Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Soft War" that can also kill

AN Iranian student friend, no supporter of President Ahmadinejad's regime, draws my attention to an item from the Financial Times:

EU trio targets tougher Iran sanctions

By Guy Dinmore in Rome, Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran and Alex Barker in London

Published: February 25 2009 22:17 | Last updated: February 25 2009 22:17

France, Germany and the UK – the so-called EU3 – are proposing a tough list of additional sanctions to be imposed against Iran in order to give the Obama administration more muscle in its expected engagement of the Islamic republic.

A confidential document seen by the Financial Times and Il Riformista, an Italian newspaper, lists 34 Iranian entities and 10 individuals allegedly linked to Iran’s covert nuclear or biological weapons programmes.

Now hold on. Before we go any further, not everyone is convinced Iran has a nuclear weapons programme. They say they haven't, Russia says they haven't, and so far the only governments who say they have are Israel - so far the only the Middle Eastern state which we know for sure has nuclear weapons, and the states who have helped Israel acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

As for a biological weapons programme, this is an allegation I've not heard before. We've more than once seen alleged warfare facilities bombed by which turned out to have been nothing of the sort.

The FT says "European diplomats confirmed the existence of the list but differed over the reasoning behind it. Some said it was intended to provide Washington with a “bigger stick” option in continuation of the existing carrot-and-stick approach. Others said the EU3 wanted to influence a more hardline outcome of Washington’s current review of its Iran policy, expected to be completed next month.

'Internal debate has already reopened European divisions. Diplomats said five countries – Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Austria and Sweden – were opposed. Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister, is said to have argued for a strong common European front regardless of Washington’s next tack. The UK views it as a post-review option.

'The six-page list includes some entities already listed by the US and the United Nations for sanctions. But all the individuals on the new EU-wide sanctions proposal face penalties for the first time, including the commander and deputy of the paramilitary Basij force.

'Some state-run organisations are named for the first time, including the prestigious Sharif University of Technology, Iran Insurance Company, Iran Air Cargo, which is affiliated to the state-owned airliner Khatam ol-Anbia, a construction contractor affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, Iran Space Agency and Razi Institute for Serum and Vaccine Production.'

My Iranian friend comments:

"OK. That's enough Mr EU! You can't put the name of my university in your fucking list! And probably no one moves the nuclear bomb with Iran Air cargo to Israel. And Razi instiute? you probably want to kill hundreds of people, thousands of kids who need vaccination and it is not their fault that the main center for serum and vaccine is state-owned, and the state is a state which you don't like. They can't understand your fucking rationales while struggling with diseases. They're kids Mr EU."

Perhaps it is not polite to ask about chemical warfare. Iranians, along with Kurds, have been at the receiving end of it, when the late Saddam Hussein was riding high in support from the western powers. Britain, France, and the United States all helped, though it was German industry that supplied the chemicals. It has long had the expertise in that field.

Britain, the United States, and perhaps Israel too have done work on biological warfare, even if they claimed that, as at Porton Down for example, it was purely for defensive measures. We may wonder whether the British public would have accepted this explanation had it known back in the 1950s that experiments were carried out in spreading germs or toxins by aerosol on the London Underground. But you need not actually introduce bacteriological weapons to wage this kind of warfare, whether by effect or intent. Israeli forces blockading Gaza have brought the threat of epidemics, by stopping power or spare parts needed for water treatment and sewage plants, as well as holding up medical supplies.

Applying sanctions to a centre producing serums and vaccines is blatant enough.

The usual excuse used for blocking items needed for civil use is the "dual use" one - that valves and switchgear or electronic equipment might possibly be used in military production. It becomes an excuse for bringing a country's industries to a halt, and more. As a Briefing Paper prepared for Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI) says:

“Even if something is not on a list, a lot of companies will say, ‘Dealing with Iran – oh, I’d better not do it,’ ” said a European diplomat in Tehran. “It’s becoming like 1990s Iraq, when companies used to refuse to sell papers and pencils to Iraq’

We are also told that what are being implemented are "smart sanctions", targeted at the regime and its weapons projects. But we saw with Iraq that while working people lost their jobs, and could not afford foods, hospitals lacked medicines and spares for equipmnt, the privileged officer class could rely on the black market for anything they wanted and some even profited running it. It would also be worth looking closer at the effectof sanctions on people in Zimbabwe.

The FT report acknowledges disagreements among EU member states and within Western opinion about the Iran sanctions issue, and inconsistencies in policy. "Critics argue that the policy of coercion has failed so far, leading to an impasse over the nuclear issue and negative repercussions for efforts to influence Iranian behaviour in other crucial areas, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Trita Parsi, Washington-based head of the National Iranian American Council, which urges direct dialogue between Iran and the US, is concerned that the US will stick to 'the mentality of threats and coercion'. He also sees a danger of losing a comprehensive approach. 'It would be alarming if on the one hand Iran is invited to the [G8] Afghan conference in June and at the same time sanctions are slapped on Sharif University,' he said.

Iranian participation was under discussion this week when Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, met Richard Holbrooke, US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Washington. There is a precedent, though the British government may not acknowledge it. After blaming Iran for weapons smuggling and roadside bombs in Iraq, the British government is depending on the Iranian government and parties it supports to maintain order and ease withdrawal of British forces.

Stepping up sanctions seems an odd way of rewarding Tehran for co-operation. Maybe depending on subterfuge and letting the intelligence services decide policy has left Britain in the dark over its own foreign policy, or least left the govrnment's left hand not knowing what its right hand is doing.

If western sanctions are meant to be "smart", just what is their purpose anyway? If the powers want to know what Iran is up to in the scientific field, how come US academic journals have been told to reject papers submitted by Iranian scientists? (Upholders of academic freedom please note!). If the Western "democracies" wish to assist dissent in Iran, against the tyrranical regime, how come the Iranian regime can run and acquire media outlets at home and abroad, but American internet providers can refuse to host sites and discussion lists used by Iranian student dissidents?

Sanctions against Iraq were supposed to give impetus to forces opposed to Saddam Hussein - if people suffer they will stop supporting his policies, was the crude argument used by some politicians (as though the Iraqi people had much chance against a regime which our government had armed). In fact, by devastating industries and services before the war completed the job, they hit the very forces - the working class and educated layers -"civil society" - which could replace the regime. What had been perhaps the most advanced Arab country was ruined, and left dependent, and prey to backward and divisive forces, to be more pliable for imperialist interests. Is that a possible side effect of sanctions, or is is it the real intention?

HOPI, which supports the struggles of workers, women and freedom-seking students in Iran, and opposes imperialist war, says the sanctions policy is just "soft war", and could be a precursor to real war rather than an alternative. It has prepared a briefing paper on the sanctions and their effects, which is available online, and will be holding a press conference on this issue on March 16, with Labour MP John McDonnell.

HOPI is also applying once again for affiliation to the Stop the War Coalition. I think it was scandalous that this vital campaign was rejected for admission in the first place. The spurious grounds then was that HOPI was allegedly a front for the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was illogical considering the CPGB was and is a Coalition affiliate; and opposed in some way to the Coalition's aims. Now apparently the STWC leadership argue that they have no time or rsources to discuss their attitude on Iran, though they seem able to host the Islamic regime's representatives, it is only the critics whom they find a problem.

