Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fallujah must not be forgotten

"Children and families continue to suffer the consequences of a war they did not cause",

MEDICAL professionals working in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are appealing to colleagues abroad and anyone else with humanitarian concern to see that the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes research findings on the fate of Fallujah's population, and that governments are not allowed to forget it.

Fallujah's civilian population was hit by Allied so-called smart bombs during the 1991 Iraq war, but the city was not initially affected badly by the 2003 invasion. However in two later counter-insurgency operations at least 36,000 homes were destroyed in Fallujah, as well as schools and mosques.

The US forces at first denied that they were using white phosphorus against personnel in Fallujah, but later it was confirmed they had. The effect of depleted uranium munitions used in Iraq may still have to be accurately assesssed. But reports on Fallujah by experts compare symptoms and mutations at birth to those found at Hiroshima.

Now a hospital specialist in Fallujah has expressed concern that the WHO is sitting on the information it has which should have been published this year.
"My name is Dr Samira Alaani and I am a pediatrician working in Fallujah General Hospital. In the years since US forces attacked our city my colleagues and I have recorded a horrifying increase in the numbers of babies born with congenital defects: spina bifida, heart abnormalities and defects that I do not even have a name for. Many do not survive. For those that do, we care for them as best we can with the limited resources we have.
 I have worked in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases; we have determined that 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later. It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families. The first question I am asked when a child is born is not ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ but ‘is my child healthy?’

When I heard that the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were going to carry out research I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I knew it would only confirm what we already knew; that there had been a rise in birth defects, but I saw it as a stepping stone to finally spur Iraq and the international community into action.

The research is now complete and we were promised that it would be published at the beginning of 2013, yet six months later the WHO has announced more delays. We worry that this is now politics, not science. We have already waited years for the truth and my patients cannot wait any longer. The WHO has another option. The data should be published in an open access journal for independent peer review. The process would be fast, rigorous and transparent.
My patients need to know the truth, they need to know why they miscarried, they need to know why their babies are so ill but, most importantly, they need to know that something is being done about it. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation need to release this data and give us answers.

                                            Samirah Alaani "

Dr.Alaani and her colleagues are asking people to sign this petition and show that the rest of the world has not forgotten about the people of Iraq.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Killers at Kiryat Arba

VICTIM; Alex Odeh with family. Had been due to speak at Fountain Valley synagogue when murdered by the JDL

THE news that the so-called Jewish Defence League had popped up in Croydon at the weekend, in the shape of a person claiming to be a spokesman appearing with the English Volunteer Force, led me to reflect that a lot of people will be too young to remember what this inoccuous-sounding  "defence" group got up to in its American cradle, and others may have forgotten.

But my fellow-blogger Asa Winstanley reminded us the other day about a crime committed in 1985, and is still awaiting justice. Palestinian-American civil rights leader Alex Odeh was killed that year in a bomb attack on the California offices of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

Odeh, the ADC's Southern California regional director, was killed on October 11, 1985, when a powerful pipe bomb exploded as he unlocked and opened the door of the ADC office in Santa Ana, California. In addition to killing Odeh, the bomb injured several other victims. According to press reports, the FBI  identified members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) as suspects in this act of domestic terrorism. 

Alex’s brother Sami passed away on 6 June after a long illness.  “We regret that Sami Odeh never lived to see justice served for Alex’s death, but are hopeful that this case will be solved soon,” ADC wrote in a press release earlier this month.

The next day Congressperson Loretta Sanchez, who represents Santa Ana where the bombing took place, sent a letter to the attorney general requesting an update on the status of the case:

Close to 28 years have passed since the death of Alex Odeh … To this day, no arrests have been made and no one has been held accountable for the attack. The FBI’s case into Alex Odeh’s murder remains open, and is classified as a “priority investigation.”Given the priority status of this case, I am requesting an update on this open case, as I believe the Odeh family deserve closure.
Some friends remembered the work Alex Odeh did and give some idea how he and those he worked with became targets.

ADC communications director Raed Jarrar told Asa that repeated efforts had been made to have the US authorities act to bring the killers to justice. Marking 27 years after the bombing, ADC in October had sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder — but Holder never replied.  Jarrar said that getting members of Congress to put pressure on Eric Holder for an update made it harder for him to ignore, and ADC is encouraging people to write to their elected officials about the case via their website.

Sheila Jackson Lee, one of the members of Congress who spoke at the ADC convention, compared the case to Medgar Evers, a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1963. It took more than 30 years, but eventually Evers’ killer was jailed for the remainder of his life.

The NAACP’s president Benjamin Jealous gave the keynote address at the convention and promised to send out an action alert to the NAACP’s 670,000 subscribers on the 28th anniversary of Odeh’s murder in October, asking members to request an update on the case from the FBI.

The Jewish Defense League was founded in 1968 by Meir Kahane in New York. Kahane later moved to Israel and founded Kach, which was banned as a terrorist group even by Israel and the US. Kahane, who was once elected to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, openly called for all Palestinians to be expelled from the West Bank.

Irv Rubin, JDL chair at the time of the bombing, said “Odeh got what he deserved,” but denied responsibility. In 2002 he died in jail while awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to bomb a mosque and an Arab American politician (for which his JDL comrade Earl Krugel eventually received 20 years).

According to the LA Times, former JDL members Keith Fuchs, Andy Green and Robert Manning were privately named by Rubin to Krugel as being part of the plot against Odeh. Manning was extradited back to the US in the early 1990s and is serving a life term over a different bomb plot. But Fuchs and Green are said to be living comfortably in Kiryat Arba, a Zionist settlement in Hebron.

Asa asks a pertinent question:
"Why is the US government not requesting their extradition? Why is little or nothing being done to advance this supposedly “priority investigation” while at the same time the FBI chases whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, (who revealed the NSA’s secret PRISM internet snooping system)?" 

ROBERT MANNING, one of killers, extradited for another crime.

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Birds of a Feather flock to Croydon

KAHANIST with Holocaust denier Richard Edmonds, caught on camera by Guy Smallman for Reel News.

LUNAR House in Croydon is a 20 storey office block housing the UK Border Agency, that is the part of the Home Office which deals with immigration.  It deals both with applications to stay and detention of unsuccessful applicants. Some unfortunate families have called in for interview only to find themselves detained without warning in conditions which HM Inspectorate of Prisons criticised as inadequate. But of course not every member of staff agrees with that sort of thing, nor has any say in it. Most are just ordinary civil servants, clerks and the like. Many of the workers are immigrants themselves, or sons and daughters of such. 

