well over the odds for Tornado fighters and other hardware? (Payment was later made in crude oil). Who was the weaponry to be used against? How much of the commissions paid to prominent Saudis was repaid to company bosses in Britain (though these may have benefitted more by the excess charging), or go-betweens and politicians? How much went into Swiss bank accounts, and where might it go after that?

Labour MP Jeff Rooker passed on to Margaret Thatcher a copy of a memorandum, dated 2nd May 1989, which he had received, talking about planes with hardened nose cones, such as might be used to drop nuclear bombs. The memo, origin unknown, referred to "constant phone calls between Mrs. T and King Fahd and Sir Peter Levene and Prince Sultan", (Levene made the crude oil arrangement) and to an alleged " huge sum" paid to the Conservative Party.
Lobster magazine no.26 (Dorrel issue) had the memorandum.

Because taxpayers money was involved in backing British Aerospace the National Audit Office was asked to produce a report on al Yamama in 1992. But this was shelved before the general election, and despite Labour promises back then, it has never been published. The issue was raised in the House of Commons a few years ago:

Al-Yamamah Arms Agreement
Harry Cohen: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission how many copies of the 1992 National Audit Office report about the Al-Yamamah arms agreement were produced. [35029]
Mr. Alan Williams: 10 copies of the 1992 National Audit Office report on the Saudi Arabian Airforce Project—known as project Al-Yamamah—were produced.
The report looked at the use of taxpayers' money by the Ministry of Defence in relation to the project. It referred to confidential arrangements between the governments of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. The report was not published because publication would have breached that pledge of confidentiality.
13 Feb 2002 : Column 403W
The then PAC chairman (now Lord Sheldon) was quoted as saying after he and the then senior Conservative member of the PAC had considered the report in private in February 1992:
"I did an investigation and I find no evidence that the [MOD] made improper payments. I have found no evidence of fraud or corruption. The deal . . . complied with Treasury Approval and the rules of government accounting."

Some people remembering the late Robin Cook's pledge that Labour would give an "ethical dimension" to Britain's foreign policy may ask how this squares with competing to supply top-shelf military hardware to a reactionary dictatorship, and covering up massive corruption in the course of it?
The answer is that Robin Cook was shoved aside from interfering with the profitable arms trade. So far as the government was concerned his "ethical" suggestion was dead before he was.

Perhaps the most sensational allegation made about the Yamama deal is that some of the money went via Saudi accounts to al Qaieda and Osama Bin Laden, whether by way of the Bin Laden family contracting business (whose partners at one time included George W.Bush) or through certain "charities" patronised by Saudi princes.

If true, (and allowing for inventive and disgruntled -e.g. US - competitors) that would add bitter irony to the situation now, when, having used the "War on Terror" to land their troops in the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain and the United States may be hoping the Saudi regime and the Iranian ayatollahs will be persuaded to help them find an exit strategy. This would involve Iran being given a field of influence over the Shias in southern Iraq (where British troops are stationed) while the Saudis, as they have already said, would be willing to step in as "protectors" for the Sunni population.

The only people who might take exception to this are the Iraqis who don't want to see their country carved up, or its oil wealth appropriated by Western companies. They might even want a secular, democratic united Iraq in which they can rebuild and make progress. That is why they are being lacerated by sectarian killings, bombings, ethnic cleansing of mixed areas and shadowy but well-armed death squads. For whose benefit?

The British government has evidently decided to try and avoid upsetting the Saudi rulers, or those here who have done well for themselves out of the oil for arms racket, so that it can get on with the dirty game. But it may all be blown whatever the law says.

See also: BAE inquiry decision may face legal challenge,,1973073,00.html

A historical overview of Saudi Arabia and the arms trade:

The late Paul Foot's comments on al Yamama and Jonathan Aitkin in a book review:

Some amusing stuff on Mark Thatcher:


Shaikh Yamani was Saudi oil minister whose prominence in OPEC back in the 1970s led to various puns and jokes like the one I've used in the headline (actually taken from a humourous chorus performed in Lancaster in about 1973 by a group including Nigel Gray and Dr.David Craig, to whom probably goes the copyright). I hope the ex-minister himself will forgive me; so far as I know he is not involved in any of this business.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities

Tangled web behind terror, and trials without justice


ARGENTINE prosecutor Alberto Nisman announced at the end of last month that he had "irrefutable evidence" to back up international arrest warrants issued at his request for former Iranian president Rafsanjani and eight other former officials, in connection with the 1994 bombing of the main Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires.

