Monday, April 30, 2007

Rhetta gets a result

FRIENDS supporting Rhetta Moran (Socialist Workers photograph).
IT is nice to report that one of the people we have championed in this blog has got a favourable result. On Thursday last week I told how Dr.Rhetta Moran, who despite our support had failed to be re-instated by the University of Salford, was having to go back to the tribunal to oppose a bid by her former employers for costs.

I was concerned both for the effect on Dr.Moran if she lost and for the message that might go out to others who considered themselves victimised by an employer, that if they dared exercise their right to an employment tribunal and lost, they could find themselves penalised.

Brent Trades Union Council in north-west London authorised me to protest to Salford. In reply the university vice chancellor Michael Harloe wrote that because Rhetta Moran had put up such "unprecedented" opposition, cross-examining witnesses, and so forth, "the case was inordinately long and costly".

"Dr Moran’s litigation against the University has diverted scarce resources which otherwise would have served the University’s education mission. As we are substantially publicly funded, the University is obliged to recover costs under these circumstances. Our relatively modest application for costs is subject to the judgement of the Tribunal".

Today however I received a thankyou note which has gone out to supporters, saying the Employment Tribunal "unanimously decided against awarding costs against Dr Rhetta Moran so as not to put people off representing themselves at tribunal".

"Supporters of Dr Rhetta Moran petitioned the University of Salford through its Vice Chancellor Micheal Harloe urging him to use his power and drop the University's application that Rhetta pay costs for the Employment Tribunal.

The pleas, in their hundreds, fell on deaf ears and the University went back to court, continuing the claim for costs.

They lost.

"The University's expensive barrister and solicitors were in attendance, along with several senior managers, to argue for up to £10, 000 in costs from Dr Moran who had represented herself throughout the case.

"The tribunal chair said that it was the Employment Tribunal's ethos to ensure individuals felt they could represent themselves at tribunal. The Tribunal decided unanimously that they would not allow costs to be claimed and reference was made to a "David and Goliath" scenario.

"The campaign had been organised by the NUJ with General Secretary Jeremy Dear describing the University's actions as "unjust and unfair", expressing concerns at victimising workers who had lost their jobs and then used their legal rights to attend Employment Tribunal.

"Rhetta Moran and her campaigners are very grateful for the incredible support that has been shown".

And we should be grateful for the fight she has put up. Even if Rhetta did not succeed in getting her job back she has given the authorities something to think about, and prevented what could have been a nasty precedent for working people, too.

  • ON a personal note, I am pleased to say I got another result today, a request from organisers of the anti-Norman Finkelstein petition that I tell them where my name appeared so they could remove it, as I requested. If anyone else out there still finds their name misused in this way I hope they will feel encouraged to complain too.

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"...but they can buy our politics" ?

CLOUDY HORIZONS. Saltire flag on CalMac ferry plying Hebrides. But the Nats no longer want Scottish transport

THE Scottish National Party is hoping to sweep through Scottish parliament seats and local councils in the coming elections, taking advantage of disillusionment with Labour.

It is three centuries since Scottish lairds and merchants, having failed in their own colonial venture, voted to throw in their lot with Britain, going on to clear their Highlands while helping build an Empire. But now, just ten years since devolution to set up a Scottish parliament, the Nationalists are confidently raising the call for independence.

South of the Border the prospect of separation is seen with dismay by those of us who envied the Scottish parliament's resistance to New Labour's Old Toryism (for instance on student grants, and prescription charges), and the rise of the Scottish Socialist Party; and who are grateful to Scots for bolstering the Left and labour movement over all, while showing there is an alternative to Blairism. Scottish nationalism is welcomed by Tories who opposed devolution but have given up hope for now of restoring their own party's fortunes in Scotland. Hence anti-Scottish prejudice being aired in the media, which pretend they are merely reporting what people think. They want to see not just Labour, but the labour movement, weakened by division. So do right-wing English nationalists, hoping the SNP's success will in turn boost them.

The SNP is not a racialist or fascist party. It is not like the British National Party. But both are thriving not just on discontent with Labour, and disgust with Blair and his rich cronies, but on New Labour's success - both deliberate and a consequence - in confusing working people and undermining class consciousness. A hundred years of Labourism has been thrown away. As a result, in Keir Hardie's country, the epithet "Tartan Tory" which used to be hurled at the Scottish Nationalists no longer has the same effect., even if it is true.

How far the rot has gone was shown in a recent item on the SNP's own website:
Welcome Candidate Donations from Fire Brigades Union
snp - 2007-04-17

Visiting the STUC Congress in Glasgow this morning, where she will tour the stalls of the SNP Trade Union Group and others, the Scottish National Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon welcomed donations to SNP candidates from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) – the first ever example of such trade union support.

The FBU have donated £500 to the campaigns of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Kenny MacAskill, Shona Robison, Sandra White, and Michael Matheson. They have also donated £250 each to Council candidates David Alexander and Lynda Kenna (Falkirk), and Peter Johnston (West Lothian). The total among the different candidates is £4,250.

Nicola Sturgeon is visiting the STUC Congress in Glasgow this morning, where she will tour the stalls of the SNP Trade Union Group and others.
Speaking from Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon said:
"This is a very welcome and significant development – the first ever such example of trade union support.

"We are grateful to the FBU for their contributions, which illustrate the broad base of trade union membership and the broad base of SNP support.
"Unions are rightly opposed to the privatisation of public services, and the BBC election poll also put this issue at the top of the people’s agenda. The SNP want to keep public services public, and offer better value finance than the credit card interest rates of PFI.

"That is why the SNP's plans to introduce a not-for-profit Scottish Futures Trust to offer better value funding and crowd out PFI are so important.
"The developments at the STUC congress – where Labour barely carry the support of the general council anymore – are another indication of a fresh political agenda in the run up to the Scottish Parliament election.”

Scotland has tasted more than it needs to reject Labour's Private Finance Initiatives - Gordon Brown's baby - which attract generous capitalists to move into hospitals, transport and schools, by using public resources to guarantee their private profit for decades. People are also opposed to Labour's continuing privatisation. It was revealed in March that the process of putting Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services out to tender had cost the Scottish taxpayer more than £15m, more than half the subsidy to CalMac, which runs essential links between the Scottish isles. There are already cuts, and fears that any commercial owners who did take over would decide services were not profitable enough.

But how genuine is the Scottish National Party's commitment to public ownership? On the same day that the SNP was boasting about the support it had gained from the Fire Brigades Union, another union, the Rail Maritime Transport (RMT) revealed that the Nats were dropping their policy in favour of rail renationalisation after receiving funding from a Mr.Brian Souter. He is chief executive director of Stagecoach, the company that took advantage of Thatcherite deregulation to take over bus services across Scotland and England, bought and sold Prestwick airport, and is a major player in railways.

It is not the first time Brian Souter has shown an interest in Scottish politics.
A devout member of an obscure brand of Methodism, he joined forces with the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland to oppose repeal of Clause 28 of the Local Government Act, the Tory measure forbidding teachers from doing anything to "promote" acceptability of homosexuality in schools. Many had felt intimidated and unsure what to do when pupils asked questions or complained of harassment by homophobes.

Believers like Souter don't have to worry about uncertainty, even if this piece of law had been smuggled through tacked on to another bit of legislation. The bus boss laid out half a million pounds for the campaign to keep the Clause. His money did not buy success then, but what about the future?

