Monthly Archives: December 2007

The quest for a secular Iraqi state

This article from Jewish Voice for Peace makes the case that reports miss representing the voice of the many caught in the cross fire in Iraq. Two opposing groups are vying to create an Islamicist state while many Iraqis would wish to see an effective secular state. They are offering resistance to those groups, but this goes unreported.
“This article is important because it provides information that is missing from virtually all reports of what’s happening in Iraq. We hear constantly about
the ;insurgents’, and about violent clashes between the different factions, but
none about civil resistance. Note that this opposition is against ‘political
Islam’, which is seen as dominating ‘both sides in the conflict–the collaborationist regime and the armed insurgents. Both seek to impose a reactionary, quasi-theocratic order’, while the civil resistance is aiming to achieve, among various things, a sovereign secular state.
Nadia Mahmoud, leader of The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq emphasizes that if the US exit is to lead to peace and a secular order, the civil resistance will need support from friends abroad. She concludes with the comment: ‘The victory against US forces in Iraq will not be a local victory–it will be an international victory.’ ”
Racheli Gai.

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Sandwell stitches up City hospital

Press Statement
For immediate release
Local residents are shocked at the announcement by Health Minister Alan Johnson that he would uphold the decision to close the Accident and Emergency Ward in City Hospital.
How dare Alan Johnson claim “I am satisfied that the proposals are in the interests of the local health services and users.”
Let him come to Birmingham and ask the public what we think. The public meeting held by the Evening Mail clearly showed the opinion of the public, as did the thousands of signatures collected against the closure.
One of the campaign organisers, Raghib Ahsan, says “we should be able to expect our Labour government to listen to the people in our area, not turn their backs on us. We will continue to campaign to save the A&E ward.”
Campaigners have called a protest for 2pm on Tuesday 1st January 2008.
Raghib says “we have called the protest on New Year’s day to make it clear we will campaign every day of the year if necessary to stop this closure”.
For more information call
Raghib Ahsan on 07941 284 617
John Tyrrell on 0121 241 7896
Pete Jackson on 07977 057 902
As an early Christmas present Alan Johnson has announced that Birmingham’s City Road Hospital’s A & E department will move to Sandwell. This is a prelude to the closure of both hospitals to build a new single hospital in Sandwell. Actually it’s not likely to please Sandwell constituents either since the proposed site is well away from the centre of the borough.
All this is in spite of public meetings where there has been massive opposition from Birmingham residents and hospital staff. One meeting I went to, when the joint trust board decided on the move, members of the board just sat there without saying anything. It appears to be dominated by Sandwell. And who should come into the room late but Bill Thomas, Leader of Sandwell Council, who turned out to be a board member too. He promptly fell asleep. There is no representative from Birmingham City Council as far as I’m aware. Trying to get information through the “freedom of information” on the trust’s website is like trying to get blood out of a stone. Looking for details in the glossy self-congratulatory Annual Report like finding a needle in a haystack. Transparent they’re not. This lot are paid, I think it was £5,000 a year last I heard. Doubtless it’s gone up by now. I get sweet FA for being a governor of a school which entails far more than sitting in on meetings once or twice a year and dozing. That’s New Labour.
There’s a group of people here who are influential in New Labour, some of them being members of the notorious “Labour First” that ganged up to support Khalid Mahmood as MP for Perry Barr.
Khalid was at another public meeting organised by Birmingham Post and Mail. He was asked directly what his position was to which he replied “I will do whatever my constituents decide”. So what will he do now. Over to you Khalid!

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Bali outcome worse than Kyoto

The conclusions about the success or otherwise of Bali are becoming clearer following the happy talk of politicians claiming that a good deal had been stitched up and that the US had compromised.
George Monbiot in the Guardian (17.12.2007) thinks we’ve moved backwards, while a report the The Independent says we have. The British government is planning a number of coal-fired power stations to meet the UK energy needs which a scientist says will put nails in the planet’s coffin.

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Academies in Birmingham. Who will benefit?

When I tackled the Director of Children’s Services, Tony Howell, about Academies in Birmingham he assured us that creationism couldn’t creep into the curriculum. He would see to it that couldn’t happen. Well, judging by a report in the Birmingham Post (14.12.2007), the King Edward Foundation are looking at one school at least, Sheldon Heath, which they wish to help run.
According to the report “Representatives from King Edward’s will sit on the governing board of Sheldon Heath – whose name will change – and have an influence on its curriculum.”