The destruction of the AMIA (Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina) building, which housed mutual aid, social welfare and cultural societies, killed 85 people and injured another 300. No one has ever admitted responsibility and nobody has been successfully brought to justice. Several police officers and one civilian were prosecuted, in connection with a vehicle used in the bombing, but the trial was annulled in 2004 due to serious irregularities.

But Nisman's performance in this "local connection" trial led to his designation that year as the head of a special unit set up to investigate the case. Shortly after the Argentine court issued the arrest warrants for the former Iranian officials, the Iranian regime threatened to issue its own warrants for the arrest of Nisman and Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral. A few days later, an anonymous voice warned him over the phone that if the investigation continued, he and his family would be "blown up."

Niesman says there are precedents for indicting senior Iranian officials, pointing to cases such as the murder of Iranian Kurdish militants in Germany. But none have so far been successful. And while the Iranian government's hand and motives were clear in tracking down its opponents, its interest in the Argentine bombing are not so obvious. Unlike the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires which had been bombed two years before, with 29 deaths, -also unsolved - the AMIA building had no Zionist or governmental significance.

For Israeli and US Zionist propaganda it may suffice to say that the Iranian government and the Hizbollahi it is supposed to have employed are just anti-Jewish, and the present President Ahmadinejad, currently hosting a conference for Holocaust revisionists, may seem happy to fit the part. But Iran has its own Jewish community, as well as others nearer at hand than Buenos Aires if it had merely wanted to hit Jews.

Relations between Argentina's Jewish and Arab, mainly Lebanese communities have not been bad, at least until recently affected by tensions over the Middle East. But there is a tradition of violent antisemitism in Argentina, linked historically with the Army and the Church (which has also issued anti-Muslim statements). In the 1960s, the Tacuara youth movement carried out violent attacks on Jews, and under military rule from 1976-83, (notwithstanding links with Israel), a disproportionate number of Jews were "disappeared" or tortured in the junta's "dirty war" against the Left. Many Argentine Jews have little doubt that, with or without outside involvment, local forces, including police and army officers, had a part in the bombing.

Nor should it be forgotten that many Nazis from Europe found a haven in Argentina after the Second World War, setting up businesses and connexions in high places. In 1992 President Carlos Menem announced an investigation into the Nazi link. People with a vested interest to stop this going too far would also have had the connections - in Argentina and abroad (including old colleagues for whom the CIA found niches in the Arab world) -to strike out at those they feared. There was even a suggestion that some documents might be stored in the AMIA building.

Menem lost office when the US fell out with him. Besides general economic crisis, there was a story - since withdrawn - from an Iranian defector, claiming the Iranians had secretly paid the Argentine president with a Swiss bank account for suppressing their role in the bombing. Abdolghassem Mesbahi, a former Iranian intelligence officer whom some dismiss as a CIA asset also supplied a more sophisticated motive for the attack, claiming Iran had been angered by the cancellation of an agreement on nuclear co-operation.

(Another defector claimed the Iranians mistakenly believed the AMIA welfare building was Mossad headquarters. Sounds far-fetched, but if so, I wonder who might have fed them that story? Someone worried about those files?)

The AMIA bombing was allegedly planned at a meeting in Mashad between Iranian intelligence officers, officers of the Syrian-backed PFLP General Command (Ahmed Jibril group) and the Hizbollahi. (A Lebanese-born driver is said to have driven the vehicle used in the bombing). Two Iranian diplomats normally based in Argentina were also invited. Nieman seems satisfied that this explains the AMIA bombing; "The pieces fit perfectly". But critics say they fit too perfectly, and suggest the picture was put together by Mossad and the CIA.

Besides, doubt was cast on the nuclear row story by the revelation last month that Argentina was continuing to provide Iran with low-grade enriched uranium, and the two governments were in serious negotiations on broader nuclear cooperation when the bombing occurred. This suggests that the last thing President Rafsanjani would have wanted then was a bombing in Buenos Aires to wreck relations with Argentina. It was the United States that wanted to stop the deal.