On the eve of an Scottish TUC debate on transport policy, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said all mention of bringing the railways under public control had been dropped from latest SNP manifesto following donations from Stagecoach director Brian Souter. "It would be interesting to see if these privateers would have given money to the SNP if it had retained a commitment to a publicly-owned railway."

"In 2003, the SNP said that passenger train services across Scotland should be taken under public control through a not-for-profit trust. At a time when public opinion and many of the political parties in Scotland, including the Labour Party, are recognising that Scotland's railways should be run in the interests of passengers and not shareholders, the SNP are taking a step backwards.

"It seems the SNP would rather take money and support from the likes Souter and non-executive director of Stagecoach, Sir George Mathewson rather than putting the interests of passengers first".

How far are the capitalist privateers likely to be committed to Scotland? Though it started out with second-hand buses and cut-price fares, pushing rivals out of business, the Perth-based Stagecoach nowadays has interests around the world, from Manchester to Malawi, Canada to New Zealand.

The Independent reported in September:

'Brian Souter, the co-founder and chief executive of the bus and rail group Stagecoach, is clearing the decks in readiness for being handed a new 10-year franchise to run South West Trains.
Mr Souter and his sister Ann Gloag sold their entire shareholding in the Scottish airline ScotAirways yesterday in order, it was said, for Mr Souter to focus fully on his role at Stagecoach. Mr Souter also stood down as chairman of ScotAirways with immediate effect.
The pair acquired a majority stake in the airline seven years ago. They have been bought out for an undisclosed amount by the two founders of ScotAirways, Merlyn and Roy Suckling'.

Souter sells airline stake to concentrate on running trains
Independent Online: 18 September 2006 By Michael Harrison, Business Editor

Truly, patriotism is not enough. It seems the nationalist party is putting itself in hock to a man intent on higher things. But then the SNP is not a class-based, socialist party and does not pretend to be, as Labour to some extent once did and many of its supporters thought it to be. That the Fire Brigades Union in Scotland has pragmatically seen it as an alternative place for its political funds is a reminder that trade union consciousness is not yet class consciousness.

The RMT, among the first to show its independence from New Labour, is evidently not so naive in falling into the trap of false alternatives. Yet in looking for reasons for the rise of the SNP, and confusion in the working class, we must also point to the disappointing progress of the supposed socialist alternative which had aroused such hopes. Seeking to ride with the nationalist wave, the Scottish Socialist Party has been split by the conduct of one man, with Sheridan loyalists and groups like the SWP and what was Militant now backing "Solidarity". It's no way to challenge the powers that run our railroads.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Swindle With Use; the anti-Finkelstein Fraud

"Stand With Us" is an Israel-is-always-right organisation, mainly active in the United States, mobilising silly students, naieve kids and some rather obnoxious half-wits of all ages, in defence of whatever the Zionist State does against its neighbours and those under its occupation.

SWU calls itself an "international educational organisation that ensures that Israel's side of the story is told"; but mostly it campaigns against any voices that might disturb its supporters' ignorance or undeserved peace of mind. It has called on Israeli army veterans to protest against other Israeli soldiers who are exposing what they know of the brutality of occupation. It is urging its supporters to e-mail everyone it can think of at the University of California Santa Cruz to complain that they allowed a "one-sided" conference to be held about Israel and Zionism. Not their side, I take it.

It claims to have amassed more than 5,000 names on an online petition calling on De Paul university to refuse tenure to Professor Norman Finkelstein. It wants this Catholic university to sack the Jewish professor, son of Holocaust survivors. because he has criticised the way the Israeli state and American Jewish organisations have used the Holocaust, and has condemned Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. This "grassroots" petition underpins a campaign against Finkelstein led by Harvard lawman and Zionist witchfinder-general Professor Alan Dershowitz.

I am not one for lionising intellectuals, even when I agree with them, and I might not always agree with Norman Finkelstein. I would not want to give Professor Finkelstein ideas above his station. But as well as evoking comparisons with McCarthyism, this call by Jewish organisations and machers for Catholic authorities to suppress a Jewish dissident scholar puts Finkelstein in very distinguished company, historically speaking. In 1232 the Jewish authorities in Montpelier, southern France, annoyed by the way Moses Maimonides (Musa Ibn Maimoun, Moshe Ben Maimon, aka the Rambam) had sought to reconcile religion and reason, turned to the Inquisition, or at any rate the Dominican order, asking that Maimonides books should be burned. The Dominicans decided instead that the works might have some use. (see Mike Marqusee's reference to this episode, in another context:

I don't know whether these community leaders would have had the writer too burned. Moshe was already long dead before they sought the book burning, and had any way been living in safety in Egypt, where among other things he served as medical officer to the grand vizier Salah ed Din (Saladin). In those days the Islamic lands were freer and more tolerant than Europe, as is no longer unfortunately the case.

It became said that "From Moses unto Moses, there was none like unto Moses", and I don't wish to elevate Norman Finkelstein to that eminent status. But rather to show in which odious company the anti-Finkelstein witch-hunters would have us stand. Perhaps it is is because for them the Holocaust (itself an overly religious phrase to describe genocide) has also become a pillar of Faith, rather than subject for genuine study and rational debate which might lead to different political attitudes. That is the real betrayal of the Holocaust victims.

Although Stand With Us purports to be educational, they don't seem good at it, and nor does their Jewish education extend to the Ninth Commandment, judging from what I've seen of their petition. The messages accompanying the names are a bit repetitive. Several of the signatories appear to believe that Finkelstein (whose parents were in Auschwitz and Majdanek) denies the Holocaust, some accuse De Paul of being "antisemitic" because it hired (or "highered" as one writes) Professor Finkelstein "in the first place". One charming person proudly using the nom de plume "Itzhak Shamir"proclaims "We took care of his like at Deir Yassin and we'll do it again." (Yitzhak Shamir, a former Israeli prime minister, was a leader of Lehi, the Stern group terrorists who took part alongside Irgun Zvai Leumi in the massacre of Palestinian villagers at Deir Yassin in April 1948).

I suppose it could be argued that we should not worry overmuch about meshuggeners and nerds indulging their violent fantasies in cyberspace, whether in messages like that, or hate lists like those circulated by Britain's Nazis and their Israeli settlement-based equivalent. At least while they are at their keyboards, or even making threatening nuisance calls, they are not out on the streets doing it. But that's not what the authorities or media say about child pornography or other violent stuff, and besides, we know that people identified on Nazi 'hit lists' have sometimes been hit.

What's to say that some of these Zionists falsely convincing themselves that such-and-such a political opponent is a "traitor" or "Nazi holocaust denier" are not just sidestepping the debate about what the person really says, not just trying to silence them; but psyching themselves and others up, so they can attempt some real harm to their target? That too has happened.

I incline to the view that trying to deny a person's right to pursue their profession and take away their livelihood is also a form of violence. Whether the authorities at De Paul will take much notice of this petition, I don't know. Norman Finkelstein's faculty colleagues have already supported his tenure and rejected the demands from Dershowitz. I hope the University, however short of funds and subject to pressure, will also stand up to ignorami and enemies of scholarship.

But I have an added personal reason for speaking b'roigez, in anger, about Stand With Us. It is now getting on two weeks since I leaned that my name, along with those of others holding similar views on this issue, had been fraudulently added to the Stand With Us anti-Finkelstein petition. Several people have been shocked to find their names in it. I don't know how many of the thousands have simply been fabricated, and how many people might be unaware their names were used.

On April 19 I e-mailed Ros Rothstein of Stand With Us, who is running the petition:
I have been shocked to find my name used on your online petition against tenure for Professor Norman Finkelstein. I do not support your petition and nor do others whose name appear with mine.

