Sunday, June 29, 2008

Caller deserving our support

OLD fogies like me are forever lamenting the removal of factories and docks from London, which has left us with empty places in our union councils, among other things; and forever getting pissed-off with such features of modern life as call-centres, whether or not they are to blame for delays in contacting services while we explain to some remote operator where exactly we are; or for cold calls from charities and companies anxious to tell us of their generous special offers.

They usually call while you're having your tea. I could unplug the phone, or find somewhere that sells rubber-clad handsets suitable for bouncing off the wall.

But passing from my Victor Meldrew mode, let's consider the poor sods who work in call-centres. Part of the new-style capitalism - how well it manages to blend modern technology and Dickensian conditions. Permanently stressed, and under pressure, having to put your hand up to ask permission to go to the loo. Trapped between supervisors watching your rate and success of calls, and uncharitable people like me telling you where to go, as we slam the phone down.

Yesterday by way of a change, I had a friendly face to face chat with a London call centre worker, It was just for a few minutes, so I did not get to ask whether his conditions had been as bad as all that. Pat Carmody had come to the National Shop Stewards Network conference where he said call centre workers were organising, despite the difficulties, and staff employed by his company had even won a 15 per cent pay increase. But Pat, a member of the Communication Workers Union, had just been sacked as a result of his union activity.

It seems the trouble started when Pat's boss saw this item in Socialist Worker:

"Standing up for call centre staff" (June 7, 2008)
A well attended meeting of CWU union members at Pell and Bales, a call centre in Old Street, central London, launched a campaign to defend a fellow worker last week. The caller was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing following a complaint made about him during training For asking some pertinent questions. he was accused of "playing to the crowd" and "scowling at the carpet" Many colleagues have signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped.

The item was signed Pat Carmody, CWU member.

Well, it's a free country isn't it? No, evidently. I wonder if Pat's boss just happened to be reading Socialist Worker, or was it drawn to his attention by someone? It seems putting your name to a news item is even worse than scowling at the carpet, because Pat was told he was in breach of contract, and sacked. He is appealing the decision, and should have his union's support.

Pell and Bales is a small company, and until this case I'd never heard of it. Apparently it claims to be "ethical". Some of its clients are well-known. They include:
Cancer Research UK
Macmillan Cancer Care
World Wildlife Fund
Action Aid
and the Cats Protection League.

Don't know if there's a call centre workers' protection league.

But friends and union colleagues of Pat Carmody are recommending letters to Pell and Bales' CEO, Mr. Karl Holweger, pointing out that the sacking of union rep Pat Carmody is an attack on trade union rights and freedom of speech, and reflects badly on the company. The letters should urge Mr.Holweger to revrse the decision, and reinstate Pat.

You can e-mail letters to
They would like you to please cc to

If you are involved in charity work or as a supporter or worker for any of the organisations that might use Pell and Bales services you could mention that you would raise your concern that the firm they are using is taking an anti-union attitude.

To contact the campaign and keep in touch:

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Remembering the 'Her' in Heritage

BLISS TWEED MILL. Class struggle in the Cotswold countryside.

THOUGH I'm no longer on the shop floor, or sites, I'm attending this weekend's conference of the National Shop Stewards' Network, as one of the delegates from my trades union council (the devil makes work for idle hands!) and hope to participate in a workshop discussion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, something we somehow didn't get at the "official" movement's conferences of trade union councils that I've been to.

It's highly relevant. New Labour likes to exhort us to "live in the real world", much as they have increased the numbers that die in it. How real is it to whinge about rising prices and fuel crises, and forget there's a costly war we are paying for? Or pontificate about "carbon footprints" when jets are taking off from here and towns there go up in smoke? And why should we not talk about solidarity with Iraqi workers when the same big companies profit from war and from privatisation here and in their country?

But I'll also be remembering the need for internationalism and solidarity at home by taking along some DVDs to sell, of the new Grunwick strike film produced by Chris Thomas for Brent Trades Union Council, in commemoration of thirty years since that historic battle. It's not a "didn't we do well" celebration, because despite the truly heroic determination of the Grunwick strikers, mainly women and mostly Asian, and in spite of magnificent solidarity from other trades unionists, the strike was defeated. It was defeated by the combination of a stubborn employer, encouraged by right-wing anti-union "freedom" campaigners, vicious police bully-boys, backed by the media and the state; and weak-kneed union leaderships. But just how, and what was learnt from it, is discussed by some of the participants in the events talking in the
Grunwick film.