Staff have been working Saturdays to catch up with a backlog of applications.

But this Saturday the staff and visitors to Lunar House faced another worry.  The English Volunteer Force (EVF), a militant breakaway from the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL), had announced its intention of holding a demonstration against immigrants outside Lunar House, and then marching on to demonstrate at a local mosque.

This was at the end of a week in which the government had billboard wagons touring six London boroughs telling "illegal immigrants" to "Go Home". Business Secretary Vince Cable described the campaign as "stupid and offensive" but Prime Minister Cameron wants to spread it around the land.

The militarist-sounding  name "English Volunteer Force", plainly modelled on the Ulster Prorestant UVF, and the known links between some of its members and the far-Right National Front, were a fair indication that it wasn't coming to Croydon for a friendly visit or to spread peace and love.

The council and local people and organisations in Croydon had appealed for the EVF demonstration not to be allowed, and Muslim leaders pleaded that there should be no provocation during Ramadan at the mosque. But police decided the demonstration could go ahead at Lunar House.

Unite Against Fascism(UAF), the Croydon Trade Union Council, and the PCS union which represents many of the Lunar House staff, joined forces to mobilise a counter-demonstration.

Urging all "nationalists" and "patriots" to join them, the EVF had promised to bring thousands of people out on Saturday. It mustered about 40 people all told. They were outnumbered more than three to one by their opponents, who were kept away from them by the police. A couple of anti-fascists were wrestled to the ground by police when they tried to get closer to the EVF. Local journalists who complained that they had been assaulted by EVF members that morning were ignored by police officers.

Photographer Guy Smallman managed to get some good photographs of both EVF and counter-demonstrators, as well as the police, and one of his shots tells a particularly interesting tale. The young man in the photograph above claimed to be a member of the far-Right Zionist Jewish Defence League (JDL), which originated in the United States, where it was led by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane emigrated to Israel and founded the Kach party, which even the Israeli authorities decided was a "terrorist" group. This did not impede its activities too much, ranging from inciting Gaza settlers to resist evacuation to holding provocative marches through Arab areas, and campaigning against African immigrants in south Tel Aviv. That is a Kach tee shirt the young man is wearing, unless I'm mistaken, on a demonstration against "extremism" and "terrorism" in Croydon.

But who is the old gent in the picture? That's Richard Edmonds,who during a career back and forth between the National Front and British National Party notched up certain minor and 'spent' criminal convictions. In 1988, The Sunday Times revealed that Holocaust News, a publication that claimed The Holocaust was an "evil hoax", was being published by Edmonds, on behalf of the Centre for Historical Review, and distributed by BNP members. Edmonds also spent three months in custody over a 'racially-motivated' assault in 1993[5] and had previously been convicted for damaging a statue of Nelson Mandela on London's South Bank. For a time Edmonds seemed like Nick Griffin's loyal rival, then after the BNP's poor showing in elections in 2011 he announced he was contsting the party's leadership, but switched to the National Front.  He was the party's candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election, finishing eighth out of twelve candidates with 161 votes (0.7% vote share).[14]

We don't know how real is the Jewish Defence League presence in Britain. Its website admits to being hosted abroad. When American Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were banned recently from travelling to Britain for a rally of the EDL, the JDL protested. That does not exactly surprise us. But when the representative of an outfit that used to shout "Never Again" turns up in the company of a man who insisted the Holocaust never happened in the first place, that's worth noting. And rubbing their faces in.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dirty Work at the Dubai Crossroads

A NORWEGIAN woman was pardoned and released a few days ago after an international outcry over her prison sentence in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after she reported a rape. 
Her case was a reminder that there's more to the Emirates than super luxury hotels and highly profitable business deals, but it was also greeted cheerfully by an Israeli Facebook troll as yet more evidence of what terrible places the Arab Muslim states are.

He and his fellow hasbaraniks should not be so harsh.  To judge from recent Israeli TV news reports at least one of his prominent countrymen has found Dubai and the Emirates an excellent place to visit and do business in.  This was Tamir Pardo, the current chief of Mossad.    
My fellow blogger Richard Silverstein (Tikkun Olam) comments:
"If I were an Iranian intelligence official I’d be following very closely the travel schedule of Tamir Pardo, Israel’s Mossad chief.  Last month, he visited his Turkish counterpart.  Four weeks later, Israeli bombers flew from a Turkish airbase to attack the Syrian government weapons depot at Latakia, where they destroyed advanced Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles.

"Two Israeli TV news reports affirm that Pardo recently visited the United Arab Emirates.  UAE is one of the bastions of the anti-Iran resistance among the Gulf states.  I revealed a few weeks ago that the Israeli budget contains a secret allocation for establishing a military-intelligence coordination facility in the UAE.  It would place Israeli agents and analysts in the Gulf so they can devise aggressive operations against Iran, together with their Arab peers from the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, etc."

As Richard reminds us, it was in the Emirates that Mossad is assumed to have organised the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabouh, who was said to be a Hamas representative arranging arms deals with Iran.  The authorities in Dubai investigated, and declared Bibi Netanyahu and then Mossad chief Meir Dagan to be criminals, to be added to the Interpol red list.  They were even reported to be banning Israelis from entering their territory.

This episode may also have had a bearing on the secret detention and supposed suicide in an Israeli prison of Australian-born Mossad agent Ben Zygier. The Australian government had been angered to learn that Mossad agents in the Mabou killing had travelled on Australian passports. But Pardo, who threatened to resign over allegations about Ben Zygier is still at his post, and appears to have had no trouble entering the Emirates. It seems he was on leave when the assassination was carried out.

Meanwhile, as US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority open, another interesting story reaches us from Dubai. It may not have any connection with the Mossad chief's visit, but it is reported that a  member of the Fatah Central Committee has filed an international lawsuit against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claiming Abbas was the author of a campaign of intimidation against him, and saying corruption in the PA is harming the Palestinian people.

In his suit, Mohammed Dahlan, who was previously associated with both Mossad and the CIA in attempts to stage a coup in Gaza,  and accused of torture of political oppnents, and corruption,  seeks the restoration of his former position in the PA administration and of property confiscated from him, as well as an assurance that he would not be harmed if he returned to Palestinian Authority territory.
Dahlan, who currently resides in Dubai and Europe, hired an Israeli law firm to file the complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronot reported on Wednesday. The firm is run by Zaki Kamal, the deputy president of the Israel Bar Association, and his son, Kamal Kamal.
Dahlan claimed in his suit that Abbas was out to get him because he was seen as a potential competitor for the leadership of the PA. Dahlan accused the Palestinian leader of “tyrannical behavior the utter corruption of which, along with the corruption of his family, is damaging to the Palestinian people and the authority’s institutions,” the report said.
A copy of the suit was sent to Abbas, with no response; copies were then sent to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Human Rights Commission, the secretary of the European Union, and Quartet representative Tony Blair.
“I and my family have for a long time been subjected to terror and harassment, persecution, arrests, defamation, threats to life and damage to property,” Dahlan wrote. “The campaign against me knows no moral or legal limits, nor even national boundaries.”
A former head of the Palestinian internal security services in Gaza, Dahlan accused the PA of being a corrupt institution under Abbas’s thumb.