With HOPI leading the way in opposing sanctions, the Stop the War Coalition will have to decide whether it really wants to be seen as defending the Islamic regime against left-wing criticism and opposition, rather than defending Iran and the Iranian people against imperialism and war.

For more on HOPI, visit:

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sir Alan sues the Sun.

January 7, 2009.
A memorable 'scoop'
the paper might prefer
It was removed
from Sun's website.

BUSINESSMAN and TV star Sir Alan Sugar has reportedly begun a legal action against the Sun over a front-page story that alleged he was on a "terror hit list" of prominent Jews in Britain. A report in the Guardian media section on Monday says he has issued a writ against News Group Newspapers, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News International, and publisher of the Sun, and against Rebekah Wade, its editor.

The tabloid's story on January 7 claimed that Muslim extremists were drawing up a list of British Jews to be "targeted" in retaliation for Israel's onslaught on Palestinians in Gaza. The source for the story appeared to be remarks on a Muslim internet discussion site, as interpreted by a "terrorism expert" called Glen Jenvey whom the Sun consulted. Both the interpretation and the authenticity of the person posting the remarks were questioned, and the Press Complaints Commission is investigating. Though widely quoted abroad, the story was removed from the Sun's own website.

Sir Alan, who established Essex-based electronics firm Amstrad, and was chair of Tottenham Hotspurs from 1991- 2001, is best known now for the BBC 1 TV programme 'The Apprentice. According to the Guardian "The businessman and TV star is understood to have been angry at the story, which he felt risked his personal security".

Coming on the same day as news that 40 children had been killed in an Israeli attack in Gaza, this story of a "terror plot" in Britain was a handy diversion. But Sir Alan Sugar's concern for his personal security echoes a point we have made before. Supposedly warning of attacks, this story could endanger community relations; and at a time of tension and strong feelings, risk putting an idea and false connections in the minds of young people, such as to create a real danger. Has there been any comment from the Board of Deputies of the British Jews, or the Community Security Trust, about this? Or are they leaving it up to an individual?

The Sun' s expert Glen Jenvey has apparently widened his sights, accusing those who questioned his story, the Guardian and the Press Complaints Commission of aiding international terror. It remains to be seen whether the Sun will call this expert witness to its defence, or tell him in the immortal words of Sir Alan, to those who fail to make the grade on his TV show: "YOU'RE FIRED!"

Thanks to
for keeping abreast of this story.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Courage across the divide

Israeli forces at Bil'in have not worried over much over Western media publicity. Maybe because there has not been any?

BIL'IN is a village in Occupied Palestine,just seven miles (12km) west of Ramallah. Though administered by the Palestine National Authority, the village has seen much of its land and olive trees swallowed up by the Israeli annexation wall, or fence, and taken for Israeli settlements.

The people of Bil'in, and of nearby Nilin, have resisted with regular demonstrations, as well as a legal action in the Israeli High Court. They have attracted to their side not only supporters from other parts of Palestine, but Israeli and international solidarity activists.

The Israeli forces have met their peaceful protests with rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring both local people and visitors. One might say they do not discriminate. Matan Cohen, from the Tel Aviv-based Anarchists Against the Wall was hospitalised and nearly lost an eye after a rubber bullet was fired in his face, and Jonathan Pollak from the same group received serious head injuries. A local man sustained kidney injuries from being hit in the back. These "rubber-bullets" are rubber-coated steel, by the way.

The Israeli forces have not seemed worried over much about bad international media publicity, maybe because there rarely is any. Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan used to be front-page news when she campaigned in northern Ireland, but when she suffered leg injuries from a rubber bullet at Bil'in, on Friday, April 20, 2007, and was also affected by inhaling tear gas, the news made neither British or Irish mainstream media, so far as I could see.

On June 6, 2008, European Parliament vice-president Luisa Morgantini and Julio Toscano, an Italian judge, were injured at a protest in Bil'in. Again, besides clouds of tear gas, there was a news black-out. Then on July 7, at Nilin, a courageous Palestinian girl, Salam Kanaan, 17, using a camera loaned by Israeli women activists, managed to film an Israeli battalion commander, Lt.Colonel Omri Bruberg, holding a captive Ashraf Abu Rahma, of Bil'in, handcuffed and blindfolded, while ordering a soldier to shoot the prisoner point blank in the foot. This was seen on international media. The officer was suspended while there was an inquiry. Off camera, Salam Kanaan's father was arrested in a raid, though as many people were being lifted this might have been coincidence.

10 year-old Ahmad Husam Yousef Mousa was killed on July 29, shot in the head while running as the soldiers opend fire on demonstrators against the wall at Nilin. The boy was one of four peiople killed in that village. There were more martyrs there in demonstrations of solidarity with the people of Gaza. The army attacked the funeral of one of them, Mohammed Khawaje, on New Years Day.

Night Raid Terror

With or without media coverage (does the BBC know where Bil'in is, or Nilin? Enough people have tried to tell it.), the resistance and the raids have continued, and yesterday I received the following from a friend in Israel:

"Imagine being awakened to the sound of a stun grenade. Imagine such a grenade landing in your front yard every night. This is the reality that residents of Palestinian villages who are struggling against the apartheid wall are forced to deal with since the attack on Gaza.

These nightly invasions by the army, which terrorize villagers, are becoming ever more frequent. Invasions take place three to four time a week in the villages of Beit Likia and Bil'in. In the last week, the villages of Ma'asara, Ni'ilin and Jayus too have joined the list, as troops have been harassing those who participate and organize the village protests.

"During the invasions soldiers shoot tear gas and stun grenades into civilian's houses. They also use rubber coated bullets and live rounds. On 13.2.09, two children were injured in their homes in Beit Likia, and a 60 year old woman was hit in the stomach. On that same night, soldiers reached the homes of Ma'asara popular leaders Muhammad Barjia and Mahmoud Zoahara, kept them for hours outside their homes in the cold with very little cloths, and caused damage to their property, threatening to arrest the two if demonstrations in the area were to continue. A report by Zoahara is attached hereunder.

"The media does not report these incidents, which have become a tiring routine of the reality of occupation. It seems that under this media blockade, army commanders feel free to carry out these crimes.


A link to a video from Wednesday 18.2.09. The army invaded during the day to set a checkpoint and later at night, just to shoot some teargas and bullets.

Urge your politicians to demand from Israel to stop those night raids, which are done just to set terror on the people.

Write and call to Public Requests and Complaints in Ministry of Defense of Israel to protest against the nightly invasions.




FAX +972(0)3-6976711

Sample letter:
The Minister of Defence,

I write to you in order to protest against the nightly invasions of the villages of Bil'in, Beit Likia, Ni'ilin, Jayus and Ma'asara, committed by the Israeli army on an almost every-night basis. Such actions are in violation of international law, which hold the occupying army responsible to the welfare and safety of civilians living under its rule. You must stop these invasions at once, and prosecute whoever is responsible for them.



The night after the demo in AL-Ma'sara village

At the mid of the night 7 Israeli army cars entered the village, they have two target places to attack one is the house of Mohammed BRYJYA The spoken man of the popular community against the wall in the village and the second is the house of Mahmoud Zwahre the coordinator of the popular community against the wall.