Although it marked a turning in the 1970s, in trade unionists rallying to the side of immigrant workers, Grunwick was not the first time a group of exploited women workers came to the fore in struggle. Nor was it the last time when the movement will be judged by how much solidarity it brings to them. We might think of the Gate Gourmet workers at London airport, or the Fremantle care workers in Barnet.

But it is good to see that trade union activists are taking responsibility for maintaining this aspect of our class memory and history. When Brent TUC was preparing its Grunwick commemoration event, we protested at the town hall because local libraries had been told not to take our leaflets. (History is still hot to handle!) A young woman outside who did take a leaflet was fascinated by its story. "Gosh, I grew up around here and did not know about any of this."
Politicians and tame historians talk about "our" heritage, but we are not leaving it to them.

This Saturday, June 26, there's an afternoon event at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1 (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road) to commemorate the strike of women workers at Bryant and May's match factory in the East End, 120 years ago. It is at 2pm-4pm, organised by the Greater London association of Trade Union Councils with support from the South-East Region TUC. The matchgirls, as they were called, many of Irish origin, were working under atrocious conditions, handling dangerous chemicals which caused the bone deterioration known as "phossy jaw". The women's struggle for decent pay and conditions inspired the menfolk too, encouraging the great dock strike the following year.

Events don't always happen in the order you might expect, nor in an urban battleground like the East End. A few years ago, walking with a pal near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, I was intrigued to see what looked like a rather fancy old factory chimney in rural surroundings, and we went to have a look. The large building we found, with attractive water feature, had been converted to flats, but converted from what? We found out that this had been Bliss Tweed Mill, built in 1873, and one of the biggest employers for a century, as well as an impressive building.

In November 1913 the Workers' Union (later to be part of the TGWU) began what was to be an eight-month long strike at the mill, mostly of women workers, led by a Miss Varley, who was the union organiser. During the strike the women met at the Fox hotel, now a pub in Chipping Norton, and their struggle attracted support from socialists at Oxford as well as suffragettes.

On Saturday, August 9, labour historian Mary Davis will lead a mobile seminar, starting from Oxford railway station at 10am and visiting Chipping Norton, as well as nearby Ascott under Wychwood, where in 1873 the authorities arrested 16 women, two with young babies, and sentenced them to hard labour, for the offence of picketing in support of their husbands who were striking agricultural workers.

The tour will also take in the Cowley car plant, where in 1934 women workers led the way in fighting for better pay and conditions and union recognition. "The girls are game, are you?", asked strike posters.

The Oxford touring seminar is supported by South East Region TUC, and enquiries can be made to

Talking about women who are game for a fight seems as good an opportunity as any to mention some female bloggers with whom I've linked. When I was a youngster I enjoyed a few Sunday outings with Mum and Dad to Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, now known to TV viewers as "Last of the Summer Wine" country, but also with their mills and industrial history, on the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. I also read my Mum's copy of "I haven't unpacked", by local author Willam Holt, who later did a TV series on his travels. Keeping up the area's left-wing tradition, the Mayor of Hebden now is Susan Press, who blogs "It's grimmer up North", and is a supporter of the Labour Reprseentation Committee, and the Convention of the Left planned to outshine New Labour's conferenc ein Manchester this Autumn.

Tami Peterson,whom I've met at a meeting with writer Mike Marqusee and since in Hands Off the People of Iran, is a quiet-spoken American-born socialist, also supporting the Labour Representation Committee, and on the editorial board of Labour Briefing, and she is blogging at

Someone else I've met through Hands off the People of Iran(HOPI) is Vicky Thompson, a left-wing student activist in Manchester who seems to have got right up the nose of the Socialist Workers Party hacks, and that can't be bad in my book. Vicky has just announced her new blog at

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Europe's two faces to Palestine

ISRAELI watchtower on Gaza coast. Now
Palestinian fishermen face worse peril to livelihood.

AS Israel maintains its siege of Gaza, in breach of international law against collective punishment of civilians, and steps up settlements around east Jerusalem, so that even Condeleeza Rice felt bound to protest, where does the European Union stand?
Facing both ways, it seems.