Many Palestinians, whatever their views on Abbas, regard Dahlan's accusations as to say the least ironic. As a Fathah member Dahlan was chosen to head the Preventive Security Force in Gaza after the signing of the Oslo Accords. He built up a force of 20,000 men, making him one of the most powerful Palestinian leaders, dealing regularly with the CIA and Israeli intelligence officials. His forces were accused of torturing Hamas detainees throughout the 1990s.  His reputation was damaged in the Karni scandal of 1997 when it was revealed that he was diverting 40% of the taxes levied at the Karni Crossing (an estimated one million Shekels a month) to his personal bank account. 
Having tried to take over Gaza in a coup that failed, Dahlan and his supporters were ousted, and went to the West Bank. But Two years ago he was expelled from the territories after Abbas suspected him of organizing a coup. Since then he has been become a wealthy businessman and one of the closest confidants of the royal family in the UAE.

If his new moves against Abbas are connected with the Mossad visit, it looks as though the already weak Abbas will be expected to negotiate with a knife at his back, as well as the bullying Israeli government at his front.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Tricks

 TURNING to an old friend to ask about this money business.

I CAN see future generations of school students wrestling with the exam question: 'Had Dr.Ian Saville travelled north of the border with his magic show ten years earlier, might he not have taught Gordon Brown a few tricks and thereby saved a lot of suffering in the British economy? Discuss'.

Alas, though Dr.Saville has been to Edinburgh before, his new act concerning "Money Magic" comes too late to save us from austerity, though Chancellors past and present should envy his ability to produce money from thin air with ease (they already know how to make it disappear the other way). The rest of us can appreciate the way Ian demystifies such baffling wonders as the derivation of derivatives, as well as affording us a good laugh from the 'dismal science', at a time when there is not a lot to laugh about.

 I've been delighting at Ian Saville's magic tricks for more years than I care to remember. The first time I think was when he helped us unwind after a conference in Mill Lane community centre, near Cricklewood ( I forget the year but a couple who met there now have two sons both uni graduates and performing themselves in different ways). I still marvel at how the "Marxist Magician" manages to deconstruct a broadsheet newspaper -well, actually tear it to shreds before my very eyes, me being seated right up close, -and then open it up again intact, while chattering away to the audience.

Another trick that I found impressive involved getting someone to 'phone a number taken from the 'phonebook seemingly at random, and finding the person at the other end able to accurately describe cards and numbers concealed this end. This was performed in a back garden in Brent, and involved the co-operation of some kids - who, as every magician knows are the hardest audience to kid and first to spot a slip that would be missed by us more pliant adults.

I'm sure incidentally that along with healthier politics, it's those garden parties with great food from members and entertainment from Ian Saville among others that have kept Brent Stop the War going long after the national body has declined and dwindled.

Since Ian has dedicated so much of his time and skills to performing free for benefits, for union and left-wing causes, I am pleased to see he now has a daytime job as university lecturer to supplement the family income. That Doctorate by the way is genuine - in Political Theatre History. He is also a card-carring member of the Magic Circle of course, and has travelled with such well-known entertainers as Mark Steel and Julian Clary, as well as joining Peggy Seeger and Leon Rosselson in the Anticapitalist Roadshow.

It was at Middlesex University's Hendon campus that I caught a preview of Ian's new act recently, the one he is taking to Edinburgh, on his first return since 2004, and judging from the full crowd and appreciation from both old friends and new, it should aye go well with the folk in Auld Reekie.

"Ian's new show revolves around money, explaining the illusions of the banking system in a way that only a magician can. Money appears and disappears, transforms itself and changes its value in a tour de force of creative accounting.

And, of course, money talks."

In this time of austerity and cuts, with inflation outstripping wages, you will be relieved to find that even if you have only a little money, you can still enjoy Ian’s show. Ian will be part of the splendid free festival, where audiences pay no admission fee, but can contribute what they can afford (if they liked the show) on the way out. As well as consulting our old friend Karl, who has enjoyed a well-earned comeback in recent years, but admits he can't make much sense of contemporary capitalism, Ian turns to his financial adviser, Eric, when the latter can spare time from advising other anxious clients on the 'phone - "Buy! Buy!  No, not bye-bye'.

Eric, who will be accompanying Ian to Edinbugh, also has a bit of history. He last visited the city in 1968, when he travelled with “The Great De Sevia”, a travelling magician and children’s entertainer. Restored by Ian after some years in a suitcase, the dummy was made by Len Insull, the foremost craftsman of this art in the 1950s and 1960s. Insull was the artist who made Peter Brough’s dummy “Archie Andrews”, whose radio show (yes, a ventriloquist on the radio!) in the 1950s attracted an audience of 15 million, myself among them. Archie not only helped Brough make a living but assisted several other stars on their way - I remember Max Bygraves, Beryl Reid and Tony Hancock among them. 

Insull also made “Lord Charles”, Ray Alan’s dummy who was a regularr on TV from the 1960s to 80s. So Eric is a brother to these illustrious characters.

 As well as his adult show, Ian will be performing his acclaimed children’s show,Something in My Shoe, every day (Except Mondays) at noon. More information about Ian and his other shows can be found at

DUMMY's GUIDE to FINANCE?  Ian Saville with Eric. Ian is the one on the right, which is not his usual position of course


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Days of Anger Against Ethnic Cleansing of Bedouin

DEMONSTRATIONS in Jerusalem (above) and Kafr Kassem (below)

PALESTINIANS uniting behind Bedouin resisting ethnic cleansing from their homes in the Naqb (Negev) have called a second 'Day of Anger' on August 1 and appealed for international support.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in widespread demonstrations in support of the Bedouin on  Monday, July 15, and in some places they were joined by Israeli Jewish sympathisers. There were demonstrations from Beersheba, at the heart of the Negev. in the south, to Tamra in Galilee to the north. Besides the cities of Jaffa and Jerusalem, smaller places which saw demonstrations included the village of Kafr Kassem, scene of a massacre of Arab farmworkers by Israeli forces on October 29, 1956.   