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Israel and Palestine – the reality viewed by the Red Cross

Neither side is safe in the situation where two states stay locked together. the one occupying the other in an extremely unequal struggle. Both sides are struggling. Impartiality is hardly possible but humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross must attempt to be so to retain credibility in their vital work. Their comments therefore need to be read and considered very carefully, which is why I am making a link here.
“The Red Cross said Israel had the right to protect its population but ‘the balance between [its] legitimate security concerns and the right of the Palestinian people to live a normal life has not been struck’ “. Source The Independent 14.12.2007.

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Climate Change. The reality stated at Bali

The declaration by the former US Vice President, Al Gore, at Bali seems to me to move in the direction of articulating what we’re up against. Clearly that’s not just the accumulation of carbon, it’s about the incomprehension of the likes of George W. Bush.
Well, no it’s not incomprehension is it? It’s that he and other leaders and opposition parties are all geared up to the capitalist enterprise which demands more and more of the same. Thus we have the “green” British Petroleum going into Canada ready to exploit the environment in bigger and better ways than before. It’s a force no presidential candidate we’ve seen yet is prepared to ignore, nor will any of the major British political parties. All drive the same bus, a ramshackle 20th century banger, spewing out greenhouse gases in all directions as it creaks and groans.

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Israel’s policy of “summary executions”

The following articles are from Jewish Voice for Peace News. A summary execution is one that dispenses with any preliminary hearings or trial, the dead include women, children or whoever gets in the way. (It would be called “murder” if you or I did it). Israel it appears can do what it likes. I suppose that it is because we as Christians were bought up to believe that the people of the Book held the moral highground. The reality is somewhat different:
The three pieces below report on some of the still continuing ramifications of Israel’s policy of what is known in human rights law as ‘summary executions’, the execution of suspects without trial or due process. Though Israel has been secretly performing summary executions for decades, the term ‘targeted assassinations’ was introduced in the early 2000s to (barely) whitewash the practice, when it was openly declared a systematic state policy.
One instance of summary execution by Israel which received extensive attention and coverage was the killing, in Gaza, of Salah Shehadeh of Hamas. As Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy reiterates in his opinion piece, Shehadeh’s assassination – carried out when a fighter jet dropped a one ton bomb on an apartment building – was an assassination of fifteen people including several children.
Human rights, peace and justice organizations, led in the Shehadeh case by the longtime refusers’ group, “Yesh Gvul” (see the petition).
This cumulative, unrelenting action is making a mark on Israeli consciousness. It has repeatedly forced high ranking Israeli officers and officials to confront the fact that their actions are or may be classified by some authorities as war crimes and that they are accordingly suspected war criminals. Several such figures have had to deal with serious threats of litigation against them, as demonstrated for instance in the item below by Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid.
Another, complementary, change of consciousness, driven by the policy of assassinations, is outlined by ex-pilot Yiftah Spector in his interview with Neri Livneh, in Haaretz weekend magazine. Spector, one of the air force pilots who declared his refusal to follow such orders, describes his background and part of the process he experienced up to and following his declaration. Spector’s interview was published along with a new book he has written on these topics.
No anti-militarist, Spector still balks at the term ‘refuser’, but says that “the whole country, myself included, ‘slid’ into war crimes by going along with illegal acts that have been going on for years.”
Both these developments represent a process of significant change in perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the military in Israel. The erosion of its former impunity is visible and ongoing. While public resistance to summary executions is still voiced by a minority, awareness of their criminality is considerably broader and looks like it is here to stay.
Rela Mazali