On Monday, June 16, reporting to the European Parliament's plenary session opening in Strasburg
, the current president of the Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, reported on the delegation visiting Palestine and Israel. He closed his speech by expressing solidarity with the fishermen of Gaza, who on the same day took to sea claiming the "Right to live, the right to fish, the right for freedom", during the mobilization organized by the "End the Siege Campaign", a Palestinian and International Campaign ( ).

The Gaza fishermen, whose catch could be a vital part of feeding their people, have been restricted and harassed by Israeli forces for some time. They were barred from importing bigger engines for their boats which would enable them to venture further out. Now they face a more serious problem. Israeli interference with power supplies and spare parts and materials needed for Gaza's sewage system has led among other things to untreated sewage polluting Gaza's coastal waters. Some has even floated up to beaches near Ashkelon, though the thought that pollution and disease are no respecters of borders and checkpoints does not seem to have penetrated the thick skulls of Israeli political leaders and generals yet.

(...)"While we are here today", noted H.G. Pottering, " fishermen in Gaza Strip have taken to sea with their boats. Because of the siege an horrible pollution is spreading all around, threatening the daily life of fishermen who are protesting against the siege. They are demonstrating for the right to fish, to live, for freedom and for peace. Our EP delegation promised to support the fishermen. Therefore, in the name of all of us, I would like to express the solidarity of the European Parliament with all these fishermen".

(Thanks to European parliament vice-president Luisa Morgantini from Italy for translating and forwarding this, by the way.)

So how does Europe respond? How does the EU show solidarity, or listen to appeals from Palestine?

Here's what the Israeli daily Haaretz reported today:
EU unanimously upgrades Israel ties, turning aside PA objections
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

The European Union, turning aside Palestinian objections, has announced upgraded relations with Israel in the form of a range of steps involving commerce, the economy, and academic ties as well as improvements in the diplomatic dialogue between the sides.

The decision was taken unanimously on Monday by the EU's 27 member
> nations, following an intense diplomatic effort by Israel.

The upgrade in relations had been in doubt prior to the decision, amid moves to make approval conditional on a freeze on Israeli settlement activity and on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad enraged Israeli
officials when he asked the EU not to upgrade ties with Israel unless
Israel ceased construction of settlements and the West Bank separation

The PA has charged that Israel delayed and reduced payments of tax revenues it collects for the Authority in order to "punish" Fayyad.

In the wake of diplomatic efforts by senior Foreign Ministry officials, the EU made do with a call for movement in
Israeli-Palestinian talks, and without conditioning the upgrade on such progress.

Accordingly, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and EU counterparts meeting
in Luxembourg on Monday agreed to set up a working group to discuss
the outlines of upgraded ties and to present their conclusions by
year's end.

The upgrade will be carried out in a number of spheres. The diplomatic
dialogue between the Israeli government and senior officials of EU
institutions, by means of annual high-level meetings.

In the economic sphere, Israel will join European agencies and working
groups with the aim of bringing the Israeli economy closer to European
standards, and to help Israeli companies more easily contend with the
European commercial market, particularly in the fields of high-tech
and aviation.

Upgraded ties may also lead to recognition by European academic
institutions of degrees awarded by Israeli universities and colleges,
a step which would allow Israeli students to study for advanced
degrees in European universities and other academic institutions.

In addition, the process would allow grants worth tens of millions of
euros to be awarded Israeli scientists and researchers.


It is not hard to see that besides its economic value, this closer relationship can have renewed military significance. The founder of Israel's nuclear weapons programme, Yuval Ne'eman, was trained at London 's Imperial College, and the programme grew on French and British collaboration. Today while the great powers still admonish Iran, and draw up sanctions, Israel is reported to possess 150 nuclear weapons.

Other voices were raised besides that of the Palestine Authority against upgrading.