Support demonstrations also took place in the Gaza strip and the Occupied Palestinian West bank, and in Cairo and Beirut.

Israeli forces moved to break up the demonstration in Beersheba, and on Tuesday they demolished the Bedouin village of Araqib - for the 53rd time! The Bedouin there insist their title to the land goes back at least to Ottoman times, and soon after the Israeli forces had finished their destructive work the villagers were erecting homes again.

The Israeli government's Prawer plan, first devised in 2011, passed its first reading in the Knesset this week. Under it the authorities plan to:
    confiscate 800,000 dunums of land in the Naqab desert

    expel between 30,000 and 50,000 Palestinian Bedouin.

    demolish 35 unrecognized villages

    confine 30% of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab to 1% of the land

Dozens of people were injured or arrested when Israeli security forces moved to break up demonstrations and clear streets on Monday, and there are also reports that Hamas police in Gaza halted a demonstration there, which had involved the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Hamas in Gaza is probably nervous. Having dissociated itself from Hizbollah over the Syrian war, it nevertheless faces a renewed siege not only by Israel but by the military regime in Egypt, which chose Ramadan to seal the border crossing and prevent Palestinians returning home. The new regime seems to be blaming Palestinians for everything from attacks on border posts to fuel shortages.

The Israeli government may have felt the coup in Egypt coupled with the continuing civil war in Syria would offer a good time to get on with its ethnic cleansing against the Bedouin, even though the Bedouin are Israeli citizens -some even serving in the Army - hardly an advertisement for Israeli "democracy".

But the Day of Anger last week showed not only the Bedouin resilience but a new spirit of unity among Palestinians.  


See also:

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guns and Race in Florida

TWO stories from America, and specifically the State of Florida:

Yesterday evening a man called George Zimmerman walked free from court after a jury, having deliberated for more than 16 hours, had found him not guilty of murder.

Zimmerman had admiited to shooting 17-year old Trayvon Martin, on the night of February 26, 2012, but claimed he was acting in self-defence after the black teenager attacked him.

That night, Trayvon had just gone to a local 7- Eleven convenience store and was walking back through the Retreat at Twin Lakes to the home of his father's fiance, where he and his father were staying. He was unarmed, unless one counts the can of iced tea and bag of Skittles which he had just purchased.

Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, said he thought the youth looked suspicious because of his slow and meandering gait. Phoning the police, he then set out after the boy, there was a confrontation, and Zimmerman shot him. 

After six weeks, and numerous protests, police arrested Zimmerman and charged him with second-degree murder. Later they released tapes of neighbours' 911 calls in which can be heard screams and then gunfire. From these it is not clear who is screaming for help, or who is attacking whom. What is clear is that  only one man was armed, and only one lay dead afterwards.

From character witnesses and other evidence it would appear hard to see what Trayvon Martin was guilty of beyond being black, and a teenager. Whereas Zimmerman did have a gun, and followed him, and did have a criminal record.

But now Zimmerman walks free, and whether or not he was racially prejudiced, he has already become a hero to those who are.

We might take that as just another case of America's lax attitudes to gun crime were it not for the next case, which comes from not far away:

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for firing a pistol in the air, hoping to scare away a physically abusive ex-husband, Rico Gray. Marissa, five feet, two inches tall and slightly built, had been no match for her trucker ex-partner, who admitted that twice he had thrown her out of the house.   “She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door . . . You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.”

In the months before the incident that sent Marissa to prison, in addition to bodily heaving her out the door, Gray had beaten her, head-butted her in the face while she was pregnant, sent her to the hospital. One of his three arrests on domestic violence charges had been for an attack on Alexander that led to a conviction and probation. He had other convictions for violence against women.

On August 10, 2010, as Gray approached her in a rage, Alexander (a software firm employee with an MBA and no previous criminal record) fired warning shots with a pistol. As Gray admitted in a deposition to the District Atormey,  he had already attacked her and chased her into the garage, before she came out with the gun.

“I honestly think she just didn’t want me to put my hands on her anymore so she did what she feel like she have to do to make sure she wouldn’t get hurt, you know. You know, she did what she had to do.”

 “The gun was never actually pointed at me. When she raised the gun down and raised it up, you know, the gun was never pointed at me. The fact is, you know . . . she never been violent toward me. I was always the one starting it. If she was violent toward me, it was because she was trying to get me up off her or stop me from doing.”

Read more here:

The bullets went into the wall. No one was hurt. Nevertheless a jury convicted Marissa of aggravated assault with a firearm and, under Florida’s draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the presiding judge was left with no discretion. So she got 20 years. Her thug husband got custody of their baby son. 

That Marissa Alexander had a similar complexion to Trayvon Martin, rather than his killer, cannot possibly have influenced a court in Florida, US of A, can it? Nor the fact that she is female.

And whatever this says about the state of Florida, I should not think it will influence any one's holiday plans. 

BUT along with the demonstrations in many American cities, someone has taken a lead:

Read more here:

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Born Rebel, Fine Writer, and Extraordinary Diplomat

ILAN HALEVI - "100 per cent Jewish and 100 per cent Palestinian"
A REMARKABLE man died in Clichy, Paris, this week, and the Palestinian cause and that of peace in the Middle East lost a unique fighter.

Ilan Halevi was born under one Occupation, and joined those struggling to end another.  He was born Georges Alain Albert, the son of Jewish parents in Lyon, France, in 1943. His father was a Yemeni Jew whose family had settled in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century. His mother was of Turkish Jewish origin.

As Michel Warshawski observes in a tribute to Ilan, "We do not inherit our identity but create it, on the basis of sociological givens, and this identity is always multiple...Let Ilan speak for one last time."I am 100 per cent Jewish. and 100 per cent Arab".

Growing up when Algerians were winning their independence from France,  Halevi moved to Israel in 1965, aged 22.  As he would later explain: "I came to Israel because in Algeria I discovered the importance of the Palestinian problem. I sat there in coffee houses, I heard people, I spoke with intellectuals and I understood that the Palestinian question preoccupies the people of the Arab world. It is really in the center of their obsessions. I decided I want to study this reality up close and from the inside…I wanted to study the Israeli reality."

It was as Ilan Albert that he joined the left-wing anti-Zionist group Matzpen, which had broken out of the rigidity of the Communist Party and sought links with leftists in the Palestinian camp. Later with a breakaway Revolutionary Communist group, better known by the name of its journal Ma'avak (Struggle), and Maoist influenced, he sought more direct alignment with the Palestinian resistance.