It is quite evident that someone deliberately took their names and mine from communications defending Norman Finkelstein's tenure. This is not a laughing matter, but a case of identity theft and libel.

I understand that you already promised to look into this matter. I don't know who is responsible for the misuse of people's names, but I do know it is your responsibility to remove them forthwith.

While I was awaiting a reply, and assurance that my name would be removed, I heard from more people whose names had been misused. For instance:

'In regard to continuing fraud on the petition against Professor Finkelstein's tenure: my name has now been added fraudulently - #4197. Apparently this is a reprisal after the fact of my circulating spread sheets of names on both "anti" and "pro" petitions for purposes of easy comparison by anyone worried that his or her name might have been "stolen" for the "Stand With Us" petition. I cannot imagine that De Paul will take this petition at all seriously. At least one other entry is unlikely (Robert Malley's: there may be two Robert Malleys, but the one whose name rings bells was one of the US's chief Oslo negotiators. He wrote a paper making clear that Oslo was a way of consolidating Israel's occupation of WB and Gaza.) It's unlikely that he'd sign this petition. Also unlikely that former Israeli PM and Stern-Gang founder Itzhak Shamir would sign the petition unless he's done so from the grave. The attending remark, "We took care of his like at Deir Yassin and we'll do it again," a reference to the massacre of Palestinian villagers in Deir Yassin by Irgun Zvei Leumi and Stern Gang terrorists in April, 1947, is at the level of the worst KKK, skinhead, and other neo-fascist hate-speech.

Ellen Cantarow'

Last night I checked and found that not only was my name still included but it is on twice. I have still not heard from Ms.Rosalyn Rothstein. Nor, I must add from Petitions Online, whom I also contacted. They ought really to be having words with Stand With Us, and should remove the whole petition if the organisers don't clean up their act. The whole business of online petitions as an "exercise in democracy" risks being discredited by this kind of abuse.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Salford Vicious!

DR.RHETTA MORAN, whose research into what was really happening to asylum seekers was widely acclaimed, but must have annoyed the government, and thus perhaps embarrassed her employers, the University of Salford, will face a tribunal hearing tomorrow.

She has already lost her job, and was unable to obtain re-instatement from the tribunal, despite backing from her union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and from other trades unionists.

But now she is being pursued for legal costs of up to £10,000 by Salford University. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear says the university's actions are "unjust and unfair". But Prof Michael Harloe, Salford's vice-chancellor, says: "Dr Moran's litigation has diverted scarce resources. As we are substantially publicly funded, the university is obliged to recover costs under these circumstances."
Expert faces £10,000 legal bill, Neal Keeling, Manchester Evening News.

Obliged to whom? The research project on which Rhetta Moran worked was government funded. Why was it so necessary to make her "redundant"? And who decided that the university had to spend so much money fighting the case?

Rhetta Moran has provided a public service by bringing out the truth about an issue on which media and government often tell lies. She has helped highly vulnerable individuals who would otherwise have been left to suffer unseen. If Salford University were dedicated to light and truth it would have valued her work and example to students.

Instead the university has prevented her continuing the work, thus perhaps ingratiating itself with the powers that be but doing little to enhance its good name. If it now proceeds with its claim, and succeeds, Dr.Moran will not only be out of a job, as she has been for three years, but saddled with a heavy bill.

Jeremy Dear condemns the university's 'vindictive actions' in trying to recover costs. As he says: "The university is seeking to penalise someone who believes they were wrongly removed from their job."

For employers and employees throughout the land the message that will go out if Salford succeeds in this vindictive action is "Anyone who dares try to defend themselves and their job by going through the procedures is liable to find themselves victimised not just once, but twice, punished for trying to fight their case.

It's vicious!

You can write to Professor Michael Harloe at,
urging that the university drops its claim,
and cc your e-mail to

You can also sign a petition at

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Does anyone listen to Nobel Peace Laureates? Or respect non-violent protest?

is helped away after being hit in the leg by rubber bullet and inhaling tear gas.
Bil'in, Occupied Palestine, April 20.
(photo from ISM)

IT is reported from Berkeley, California, that Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is urging the Iranian government to hold a national referendum on the country's controversial nuclear programme, because it "has a direct impact" on the lives of millions of Iranian citizens.

Iran claims its nuclear programme, which actually began under the Shah's regime, is strictly for peaceful energy purposes, though other governments, led by the United States, are adopting sanctions against Iran, claiming it is preparing to develop nuclear weapons. Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, unlike Israel, which already has nuclear weapons and imprisoned Mordechai Vanunu for blowing the whistle on them.

Demagogic speeches by Iranian president Ahmadinejad, reported as threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" (though what he actually said is at least open to interpretation) have been seized on, along with his hosting a Holocaust revisionists conference, as evidence that Iran is preparing for war. More tangible evidence, like the US military build-up in the Gulf, suggests it is Washington and its Israeli rotweiler who are gearing up to attack Iran. But Iranian leftists fear the president is gambling with their people's lives, by using tension with the Western imperialists to divert from social unrest in Iran.

Mordechai Vanunu and his supporters, in Israel and internationally, have called for a nuclear-free Middle East, as a start to removing the nuclear menace around the world. Issam Makhoul, an Arab Member of the Knesset, who in February 2000 initiated Israel's first parliamentary debate on nuclear policy, stated: "Only those who struggle for total disarmament of the Middle East, including Israel, of all weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, biological and chemical - have the moral right to condemn Iran for its nuclear project.

Shirid Ebadi's fellow Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who met Vanunu in East Jerusalem a few years ago (he is not allowed to leave the country) recommended him for a Nobel Peace prize.

Mrs.Maguire was injured by a rubber bullet last week while taking part in a protest at Bil'in, in Occupied Palestine, against the Israeli annexation Wall. She had been attending the second International conference on Non-Violent Popular Resistance held in Bil'in.

Here, courtesy of the International Solidarity Movement, is what the Irish peace campaigner said at an open-air press conference just an hour before she and her fellow delegates were attacked by the Israeli Border Police:

“Thanks to the media here for telling the truth…Bring this truth to whatever country you come from! Non-violence will solve the problems here in Israel and Palestine. Often, the world sees only violence. But Palestinians are a good people, working towards non-violence. This Wall must fall! It is an insult to the human family and to the world– that we are building Apartheid Walls in the 21st Century! More than forty years of Occupation and Land Appropriation”

Ms. Maguire called on viewers around the world to stop Israel’s “mild dictatorship” and “total Israeli government control.”

Palestinian Information Minister Dr. Mustafa Barghouti thanked her and the 500 delegates attending the Bil’in conference. He said the Wall was an “instrument of ethnic cleansing, the same as what happened in 1948.” He recommended that people read Ilan Pappe’s book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine for a clear explanation.

Barghouti said the Apartheid Wall was being used to suffocate the idea of a 2-state solution and an independent Palestinian state. He pointed out that the Wall was 850 km in length, three times the length of the Green Line (the pre-1967 Armistice line which was Israel's internationally recognised border), that the wall surrounds and imprisons cities and villages. Qalqilia was mentioned, a city of 46,000 Palestinians, which is completely surrounded by the Apartheid Wall.

"This Wall is being built between Palestinians and Palestinians,” Dr.Barghouti said. “It is not being built between Palestine and Israel. 850,000 Palestinians are behind this wall. It is destroying Palestinian social, economic, health, and educational systems.”

“It has been condemned by every major legal body, including the International Court of Justice, and it must be removed!”

“You will see the Israeli military practice violence here today.”