Dear Member of European Parliament,

At the European Council meeting on 19-20 June, I understand that EU heads of state will consider upgrading political and economic ties with Israel under the EU's Euro-Med programme. I am writing to you on behalf of European Jews for a Just Peace, to request that you make the strongest representations possible to the EU governments that such an upgrade is deeply inappropriate at this time.
EU officials have emphasised that the importance of maintaining close relations with Israel, at a time when Israel is occupying or blockading Palestinian Territory, is to encourage Israel to adhere more closely to European norms of behaviour with respect to human rights, democracy and international law. This policy has failed.
The Barcelona Declaration governing the EuroMed process - signed by then Prime Minister, now Defence Minister Ehud Barak - commits signatories to:
"act in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other obligations under international law...
...develop the rule of law and democracy in their political systems...
respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and guarantee the effective legitimate exercise of such rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association for peaceful purposes..."
Israel is known to contravene international law, most obviously through the collective punishment of the population of Gaza, so described by External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner in January this year. Less widely known are the many instances where it shows contempt for the rules of its own laws. I have appended some instances for your information.
The intention to promote European values through closer economic, political and cultural ties is noble in principle. In practice, Israel shows no respect for the agreements it has already signed. Now is not the time for the EU to upgrade relations with Israel.
I would be grateful if you would convey these concerns to your foreign minister and let me know their response.
Yours sincerely
Dan Judelson
European Jews for a Just Peace
June, 12th 2008

Last year, at the conference of trades union councils in Britain , a lengthy composite resolution on Palestine was passed, including references to the possibility of boycotting Israeli trade, and a delegation of British trades unionists has visited Palestine and Israel. In the report for this year's conference in Sheffield the TUC general council merely commented that the resolution was "in line with TUC policy in that it emphasises a 'two state solution' and the importance of the road map."

This year there were no resolutions on Palestine, Iraq or Iran. But as I told fellow-delegates during a workshop discussion, I wondered what kind of "two states" were being talked about when Britain would not even allow visas for an under-19 Palestinian football side. "I don't know about the 'road map', but I am more concerned about road blocks in Palestine," I said.

Without detracting from the sincerity of those EU politicians talking about solidarity, the real face of Europe that Palestinians are seeing is one of a partner with Israel in oppression.

It is time for the trade union movement to make good its resolutions by stepping out of line with the British government and others that are backing the US and Israel.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh what a lovely war! (for some)

BBC PANORAMA this evening went looking for an estimated S23 billion (£11.75bn) that had somehow been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. What it showed was how well some private contractors have done from the war and occupation. They range from vice president Dick Cheney's old firm KBR Halliburton through to an obscure former kitchen-fitting company that somehow got itself an accounting contract on billion dollar deals.

The enterprising methods used were such that Sergeant Ernie Bilko might have gasped at them. One company helped itself to Iraqi government fork-lift trucks, resprayed them, then hired them out at suitably inflated prices. Another allegedly sent unprotected civilian drivers out risking ambushes, even with empty trucks, so it could bump up its charges for supplying the army.

Open contracts on a costs plus basis encouraged firms to charge what they liked. Halliburton was awarded contracts without anyone else being invited to bid. The US military - i.e. the taxpayer - paid for meals that were never delivered.

The darker side of this tale is of Iraqi prisoners tortured at Abu Ghraib by contractors not even subject to military law, and civilians shot by trigger-happy mercenaries.

A US gagging order, preventing discussion of the allegations, applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies. While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted. To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

In fact it is those responsible officials who objected to wrongdoing or raised too many questions who seem to have lost their jobs, or in one case, had their life endangered in Iraq.

Not all the profiteers are Americans, of course. With world oil prices soaring we noticed that the oil concessions which Kurdish regional ministers are granting companies like Hunt Petroleum are not just upsetting the Iraqi government which says they are illegal, but kept under wraps from the Kurdish people and their representatives too.

Panorama's search for missing billions also led to a house in Acton, West London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

Shalaan and his associates were supposed to be buying the latest military equipment, but went for a load of cheap second-hand gear from Poland. With the difference they were able to siphon an estimated $1.2 billion out of the ministry, and divert it to their overseas accounts. Shalaan was investigated and sentenced to two jail terms, but he fled the country, claiming the accusations against him were all a plot by pro-Iranian MPs . There is an Interpol warrant out, but the runaway minister, who still owns the Acton house and property in the Marble Arch area, is still zooming around by private jet.