If the 1967 war and occupation had both clarified Israel's position in Palestine, and paradoxically, facilitated Palestinian resistance and the beginning of joint struggle, the 1973 war showed Israel was not invincible, but also that Palestinians must strive for independent initiative and recognition. Halevi turned to groups in which Israelis and Palestinians were working together against the occupation. He also showed his particular skills by helping secure permission for Bashir Barghouti, a Palestinian activist and member of the Jordanian Communist Party's governing council, to return to the West Bank. (Under the Moscow-led policy of respecting existing state boundaries, and tying Communist Parties to existing states, Palestinian communists were for some time obliged to join either the Israeli or Jordanian CPs, and not permitted to form a party of their own, even though this hindered them forming a presence in the PLO.)

In 1977, Halevi went to Beirut, where he met with PLO members. In 1982, while the Palestinians came under siege in Lebanon, and Yasser Arafat recognised the importance of Israeli opposition to their government's war, Ilan Halevi received an official role in the Palestinian organization.

After Issam Sartawi was assassinated in Portugal, where he had gone to speak for the Palestian cause at the Socialist International, Arafat made the significant gesture of appointing Ilan Halevi as Sartawi's successor, so the diplomatic effort could continue. It was more than a gesture. With his culture and command of languages, Halevi could tear down stereotypes and open doors for the PLO in Europe.  Besides becoming Fatah’s representative at the Socialist International, he was a representative for the PLO at the Madrid peace conference, a member of the political committee of the National Palestinian Council, an adviser to Arafat, and deputy to Nabil Shaath when the latter was the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister.

As a writer he produced a highly-regarded History of the Jews, and both political works and a novel on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He was a founding member of the Revue des Études Palestiniennes (Palestinian Studies Review) in 1981.

Whatever the refined circles in which he might have to exercise his diplomatic skills and intellect, Ilan was no stuffed-shirt diplomat dishing out the Ferrero Rocher as per the commercials, nor did he show the snobbish "side" one sometimes encounters from far less significant politicos and intellectuals who fancy themselves here.

When I met him all too briefly in Paris after a conference sometime in the 1980s, Ilan was about to set off for Belleville to eat cous-cous with a couple of pals from Israel, both Moroccan-born and former militants of the slum-bred Black Panther movement, and one in the Knesset with the Communist list.  Had I not just come back from the same restaurant with friends I would have been tempted to join them though my languages are not that good. He kept up similar friendships in France.

They say a diplomat is someone who lies for his country. Ilan Halevi, who described himself as “100 percent Jewish and 100 percent Palestinian.” told the truth for both his peoples.

Some tributes to Halevi from:

Michel Warshawski, of the Alternative Information Centre:

Union Juive Francaise pour la Paix:


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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Love Labour's Lost

WHEN a party leadership announces it has sent a report on its internal affairs to police, ahead of it even being seen by the members it is about, we may wonder what it is going to be like in government, assuming it ever reaches that office.

WHEN it is the Labour party leadership apparently accepting the Tory jibe that trade union influence is a "scandal", and not only attacking the Party's biggest source of funds (biggest in membership as well as the amount it contributes), but the very relationship which gave it birth, we may wonder whether it even wants to win.

Trade unions have yet to regain the strength they had in the past, when so many workers were employed in industry  (and union block votes were employed more than once by Labour leaders to roll over the Left in the constituencies).  But in the last few years they have started to register a slight growth in membership. And unlike MPs, and despite the hostile media, trade unions seem to be regaining some popularity. They could make a difference at election time in persuading working people it is worth going to vote. Even now Labour's gains in the polls reflects a belief, however mistaken, that it will mean a change, for instance in defending the NHS, and not continue the Con Dem politics of privilege and austerity.

 A report in the Guardian yesterday claimed:
"Ed Miliband is to review the Labour party's historic relationship with the trade union movement amid calls from senior party figures for him to use a bitter row with the Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, to break the formal link. As Labour referred allegations about the handling of the process for selecting a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk to the police and procurator fiscal, senior party aides indicated that Miliband would embark on a bold step of reform in the coming weeks.
The report said Ed Miliband "has made no decisions on whether to break Labour's links with the trade unions, which were responsible for the founding of the party in 1900. But the Labour leader, who raised the possibility of corruption in Falkirk, is understood to believe that he must adopt a consistent approach in tackling 'unaccountable vested interests'.
Labour Party members may note that it is apparently up to one man, and not the party membership or conference, nor even the national executive, to take this momentous decision!  And we in the trade unions are supposed to need teaching lessons in democracy!

We may also note that unjust sneer in quotes at unions as "unaccountable vested interests", similar to something Tony Blair said when he was first elected. And though the report goes on to equate the unions with Rupert Murdoch, we remember that Blair went on to bow to Murdoch, and to other billionaires. Unlike them, Len McCluskey has been elected and re-elected, and he is accountable to hundreds of thousands of hard-working people, from dockers to doctors, draughtspersons to refuse disposal operators, who keep this country going, pay their taxes, and if they expect an influence in return for paying the political levy, don't go in for hacking 'phones, buying politicians, or bribing policemen.     

Len McCluskey was shocked yesterday by the news that Miliband is going to the police with the allegations about irregularities at Falkirk.The union was being "mercilessly attacked", he said "though we have not done anything wrong".

"I haven't even seen this report. We were told when the inquiry was taking place that any allegations against the people who were being accused of things would have an opportunity to respond. They weren't even interviewed. Unite wasn't interviewed. This is absolute nonsense and I would hope that a calming influence could come into this," he said.
As he spoke in a hospital car park in Trafford, Greater Manchester, McCluskey attacked the way shadow cabinet members, including Jim Murphy, have attacked the union for "overstepping the mark" in Falkirk.
"What does that mean? We asked too many of our members to join the Labour party? We should have told them that the Labour party was full up perhaps," he said. "It is a nonsense and I am afraid that the way that this has been handled by Labour party HQ is nothing short of disgraceful," he said.

Incidentally, since it wasn't mentioned in that report nor in what I saw on TV, readers might wonder why Len was hanging about in a hospital car park yesterday. He was at the Trafford General hospital to commemorate 65 years since Aneurin Bevan inaugurated the National Health Service on a visit to the same hospital (then Davyhulme Park) on July 5, 1948. The Unite leader spoke at a rally in nearby Golden Hill park to oppose cutbacks in the NHS. You can please yourself what significance to attach to that, but funnily enough my friends in Manchester who were pleased to report Len McCluskey's presence at their event did not even think to mention his row with Ed Miliband over Falkirk. Just goes to show what the media think important and what ordinary people are worried about isn't always the same thing.