After 60 years of dispossession and 40 years of Occupation, Dr. Barghouti joined Mrs. Maguire in Bil’in, as “a symbol of the Palestinian non-violent struggle,” he said. He also demanded the release of British BBC journalist Alan Johnson, “who did everything he could to bring the truth, a wonderful being which (he) knew well, a fantastic journalist. We demand his freedom. It continues to hurt the image of the Palestinian people.”

How well is the media more generally bringing the truth to us of what is happening in Palestine? In my previous post on the Bil'in incidents, based on a report on the Israeli news channel YNet, I wondered how much coverage would be given here to Mairead Corrigan Maguire, once the darling of the British media when she and Betty Williams led northern Ireland's Peace People. Well, scanning the web I have so far found one item, on BBC Northern Ireland.

I'm not one for building up hero figures, and I know the British media soon looses interest in people, or knocks them down, once their ideals no longer serve. But I was hoping Bil'in and its non-violent conference, or the violent conduct of Israeli Border Police, might get a mention because of this incident.
How naive of me.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chinese in UK tell their story

Anna Chen (left) with Yvonne Foley, whose research into her own family background led her to believe her father was one of Chinese seafarers forcibly repatriated after their wartime service on Britain's Atlantic convoys .

Now we can hear the story of Britain's Chinese on Radio 4, starting Monday next week.

YASMIN Alabhi Brown was writing a while back on the "silence" of Britain's Chinese community, of established citizens fearing for their own respectability after the Morecambe Bay tragedy, rich people ready to collude with the government in calling for stricter immigration control and deportations, and useless unelected "community leaders". Nothing unique there, then.
In fact, some Chinese people, though well-integrated into British society, were ready to speak out, and to organise, over the exploitation of migrant workers which led to the deaths in Morecambe Bay, the misrepresentation in the media, and expose the way immigration restrictions are precisely what strengthens the power of the exploiters and gangmasters, who should be controlled.

Jabez Lam, whom Alabhi-Brown quoted in her Independent article, was able to organise Chinese people on this, as he has on other issues, such as racist attacks, or the developers' threat to London's West End Chinatown. He also raised awareness among trade unions. But at the public meeting over the Morecambe tragedy I went to in St.Anne's Church, Soho, the notable absence were the usual white lefties (must admit I was pleased not to have to brush past the usual cordon of paper sellers).

Anna Chen wasn't altogether surprised. As press officer for the Socialist Alliance (as well as Stop the War Coalition) she was successful both in raising its media profile and hoisting its banner when Chinese people marched over their community being scapegoated for the foot and mouth outbreak. But she came into conflict with the control-freakery of the Socialist Workers Party, which seized and eventually strangled the Alliance.

"The SWP are fond of espousing anti-racist sentiments.
And yet, for example, a District Organiser can insist that because ‘all’ Chinese supposedly work in catering and are therefore atomised, we must all be petit bourgeois: the deadliest insult in the far-Left lexicon apart from ‘fascist’. When I questioned this at a meeting, Rees barked that ‘The Party’ doesn’t do any work with the Chinese because ‘it’s British workers who count, not Chinese’. We apparently experience no racism because ‘the axis of racism is black and white’. "
(This was presumably before the SWP met MAB and discovered Islamophobia).

Anyway, as proud of her roots (her dad organised Chinese seafarers into a union) as she is a feisty critical presence in the Left, Anna Chen is also a creative writer, dramatist and actress, and she is using her talent to take the authentic voices of Chinese people into the mainstream media and culture. In the past year she has been around talking to famous and not-so-famous Chinese people in Britain, revisiting the Liverpool streets where her Dad lived, and listening and learning about people's history. I'd say it has the makings of a TV series, but for now starting next week, we can hear it on the Radio. As Anna writes:

Dear All,

I'm presenting a new ten-part series exploring the early history of Chinese people in Britain, a groundbreaking labour of love that has been great fun to make over the past year.

You can listen to it on the BBC Radio website:
Chinese in Britain - BBC Radio 4,
3.45pm weekday afternoons from Monday April 30th 2007

I'll be looking at the lives of the Chinese who came to Britain before the sixties: as sailors, scholars, writers and artists, as well as laundrymen and cooks. It's told largely from the point of view of the Chinese themselves and their descendants, people who have made fascinating interviewees.
1. The First Chinese VIPs
2. The Creation of Chinatown: the myth and the reality
3. From Ship to Shore: experiences of Chinese seamen in Britain
4. Steam and Starch: life in a Chinese laundry
5. Educated in Britain : the history of Chinese students
6. Feet unbound: pioneering Chinese women in Britain
7. Mixed Blessings: growing up half Chinese
8. Artistic Pursuits: stepping out on Britain's cultural landscape
9. Screen Beginnings: the first British Chinese screen actors
10. Peking Duck and Chips: early Chinese restaurants

All programmes will also be available to listen again for a week after broadcast at
Apologies to all my friends who may have received this more than once.

Happy listening,

See also:

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Magic Ian brings Brecht to Brighton


but Old Karl might find Ian Saville's interpretation of his ideas closer to his spirit (as well as more amusing) than some of the bourgeois academics, not to mention bureaucratic dictators who have used his name.

"HE who laughs has not heard the bad news", quoth Bertold Brecht, but old Bert, though quite a wit himself, had not seen Ian Saville's magic act.
I've known him bring shaking chortles to serried ranks who had been determined not to smile, and though his occasional irreverent sideswipes at our
political pretensions may be painfully true, this should not be mistaken for cynicism.
Ian is always available for good left-wing causes, and never softens on his topicality and subversion. Just see his brilliant trick on Iraq, the WMDs and the oil.... If you haven't yet I won't spoil it. (I mean I won't tell you what happens. I've seen it a few times now, and still laugh with the rest, and still haven't a clue how he does it).
So there you are, Magic and Marxism, a strange but delightful dialectic, mystifying us in order to demystify.
It's probably a unique combination, though I imagine using the odd trick to pull a crowd and deliver the message was done in ancient times - like turning the water into wine, which must have ensured no end of invitations to simchas (festive 'do's). Having been to Cana, I've got a theory as to how He might have done that one; but though I've been watching Ian Saville's act closely since his hair was still black (pic above left) , I've still no idea how he performs his little miracles.
Except maybe the one with the 'phone book and mobile with which he enthralled and mystified the kids - often the hardest audience - and their parents at a Stop the War garden party in Willesden. I had a vague glimmering, but .. it was ingenious. The props may be home made, and the patter is original, but there's nothing amateurish about the prestidigitation. Some, including Ian, may say the ventriloquism is not the best, but it's an extra, and considering we used to listen to Peter Brough performing it on radio we can enjoy Ian Saville performing live with Karl Marx, and now another companion, Bertold Brecht.