After recent programmes looking at targets such as illegal immigrants, I'm glad to see Panorama plucking up the courage to investigaate more serious offenders, with their power and wealth. Some of what the programme had to say, such as private contractors outnumbering US soldiers in Iraq, we have already heard from less established communicators such as Naomi Klein. But hopefully, this programme will get more people thinking, and wondering what we have yet to be told. The BBC reporter did note that KBR Halliburton has been awarded the contract to supply British forces in Iraq. After that trip to look at a disgraced minister's former modest home in Acton (where incidentally another Halliburton subsidiary does the bins and street cleaning for Ealing council) , I've suggested the Panourama team take a look at KBR Halliburton's place up the road at Greenford, or Bechtel in Hammersmith, and find out about how much these companies are making from their operations in Britain.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Lean years and repression in Egypt

BESIDES helping to seal off the Gaza Strip along with the Israeli blockade, Egyptian authorities are in trouble with their own people over rising food prices and shortages. The government's continuing privatisation of industry and resources may qualify it for the American-led crusade for "democracy" in the Middle East, but Egypt's working people are confronting hunger and repression. But resistance is growing.

Thousands of demonstrators have clashed with police, in a protest against a decision by local authorities to end distribution of flour rations in the northern coastal town of Burullus.

A Reuters report on Saturday, quoting the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper, said around 8,000 protestors sealed off a road for seven hours, using burning tyres to stop traffic. Police used teargas and batons to disperse the crowds and three protesters were hospitalised after inhaling teargas, security sources said. Police made 30 arrests, according to al-Ahram.

One security source said rubber bullets had been fired at the crowd. Security sources said earlier the protests were caused by bread shortages, but subsequent reports said the protestors, primarily local fisherman, were angered by the local authority's decision to end direct distribution of flour rations in favour of supplying bakeries with the flour.

High wheat prices have put great strain on Egypt's bread subsidy system, where the urban poor depend on cheap bread to survive.

The demand for subsidised bread has grown and the heavy subsidy has increased the incentive to divert subsidised flour illegally to other uses. Egypt said in May it would add at least 17 million people to the ranks of ration card holders to ease the effect of rising food prices. (Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni, editing by Mary Gabriel)

Among recent reports of police arresting opposition leaders, trade unionists and religious figures, one particularly has caught my eye, as it concerns a man described as "a blogger and labour activist". According to Agence France Press, Karim al-Beheiri. "who was released after weeks behind bars over deadly protests at Egypt's biggest textile plant for higher pay and controls on prices, said Monday he and his fellow detainees suffered eeks of 'torture'.

"We were subjected to electric shocks, to beatings and there was no food and or drink for the first few days," blogger Karim el-Beheiri told AFP a day after his release. "We went through weeks of torture and humiliation."

Beheiri, Tarek Amin and Kamal al-Fayoumy, three worker activists, were arrested on April 6 at the Misr Spinning and Weaving company in the Nile Delta industrial city of Mahalla after riots which left three people dead and hundreds detained.

An interior ministry official confirmed the three had been released but denied they had been mistreated.

"These are false accusations," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Everything took place within a framework of human rights."

They were accused of "inciting unrest, damage to property and demonstrating," a security official told AFP, adding that of the hundreds detained in connection with the Mahalla riots, eight remain in custody.

The three were fired from their jobs after their arrest, said Beheiri, whose detention was condemned by international human rights watchdogs.

"Many of us had never seen the inside of a prison before," Beheiri said, describing his first weeks at Borg al-Arab prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria sharing a small cell with 25 people as "terrifying."

"We had bread thrown at us. They would dip their hands in our food before throwing it at us," said Beheiri who, with the others, mounted two hunger strikes while in detention.

On April 16, the prosecution ordered the release of several detainees including Beheiri, Fayoumy and Amin, but the three remained behind bars until Sunday.

Beheiri said that during interrogations at state security headquarters in various Egyptian cities, questioning focused mainly on his blog and his connections to other bloggers.

"It's the new fashion," he said of a large-scale crackdown against Egypt's cyber dissidents.

He said the first thing he wanted to do when he got home after the release was to blog the events.

"But I couldn't remember my own password. It was so frustrating," he said.

Symbolic of their rise to power, Egyptian police have arrested several political bloggers in recent months.

But despite Egypt's Internet explosion, the cyber realm remains largely the preserve of the young and educated in a country where 40 percent of the population of 80 million people cannot read.

Nevertheless, Egypt's bloggers, who rarely conceal their real identity, have taken on the role of bridging the gap between civil society's desire for democracy and workers' demands for better pay and working conditions.

In a country where there is little access to live and independent Egyptian reporting, blogs and "real time" social networking sites like Twitter provide regular but unverified updates on events, such as elections and protests.

In recent months, Egypt has seen a number of strikes and protests against low salaries and price rises that have been one of the most serious challenges to the regime of veteran President Hosni Mubarak.