The New York Jewish Daily Forward has reported that the United States put pressure on the Argentine authorities to go for the Iranians. "The U.S. Urges Argentina To Indict Iranians Link Eyed to ’94 AMIA Bombing
Marc Perelman, Fri. Mar 17, 2006. On November 3, Perelman said the Bush administration intended to cite the indictment as part of its campaign to get Russia and China to support a Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran.

While keeping an open mind on the the Buenos Aires bombings, there are implications concerning bombings in London. In 1994, another former Iranian intelligence operative, Manoucheh Moatamer, alleged that his country's diplomats had been involved in both the AMIA bombing and that at the Israeli embassy two years before it.

Moatamer moved from Venezuela to the United States, coming under witness protection. Although the Iranian government rubbished Moatamer's allegations, he gained some credibility from accurately predicting that London would be next. On July 26, 1994, a car bomb explosed outside the Israeli embassy in London, and later there was an explosion at Balfour House, in Finchley, home of the Zionist Federation and the Jewish National Fund. Nobody was killed in the London bombings.

Two young Palestinians, Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh, have spent the last ten years in jail for "conspiracy" to cause these explosions. Both claim innocence. In fact neither of them was near either building, nor were they likely to have obtained the sophisticated explosives that were used. The only evidence linking them to the attacks was that Jawad, a keen motor enthusiast, had accompanied a man called Rida Mughrabi to some car auctions, at which Rida bought the Audi used in the embassy bombing. Neither this man, nor the woman who drove the car up to the embassy under the watchful eye of a policeman, nor any other conspirators, have been found.

At the time of the bombings, the British security services claimed they had no warning, and that a hitherto unknown Palestinian group must have carried them out. Then in 1997, ex-MI5 officer David Shayler blew the whistle, saying MI5 had been given a warning from a reliable source and did nothing. Home Secretary Jack Straw slapped a ban on such evidence, and had Shayler pursued abroad.

As for the "Iranian connection", which the police and prosecution had pooh-poohed, here's a passage from an Institute of Jewish Policy Research report on Argentina, talking about Moatamer's allegations:

"Curiously, an Iranian link with the attacks on the Israeli embassy and Balfour House in the British capital was never mentioned by UK sources; instead, those apprehended and prosecuted in London were identified as Palestinian. Making matters worse for Moatamer's claims was the UK's coolness vis-à-vis such an apparently privileged source of information. Indeed, unlike (Argentine Judge) Galeano's rushing to Caracas to interview him, UK officials neither questioned the Iranian during his brief Venezuelan sojourn nor relayed specific questions for the US officials to put to him, according to Lord Avebury, chairman of the UK parliamentary human rights group (monitoring, among other things, Iranian terrorism)".

See also:, concerning Argentine police.

Former Iranian diplomat Hade Soleimanpour, accused of involvement in the AMIA bombing, was arrested in Durham in 2003, but after Iranian protests the Home Office decided to drop extradition proceedings, claiming Argentina had failed to produce prima facie evidence. It's different when the British - or US - security authorities want someone.

Anyone who knows either Samar or Jawad can have no doubts about their commitment to the Palestinian cause or their wish to put their education to constructive use for their people's good. Likewise, it is hard to imagine either of them subordinating their efforts to the Ayatollahs or as Hizbollahi. Indeed, the authorities who jailed them not only failed to show they were bombers but did not try to link them with any known guerrilla organisation, let alone with Iran.

But just as US organisations and media "know" without needing an investigation who bombed the AMIA building, so various right-wing commentators, from American neo-cons to the BNP, assert as fact that "two Palestinians close to Hizbollah" bombed the London embassy. (Should there be a change of policy the "facts" may change accordingly)

President Kirchner of Argentina said last year that it was a disgrace that no one was in jail yet for the Buenos Aires bombings. Perhaps. But not as disgraceful as the apparent complacency of the British authorities, satisfied that so long as they have someone in jail for the London bombings, even two innocent Palestinians, they need not worry about pursuing anyone who might be guilty. Besides, looking for an Iranian connection, and whatever is behind it, might bring diplomatic and trading complications. Palestinians don't have a state.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Justice for Cleaners!