Around 12:30 at night the solders nock the door of my house asking me to open the door in a non pilot way then I opened the door more than 10 solders entered my house without my permission, then they asked for my ID and my wife also, and then the check the house putting everything on the other destroying the furniture of the house , at that time they push me out side in the cold weather wit very light clothes, asking the same questions for the demonstration many questions, they told me that they are going to arrest me and they blind me and they tied then they remove the things on my eyes and they start taking pictures for my, while im on the ground on my knees at that time I thought that im in Gwantanamo , then they tied off me and then he told me this week we came and we will not arrest you, the massage this week take care we are going to arrest you next week we are going to come in more difficult way

So don't come to demonstrate, don't organize demos. At that time I preferred to be quite no answers and I refuse to talk to them because I know the mode that they are in at that time. While they was checking in my house they found emails for many friends from solidarity associations from Europe I don't know if they are going to use them or not ? After three hours they left me then I phone Mohammed and I found that they did the same to him. All of what they are doing we expect it since long time

All of that is a sign of victory.

Today or tomorrow we are going to win because we have the faith



Refusal to Serve

This information, by the way, is being circulated by inter alia, Yesh Gvul, the movement formed by Israeli army reservists who refused to serve in Lebanon or the Occupied Territories. And that brings me to some courage of a different kind, maybe, but important to the people of Bil'in, and Palestine. Tamar Katz is 19, not much older than Salam Kanaan. She is one of the shministim Israeli sixth-formers who let it be known that they did not agree with the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians, and would refuse to do military service on conscientious grounds. Like her comrades, Tamar was prepared to go to jail rather than assist in oppressing others.

Tamar is coming to Britain next month, and will be speaking at several meetings. Like a lot of people, I am not over-fond of the Alliance for Workers Liberty which has organised this trip. We have history. I continue to voice my disagreements with their attempted even-handedness on the Middle East, and I would have preferred their rubric was not on this. Nevertheless, in introducing the shministim to students and trade unionists even the AWL can do something right! We should not meet sectarianism with more of the same, and should not let it get in the way of a worthy cause. Tamar's visit and the courageous struggle she represents deserves support.

Tamar will be speaking at universities across the UK, as well as to some trade union meetings, including the rail union RMT’s London Transport Region, which is sponsoring the tour.

Provisional dates (more information and links to events asap):

7pm, Thursday 5 March – LONDON
Meeting and reception hosted by RMT London Transport Region and Finsbury Park RMT
The Twelve Pins pub, 263 Seven Sisters Rd, London N4 2DE(next to Finsbury Park tube)
For more information email

Lunchtime, Friday 6 March - BRIGHTON
Sussex University – email Koos

7pm, Friday 6 March - LONDON
“International Solidarity for Women’s Liberation” – meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day hosted by Feminist Fightback, Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and others
Room 3a, University of London Union, Malet Street

11.30am, Saturday 6 March - NEWCASTLE
RMT Women's Conference, Grand Station Hotel Email

Lunchtime, Monday 9 March – MANCHESTER
Manchester University – email

6pm, Monday 9 March – BRADFORD
Bradford University, hosted by University of Bradford Union – email Lloyd

Evening, Tuesday 10 March - CAMBRIDGE
Cambridge University, hosted by Workers’ Liberty – email Patrick

Lunchtime, Wednesday 11 March – NOTTINGHAM
Nottingham University, hosted by Nottingham Student Peace Movement - email Adam:

Evening, Wednesday 11 March – SHEFFIELD
Sheffield University, hosted by Workers’ Liberty – email Daniel

6.30pm, Thursday 12 March - EDINBURGH
Edinburgh University – email

Time tbc, Friday 13 march – LONDON
LSE – email

For more information about the tour in general, email Heather Shaw at or ring 07969 597 251
For more about the Shministim, visit
act Details

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on

THAT'S a Middle Eastern saying, using caravan in its original sense, of course, not a trailer but a train of camels or vehicles, in other words a convoy - like those heeding for Gaza now, with badly-needed aid and a message of solidarity to people there from people here who have responded to the call.

This is much bigger than the Workers Aid to Bosnia convoys in which I was involved, and I pay tribute to the boldness and imagination shown by those whose idea it was -including George Galloway MP, of whom I am often critical, but who to his credit is leading the first convoy - as well as the determination of all those taking part. More than a hundred vehicles, including a fire engine donated by the Fire Brigades Union, left Lancashire last week, and this morning a second convoy is setting out from Glasgow.

One of the great things about this kind of effort, besides the practical solidarity it brings, is that it enables all kinds of people to participate and contribute in a way that is much more direct and personal than going on a march, listening to speakers at a rally or even putting money in a collecting tin (not that the last isn't part of it). I remember the comrade who was asleep in his Workers Aid lorry, parked in a Sheffield street after a day's collecting aid for Bosnia, and woken in the early hours by a little old lady who said "Oh there you are, I've been looking all over town for you!", and thrust a big catering-size tin of beans in his hands. Entrusted with responsibility like that he just had to get through to Tuzla!

The Viva Gaza convoys have been promised help along the way, and some Arab governments have agreed to ease border crossings, though the big confrontation could be if Egypt obstructs the Rafeah crossing. But before it even left Britain the Gaza convoy has met official harassment. Last week, as the first convoy was leaving Lancashire we had the news on TV that police had arrested nine people on the M65 motorway, and were raiding homes in Blackburn and Burnley under the Anti-Terrorism laws. This got more coverage than the convoy itself, which was barely mentioned in the news.

Had some would-be terrorists tried to use the convoy as a cover in some way? I hesitated to comment, waiting to see what came out. Well, the news now is that nothing was found against the men and they have all been released without charge. So why were they picked up in the first place, and what were the raids all about? After the row about the BBC refusing to screen a Gaza emergency aid appeal, was this another institution, the Lancashire police, demonstrating its "impartiality"?

Incidentally, we might also note the contrast between how this "anti-terrorist" damp squib operation was reported and the virtual news blackout when a former British National Party candidate in Lancashire was arrested, and later sentenced, for possession of a huge quantity of chemicals for making explosives. Not that I'm saying the media are biased, or anything.

Anyway, I'm glad to say George Galloway is not letting this go; and though normally he is far from my favourite politician, I hope George gets full backing on this:

George Galloway seeks inquiry into convoy arrests
Duncan Campbell The Guardian, Saturday 21 February 2009

The Respect MP George Galloway has called for an investigation after police stopped a convoy taking aid, toys and medical supplies to Gaza and arrested nine people under anti-terror laws.

All nine men arrested on the M65 near Preston last Friday have been released without charge, but the organisers of the Viva Palestina convoy, which is headed by Galloway, said that aid donations dropped by 80% after news of the arrests.

Police stopped three vehicles and arrested six men from Blackburn and three from Burnley under the Terrorism Act. The 100-vehicle convoy left without them and is now in Morocco.

"Nine innocent people were prevented by the police from joining our convoy," said Galloway. "The timing of the operation is seen locally as an attempt to smear and intimidate the Muslim community, and I must say they seem to be right. Photographs of the high-profile snatch were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness of the smear."

Galloway said he was writing to the chief constable of Lancashire and the home secretary asking for an explanation.

Lancashire police said yesterday that they had helped the Blackburn men financially so that they could catch up with the convoy. In an open letter to the local community, the police said: "Investigations of this kind are very difficult and complex and we appreciate the sensitivities that surround them for all concerned."

Chris Chilvers, a convoy organiser, said yesterday that the men arrested had been questioned about the funding of the convoy as sums of cash had been found.

"There was cash around because none of the main banks would allow us to open an account," he said.