I sometimes wonder whether activity like blogging is a diversion from more useful political activity. I'd like to think it could prove even a fraction of the effect bloggers like Beheiri have apparently had. Not that I want to face similar consequences.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Visions of Freedom

BEHNAM ASKARI is an impressive young artist, a pleasant and polite young fellow, whose talents and imagination won him a place at St.Martin's school of art in London and whose bright and colourful work has already been exhibited and praised.

Ah, the carefree life of an artist...Well not quite.

Behnam came to this country from Iran with his parents at 15, when his dad got a post in London. It was when his Dad returned to Iran for a visit that the trouble began.

The Iranian authorities had arrested two
students over an illegal political leaflet, and found they had been staying at the Askari family's flat in Tehran. Mr.Askari was arrested and interrogated. When he managed to get a message to his wife in London it was to warn her and his two sons not to return to Iran.

Behnam and his mother have been told they could be arrested, flogged and imprisoned if they do return.

But the Home Office in Britain does not apparently see this threat as anything to worry about. Since the Askari family were not seeking asylum or refuge when they came here, it is unwilling to grant them the right to stay here now.

Friends, including a former teacher of Behnam's , have rallied to oppose the
threatened deportation into the hands of their persecutors.

This week an exhibition of Behnam's work opened at the Watermans Arts centre in Brentford, west London. It is on till June 29. It is a chance to see some fine art and support this family's right to remain in freedom. Visions of Freedom is the title of Behnam's exhibition.

Buses 237 or 267 from Gunnersbury or 65 from Ealing (or Kingston) run by Watermans Art Centre.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Raised voices and proud pedigrees

L'AFFICHE ROUGE - infamous poster denouncing the Manouchian group of resisters (see notes below) as foreigners and criminals.
The Zionist settler Right must make do with its hate lists of Jewish left-wingers and anti-Zionists.

LAST weekend I was at the Jewish Socialists' Group conference, discussing among other things the gains made by the Right in British politics, the Israeli security ban on Professor Norman Finkelstein, the alliance between Zionist lobbyists and right-wing Chistian fundamentalists, and the "arrogant interference of both Israeli and American-based organisations in Jewish communities' affairs".

On the positive side we welcomed the rise both here and in other countries, including the USA, of "independent Jewish associations raising their voices for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine". On the Saturday evening we had a guest speaker, Brian Klug, one of the founders of Independent Jewish Voices, which has gathered some of the best-known Jewishartists,writers and academics, no longer prepared to be ornaments for the establishment and keep quiet about what Israel is doing. His talk was entitled "Next year in Hackney - Reclaiming our futures".

In the past week I've had e-mails from Jewish Voice for Peace, in the United States, which is calling on the lobbyists of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee(AIPAC) to dissociate themselves from protestant pastor John Hagee, who says Hitler was sent by God to make Jews go to Israel. Republican presidential hopeful Senator McCain has renounced Pastor Hagee's support; but the pastor, who heads Christians United for Israel gave the keynote speech at AIPAC's conference, and unlike Norman Finkelstein, had no trouble visiting Israel, where his "no compromise" message was welcomed by right-wing politicians.

I've also received an e-mailed newsletter from the Union Juive Francaise pour la Paix(UJFP), part of European Jews for Just Peace, which is working with the Association des Travailleurs Maghrebins de France, representing North African workers, and the Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique(UPJB) to host a series of meetings with Suhad Bishara, of the civil rights group Adalah, campaigning for equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Suhad Bishara, who takes a special interest in women's rights, will be speaking at the Assemblee Nationale in Paris next Wednesday evening, and on Thursday in Brussels, going on to meetings in Lyons and Marseilles.

What sort of people are active in UJFP and organisations like it? The ones I've met come from varied backgrounds and across generations. But there are none of the "self-haters" , Holocaust deniers or people having problems with their parents that the Zionist hacks (the kind who lick Pastor Hagee's tochas ) would have us believe. This item from the UJFP newsletter, to which I've added a few notes, makes that clear.