And now to the message from the magic man:
Hello friends and colleagues,
This is to either tell or remind you that I'm reviving my Brecht on Magic show at the Brighton Fringe Festival next month. Pass this information on to any friends who might be interested.
Full details are:
Dates: Friday May 11th, Sat. 12th, Mon.14th, Tues.15th, Wed. 16th
Time: 6.45pm
Venue: Komedia Studio Bar, 44-46 Gardner Street, Brighton BN1 1UN
Box Office: Brighton Dome, 29 New Road, BN1 1UG
Tel: 01273 709709
Tickets are only £5 (or £3.50 concessions, including Equity members) making it one of the cheapest shows on the fringe. 2 for 1 offer on the Monday night. You can book tickets online here.If you would like a preview of the act, you can see it on your computer by clicking, or, or finding your way from the website at
Hope you won't consider this spam. It is at least vegetarian spam.
Hope to see you in Brighton or elsewhere,
No, he has not promised me a free ticket.
But here's a funny thing.
I thought about writing this earlier today, and though there are some serious topics about which I've been commenting here and elsewhere, I decided to give a blog a break with something cheerful. I sat down to start it about 17.30 BST. At 18.00 I switched on the TV to watch BBC2's "Eggheads" quiz, and challenging the panel (unsuccesfully) were - a team of magicians. What a coincidence, I thought. I got to typing out the sentence about Ian's ventriloquism - and as I did so, quizmaster Dermot Murnaghan made a remark about ventriloquism.
Spooky or what? That's magic! Now all I need do is refine this prescient or telepathic technique and apply it to racehorses. At which point I've just heard someone on the London TV news say they can't afford horses. Time for tea, I think.


Des Warren is back in print

THREE years after his tragic death at just 66, Des Warren, the steelfixer from North Wales who became famous as one of the Shrewsbury Two, jailed for their part in the 1972 building workers' strike, is back to inspire and pass on his experience to coming generations.

The Key to My Cell, the book which Des wrote after coming out of prison, describing how he came to find himself in the dock for leading fellow-workers fighting for decent pay and conditions, why the state had come down on them, and what he had learned politically, is once more going into print.

First published by New Park, the publishing firm of the Workers Revolutionary Party which Des joined after disillusionment with the Communist Party, the book often comes up when two or three building workers get talking after a union meeting. While it was out of print it was sought after, and old well-thumbed copies would be borrowed among friends.

Thousands of trade unionists took part in demonstrations and marches to free the Shrewsbury pickets. Two were kept in jail, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, now better known as an actor, and Des served longest. The campaign was wound down by union leaders and the Communist Party, with the promise that Labour in government would do something. Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins refused to help, and Des Warren served his full three years.

Des Warren died on April 24, 2004, after long debilitating illness largely brought on by the effect of drugs administered to him in prison.

New Park no longer exists. But thanks to the faith and commitment of some activists, Des Warren's book is being made available again, not just as a tribute to its author, but as a contribution to ongoing struggles.

Ricky Tomlinson, whom we saw on TV recently revisiting sccnes of the 1972 struggles and talking to those involved, is campaigning for the files to be re-opened on the pickets' case, and Justice for the Pickets. He has written a foreword to the new edition of The Key to My Cell, and next month he has been been invited to speak in Croydon, where trades unionists will be celebrating the anniversary of their hall, Ruskin House, on May 10.

Ritchie Hunter writes from Liverpool:

Dear All,

Find attached an A4 poster advertising 'The Key to My Cell' out in May 2007. Please spread this around. WE NEED MONEY to pay for the printing.

Two events in May:

1. 8pm, Thursday 10 May 2007, Ruskin House, Coombe Road, Croydon. Speakers include Ricky Tomlinson.

2. Writing on the Wall (WOW) Festival, History Day, Tuesday 15 May 4.00-5.30 pm, at Dean Walters Building (JMU) Upper Duke St.
Joe Sim, Professor of Criminology at JMU, will discuss the use of legal drugs by the state to control prisoners. Steve Tombs, Professor of Sociology at JMU, will discuss corporate crime and the construction industry today.

Meanwhile there's another way to remember Des Warren and take up again the cause for which he fought. This Saturday, April 28, is Workers Memorial Day, when we think about all those killed or injured in industry. "Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living" is the slogan. There will be events in various parts of the country and around the world. In London, the Construction Safety Campaign will start the day by joining local residents outside the Barret's Construction site at the corner of Thessaly Road, and Battersea Park Rd., Battersea, SW8 where a man was killed by a crane collapse. That's at 9.30am.

Then at 10.45am, marchers will assemble at Holland Street, London SE1, beside the Tate Modern, before marching to Tower Hill for a rally at 12.15pm. Speakers will include relatives of those killed at work, as well as trade unionists and campaigners.

There's also a picket on Monday morning, April 30, outside the Health and Safety Executive head offices on Southwark Bridge Road, from 8am to 9am, to demand more effective measures over the use of cranes, after three people were killed last year in crane collapses.

For more information about Des Warren's book and the Justice for Pickets campaign see:

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mairead Corrigan Maguire - still campaigning, injured, but are Media interested?

MAIREAD CORRIGAN (left), and (below)
with Irish Ploughshares campaigners who disabled a US warplane en route for Iraq.

MAIREAD CORRIGAN MAGUIRE has been injured by a rubber bullet and tear gas fired by Israeli Border Police, while taking part in a protest at Bil'in against
Israel's annexation wall.
REMEMBER the name? Time was the British and Irish media could not get enough of her. As Mairead Corrigan she was co-founder with Betty Williams of Women for Peace, after three children of her sister Anne Maguire were knocked down and killed by a car driven by IRA man Danny Lennon, who was shot dead by pursuing British soldiers.

Anne Maguire later committed suicide. Mairead and Betty Williams succeeded in bringing 30,000 women on to the streets of Belfast, calling on Republicans and Loyalists to abandon violence and seek to educate themselves for a better way.

Women for Peace became the Community for Peace People, and gained worldwide attention. The movement eventually lost support however. People in the Catholic community particularly, began to doubt what could be achieved by purely peaceful means, and accuse the Peace People of focussing too much on the violence of the oppressed, the Republican side, while doing nothing to stop the violence of the loyalists and British state forces.

Maybe the enthusiasm of the media for the Peace People did more to harm their credibility than enhance it. But Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams were rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976, though incurring more criticism for keeping the money. Mairead became Mairead Corrigan Maguire, having married her sister's widower. She also began to take up other causes, in line with her beliefs, and quest for peace.
She met with Israeli nuclear whisteblower and long-time prisoner Mordechai Vanunu. She took part with Betty Williams in founding the Women's Nobel Initiative, along with Iranian women's rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi, US anti-landmine campaigner Jody Williams, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai and other Nobel laureates. Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would have been with them had she not been jailed by the military.
Not all the causes with which Mairead Corrigan Maguire has been associated are ones we might support. As a Catholic she has given her support to "Pro-Life" anti-abortionists.
But what mostly strikes me is that the more Mairead's horizons have widened to take in the world-wide quest for peace and human rights, the narrower the media interest in her activities has shrunk. For the pictures above and reports with them I had to scan the internet, visiting the sites of the Nobel Women's Initiative and the Irish Indymedia respectively.
Last week Mairead Corrigan Maguire was attending the international conference on popular struggle held in Bil'in, occupied Palestine, whose proceedings were broadcast on the internet (see earlier posting,
That this conference was being held at all, hosted by a people who have been under a 40-year long military occupation, should have been news. So should the weekly confrontations between Bil'in villagers, with their Palestinian, Israeli and international supporters, trying to hold peaceful demonstrations, and the occupying Israeli forces responding with rubber bullets and tear gas.
But if the corporate media rarely considers injuries to Palestinians or even Israeli peace activists worth a mention, you might think they would say something when a distinguished international figure is hurt? Well, so far all I have seen is the report below, forwarded from the Israeli online news YNet (I've forwarded it on to people in the UK and Irish media, so we'll give them a chance):

Nobel peace laureate Corrigan injured in anti-fence protest
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan was treated for injury in leg sustained by rubber bullet
Ali Waked
04.20.07, 16:47 / Israel News YNet

Nobel Peace Prize Mairead Corrigan has been injured during confrontations between security forces and left-wing activists protesting the security fence route near Bilin, activists said.
Corrigan, who won the prize in 1976 for her work in encouraging a peaceful solution to the Northern Ireland dispute, was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet and was transferred to a hospital for treatment. She was also said to have inhaled large quantities of teargas.