AS most Londoners are rushing around frantically for the season of overspend, over-indulgence, and debts, a group of people intend sitting outside one of the UK's richest banks and going without food for several days. Starting tomorrow, Monday, December 11, the group of cleaners from the TGWU Justice for Cleaners campaign will be there to demand a fair deal. Their dignified protest will draw attention to the contrast between the huge profits and bonuses enjoyed by the City finance sector and the low pay of those providing essential services.

The cleaners have signed the following pledge, and more are joining:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Support the RBS Fast. We are five cleaners working in the City of London and Canary Wharf.For 16 months we have been part of the struggle for a living wage for cleaners across the capital.
Cleaners work so hard but for very little in return; often no sick pay and no basic holiday pay and many companies will not work with the cleaners and our Union to help us overcome this poverty.

This week one of the major banks cleaned by our brothers and sisters
-RBS – announced £9 Billion in profits. They can afford to treat their cleaners with dignity but do not. And they employ a contract
cleaning company, Lancaster who has refused to recognize our Union or work with us to achieve a living wage for cleaners. Now we have had enough. After much thought we have decided that next week we will fast for justice. We will refuse food starting Monday morning to draw attention to the plight of London cleaners.

In a few weeks time it will be Christmas, a time for families and celebration. But not for us and those we care for. City bosses may be celebrating billions of pounds in bonuses but we will be struggling to make ends meet.

Next week we will fast and we will continue to highlight the banks and some cleaning companies refusal accept their duty to their
employees. We are proud to fight for justice for cleaners. We are
certain our fight is a just one. We are fully prepared to fast for
justice for allcleaners. This has been a long struggle. Thank you for
your support – we hope thatwe can count on your continued backing as we take this measure.

Thank you, -The Fast for Justice will start on Monday 11th
with a public act at 1pm. The same evening there will be other events to be confirmed. We hope to follow a similar schedule every day: afternoon high profile event, followed by a more grassroots social evening from 5pm. The fast will be reviewed on Wednesday
evening, but the campaign will continue in any case.

The exact location is under negotiation, but will be somewhere
on Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street Station. We welcome supporters at any time, and we are actively looking for help with battery powered film projections, poetry, pantomime, accoustic music, and other activities to keep spirits. Festival style tat is also needed: rugs, chairs, environmentally-killing patio heaters, etc. Just make sure to ckeck first with organisers, it's not a dump and we will have limited space with all the private zones!

We welcome people from all political backgrounds, but there is a
ban on trying to sell leftie newspapers to the cleaners. You are welcome to leave a couple of copies for the temporary library.

Anyone -- green, red, black, or city worker type-- endangering potentially vulnerable migrant cleaners with their behaviour will be swiftly dealt with (nonviolently of course ;-).Come along!

The contents, comments and views contained or expressed within this correspondence do not necessarily reflect those of the T&G, its subsidiaries, affiliates or associates.If you want to know more about the T&G, visit us at or contact our head office on 0207 611 2500.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Israel denying people right to stay or come home, in land it illegally occupies

WHILE some of us argue over the use of immigration controls by countries like Britain, the Israeli government has gone one better. Not only does it deny the right of return to Palestinians whose country was taken for the State of Israel; but it is applying its controls over the Occupied Territories to exclude visitors it does not want, such as a highly dangerous delegation from Birmingham libraries bringing books for children (see my blog in July, )
and to keep married couples apart (see previous blog, "Let no man put asunder"). It is also preventing Palestinians who have lived abroad from returning home.
How this squares with Prime Minister Olmert's claims to be willing to relinquish occupation for peace, or Israel's supporters asserting they favour a "two state solution" is for them to say.
I of course, thanks to an accident of birth, can emigrate to Israel under its "Law of Return", although I have never lived there, as can anyone from around the world whom the Jewish Agency deems "Jewish", including some very "Aryan" (in appearance and spirit) Russians, and remote tribes from east Asia and South America "discovered" by either the Agency's emissaries or Christian missionaries. Not only does the Agency (essentially a wing of the State) encourage us to come (though in my case it might make an exception!), but if we are willing to fill settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands we will get extra inducements.
The "little" State also finds room for thousands of migrant workers brought in to replace Arab labour, since they are easily exploited and can be cheated of wages. Having no rights of residence or citizenship, they won't affect the "Jewish character of the state" and can be shoved on the plane out as soon as the employers have finished with them.
Palestinians, and people who marry Palestinians, are another thing; and though Israel may not be unique in its racial controls, it is certainly outstanding in its application of them to people whose roots are in the country and to territory it illegally occupies.
Happily, this is being challenged, both by Palestinians and some Israelis, as we see in the following statement:

Israeli Committee for Right of Residency

In March 2006, the Israeli government initiated a policy of visa denial to individuals of Palestinian descent having foreign passports, many of whom Israel has arbitrarily denied residency rights to in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Many of these persons have lived in the OPT for years without succeeding to obtain residency rights even though they made Palestine their primary residence and place of employment/business, married local Palestinians, and had children who were born in Palestine.