The search for a new candidate in the Falkirk constituency was made necessary when current MP Eric Joyce had to resign the party, and announced he would not stand again. The former Army major had been given a 12-month community order and fined £3,000 after he admitted committing an assault in a House of Commons bar last year.

 But he has not given up politics nor battling, it seems. Accusing Unite of behaving "irresponsibly", he wrote:

"Stephen Deans, chair of Unite in Scotland and a local shop steward, was installed as chair of Falkirk West constituency Labour party (CLP), which covers about 70% of my constituency. In line with wider Unite policy, he immediately began an extensive recruitment campaign at work – Ineos refinery in Grangemouth, and in a local pub, The Broomhill Inn – the aim being to dominate the selection vote for my successor without persuading existing members to support the Unite candidate, Karie Murphy."

 It is claimed some Unite members received letters welcoming them to the Labour Party without being aware they had joined, Unite having paid their subs to convert affilated to full membership. But presumably they could not have cast their votes without knowing it.

On June 25 Labour placed the Falkirk party under special measures, and Karie Murphy, who had already stood aside from the selection while it was being investigated, was suspended from the Party last week along with Stephen Deans. Labour's national elections manager Tom Watson MP, in whose office Karie Murphy worked, resigned from the shadow cabinet, explaining : "It’s not the unattributed shadow cabinet briefings around the mess in Falkirk that has convinced me that the arrangement has run its course (though they don’t help). I believe that the report should be published – in full – and the whole truth told as soon as possible so that the record can be made clear. I’ve still not seen the report but believe there are an awful lot of spurious suppositions being written.

Watson appears to believe he can do a better job of fighting the Tories from outside the shawdow cabinet team:
"I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity".

Whatever was happening in Falkirk, it may be the focus but it is not the whole story of the row between the Labour leadership and Unite. Some old and discredited names from the last Labour government have been complaining about the union's influence.

An organisation called Progress, founded in 1996 by Liam Byrne, now Labour's shadow Work and Pensions secretary, and fomer Mandelson aide Derek Draper, is keeping up the Blairite legacy with its own annual conference attracting past and present cabinet ministers. It might be considered a "a party within a party", and probably would be challenged as such if was on the Left, which it obviously isn't. Registered as a company, it has received  millions of pounds in donations, mainly from Lord David Sainsbury of the famous grocery family.

Obviously these are the kind of people you want to get on with if you fancy a career, in or out of politics, and there are still plenty of ambitious careerists and wannabes attracted to New Labour's promise of opportunity in some constituency parties.    

Some of these have been getting upset about trade union and supposedly "hard left"influence getting in their way. 

A blogger on the Labour Uncut site complains at how a previously hopeful Anne Fairweather in south London has been relegated from the Party's Euro election list. " Her crime seems to have been to work in business and not be one of the chosen candidates of the unions and the left".

Further light is shed on why those dreadful union people and left-wingers might not have been happy about Ms.Fairweather's background in business:
Although Anne was apparently a hard working candidate in the 2009 election, she is seen as politically unacceptable to a large section of Labour’s electoral support as she used to be Head of Public Policy for REC, the trade association for recruitment agencies, and in that capacity had lobbied against extensions of employment rights to Agency workers, both in the UK (PDF) and in Brussels. Given a strong field of candidates no one individual should have a sense of entitlement, and a candidate who had been aligned with lobbyists for deregulation in the employment market should not be surprised if she is seen by many as outside the mainstream of Labour Party values. Anne left the employment of the REC in 2010. 

Knowing how trade unions like Unite and Labour MP John McDonnell sought to extend employment rights to agency workers, I could imagine there might be some feeling against a lobbyist for the other side, even if she was "only doing her job". But then I am one of those old-fashioned dinosaurs raised on the belief that the labour movement should take sides on workers' rights.

Here's Labour Uncut again, digging out the enemy, and focusing on Unite:
Dave Quayle, chair of Unite’s national political committee set out their priorities in an interview for the website of Marxist fringe group, the Alliance for Worker’s Liberty,

    “We want a firmly class-based and left-wing general election campaign in 2015… We want to shift the balance in the party away from middle-class academics and professionals towards people who’ve actually represented workers and fought the boss.”

Although Len McCluskey has been attacked by some on the Left, often those who only yesterday were buried in the Labour Party themselves, for sticking with Labour, - Unite funds the party to an estimated £8 million pounds - he has made clear that he is not giving the party a blank cheque politically, as seemed to happen under some of his predecessors. He has attacked the Labour leadership's warnings that they would have to continue with cuts, and told Ed Miliband to stop listening to the likes of Blair and Mandelson.

"I want Labour to be re-elected but Labour will only be elected if it offers a radical alternative, a real alternative to the doom and gloom and misery and despair currently offered by this government,” he said.

The contempt with which McCluskey utters the name “Blair” prompts me to ask him about the recent return of the former prime minister to the domestic fray and his warning in the New Statesman that Ed Miliband must not “tack left on tax and spending”. “My message to Ed is to take no notice of the siren voices from the boardrooms of JP Morgan or wherever else he is at the moment,” he tells me. Blair and the other New Labour grandees who have urged Miliband to pursue a centrist strategy are “locked in the past,” he says, describing them as “deniers of what happened in 2008”.

“It may be easy for these people, who are sitting with the huge sums of money that they’ve amassed now – they’ve done pretty well out of it. Remember it was Mandelson who said he was comfortable about the filthy rich – presumably that’s because he wanted to be one of the filthy rich. But the fact is that under Labour the gap between rich and poor increased . . . that’s a stain on what Labour stands for”.
That mention of JP Morgan, the Wall Street bank that once financed Mussolini, is not unimportant. It did not hire Tony Blair a couple of years ago because he is some kind of financial whizz kid. Blair may be a war criminal in many people's eyes, but in Britain as in the EU and the Middle East, he has the chutzpah to go with his Catholic conversion, and knows which palms to grease and which doors to open. Morgans have set their sights on destroying social democracy in Europe.

The struggle in the Labour Party, wherever it may end, is not seperate from the class struggle, but part of it. And we don't have to pretend Unite is lilywhite pure or Len McCluskey always right to know what side we are on.  


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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Success in Basra, So-so in London

HASSAN JUMA'A (with mike).  Case falls, after EIGHT attempts! Oil workers' leader thanks international solidarity campaign. 

REMISS of me not to update this blog on a couple of issues we have been following.