Our Own

This Spring, we also commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto rising. Five militants of the UJFP dedicated a tet of homage to the fighters of the ghetto. They wrote:

"Sixty five years after the Warsaw ghetto uprising we pay tribute to all those modest heros and heroines who pitted their lives in a battle against the army that controlled nearly all Europe. .
" Faced with oppression there is always resistance: against Nazism in France, in Vilnius, in Germany even and, in later years, in Egypt and in Algeria against the colonial power, as well as in South Africa against Apartheid. It is the same today: the masks change but it is always the same struggle. We, daughters and sons of resisters against Nazism, affirm our support for Palestinian resistance, because the Zionist power in Israel, usurped our collective name (Jews), claiming to be acting on our behalf, to follow a policy of ferocious colonial repression and apartheid.
The homage to our parents, martyrs or survivors, has been as one with homage to the resistance of the Palestinian people whose basic rights, human and national, were mocked, day after day for 60 years ".

As UJFP notes, what speaks as eloquently as the words in this short message are the names of the signatories, and the "CV" of their parents. This tells you something about where their commitment comes from.

Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, daughter of Schmerke Kaczerginski who took part in the creation of the F.P.O., Fareinigte Partizaner Organizatie (United Partisan Organisation) in the ghetto of Vilnius in 1941. After his escape from the ghetto through the sewers, he fought in the ranks of the Lithuanian guerrillas in Bielorussia under Soviet command; took part in blowing up 50 Nazi military trains. Died in Argentina.

Sonia Fayman, daughter of Lucien David Fayman, member of the Sixth, resistance network of the Eclaireurs Israélites of France(Jewish scouts), hiding children, and of the Buckmaster network (parachuting of weapons and attacks against the Nazi occupiers), arrested by Gestapo in Toulouse, tortured, imprisoned at Fresnes then in Compiegne. Deported to Buchenwald, Dora,, Hartzungen until the liberation. Devoted his retirement to decorating the good people who hid children, at the risk of their lives. Died in 2007.

Patrick Feldstein, son of Mordechaï Feldstein born in Paris in 1927, died in 1993 and grandson of Pinkus Feldstein known in the network under the name of Louis Lefèvre, born in Ploeisti in 1895 in Romania, died in 1971, both of them resistants at Lyons in the network FTP-M.O.I Carmagnole and later in the UJRE in 1943. Pinkus Feldstein, veteran of the Fraenkel battalion of the Dombrowski brigade until 1937, during the war in Spain. Both refused all medals and honors which France proposed to them.

Josiane Olff-Nathan, Martine Olff-Sommer and Perrine Olff-Rastegar, daughters of Raymond Olff, combatant of French resistance F.T.P. (Franc-tireur et Partisans) during the Second World War.

Pierre Stambul, son of Jacov Stambul (Bessarabien), member of M.O.I and the Manouchian group ("triangle " of Boczor). Arrested in November 1943. Tortured by the French police force (show of execution). Deported to Buchenwald, released in May 1945. Died in 1989. And son of Dvoira Vainberg (Bessarabienne), member of M.O.I in Paris, deceased in 1997.


Buckmaster, Colonel Maurice - head of British Special Operations Executive(SOE) activity in France, assisting resistance, spying and sabotage.

Dombrowski Brigade - the thirteenth International Brigade, Polish, with large proportion of Jewish volunteers.

FPO - Jewish partisans in the Vilna ghetto. (Vilnius is the modern name for the Lithuanian capital). Hirsh Glik, author of the Partisaner Lied, was from Vilna.
The FPO included communists, left-zionists and Bundists. But the head of the ghetto police who collaborated with the Germans was Jacob Gens, a Revisionist Zionist (forerunner of the right-wing Likud).

FTP - Francs-Tireurs et Partisans - French resistance network led by the Communists.

Manouchian, Missik - Armenian communist whose resistance group, comprising mostly immigrant Jews and Armenians, struck some of the first blows against the occupation, and aroused particular hatred from both Nazis and Vichyites. A notorious poster, l'affiche rouge, identified wanted members of the Manouchian group, and 23 of them were executed in prison.

MOI -Mains d'Ouevre Immigre - Immigrant workers organisation close to the French Communist Party, with sections for immigrants from different nationalities and language

The Sixth - section of Jewish scouts and guides in France who went underground to help rescue, defence and resistance activity.

UJRE -Union des Juifs pour la resistance et I'entraide (UJRE), Union of Jews for Resistance and Mutual Aid.

French organisations's website:

US Jewish Voice for Peace:

Independent Jewish Voices(UK):

Jewish Socialists' Group

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