Policemen and soldiers used teargas grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the routine Friday protest against the security fence near the Palestinian village of Bilin and were confronted by a hail of stones.
Two Border Guard policemen were lightly injured by stones.

The security forces say the area where activists hold their protest is a no-access military zone which they have to evacuate of Palestinian and Israeli protesters every Friday.
Activists say the fence route near Bilin was designed to expropriate Palestinian farm land which will be used to expand a Jewish settlement in the area.
Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti and Deputy Prime Minister Assam al-Ahmad also took part in the protest.

"I salute the residents of Bilin for their peaceful struggle in a region that is so violent, and I call on the Israeli public, whom I know is for justice and peace, to support the residents' struggle," Corrigan told Ynet.

Tito Kayak was also there "I want to say that this separation wall, contrary to what the Israeli say, will not prevent attacks and violence. What will prevent attacks and violence is a peace agreement between the two peoples, and I'm sure the Israeli people, like the Palestinian people, want peace," Corrigan added.
Puerto Rican peace activist Tito Kayak climbed a tower on which the army had planted security cameras and hoisted a Palestinian flag.
"All I did was to express my identification with the villagers against the wall which is believed to be evil and illegal by the whole world and many leaders like Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and the United Nations," Kayak said.
Kayak, who was arrested in 2000 for climbing to the top deck of the Statue of Liberty in New York, was apprehended along with six other activists by policemen.
Kayak was a key figure in the 1999 Navy-Vieques protests in Puerto Rico against the US Navy's use of the Vieques Island for bombing exercises. The protests forced the US to end its activities on the Island.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oxfam warning gives EU chance to restore aid and its reputation

WITH the Palestinian Authority acquiring a national unity government and the Saudis putting forward an Arab peace initiative, it might have been a good opportunity for Israel and its Western allies to reach out and take the proffered hand, and resume peace talks - if that was what they wanted.

Various people - from Uri Avneri to George Soros - with Israel's best interests at heart, have said it was wrong to break off contacts just because Palestinians elected Hamas, and wage war on the Palestinian people, rather than giving peace a chance. But the Israeli government saw no reason to listen to such advice so long as it was getting all the encouragement and help it needed to pursue an aggressive policy, from the United States, Britain, and the European Union too, determined to punish the Palestinians for voting Hamas.

The Palestinians have shown they can compromise (disappointing their enemies who would prefer to see civil war), but still the door is shut in their face. As Ha'aretz reported on Wednesday:

The Dutch government yesterday ruled out a visit by Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, saying he would not get a visa because the European Union considers the Hamas party a terrorist group. Haniyeh's office contacted the Dutch government to inquire about documents needed to request a visa as the Palestinian premier wanted to attend a conference of Palestinians in Europe in Rotterdam on May 5.

Dutch media reported that Haniyeh had been invited to be the main speaker at the conference, organized by the Dutch-based Palestine Platform for Human Rights and Solidarity. "He will not be granted a visa, should he request one officially," a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry said. "Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union."

"It is consistent not only to avoid contact with Hamas ministers but also not to let them come to the Netherlands or anywhere else in Europe and spread the message of Hamas," the spokesman added. Meanwhile, Haniyeh yesterday told an audience of thousands at a rally for prisoner release in front of the Red Cross offices in Gaza that the head of the Tanzim, Marwan Barghouti, imprisoned for murder in an Israeli jail, was on the list of Palestinian prisoners Hamas had transfered to Israel to be exchanged for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

On Saturday, Haniyeh's deputy, Fatah's Azam al-Ahmed, said that as far as he knew, Barghouti was not on the list. However, he told Haaretz that he had not seen the list, nor had any of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' people. He added that it was unclear who had composed the list that had been delivered to Egypt. The Chinese Embassy denied a statement by Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti yesterday that China had decided to renew diplomatic relations with the Palestinian government. Barghouti said Switzerland had also decided to renew relations.

Dutch friends say you can't expect better of their government, which has a Christian Democrat majority and Social Democrat minority and is over-keen to impress Washington. Not that the Blair government's any better. But it is interesting to see the "People's Republic" lining up with the imperialists on this. It doesn't show much finicketyness about dealing with the Muslim government in Sudan, but then it's consistent, siding with the oppressor not the oppressed. Anyway, Palestinians haven't got oil, unless it's the olive kind; and so long as they are kept behind a Wall, Israel is in the market for the cheap migrant labour which China obligingly provides.

But getting back to Europe, Oxfam has produced a report on how poverty has risen in the West Bank and Gaza in the past year since the US and EU cut off aid to Palestinian institutions, and the Israeli government blockaded Gaza, and stopped tax and customs payments, leaving the Palestinian Authority without funds to pay workers. Oxfam's 'Briefing Note' quotes UN special rapporteur John Dugard that "the Palestinian people have been subject to economic sanctions - the first time an occupied people have been so treated." It says these measures have "led to immense suffering", with 46 per cent of people unable to buy the food or medicines they need.

Citing effects on families, and on hospitals and other services, the aid charity says its own projects have been hit by the effects of both sanctions and Israeli military action which has wrecked Gaza's infrastructure. It also warns that the Temporary International Mechanism established by the EU to help the poorest people without going through government channels "has been unable to prevent the growing humanitarian crisis". In any case, when aid is fragmented it is harder to keep track of where it goes, or who it helps.

While acknowledging that aid is not a panacea, Oxfam believes that witholding aid to compel a policy change could have the opposite effect to that which was supposedly intended. It warns in a volatile situation Palestine risks becoming a "failed state" , which would destroy the chance of achieving a two-state solution. (Poverty in Palestine: the human cost of the financial boycott.

Remembering how Ariel Sharon attacked Palestinian offices, and launched his unilateral withdrawal claiming there was "nobody to talk to" on the Palestinian side, one wonders whether that is what Israeli governments and their backers have wanted all along.

Oxfam report and its recommendations - restoring direct aid, telling Israel to release funds it has witheld, and restoring faith in Europe's belief in democracy and trustworthiness as a broker for peace - are much in line with what people told their MPs when we lobbied the Westminster parliament on November 29. So far, it seems only Norway has broken ranks with the blockade, while Russia and France have given it thought.

The Enough coalition (after 40 years of Israeli Occupation) is planning to lobby MPs again in November this year. (There's also a national demonstration on June 9). It's worth making sure that your MP gets a copy of the Oxfam report along with your e-mail or letter, urging him to study and support it, now, rather than wait till you see him later in the year.

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Fraud Warning! Zionists at work

STANDING with him?

Anti-Finkelstein campaigners defend Israeli military against accusations of brutality - even when these come from ex-IDF soldiers.

THE slogan "Not in My Name!" took on added significance for me last night. I learned that my name had appeared on an online petition AGAINST Professor Norman Finkelstein and his right to hold his job at an American university.
As readers of my previous post on this subject will know I am in favour of Prof. Finkelstein's right to tenure, and in fact I signed a petition in favour of this.

But I heard last night from Dr.George Saltzman, an American academic whom I didn't know, but who had apparently seen my views, that my name, along with his, and those of others opposed to the anti-Finkelstein witch-hunt, had been fraudulently added to a "dump Finkelstein" petition.