And now here is news of the latest addition to the aid force setting off, plus a message from supporters in my old neck of the woods:

Convoy leaves Glasgow loaded with aid for Gaza
Date: 21 February 2009

A CONVOY set off from Scotland yesterday on a 3,000-mile journey to take medical aid to Gaza. Seven vehicles loaded with supplies left Glasgow Central Mosque and will be joined by volunteers in Lancashire as they travel south.

They aim to link up with another convoy at the Rafah border crossing.

Scottish Medical Aid for Gaza has collected the aid from churches, mosques, hospitals and chemists across Scotland and England.

Its convoy, under the banner "Justice for Palestine", expects to reach Gaza in 14 to 18 days.

Volunteers attended Friday prayers at the mosque, and a rally in George Square, in the city before setting off.

Rizi Mohammed, Scottish Medical Aid to Gaza co-ordinator, said:

"We are truly indebted from the depths of our hearts, to the very caring people of Scotland."

Do you know someone on the VIVA PALESTINA Convoy? Send a message of love and support

All the drivers and volunteers have been a fantastic mix of people of all backgrounds and faiths and are people who have come together united in this cause. All volunteers have been working rock solid to get our people together in solidarity and arrange the convoy to go.

The situation in the Middle East is very uncertain, but we will do all we can to get into Gaza and our blessed drivers have left everything behind to take action against the injustice - and take the aid the people of Gaza need. Our prayers are with them and we hope for the best, God Willing.

The drivers are going through many ups and downs - from the amazing support received in many countries to the breaking down of trucks, which at times have had to be towed!

If anyone knows a driver or is related, or even an acquaintance to a driver; this message is for you.

In early March when the group of volunteers will fly to Cairo and meet with the Convoy, we thought it would be very special, and encouraging for us to deliver letters from their loved ones.

Please get out your pens and papers and hand write a letter to the one you know and care for, who has gone out in good faith and allow us to enstrengthen them with love and encouragement and something personal in the messages, at the moment they reach the end of the initial struggle of this long tiring journey.

If all members of the family or any friends, write something, individually, most certainly children too, it will be beautiful and wholesome for drivers to receive such a message. A thoughtful reminder of all their struggles was for countless reasons and that they are being remembered and missed but also that although they’re thousands of miles from us now, we’re still 100% behind them, with all love and support they need.

We are all going through a unique experience in our lives. The drivers are going through a unique time in their lives as are all of us here in the UK who are behind them and on the receiving end of watching a loved one leave in a sincere act of solidarity for the sake of peaceDo you know someone on the VIVA PALESTINA Convoy?
Send a message of love and support

All the drivers and volunteers have been a fantastic mix of people of all backgrounds and faiths and are people who have come together united in this cause. All volunteers have been working rock solid to get our people together in solidarity and arrange the convoy to go.

The situation in the Middle East is very uncertain, but we will do all we can to get into Gaza and our blessed drivers have left everything behind to take action against the injustice - and take the aid the people of Gaza need. Our prayers are with them and we hope for the best, God Willing.

The drivers are going through many ups and downs - from the amazing support received in many countries to the breaking down of trucks, which at times have had to be towed!

If anyone knows a driver or is related, or even an acquaintance to a driver; this message is for you.

In early March when the group of volunteers will fly to Cairo and meet with the Convoy, we thought it would be very special, and encouraging for us to deliver letters from their loved ones.

Please get out your pens and papers and hand write a letter to the one you know and care for, who has gone out in good faith and allow us to enstrengthen them with love and encouragement and something personal in the messages, at the moment they reach the end of the initial struggle of this long tiring journey.

If all members of the family or any friends, write something, individually, most certainly children too, it will be beautiful and wholesome for drivers to receive such a message. A thoughtful reminder of all their struggles was for countless reasons and that they are being remembered and missed but also that although they’re thousands of miles from us now, we’re still 100% behind them, with all love and support they need.

We are all going through a unique experience in our lives. The drivers are going through a unique time in their lives as are all of us here in the UK who are behind them and on the receiving end of watching a loved one leave in a sincere act of solidarity for the sake of peace and justice. Whatever the outcome of this event, we are all collectively making history.

Please write your notes and letters and post by the 1st March as follows,

1. Write your letters or notes and place them in a sealed envelope.
2. Place on the first line “FOR THE CONVOY DRIVER,” followed by full name, and “PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL” so no one will open this letter accept the addressee.
3. Follow this by the driver’s city, town or village, NOT full address. Add the convoy team number if you know it.
4. Lastly write Saffron Restaurant address, as follows, and post;

c/o Saffron Restaurant
107 Cheetham Hill Road,
Cheetham Hill
M8 8PY

We will then organize and deliver, when we meet with drivers in Egypt, God willing.

Manchester Viva Palestina team

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Friday, February 20, 2009

USA, Land of the Free? Home of the Brave, because they have to be. JOEL KOVEL. Being terminated.

HAMPSHIRE College in western Massachusetts, has denied that it divested from an investment fund holding stocks of companies involved in Israel because of student protest over war and occupation. The College is anxious to ward off "retaliatory" action threatened by Israel's top cop on the campuses of the United States, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

In a letter to Dershowitz, made public by Ben Morris for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the College says it "has made a strenuous, good-faith effort to explain its decision to exit a problematic mutual fund. We make this effort again, without equivocation: Israel was not the cause for divestment from the State Street fund. As you know, last spring, the student group SJP, which is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, petitioned, as is its right, the community-based subcommittee (CHOIR) on responsible investing, which is a subcommittee of the investment committee, in turn itself a subcommittee of the finance committee of the board, asking that the college exit from one particular fund, State Street SSgA. The group claimed that six companies in the fund were supporting or profiting from Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. The companies were said to be Caterpillar, General Electric, ITT, Motorola, Terex and United Technologies. CHOIR passed a recommendation concerning these companies to the investment committee, in accordance with the board's procedures.

"The investment committee, however, expressly rejected this narrow focus, and instead sought to apply our own socially responsible investment policies. This cursory review suggested multiple problems -- none of them having to do with Israel -- in the fund, and also revealed the implementation inadequacies of the policy. The committee then turned to an outside, independent reviewer, KLD Research & Analytics, the gold standard for socially responsible investment screening, to look closely into the fund's components. KLD's review vetted companies for several possible red flags, including employment discrimination, environmental abuse, military weapons manufacturing, unsafe workplace settings, and dealings with Burma or Sudan. Twenty-three equities were found to violate the military weapons screen; four dealt with Burma and three with Sudan; 70 were involved in significant employment discrimination controversies; 28 were found to be environmentally problematic; and 197 were cited for employee safety issues. Some companies appeared in more than one screening category.

"In sum, what KLD found was that of the fund's 455 holdings, well over 200 raised significant concerns relative to Hampshire College's socially responsible investment policy and were in violation of values of socially responsible investing. It was on this basis that the investment committee voted as it did to exit from the fund when an alternative fund has been identified. The decision was entirely unrelated to Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, two of the six companies originally cited by students as problematic were given a clean bill of health on Hampshire's policy by the KLD screeners (and a third, it turned out, was not even listed as a constituent of the fund).

"At the risk of repetition, let us emphasize again that this review did not include Israel, its interaction with the Palestinians, nor its presence on the West Bank as tests for the stocks in this fund. Moreover, Hampshire currently holds investments in funds that include many hundreds of companies that do business in Israel and in at least three actual Israeli companies: Amdocs, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Check Point Software".