These people have managed to stay in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by means of tourist visas issued by the Israeli government. Such visas are valid for three months. Their holders are obliged to go abroad to renew them. Those who cannot afford to travel abroad become illegal sojourners and live in perpetual fear of being deported, which confines them to their homes. Those who go abroad have no assurance that they will be allowed to return, and in recent years the number of people denied re-entry has increased significantly. Indeed, at this time, most persons of Palestinian origin attempting to transit via Israel in order to return to their families and occupations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been denied entry.

Additionally, just recently 105 passports that had been submitted for visa extension were returned by the Israeli authorities with no extension beyond the end of 2006, and all stamped “last visa,” meaning that there would be no further visa extensions and that the holders of these passports would be forced to leave. And only today, December 5, 2006, we learn from the Palestinian campaign for entry rights, of an escalation in Israeli policy. The Ministry of Interior now refuses to process visa extensions at all (see Press Release below). As a result of this ‘entry-denied’ policy, families are torn apart, schooling for the children is disrupted, and economic disasters follow.

Among the entry-denied individuals are professionals from foreign countries who are not necessarily Palestinian. This group includes physicians, teachers, professors, students, social workers, and professionals in a variety of fields filling critically important positions in hospitals, schools, universities, and social institutions. Those being forced to leave by being denied entry or re-entry leave a vacuum in institutions unable to find replacements. This is devastating for all concerned, and has life-threatening implications particularly in the field of medical care. On the one hand, the ability of hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to treat Palestinians is constantly diminishing while on the other hand Israel’s General Security Services (‘Shabak’) often denies access to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

A group of concerned Israeli citizens has organized to protest this injustice which stands in gross contradiction to Israel’s self-declared image as a democratic state supportive of human rights and aspiring to a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinian people. We, the members of the Israel Committee for the Right of Residency, have been calling upon the Israeli public to join us in demanding that our government desist from denying residency rights in the Occupied Territories to Palestinians or persons of Palestinian descent with foreign passports, as well as to foreign professionals contributing to the welfare of the Palestinian population. We have been meeting with staffs of foreign embassies in Israel and have called upon them to use their good offices to intercede with the Israeli authorities to change the imposed restrictions. However, embassies do not make policy. They carry out the policies of their governments.

We therefore call upon you, people of conscience living abroad, to organize campaigns to inform your officials in your countries about Israel’s policy of ‘entry-denied.’ We ask you to write letters requesting them to demand that Israel change its policy. We also ask Israelis and citizens of other countries to write letters of protest to the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and for those of you who are academics or are in the medical profession to additionally write to the Minister of Education and Minister of Health. A statement of your professional concern in your protests should give your letters additional weight (see the two requests below). This is not intended to be a restriction. Everyone may write to all four Ministers, as well as to anyone else whom you think might influence policy.

An appeal to Academics

As an academic and a member of ICRR, I am particularly concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the education system of Palestinians in the OPT. I am therefore writing to ask you to also write letters to the Israeli Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, in order to protest the effects this policy has on quenching academic life and education for Palestinians in Palestine.
Thanks, Rachel Giora
and all other members of ICRR who are academics

An appeal to members of the Medical Profession
As a member of ICRR and the President and Founder of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, I am very concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the health and medical system in the OPT. I wish to add my request to you to write also to the Minister of Health, Mr. J .Ben Yizry and to your minister of Health in your place. Your protest might help to save life and health of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.
Thanks, Ruchama Marton, MD, and other members of ICRR who are in the medical profession.