FIRST, from IRAQ, we got this news on Monday:

Today the company lawyer and the prosecutor have repeated the accusation against Hassan but in the same time confirmed that there is no damages caused by Hassan’s activities. The prosecutor have asked to close the case and drop the charges. Hassan’s lawyer didn’t need to present his defense and he didn’t expect that the prosecutor will demand dropping the charges. .... Hopefully this will deter future malicious and repressive prosecutions.

Hassan Juma'a Awad, the leader of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, had been facing charges that he organised strikes and campaigned against oil privatisation, in other words did what a union leader ought to be doing, but as Iraq since "liberation" has retained legislation from Saddam Hussein's regime where unions are concerned, he was facing a possible prison sentence. Here is a report from an international union centre:

"The Basra court hearings, originally tabled for 20 March, 7 April, 15 April, 2 May, 19 May, 3 June, and 17 June were all postponed when the Ministry of Oil, the Southern Oil Company (SOC) and its legal representatives consistently failed to provide any evidence in support of their claims that Hassan Juma’a was guilty of undermining the Iraqi economy by organizing illegal strikes and publicly criticizing the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

"The 1 July hearing took less than 30 minutes to reach the decision to drop the charges after the company lawyer and the prosecutor repeated the accusations against Hassan but at the same time confirmed that there were no damages caused by Hassan's activities. The prosecutor asked to close the case and drop the charges. On this occasion Hassan's lawyer did not even need to present his defense.

"If convicted he would have faced stiff fines and up to three years in prison. This is the first time an Iraqi trade unionist has been charged under penal code 111-1969, an archaic law that the Saddam Hussein regime used to repress state employees".   

A number of international union organisations were supporting Hassan Juma'a against this threat, US Labor Against the War(USLaw) circulated an international petition, and here in London a number of us had pledged to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy if the oilworkers' leader was sentenced.

Hassan Juma’a issued this statement on behalf of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU):
 “In such a happy occasion we would like to thank unions, federations, organizations and individuals who have contributed to the International Campaign to drop the charges and signed the letter addressed to Mr. Prime Minister of Iraq. Around 41 international federations and unions, 44 national federations and unions, 68 non-governmental organization contributed to the campaign. We specially thank the following organizations which tributed to the coordination of the international campaign: Initiative of Solidarity with the Iraqi Civil Society (ICSSI), the (USLAW), International Solidarity Center (SC) and IndustriALL.

 This verdict is a victory of the union freedoms in Iraq and the entire world. It is the best evidence that labour international solidarity is capable of achieving rights.
 To the Iraqi government and the ministry of oil: IFOU and its president were never against or source of harm to the Iraqi economy. We were the ones who protected oil and work facilities during difficult times including the occupation period. However, we will continue to practice our rights guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution including our right on trade union organization, defending workers and oil workers' rights and the national interests. We will continue our struggle and call for the issuance of a labor and trade union law. We are open to cooperate with government and international organizations to achieve this demand.”

And so from Iraqi oilworkers to the staff at London Metropolitan University who have been facing victimisation in what looks very much like a case of the authorities bowing to outside pressure. The most senior of those under threat, Professor Stephen Jefferys, issued this statement on Monday:
STEVE JEFFERYS takes a break from troubled academe with his granddaughter

With one bound...

< I am writing to you to thank you for supporting our campaign and signing a petition in February and March of this year protesting at the suspensions by London Metropolitan University of myself (Professor of European Employment Studies), Max Watson (the UNISON trade union branch chairperson) and Jawad Botmeh (a Palestinian who had served 13 years in prison as a result of a major miscarriage of justice) in connection with the Working Lives Research Institute having given Jawad work. You may remember that the suspensions followed immediately after Jawad's being elected by LondonMet staff to represent them as a Governor on the LondonMet Board of Governors.

The result of your efforts was a real success: we were all reinstated by March 13. Jawad resigned as Governor on March 14 and is now back at work.

However, senior management has continued to attempt to make life difficult for Max and me by charging both of us with 'serious misconduct' in connection with Jawad's appointment to a half-time casual job in 2008. This was despite the fact that his 2010 appointment to a permanent post was what triggered his ability to stand as a Governor - and the fact that this appointment went through HR and was raised with Professor Malcolm Gillies, five months after he became VC.

In our hearings and at our appeals both Max and I were found 'guilty': Max for 'not remembering' how Jawad had found out about job and for allegedly 'coaching' him (the only candidate); me - although no rules were broken - for failing to approach an even more senior management to approve such a 'controversial' appointment.

While Max was a junior administrative assistant at the time of Jawad's appointment, and I was responsible for it - a decision that led to no risk or damage to the university, staff or students (unlike a series of other decisions taken by other senior managers, none of whom we were told at my appeal, has ever been taken before the university's disciplinary proceedings) - our punishments are now different.

As from today, July 1, the Final Warning I was issued on April 23rd, has now expired. It is for this reason I am now able to write to you all to explain what has happened.

Unfortunately, Max Watson has got a six months' Final Warning which will now only expire on November 1. This is disgraceful treatment of a worker who did absolutely nothing wrong; and it confirms concerns that the management has all along aimed to victimise him because he is an effective trade unionist. This issue is obviously of particular concern to the UNISON trade union, the UK's largest public sector union, but it it also of concern to all who are concerned with rights at work and social justice.

One final suggestion. The Working Lives Research Institute is about rights at work and social justice. If you are not already on our mailing list, I would like to invite you to go to
and to sign up. Besides showcasing the research projects we work on, under Courses on the website you will find our flagship Professional Doctorate programme - the DProf (Researching Work). This is a part-time doctoral programme that operates on a 5 a year two-day intensive study basis and leads to a doctoral degree usually based on a thesis probing a professional issue of direct relevance to you. Do contact us if you are interested... a new cohort is starting in October.

Of course, our DProf programme will now be enriched with a critical analysis of our own arbitrary managerial action and of the ethics of human resource management, as well as with examples from our recent research on Forced Labour (for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation),

Once again, Thanks for your support. You helped us win reinstatement.
Solidarity remains as important for social justice as ever.

yours in solidarity

Steve Jefferys
(In personal capacity)
Director, Working Lives Research Institute,
Faculty Advanced Institute for Research (Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities)
London Metropolitan University

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Puppets and Puppeteers

SHOWING HOW TO PULL THE STRINGS? Netanyahu with Baroness Ashton and Blair

PUPPETEERS and actors involved in the Israeli version of the Sesame Street show have protested against the Israeli authorities' banning of a Palestinian children's puppetry festival. Israel’s Ministry of Public Security last week ordered the temporary closure of the Hakawati Theater, the Palestinian national theater in east Jerusalem, canceling a children’s festival set to feature puppet shows and plays.