So, you can see, it is alright to talk about divestment from Burma or Sudan, but you won't say anything about Israel if you know what's good for you!
"Hampshire College did not divest from Israel or take the action it did because of Israel's relationship with the Palestinians or its presence on the West Bank. At no time did the college or the board take actions or make statements motivated by anti-Semitism, bigotry and anti-Israelism."

Just as well they make that clear. I happen to know that some of the Hampshire students who have campaigned most vigorously against Israeli actions are Israelis. Mind you one of them was injured by Israeli forces when protesting against the wall at Bil'in, and before this had done time for refusing to serve Israel and its occupation. That's something Professor Dershowitz has never refused to do, albeit on a different frontline.

Perhaps more worryingly, the Hampshire College letter also makes a reference to possibly disciplinary action against students who had claimed the divestment as a victory. for the college, saying it "wants you to understand us clearly, when we say that students do not speak for the college and may not willfully misrepresent the school. It will be, and must be, the college's task to undertake any disciplinary action, according to its established rules and procedures. Discipline is an internal process that is not shared with the public.".

I take that last sentence as an assurance the College will not be pushed around into taking action against its students. Let's hope it sticks to that.

Next, a story that looks like Zionist pressure can claim another success. We've heard about Professor Norman Finkelstein, who lost his job in Chicago, and whose invitation to speak at the Oxford Union was cancelled. He is currently back in Britain giving some lectures I believe. But Joel Kovel, another Jewish anti-Zionist, whose book Overcoming Zionism drew favourable comment here, even from critics who like me disagreed with some of his perspective, is facing new trouble. University of Michigan press withdrew the book from publication in the United States, but then was persuaded to change its mind. Now however Prof.Kovel is being told he has to go by his employer, Bard College(website motto: "a place to think"),in New York state.

It seems they - or someone they listened to - did not like articles he wrote for Tikkun, a magazine edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner, whose humanitarian interpretation of Judaism would not raise much heat here, but has been enough to earn him death threats from right-wing American Zionists. We might note the historical irony, that the chair which Joel Kovel is being told to vacate owes its name to Alger Hiss, a US State Department official who played a part in the formation of the UN, but then fell victim to the House Un-American Activities Committee and "Red spy" accusations. Presumably naming a chair after him was meant to signify that those days were over.

Bard College terminates Joel Kovel

Call for support and letter writing to the Bard administration.



In January, 1988, I was appointed to the Alger Hiss Chair of Social
Studies at Bard College. As this was a Presidential appointment
outside the tenure system, I have served under a series of contracts.
The last of these was half-time (one semester on, one off, with half
salary and full benefits year-round), effective from July 1, 2004, to
June 30, 2009. On February 7 I received a letter from Michèle Dominy,
Dean of the College, informing me that my contract would not be
renewed this July 1 and that I would be moved to emeritus status as of
that day. She wrote that this decision was made by President Botstein,
Executive Vice-President Papadimitriou and herself, in consultation
with members of the Faculty Senate.

This document argues that this termination of service is prejudicial and
motivated neither by intellectual nor pedagogic considerations, but by
political values, principally stemming from differences between myself and
the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism. There is of course much
more to my years at Bard than this, including another controversial subject,
my work on eco-socialism (/The Enemy of Nature/). However, the evidence shows
a pattern of conflict over Zionism only too reminiscent of innumerable
instances in this country in which critics of Israel have been made to pay,
often with their careers, for speaking out. In this instance the process
culminated in a deeply flawed evaluation process which was used to justify
my termination from the faculty.

_A brief chronology_

2002. This was the first year I spoke out nationally about Zionism.
In October, my article, "Zionism's Bad Conscience," appeared in
Tikkun. Three or four weeks later, I was called into President Leon
Botstein's office, to be told my Hiss Chair was being taken away.
Botstein said that he had nothing to do with the decision, then
gratuitously added that it had not been made because of what I had
just published about Zionism, and hastened to tell me that his views
were diametrically opposed to mine.

2003. In January I published a second article in Tikkun,
"'Left-Anti-Semitism' and the Special Status of Israel," which argued
for a One-State solution to the dilemmas posed by Zionism. A few weeks
later,I received a phone call at home from Dean Dominy, who suggested,
on behalf of Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou, that
perhaps it was time for me to retire from Bard. I declined. The result
of this was an evaluation of my work and the inception, in 2004, of
the current half-time contract as "Distinguished Professor."

2006. I finished a draft of Overcoming Zionism. In January, while
I was on a Fellowship in South Africa, President Botstein conducted a
concert on campus of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, which he has
directed since 2003. In a stunning departure from traditional concert
practice, this began with the playing of the national anthems of the
United States and Israel, after each of which the audience rose.
Except for a handful of protestors, the event went unnoticed. I
regarded it, however, as paradigmatic of the "special relationship"
between the United States and Israel, one that has conduced to war in
Iraq and massive human rights violations in Israel/Palestine. In
December, I organized a public lecture at Bard (with Mazin Qumsiyeh)
to call attention to this problem. Only one faculty person attended;
the rest were students and community people; and the issue was never
taken up on campus.

Call for support and letter writing to the Bard administration.

To write the Bard administration:
President Leon Botstein <>.
Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou <>


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"POLICE SENT TO KILL US": Guadeloupe workers appeal for solidarity

PART of the European Union has been hit by a month-long general strike over the cost of living. Troops have been sent in. At least one union activist has been shot dead. Strike leaders accuse the authorities of wanting to kill them to defeat the strike.

I haven't seen anything on the TV news yet, but it has started to make the papers. The strike is on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which is ruled by France as a department, and is therefore part of the European Union. I am grateful to a friend in New Zealand for bringing this item from an Afro-American website to my attention:

Support the Guadeloupe Strike: Appeal to the International Worker's and Democratic Movements

Collectif des 47 organisations
UGTG, Rue Paul Lacavé 97 110 Point-à-Pitre Guadeloupe
Fax : International : 00 335 90 89 08 70
France : 05 90 89 08 70
Email :
NEW OFFICIAL LKP WEBSITE: Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon
Appeal to the International Workers' and Democratic Movements

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

As we wrote in our last international appeal of February 6, 2009: "The
bosses and the representatives of the French State are hoping that the
general strike will die down, so that they can then begin the

This is visibly the political thinking that prompted the French State to
take action, as they did on February 16.

In the face of the obstinate refusal by the French State and the bosses
to heed our demands, in the face of their scorn for the people of
Guadeloupe, the Liannaj Kont Pwofitation Strike Collective, or LKP,
issued a call to the population on the 28th day of the General Strike to
reinforce the picket lines across the country. The French State
proceeded to repress the movement, seriously injuring one trade union
leader, injuring others less seriously, and arresting more than 70
activists, including many trade union leaders of the LKP Strike

The population, the workers, the youth have said, "Enough is Enough!"
They refuse to give up the struggle.

A number of elected officials protested against this State violence,
which was also denounced by the LKP.

The workers, the youth, the people of Guadeloupe have strengthened their
mobilizations on the ground. Their resolute actions won the freedom of
all the jailed activists.

Today, on the 29th day of the general strike [Feb. 17], Guadeloupe is
paralyzed by barricades in nearly every commune.

Youth were arrested the night of February 16-17, 2009.