The background to all this is that Professor Norman Finkelstein, the son of Jewish Holocaust survivors, has angered Zionist leaders and organisations, first by protesting at the way the history - not to mention reparations - have been misappropriated to serve the Israeli State, and silence critics; and then more recently by attacking Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

In fact, Finkelstein has taken up a fight on two fronts, not only challenging the Zionist Lobby, but also opposing those who try to hide US imperialism's responsibility for its own Middle East policies by blaming everything on the supposed power of Jewish influence.

Norman Finkelstein is neither a "self-hater" nor a Holocaust denier, but this has not stopped the outraged Zionist propaganda racketeers from trying to smear him as both, and incite hatred against him, while at the same time starting a neo-McCarthyite campaign to press Professor Finkelstein's employers, De Paul University, into removing his tenure.

Leading the campaign is Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz. His intervention has raised concern among De Paul's own faculty, who question the propriety not to say, decency, of an academic at a larger institution trying to lean on a smaller one to get rid of a member of staff. But mobilising the ground troops, and trading on their ignorance, for an online petition to drive Norman Finkelstein from his post, and indeed profession, is an Israel-is-always-right propaganda outfit called "Stand With Us".

When challenged about its use of people's names without their knowledge, let alone agreement, spokeswoman Rosalind Rothstein replied disingenuously "Please be advised that we are not forging signatures. I have no idea who would do such a thing.... because obviously something is wrong. We are in the business of playing fairly, but playing. We entered the debate about this because there was a "pro" tenure petition going around. Certainly, we have not been monitoring the petition to see if there is a misuse of your petition, and certainly there may or may not be.... You believe that Dr. Finkelstein deserves tenure, and my "camp" does not. That is really about the extent of it. That does not mean that we would ever deliberately sign on academics that have not signed the petition. As a child of Holocaust Survivors, I must tell you that I am deeply concerned with the messages that Norman Finkelstein brings to the Israel/Palestinian debate. That being said, I am not in favor of "cheating" on a petition. Any names that you have identified that are unlikely to have signed, please do let me know, and we will request that they be immediately removed. We will also take a moment to review the signatures posted at this time.

All the best,
Roz Rothstein,
National Director,

Note that reference to being "a child of Holocaust survivors" - as though that puts her sincerity beyond question and her opinions above criticism. Well, it might work with guilt-tripping gentiles worried about their own antisemitism (a big element in Christian pro-Zionism), Ms.Rothstein; but even assuming you are what you say, it does not give you the right to speak for others whose families went through the same horrors - including the parents of Professor Norman Finkelstein - nor for those of us who might have perished had it not been for the heroic fight of the Resistance, and the Allied and Soviet forces.

Norman Finkelstein has not attacked the memory of the Holocaust victims. He has attacked the exploitation of the Holocaust victims and misappropriation of their memory by those who in some cases did nothing to stop the Nazis, or rescue anybody; and those who nowadays perpetrate their own war and racism against the Palestinian people. That is, those who "Stand With Us" would have us stand with.

Anyone who thinks these propagandists are solely upset because they felt someone used insensitive language about the Holocaust need only take a look at their website. Advertising itself as "the one-stop shop for pro-Israel activism", it includes a campaign for "US Student Support of Israeli Defense Forces", with a letter which teachers and school administrators can send out, beginning

"Dear Parents,
Our community is going to show support to Israeli soldiers....",
and giving instructions on how children can be involved in sending cards and cheques to the Israeli forces.

But they won't support all Israeli soldiers. Another of their petition campaigns announces:
-50 Days Left To Sign
“Breaking the Silence,” a small organization of former IDF soldiers, travels abroad to tell foreign audiences that because of IDF policy, Israeli soldiers are callous and unethical, and regularly commit human rights abuses'.

Wow! I wonder where these Israeli veterans could have got that idea? Not from experience, I suppose. They must have been listening to Arab propaganda! Surely not more "self-haters"? I guess a card and a cheque for a refusenik's family, whose breadwinner has gone to prison for refusing to serve in the Occupation, is out of the question?

Although Stand With Us boasts supporters in Britain, Australia and South Africa, its website depicts Israeli and US flags. But that does not mean they are satisfied with the Bush administration's support and arms for Israel. Urging "letters to President Bush NOW" they say "Write to the President frequently, use your fax and call the comment line. The message must be: Please support Israel's fight against terrorism. There cannot be a double standard between the war being fought by the US on terrorism, and Israel's same war. TERRORISM MUST NEVER BE SUPPORTED OR REWARDED. Include: I appreciate all that you have done in this war against terrorism".

They continue "Kids letters to President Bush: Apparently President Bush likes to read children's mail. Talk to the kids in your life. Get them writing, and send snail mail. Keep those letters flowing. Do letters at gatherings. The letters should be personal, no "form" letters. Give your kids a few brief facts, and let them write".

Elsewhere they advertise a video exposing the indoctrination of Arab children.

I guess if the kids don't sign their names can be forged, as has happened to some of us with the anti-Norman Finkelstein petition. It is very good of Ms.Rothstein to promise that Stand With Us will "take a moment" to look at some of the signatures posted. That was on Tuesday, and by last night my name was still in the petition, as were those of Paula Abrams-Hourani and Dr. Miriam Reik, both of whom had written letters to De Paul University supporting Norman Finkelstein's right to tenure. Whoever is responsible, and whether the aim was just to bump up numbers or as it appears, to deliberately misuse opponents' names, it is SWU's responsibility to check and remove the falsely used names.

Identity theft and libel, by misrepresenting a person's views as the opposite, on a serious matter like this, are not a joke but a crime. I have written to petitions on line to say that if Stand By Us do not remove our names then their petition should be removed from the petitions website. I also contacted a few friends to warn what was happening. From the reply below it would appear the campaign against Norman Finkelstein is rebounding in his favour, not just with faculty members, and prominent intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, but much wider support. This is from a friend in Not in My Name (appropriately enough!), which is part of Jewish Voices for Peace, in the United States:

Hi from Chicago. Norman is receiving tons of support from all over the world. Of course, the petition of which you speak is really atrocious. The comments are ridiculous. Obviously, few signers have ever read a word that Norman has written. To suggest that he is a Holocaust denier is laughable, but so many seem to believe that. We in Not In My Name are going to give him our annual Tikkun Olam award in a few weeks at our Benefit event. We will know in early June if he has received tenure.


That's heartening to know. Let's wish koech, strength, to those who are fighting in the belly of the beast, against US empire and the Israeli occupiers' lobby which misuses all our name.

The original petition in SUPPORT of Norman Finkelstein's tenure is at:

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Steadfast and Defiant, for Peace with Justice, Bil'in goes on air

INJURED PROTESTER is rushed away,
but Bil'in remains proud and defiant

FORGET the BBC, for your Middle East coverage, at least for a day or so, and welcome the new BBC - Bil'in Broadcasting Conference! The Palestinian village, scene of regular confrontations between peaceful demonstrators over Israel's annexation wall and Israeli forces firing rubber bullets and tear gas, is hosting an international conference on Popular Struggle.

Participants include Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti, Italian MEP Lisa Morgantini, Israeli journalist Amira Hass, and Irish Nobel peace [rize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire.

To get the message through to people who can not attend, part of the proceedings are being broadcast online, and in English.

If the idea of yet another international conference does not sound so important or exciting, we should remember this one is happening not in peaceful Geneva or similarly comfortable setting, but right in the thick of things.