“I think every boy and girl deserves to see puppet theater,” says Ariel Doron, who provides the voice of Elmo in the Israeli version of the childrens TV show.  “There is no sense to this.” Together with  Yousef Sweid, who plays an Arab Muppet on the show, he has created a Facebook group named Puppets4All calling on Israel to permit the festival. Other Israeli Sesame Street puppeteers, along with a number of actors, uploaded photos to the Facebook group holding puppets and signs protesting the closure.

I have signed an online petition which Ariel Doron started and am persuading friends to sign it. It says every child has the right to enjoy puppet shows. A simple thing to ask.

It seems the Israeli government decided the puppets were a threat to security and stopped the festival so as to assert its sole authority over the  entire Jerusalem area, in line with which Arab families are increasingly being displaced from the city. Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said organizers of the Hakawati theatre illegally received funds from the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank.

Having illegally annexed the eastern half of Jerusalem and much of its environs, taken in the 1967 war, the Israeli state is determined to block any chance of Palestinian claiming part of the city as their capital in a peace settlement.

It is not only the Israeli government that has taken its malice out on children. While the new Israeli version of  Sesame Street, “Rechov Sumsum” includes a Muppet of Arab origin, and characters representing Israel’s diverse Jewish immigrant population, its Palestinian counterpart “Sharaa Simsim,” which sought to offer positive role models to Palestinian children, was taken off air last year after the U.S. government cut funding. This was one of many programmes hit as Washington stopped funds in order to punish the Palestinians for appealing to the UN for recognition and statehood. The childrens' show may return to Palestinian TV next year if local funds can be obtained.

So much then for America's wish for peace and goodwill and commitment to the so-called two-state solution, and any semblance of equal rights, s well as the pretence that the Israeli government is even interested.

Meanwhile as US Secretary of State John Kerry goes to and fro, supposedly relaying messages between Palestinian president Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about resumption of talks, Netanyahu authorises yet another settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. "Don't watch their mouths, watch their hands" remains even more valid for understanding politics than for studying puppetry.

While they have banned one sort of puppet show in Jerusalem, it appears another less amusing piece of puppetry has been performed behind the scenes in Brussels. As US-based columnist and blogger Max Blumenthal tells us:

"Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in blocking a statement by European Union member states that would have included sharp criticism of illegal Israeli settlement activity and of the general direction of the peace process. Kerry and Netanyahu depended on Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of Foreign Affairs for the EU and a proxy of Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair, to prevent EU member states from delivering the statement at a June 24 Council gathering in Brussels.

In the past year, several European governments have issued declarations calling for a new diplomatic approach to Israel. In April, the Dutch Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs released a report in April that recommended “calling [Israel] to account for violating the law,” and urged reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Meanwhile, Irish Tanaiste (the country’s foreign minister) Eamon Gilmore has vowed to use Ireland’s position as President of the EU Council to advance a comprehensive boycott of products from Israeli settlements. And in recent weeks, Irish Palestine solidarity activists have gained traction in local district councils with proposals for settlement product bans, sparking a retaliatory campaign of lawfare and intimidation by Irish pro-Israel groups.

At the EU Council meeting last month, the foreign ministries of the United Kingdom and France planned to advance a united EU call for labeling Israeli settlement products and a condemnation of Israeli abuses of Palestinians living in the West Bank’s Area C. Release on the eve of Kerry’s trip to Jerusalem, the statement would have offered a dramatic rebuke of Washington’s business-as-usual attitude. But the EU ministers were stymied by Ashton, who had just met with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

During the meeting, Netanyahu told Ashton that if she did not block the EU statement, she would open the door for “laying the responsibility for failure on Israel’s shoulders” while giving the Palestinians “a blank check.” Despite Netanyahu’s plans to authorize 930 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, Ashton acceded to his request.

Days later, in Brussels, she announced (PDF) that she was “completely supporting John Kerry's efforts” -- even though she did not know a single detail about what Kerry planned to do when he arrived in Jerusalem. “He will tell us all about these proposals when he's ready to do so,” Ashton promised.

Ashton is fairly typical of the layer of one-time liberal "lefties" and peace believers who wound up in the entourage of Blair, the so-called peace envoy and war criminal. During the 1980’s, she was treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. (But then wasn't B-liar himself a member?). . In the 90’s, she rose through the Labour Party ranks with New Labor.  In 1999, Blair made her a life peer, entitling her to a seat in the House of Lords.

Within a decade, Ashton had secured an appointment as Europe’s top diplomat, giving her control of the EU’s foreign service and a generous salary of around $41,500 a month. Before this, she had no experience in international relations and had never been elected to office.

Since entering the job, Ashton has demonstrated her fealty to Blair at almost every turn. According to a source familiar with proceedings inside the European Union External Action Service (EEAS), which advises Ashton, she has repeatedly stopped meetings to wonder aloud, “What would Tony think about this proposal?” Ashton and Blair joined forces last year to stifle the Palestinian Authority’s campaign for statehood at the UN, a futile maneuver that pitted them against almost the entire EU. She has since worked to eliminate the position of the EU special envoy to the peace process, a move seemingly aimed at further marginalizing European influence. Ashton’s suppression of the EU Council conclusions at Brussels in June represented the culmination of her efforts to keep the US and Israel in the driver’s seat, with Blair playing the third wheel.

Having successfully suppressed European dissension that might have disrupted Kerry’s public relations strategy, Ashton was off to Bahrain, where three EU-Bahraini dual nationals languished in prison for their role in peaceful protests that were violently crushed by the autocratic regime. Seated beside the Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa at a press conference, Ashton and her counterpart “underlined the importance of further strengthening EU-GCC ties,” according to Bahrain’s official news agency.

(GCC -Gulf Co-operation Council, the Saudi led reactionary alliance -RP)

Doesn't it make you proud of Britain's role in the European Union and the Middle East, and the kind of people whom the Labour Party is still harbouring?

I sometimes feel my friends who worry about European Union .influence on British policy should look at it the other way round occasionally.

As for the more entertaining kind of puppets, the Israeli closure of a Palestinian theatre and prevention of a children's festival undermines those defending Israel as a "democracy" and claiming that a boycott offends against cultural freedom. But on the other hand, looking at the way those Israeli puppeteers have raised their voices for their Palestinian fellow-artists, I think some of the energy expanded on a "cultural boycott" could be more usefully and justly directed aganst certain British and American politicians and institutions.  .

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