This repression is going to continue, as the French State has just sent
in a reinforcement of 1,000 mobile police troops [to bolster the 4,000
troops sent in on Feb. 7 -- translator's note]. The LKP has issued a
call to the population to reinforce their mobilizations.

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

In the name of international labor solidarity, in the name of democracy,
we call upon you once more to request your support for our just

The workers and people of Guadeloupe have the right to fight for their
legitimate demands!

In solidarity,


W-- Guadeloupe, February 17, 2009

And here is a report from the Nasdaq news site and Wall Street Journal, which also tells us the strike has spread to Martinique.

"Strike Leader Says France Sends Police To Kill Guadeloupeans,"

POINTE-A-PITRE (AFP)--The leader of a general strike crippling Guadeloupe has accused France of preparing to kill protestors to bring an end to the stoppage on the French Caribbean island.

"Today, given the number of gendarmes who have arrived in Guadeloupe armed to the teeth, the French state has chosen its natural path: to kill Gaudeloupeans as usual," Elie Domota told AFP on Saturday.

Domota is the leader of the Collective against Exploitation (LKP), which groups most of Guadeloupe's unions and political parties and which launched the general strike there on Jan/ 20 over low wages and the high cost of living.

His accusation came as some supermarkets and petrol stations, which have been shut for more than three weeks, reopened as police stood by to protect the premises against potential protests by strikers on the tropical island.

"Every time there have been demonstrations in Guadeloupe to demand pay rises, the response of the state has been repression, notably in May 1967 in Pointe-a- Pitre where there were 100 deaths, building workers massacred by the gendarmes," Domota said.

On Saturday thousands of workers marched through the town of Le Moule chanting "Guadeloupe is ours, it's not theirs."

They were referring to the "Bekes," the white minority which holds economic power on an island where most of the half million residents are descendants of African slaves.

Christiane Taubira, a French member of parliament for the overseas department of French Guiana on the south American continent, warned Sunday that the situation in Guadeloupe was "not far from social apartheid."

She said in an interview that "the leaders of the LKP are not anti-white racists.

"They are exposing a reality...a caste holds economic power and abuses it," she told Le Journal du Dimanche.

Most shops, cafes, banks, schools and government offices have been shut in Guadeloupe since the start of the strike. The neighbouring French island of Martinique began its own general strike more than a week ago.

The government has said it will not give in to strikers' demands for a monthly EUR200 increase in base salaries.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

The Wall Street Journal\ACQDJON200902150930DOWJONESDJONLINE000254.htm

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

After Israel's lurch to the Right...

AFTER Israel's lurch to the Right, which has brought a close finish between Tzippi Livneh's Kadima and Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud, leaving out-and-out fascist Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitainu in position to act as kingmaker, and Labour a humiliating fourth, is there any chance the pendulum could swing back; or that there can be any resumption of the so-called "peace process"?

Having suffered continued occupation and settlement expansion, seen what's left of their homeland carved into shrinking enclaves behind the encroaching separation Wall, been blockaded, and undergone two cruel blitzkeieg wars, Palestinians feel they have been processed enough. Many may sigh with relief that Netanyahu and his allies make no pretence of talking about peace. Some, including Israeli peaceniks, are finding what consolation they can in the hope that the more blatantly aggressive the Israeli government's swagger, the less excuse President Barack Obama will have for not putting America's dangerous rotweiler on the lead.

That will plainly require campaigners in the United States, and in Europe, to step up efforts for solidarity with the Palestinians, and to put the Zionist Lobby in its place. This is not easy. The longstanding lobbyists like AIPAC have been considerably reinforced in recent years by the rallying of neo cons and Christian fundamentalists behind Zionism at its worst. The BBC's stubborn refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal for Gaza (in which not surprisingly it was joined by Murdoch's Sky) is a reminder of the media forces we are against. Yet there are straws blowing the other way. The students waging occupations across Britain in support of the Palestinians have been cheered by the news that Hampshire College in Masachusetts has voted to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation. At Cambridge (the UK Cambrdge that is) academics have signed a letter saying the varsity should have listened to student occupiers rather than moving to discipline them. In the European parliament moves to upgrade Israel's status with the EU have been put on hold, and the Socialist group of MEPs say Israel's privileges must be conditional on ending its blockade and other measures in Palestine. This was even before the Israeli election result.

What of possibilities for change for the better in Israel itself? There are some on the 'Left' here who won't differentiate between Israelis, right or left, and dropped any class analysis in time of war to become the fiercest Arab patriots and jihadis (so long as it only means shouting crude slogans from the back of a crowd). Others , not just in the labour movement bureaucracy but in some so-called "Marxist Tendencies", talked glibly of workers solidarity and would have us believe that "the Israeli labour movement could lead the struggle against this war". It seemed no one had told them of the Histadrut's historic part in building the Zionist state, or that in this war as previously with Lebanon, it was a Labour leader as Minister of Defence conducting the war (and with similar predictable results).

Even Labour Zionists, or erstwhile Labour Zionists, had no illusions on that score. I recognised a few in the audience at a Jewish Socialists' Group meeting the other night, nodding and applauding when Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, spoke scathingly of how Israel Labour's Barak had been left with ten Knesset seats - "one for every hundred Palestinians killed".

There was opposition in Israel, even in Sderot, which the IDF made its frontline media spot. Thousands marched around the country.Ten thousand marched in downtown Tel Aviv, where mounted police were ot, and carried the Palestinian flag through Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Young people refused to serve in the forces. But can this brave minority become more? Uri Avnery, the founder of Gush Shalom, is a veteran journalist and former Knesset member who was among the first Israelis to meet with the PLO. His background and outlook are not of the traditional, even Zionist, Left, but in his readiness to confront political issues as well as, on occasion, armed police, this octagenarian dissident has earned respect. The following is the last part of a longer article he wrote on the elections and their aftermath:

CAN ISRAEL change course? Can a real peace-oriented alternative arise? The two “Zionist Left” parties have been decisively beaten. Both Labor and Meretz have collapsed. Their two leaders who called for the Gaza War and supported it – Ehud Barak of Labor and Haim Oron of Meretz – have received the punishment they richly deserve. In a normal democracy, both would have resigned the day after the elections. But our democracy is not normal, and both leaders insist on staying on and leading their party to the next disaster.

Labor is a walking corpse – the only “social-democratic” party in the world whose leader’s sole aim is to stay on as war minister. When Barak spread the mantra “there is no one to talk with” he overlooked the logical conclusion “therefore we don’t need anyone to talk with them”.

The Labor Party has no party, no members, no political program, no alternative leadership. It will fail in opposition as it failed in government. Barring a miracle, it will end up in the junkyard of history. It will find Meretz already there. A socialist party that lost its way a long time ago: a party without any roots in the classes at the foot of the socioeconomic ladder, a party that has supported all our wars.

Some believe in easy solutions: a union of Labor and Meretz, for example. That is a union of the lame and the blind. No reason to expect that they would win the race.

THE REAL task is far more difficult. A completely new building must be erected in place of the one which has collapsed.

The need is for a new Left that will include new leaders from the sectors that have been discriminated against: the Orientals, the Russians and the Arabs. A new Left that will express the ideals of a new generation, people of peace, advocates of social change, feminists and greens, who will all understand that one cannot realize one ideal without realizing all of them. There can be no social justice in a military state; no one is interested in the environment while the cannons are roaring, feminism is incompatible with a society of machos riding on tanks, there can be no respect for Oriental Jews in a society that despises the culture of the Orient.