PS Below is the Press Release about the new escalation in Israeli policy, followed by links to additional information about the issue, contact information for the Israeli Prime Minister, Minister Of Interior, Minister of Education, and Minister of Health, and contact information also for members of the US congress. These are followed by a draft letter that you can use or modify as needed to send to officials. You are, of course, welcome to write your own, if you prefer. But please do write!-

Thank you for helping to Stop the Israeli Government from Denying Individuals of Palestinian Descent and others from entering and residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,
The Israeli Committee for Residency Rights

----------------------Press Release-----------------------------------------------
C a m p a i g n f o r t h e R i g h t o f E n t r y /
R e - E n t r y to t h e
O c c u p i e d P a l e s t i n i a n T e r r i t o r y

A Grassroots Campaign for the Protection of Foreign Passport Holders Residing in and/or visiting the oPt
Contact: Basil Ayish Coordinator, Media Committee(c) +970-(0)59-817-3953 (email)

In a new escalation of Israel’s policy of denying Palestinians and their families access to the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the Israeli Civil Administration at Beit El is refusing to accept at least 140 passports for visa extensions. The passport holders are mostly spouses and children of Palestinian I.D.-holders and are residing in the oPt. Many of them have been forced to become “illegal” since their visitor visas have expired while waiting to be renewed by Israel. Twenty-seven year old Subha G is one of these cases. Her mother, brothers and her husband all have Palestinian ID’s, but her request for family reunification has been frozen since 1997.

“I am seven months pregnant and I am afraid of leaving to renew my visa and becoming stranded outside the country. My whole family is here.” Subha said. Palestinian I.D.s can only be issued by Israel. Since Israel is refusing to process an estimated 120,000 family unification residency applications of spouses and children of Palestinians, foreign family members must renew their visa every three months. All foreign spouses and children of Palestinians who requested visa extensions in October had their passports returned from Beit El on November 19th stamped “Last permit.”

The passport holders are required to leave the country before their visas expire, which in some cases occurred during Israel’s processing of the visa extension application. Israeli authorities are regularly denying entry to family members of Palestinians when they attempt to cross the Israeli controlled borders to the Israeli oPt.

Soha N., French citizen, lives in Beit Jala with her Palestinian husband and their two children, ages six and eight years old. The Israeli authorities refuse to issue residency to Soha and her children. Therefore, they have been renewing their visas every three months. After applying in October for another visa extension, they received their passports back marked “last permit.” Soha’s final extension lasts until December 25th. Israeli authorities required her two children to leave by December 4th. The family may now be forced to relocate abroad, as their children are now considered “illegal” after overstaying their visas. Shlomo Dror, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration states that those foreign passport holders with family in the oPt who stay illegally in the country, should expect “tough consequences.”

“Israel is working overtime to create a demographic change in the oPt by targeting the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society, denying them residency and forcing them to leave,” said Basil Ayish, a spokesperson from the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt. “Palestinian residency holders are likely to follow their spouses and children to another country in order to stay together,” Ayish explained.


For a full report on the subject, see

For supplementary information about the present situation see,1,6508718.story?page=2&coll=chi-news-hed

Addresses of Israeli Officials to whom protest letters should be sent: Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert: Telephone numbers: 972-2-67 53227; 972-2-67 53547; fax 972-2-566 4838; email or Minister of Interior, Ronnie Bar-on: fax 972-2-566 6376; email: or, if faxing and Minister is not enabled, ask for Sabine (972-2-6294722 or fax: 972-2-6701628) Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, Tel 972-2-675 3437 Fax 972-2-675 3976email: of Health, Yakov Ben YizryTel 972 2 675 3728Fax 972 2 678 7662email:;or

For the US You can find your Representative your Senators

The State Department can be contacted at or by ringing 202-647-4000 ================================= Sample Letter:Dear _______________________,Israel prides itself on being a democratic country. Yet Israeli policy denies family unification in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and since March 2006 also denies entry to the OPT for individuals of Palestinian descent, whom Israel refuses to register as residents as well as also for other foreigners who wish to visit, work, or study in the OPT. This is not in keeping with democratic values. Nor is this policy consistent with Israel’s stated intention to abide by the Road Map, an intention reiterated by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his speech on November 27 at a memorial ceremony for Paula and David Ben Gurion. On that occasion Prime Minister Olmert expressed the intention (given certain conditions) “[ ]But if indeed there is to be a Palestinian State in the future, then why drive Palestinians out?

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