This was the news from Bil'in at the weekend:

At least 15 demonstrators were injured today in the village of Bil’in. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at a crowd of Palestinian, Israeli, and internationals, who were non-violently resisting Israel’s Apartheid Wall and Occupation of Palestinian land.
Every Friday for the past 26 months, Palestinians and their Israeli and international colleagues have been meeting in Bil’in and demonstrating against the Apartheid Wall. Today, in commemoration of Palestinian Prisoner’s Week, a portable “jail cell” was carried along the march towards the Wall. Palestinians, with their hands tied, resembling prisoners, marched inside the cell. Photos of Marwan Barghouti and other political prisoners were seen throughout the march.

Israeli forces were waiting inside of the Wall, however, preventing the demonstrators from reaching their destination. A high-powered water tank was also inside the Wall, waiting to be used on the demonstrators. Instead, the army started propelling tear gas at the peaceful demonstration. As people began to scatter in various directions, soldiers fired indiscriminately into the trees.

On the very eve of the conference we got this message, via the International Solidarity Movement, yesterday:

Israeli Occupation Forces are currently invading the village of Bil'in. Mohammad Khatib, from Bil'in, stated that the army has set up a checkpoint just outside of Bil'in, where he was detained for an hour on his way to Ramallah. Shortly thereafter, he received a call that soldiers were entering people's homes, supposedly looking for "wanted men." Akram, who is now in Bil'in, said that the Israeli Forces have split up into three groups and are searching homes, including the home of Mohammad Khatib where his wife and children are. Akram said that soldiers are currently near the mosque.

Despite all this, the conference is going ahead, and here is the news that it will be broadcast to us:

Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 11:48 PM
Subject: [rapprochement] Bilin Conference Boradcasted ONLINE

Dear All,

Out of concern that you may miss the International Conference on Popular Struggle which will be held in Bilin on Wednesday and Thursday (18 + 19) April, 2007, IMEMC is going to broadcast the conference live on its web stream service. So you are all invited to listen to the conference. For a detailed program visit where you can find what sessions will be broadcast and what time.
Please keep in mind that the conference time is on Jerusalem time (GMT +3)

The stream will be in English.

Among the key speakers at the conferece,

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian Minister of Information
Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Irish Nobel Peace Prize recipient
Dr. Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Luisa Morgantini, Italian EU Parliament member and Peace Activist
Stéphane Hessel, former French Ambassador
Jean-Claude Lefort, French parliament member
Amira Haas, Author and Journalist, Ha'aretz
Sam Bahour, Palestinian activist and entrepreneur

Your support is needed to continue the struggle for peace and justice

-----------George N. Rishmawi

The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People (PCR) ,

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

William Morris in Waltham Forest

WILLIAM MORRIS, his home in Walthamstow, and a piece of his design, called "Wandle", after the river in south London.

AT the north-east end of the Victoria Line is Walthamstow, part of the London borough of Waltham Forest, and though it might not be posh or trendy, they celebrated a famous local's birthday recently and I am sorry I missed the occasion.

William Morris, poet, artist and socialist was born in Walthamstow on March 24, 1834.

In 1845 the family moved into Water House, a substantial Georgian home, with moat and water gardens where the young William played with his brothers and sisters. Today the grounds form Lloyd Park (named for a newspaper owner who gave them to the local council) and the house is the home of the William Morris Gallery, opened by Labour prime minister Clem Attlee in 1950.

I first visited Lloyd Park many years ago when Waltham Forest Trades Union council were holding their May Day fete there. The Jewish Socialists' Group had a lit stall, Harry Cohen MP stopped by for a chat, and I bought and enjoyed an excellent charcoal-grilled shish kebab in pita with salad from the Kurdish refugee workers on the next stall. On a more recent visit to Walthamstow one evening I repaired to an Asian cafe on Hoe Street where the friendly proprietress in shalwar and khamis brought me my beigel and cream cheese and good strong coffee. East London, innit? Morris would wholeheartedly approve.

Though born when Walthamstow was still a country village, and creating poetry, arts and craft that seem so typically "English", William Morris offers little shelter for the flag-waving, narrow-minded patriots of phoney tradition. The ugliness of Victorian capitalism fired his wish to work and create artistically, but he came to left-wing politics as an internationalist, appalled by Tory and Liberal imperialist policies, and rejecting the chauvinism of his pseudo-Marxist contemporary H.M.Hyndman. It was Morris who earned the affection of Fred Engels and Marx's daughter Eleanor, and spoke to audiences of East End working-class immigrants.

But for all we have been hearing about "heritage" in the past few years, Morris and his museum are not faring well in the climate of cuts and closures under this Labour government, any more than nearby Whipps Cross hospital. As this note below from the William Morris Society told us:

24 March 2007 (Morris's birthday)

Dear Friends,

The Walthamstow Borough Council has cut resources to the William Morris Gallery and its curatorial staff, which affects opening hours and reduces service. The curator, Peter Cormack, has already been given notice of his termination. A petition has been set up to protest at Please sign and pass on to others who may be concerned to protect a valuable resource in Morris Studies. For full details please go to, which is regularly updated with the latest news of the campaign. You can email Walthamstow Councillor Adam Gladstone directly via The entire Council can be reached by visiting
Finally, visit the Morris Gallery either in person or by going to and register your concern and support!

In fellowship,
The William Morris Society

That same day, despite bitterly cold weather over a hundred artists, musicians and local residents turned up outside the museum to celebrate Morris's 173rd birthday with a picnic. There were home-made Morris-inspired tapestries, and there was poetry to commemorate the event, and it was an opportunity to protest against cuts that will bring job losses and mean the Museum will have to close on weekdays. People fear that with the loss of jobs and expertise, as well as visitor numbers will come a decline leading to the museum being closed altogether.

"Some protestors dressed as 'fat cat councillors' whilst one creative protestor transformed himself into a seven foot depiction of William Morris' ghost" (BBC, report, Ramaa Sharma, .
They sang Leon Rosselson's song News from Nowhere, fiddlers played and dancers danced, and there were messages of support from Tony Benn and from the US William Morris Society.

Besides gathering hundreds of local people's protest signatures in Walthamstow market, including some in Sanskrit and Arabic, the Morris museum's defenders have launched an online petition which has raised over 5,000 signatures, many from past visitors, and many of them from overseas.

Waltham Forest council was due to discuss the gallery cutback on Friday the 13th, good job we are not superstitious, and there should be an announcement pretty soon. Maybe the councillors should reflect that when their borough is often in the news for crime and other problems, it is the Morris museum and the protestors who have put the positive side of Walthamstow on the map.

The museum website at has more information and even some Morris designs you can download as pictures or classy desktop screen wallpaper. Among them is the 'Wandle' design I took as a sample (above). Morris named it after the modest but hard-working river which rising from Downs springs flows through the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth to reach the Thames, and provided the power and clean water for Morris and Company's textile mill at Merton Abbey. For more information about this 1884 textile design see:

The other part of London particularly associated with Morris is Hammersmith. He took a home by the Thames, at which his Hammersmith Socialist Society used to meet (among its members incidentally was a young music student, who met his wife while conducting the society's choir; a Baltic immigrants' son named Gustav Holst).

When I heard that Weatherspoon were resuscitating an old pub on Swan Island in Hammersmith, I wrote to the company suggesting as a name for the new establishment "News from Nowhere", Morris' famous novel of a socialist future which he wrote while living in Hammersmith. They said they'd consider it. But in the end they settled for simply calling it the William Morris, which is fair enough.

The William Morris Society has more about his life and work at

You can find an essay on Morris and his socialism at

There is also an informative online exhibition provided by the University of Texas at

Oh, and there's still time to sign that petition at:

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