The Arab citizens will have to leave the ghetto in which they are confined and start to talk with the Jewish public, and the Jewish public must talk with the Arabs on equal terms. The Liberman slogan “No Citizenship Without Loyalty” must be turned around: “No Loyalty Without Real Citizenship”.

As Obama has done in the US, a new language, a new lexicon must be created, to replace the old and tired phrases. Much, much must be changed if we want to save the state.

for more info. and full Avnery article visit:

March 8: Uri Avnery and Miri Weingarten
Plus: Book launch & 2nd aniversary of IJV

2pm - 7 pm: Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London, WC1

Veteran Israeli dissident Uri Avnery in conversation with the Guardian's Ian Black, and Miri Weingarten from Physicians for Human Rights, who have struggled to get medical relief supplies to Gaza.

organised by Independent Jewish Voices. For more information and to register for this meeting, visit:


Monday, February 09, 2009

From Gujarat to Grosvenor Square
and Ahmedabad pogroms, 2002. Can he really shake off responsibility?

An Indian politician who was accused of responsibility for anti-Muslim pogroms in which as many as 2,000 people may have died is coming to Britain in May, and hoping this will help him get a visa for the USA.
For Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the west Indian state of Gujarat, this could be the path to becoming prime minister of India itself.

A leader of the right-wing, Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), Modi already has support from important business interests. He first became Gujarat's Chief Minister in October 2001.

On February 27, 2002 some 58 Hindu pilgrims, returning from a ceremony at the disputed Ayodha temple site organised by the militant Hindu VHP, were killed when their train carriage caught fire, outside the town of Godhra. It seems there had been a fracas between some passengers and a Muslim tea vendor at Godhra station. When the train stopped at the junction, the pilgrims were singing Hindu supremacist songs and an angry Muslim crowd gathered. Some say the crowd had been organised, and the fire was started deliberately, though later inquiries found it had been an accident.

Whatever the truth, it was the signal for anti-Muslim violence to be unleashed across Gujarat. According to an official estimate, 1044 people were killed in the violence - 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus including those killed in the Godhra train fire. Another 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 injured, 919 women widowed and 606 children orphaned. About 100,000 Muslims and 40,000 Hindus were in relief camps According to Human Rights Watch(HRW), the numbers killed were 2,000.

HRW also found that the violence was not just a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra incident, as Modi and his government claimed. Organised gangs, wearing saffron scarfs, were going around with lists of homes to be attacked. A Congress party MP in whose compound people were sheltering and besieged appealed for police help, and called Chief Minister Modi direct, but no police were sent, and the people were killed. Along with many mosques and Muslim shrines, three churches were destroyed.

Although a Gujarat government inquiry cleared Modi of any responsibility for the pogroms, many people remain convinced that he and his party encouraged the violence, or at least made sure no effort was made to curb it. Comparisons have been made with Hitler's Nazis and Kristallncht. Modi was denied a US visa in 2005 and was forced to call off his UK visit that year because of protests from human rights groups.

On May 19-20 however, Modi is due to address 500 delegates attending the "India Summit" at the Marriott hotel in Grosvenor Square, London. Modi supporters are reportedly confident that after this, a US visa will follow.

A Gujarati lobby supported by British politicians is helping. Late last year, about 117 British MPs signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons submitted by Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner, full of praise for ʽVibrant Gujaratʼ. Gardiner followed up by attending the Vibrant Gujarat summit on January 12-13 where he hailed Modi as ʽthe lion of Gujaratʼ. (Many Brent residents who remarked about Gardiner's non-appearance at local meetings on the health service will be pleased to know he has found time for some things).

Modi is also getting support from business interests, both abroad and in India. Among them is the UK 'Curry King', Sir Gulam Noon, who has an estimated fortune of £65 million. In March 2006 it was revealed that he loaned £250,000 to the Labour Party. Noon was knighted in 2002. Although once a strong critic of Modi over the Gujarat riots, he has recently had a meeting with the chief minister in Gandhinagar, and is thought to have discussed the forthcoming "India Summit".

Though affecting modesty last year and affirming support for existing BJP leader LK Advani, Modi has been supported by a section of the party to lead it into elections in May. Out of 226 senior Indian business executives polled by the Hindustan Times and the research firm, C-fore, 14 percent viewed Modi as the best candidate for prime minister, leaving him fourth on the list. Current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was ranked first with 25 percent of the votes, followed by Advani at second position with 23 percent.

But Manmohan Singh is 76, and last month underwent a complex coronary bypass operation, his second. Even if his Congress Party-United Progressive Alliance wins in May it may replace him with Ruhul Gandhi(38) as prime minister. L.K.Advani is 81, and though the BJP may go into the elections with him, it has Modi waiting to take his place.

Two of India's biggest capitalists, Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal, have already endorsed Modi, at the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit’. "Chief Minister Modi is known as a CEO, but he is actually not a CEO, because he is not running a company or a sector. He is running a state and can also run the nation,’’ said Mittal, chairman and managing director of the Bharti group at the conference in Ahmedabad, that was attended by businessmen and dignitaries from 40 countries who pledged investments worth 250 billion US dollars in Gujarat.

Ratan Tata, the head of the giant Tata group, switched his Nano car factory from Singur, West Bengal, to a location near Ahmedabad instead. Bosses like Modi's "drive", and his government's willingness to clear the way for big business. It took only a couple of days for Tata get its plans approved. Meanwhile the right-wing BJP is stepping up its campaigning in traditionally "left-wing" West Bengal.

"Despite world recession Gujarat continues along the path of progress", Modi boasted in December.

Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari says Gujarat's economic success under BJP government is exaggerated. "'Vibrant Gujarat' is a myth...The reality is that Gujarat is one of the most indebted states of India" He accused Modi of implementing only 22 percent of the agreed investments, though the latter claimed to have implemented 63.5 percent of projects for which memoranda of understanding had been signed. Tewari did not stop there. He reminded journalists: 'In 1933, German capitalists were attracted to a fascist dictator [Adolf Hitler] ...Modi’s edifice rests on the bodies of innocent people.'

When Modi was invited to the United States four years ago his hosts were to be the the Society of Asian American Hotel Owners. But some hotel owners were relieved when he did not get a visa, saying they would not have given him a room

This time however his visit is being awaited by the US-based Global Organisation of Persons of Indian Origins (GOPIO). A delegation from GOPIO has had a Policy Planning Research meeting with Modi, and says President Obama may be more willing to give him a visa than the previous administration was. Likewise National Indian American Associations (NFIA) president C K Patel said, ''Our organisation will lobby for him and one can expect better reaction from the Democratic government, which has historically had more friendly ties with India. No head of the State or country, who is democratically elected should be denied a visa.
He added: ''Mr Modi has signed 8,558 Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) with investments of Rs 12 lakh crore (US$ 240 billion) in the recent Vibrant Gujarat fest.''

On Modi's Human Rights record, former GOPIO president Thomas Abraham said the issue was not raised by investors and business entities. "They were focused more on the investment opportunities and returns".

Two important publications for further reading:

The Clash Within

In Bad Faith


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Old Time Religion!

Gay groups and activists have reacted angrily after Pope Benedict XVI said that mankind needed to be saved from a destructive blurring of gender.

Speaking on Monday, the Pope warned that blurring distinctions between male and female could lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race. The comments were "irresponsible and unacceptable", the UK's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) said.Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian MP, called his words "hurtful". The row erupted as news emerged that the pontiff is to pay his first visit to the Holy Land in May next year. Pope Benedict made the comments in an end-of-year speech to senior Vatican staff.Defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, he said, but also about protecting man from himself. It was not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'", he said. It came from the "language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans". Gender theories, he said, led to man's "auto-emancipation" from creation and Creator. Earlier this month, the Vatican said that a proposed United Nations resolution decriminalising homosexuality went too far.

For full news report see:

The Israeli onslaught on Gaza took the headlines and outrage away. Over a thousand deaths and the scattering of white phosphorus and flechettes that tear into human beings are a more serious crime against humanity than offensive words by a prelate, however prominent. That leading Israeli rabbis not only endorsed the war but exhorted soldiers to show no mercy when killing civilians is a reminder that no religion has a monopoly when it comes to blessing inhumanity and murder.

Pope Benedict is back in the news again, however, with his efforts to bring the holier-than-the-pope schismatics known as the Society of St.Pius X (SSPX) back into the fold. This is the movement begun by French Cardinal Marcel Lefevre, insisting on the old Latin mass, with its bits requiring conversion of the Jews, and favouring more than a sprinkling of Vichy water. In non-Catholic countries it may seem unimportant, unless you're a devout Catholic, but in France it has been associated with the far-Right politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and more generally it seems to have attracted Holocaust revisionists and racialists. In 2007, Pope Benedict opened the way for restoring the Tridentine Mass, and now he has withdrawn the excommunication of four leading SSPX men. This has raised more than eyebrows. Here's Rome correspondent Philip Pullella for Reuters:

'Priests' comments on Jews, Muslims embarrass Pope

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Outbursts about Jews and Muslims by Italian leaders of an ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic group show the challenge facing Pope Benedict as he tries to bring them back into the Church.

Benedict tried on Wednesday to defuse an international furor over his decision to lift the excommunication of four bishops including Richard Williamson, who denies the full extent of the Holocaust and says there were no gas chambers.

'The Pope expressed his "full and unquestionable solidarity" with Jews and warned of the dangers of Holocaust denial. but the next day a priest who is a regional leader of the same ultra-traditionalist group as Williamson, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), made headlines by telling a local newspaper "gas chambers existed at least for disinfecting" inmates but he wasn't sure if they were used to kill them'.

Must admit, I had never heard of Bishop Williamson before, but he must have had his eye on me and fellow conspirators ever since we met in the old cemetery at Prague. Here's Damian Thompson, blogging as Holy Smoke in the Telegraph

Bishop: Jews planning world domination

In a Catholic Herald investigation published today, Bishop Richard Williamson, a senior English prelate of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), is exposed as a poisonous anti-Semite and 9/11 conspiracy theorist who believes that Jews are working on behalf of Antichrist.

Now I've had a look at some of Williamson's wit and wisdom, and found he offers quite an original take on a broad range of cultural interests. For instance you and I may regard Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music' as innocent family entertainment (bit sugary for my taste but my Mum loved it); and quite friendly to the Church. Bishop Williamson, worried for Catholic families tempted into video shops or watching it on Xmas telly, sees it differently. Julie dancing over the mountains is no nun, he says, and the emphasis on love and happiness is no way to bring up children. What's more, he says wittily:

"... enter now the villains! Firstly a glamorous Baroness previously engaged to be married to the Captain, who schemes to get Julie Andrews out of the way, back to the Convent (but didn't you know, "The path of true love never did run smooth"?). Secondly, villain of villains, a - a - a NAZI! (Original sin? - never heard of it! Isn't all sin Nazi sin?)"

Maybe there should be another version for SS Pixies, with strict nuns chastising original sin out of the kids, good Nazis only thinking of the nation's good, and heroic efforts to hide and rescue a war criminal. We won't go into the post-war Vatican ratline, but thank critical Catholic blogger Red Maria at Dolphinarium for reminding us of the case of Paul Touvier, the Vichy collaborator and only Frenchman ever convicted of crimes against humanity, who wnt missing before he could be brought to trial.

In 1989 Touvier was found hiding in the Society of Saint Pius X Priory in Nice. The SSPX stated at the time that Touvier had been allowed to live in the Priory as "an act of charity to a homeless man". You see, they are all heart.

The bishop has applied his brilliant mind to uncovering the conspiracies behind other events. Take the attack on the World Trade Centre:
“Politically, behind the Arab terrorists are most likely the would-be architects of the New World Order, who have long been using the United States as an instrument to achieve their control of the world. Long ago they planned three World Wars to achieve their aim.”

In case you are so unfamiliar with the genre not to know who he means, here's a clue:
“By lies, Judeo-Masonry is preparing for the Third World War” (In this piece, Williamson also commends the late South African apartheid-supporting journalist Aida Parker) More recently, Williamson has given his thoughts to the world at other sites. In his 2005 ”Denial of Christ creates chaos” he rails against immigration:

A few months ago, Rev. Franz Schmidberger of the SSPX German branch said in a letter that Jews could not be considered "our elder brothers in faith" -- the tribute Pope John Paul II used when visiting Rome's Synagogue in 1986. Schmidberger, a top SSPX leader, said today's Jews would be "complicit in deicide" -- the killing of God -- until they rejected "their forefathers' guilt" by accepting Christ as God and being baptised.

The Pope's attempt at rapprochement with the SS Pixies has upset people in his homeland. Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to calls on him to reaffirm his stand against antisemitism, and the Holocaust. Joseph Alois Ratzinger joined the Hitlerjugend when he was 14, but at the time people could say membership was not exactly voluntary. A cousin of his with Downs syndrome was murdered under the Nazi eugenics programme. What worries people now is not the Pope's past but the future to which his decisions may take the Vatican.,1518,605542,00.html

Israel's Chief Rabbinate has angrily - and hypocritically - complained, and suspended links with the Catholic Church. If I were foolishly optimistic I might hope that Pope Benedict had proved a blessing for the Middle East, by giving Jews and Muslims something they might agree upon. But I am not that foolish as to place any such hopes on any kind of religion.

Meanwhile, as the row still raged over the SS Pixies, the Pope managed to stir more anger by promoting an ultra-conservative Austrian cleric, Gerhardt Maria Wagner, to be auxiliary bishop of Linz. Wagner is renowned for his views on extreme weather conditions. In 2004 he said the Tsunami was God's punishment for Western tourists who flown to places like Thailand for Christmas. The following year he wrote that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution. "It is surely not an accident that all five of New Orleans abortion clinics, as well as as nightclubs were destroyed."

To be fair, though some Linz Catholics are reportedly unhappy over this appointment, Wagner's weather view is very ecumenical. Prominent American Protestants, as well as some Jewish and Muslim voices, all said New Orleans was being punished for its sins and those of America, even if they were not all agreed for which sins specifically. But then, nor did any bother to explain why the city's poor suffered so disproportionately to the rich and powerful. The poor shall inherit the earth, but it's rich companies - in which the religious institutions have shares -who do well out of the real estate.


Whatever happened to infallibility? I suppose we all make mistakes, and forget things as we get older.

"Cardinal admits error over Holocaust denier" Guardian, Feb.4