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update – 09:57 09/12/2007
London’s burning for Dichter
By Gideon Levy
Avi Dichter will not be going to London. The Israeli dream of taking in year-end sales, the new production of Othello or the sights of Oxford Street vanished before the public security minister’s very eyes. The Foreign Ministry advised Dichter not to participate in a conference there, because he could be arrested for involvement in the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, when he was Shin Bet security service head. The one-ton bomb used to target Shehadeh in 2002 left 15 people dead.
The day after the horrible assassination, in late July 2002, I visited the homes that were destroyed in the Al-Darj neighborhood in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces tried at the time to claim they were “huts,” to explain why it was unaware that people lived there. But they were apartment buildings housing dozens of families. The person who dropped a one-ton bomb on them in the dark of night knew it would kill many innocent people.
Among the ruins, I met Mohammed Matar, a Palestinian laborer who had worked in Israel for 30 years, lying in the rubble of his home, his arm and eye bandaged. In the “targeted killing” planned by Dichter’s Shin Bet, Matar lost his daughter, his daughter-in-law and four toddler grandchildren. The pictures of the horror from the Gazan neighborhood have haunted me ever since. Someone, I thought, must pay for this. Could it be that no one is to blame or responsible for such an act?
Shehadeh’s assassination became a seminal event for Israel’s critics the world over. It was not different from many other liquidation operations the Shin Bet had planned for the IDF. In July 2006, for example, Israel assassinated nearly all of the Abu Salmiyeh family – Dr. Nabil Abu Salmiyeh, a lecturer in mathematics, his wife and seven of their children – because wanted man Mohammed Def was visiting their home at the time. In the past seven years, 368 Palestinians were killed in liquidation operations of which Dichter was the founding father.
However, the dimensions of the bomb dropped on Shehadeh and the scope of killing it sowed turned it into an icon of the struggle against Israel’s brutal methods of warfare. A damages lawsuit was submitted in a New York district court against Dichter on behalf of the families of those who were killed. Major General (Res.) Doron Almog was forced to remain on a plane when he arrived in Britain in September 2005 and Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, a former commander of the Gaza Division, canceled his plan to study in England.
These people and others were marked as war crimes suspects. Unfortunately, this occurred only overseas. Here, they remain ministers and aristocrats, their career and public status untainted, their foreheads unbranded by the mark of Cain. For years, the High Court of Justice deferred discussing petitions against the liquidations, until it finally gave its stamp of approval in December 2006. Another year passed before the state prosecution informed the High Court that it did not oppose forming an investigative committee to study the Shehadeh assassination, five years after the fact – a scandalous delay. In this state of affairs, those who were horrified by these operations could only hope legal authorities abroad would take action to fix what our authorities have chosen to ignore.
Yes, some in Israel believe that dropping a one-ton bomb on a residential neighborhood merits a criminal investigation. They are Israeli patriots no less than those who believe everything is permissible for us in the war against terror. They are not the ones who besmirch Israel’s name – Israel’s actions are responsible for this; these people seek to put an end to Israel’s actions. They would prefer judicial proceedings be held in Israel, but our legal system is blocked before them. Therefore, their eyes are directed abroad.
The Foreign Ministry already has begun to act against the complaints overseas in various channels. It is a shame that this is Israel’s only response. It would have been better to clarify here, among ourselves, the responsibility of these people for such grave actions as the bombing of Shehadeh’s neighborhood. Meanwhile those who believe that the liquidations have brought us to the verge of a moral abyss must look toward London. Thanks to legal authorities there, people like Dichter are finally feeling “a slight bump on the wing.”
w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update – 02:17 06/12/2007
Dichter nixes U.K. trip; fears arrest for ‘war crimes’
By Barak Ravid
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter canceled a trip to Britain over concerns he would be arrested due to his involvement in the decision to assassinate the head of Hamas’ military wing in July 2002.
Fifteen people were killed in the bombing of Salah Shehade’s house in Gaza, among them his wife and three children, when Dichter was head of the Shin Bet security service. He is the first minister to have to deal with a possible arrest.
Dichter was invited to take part in a conference by a British research institute on “the day after” Annapolis. He was supposed to give an address on the diplomatic process.
Dichter contacted the Foreign Ministry and sought an opinion on the matter, among other reasons because of previous cases in which complaints were filed in Britain and arrest warrants were issued on suspicion of war crimes by senior officers who served during the second intifada.
The Foreign Ministry wrote Dichter that it did not recommend he visit Britain because of a high probability that an extreme leftist organization there would file a complaint, which might lead to an arrest warrant. The ministry also wrote that because Dichter was not an official guest of the British government, he did not have immunity from arrest.
Dichter’s bureau said in response that the minister does not intend to go to Britain on any type of official or unofficial visit until the matter of the arrest warrant is resolved.
Dichter was already charged in a civil suit in the United States in 2005 for his part in the decision to assassinate Shehade. But in this U.S., this is not a cause for arrest.
British law, however, states that a private individual can file a complaint against another person for offenses such as war crimes. According to the law, such a complaint might lead to the court issuing an arrest warrant, or a summons to criminal investigation or clarification of the complaint by the police, or even the opening of criminal proceedings.
Dichter is the first minister to face this problem, which has mainly affected senior officers in the Israel Defense Forces. Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, formerly chief of staff, encountered a similar problem when he traveled to Britain in 2002 before becoming defense minister. Other officers in a similar predicament included former chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon and former GOC Southern Command Doron Almog.
In September 2005, Almog flew to London and found that a British police officer was waiting in the terminal with an arrest warrant. Almog remained on the plane and returned to Israel to avoid an embarrassing incident.
Israel has brought up the subject over the past few weeks with the British government. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni demanded in separate meetings with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the British government work seriously to change the law that harms former IDF officers. Miliband said his government was working on the matter but did not promise anything.
After the incident in which Almog was almost arrested, a joint foreign ministry-justice ministry team worked to hire a major law firm in London to represent Israeli officers if they were arrested.
Senior officials met with a number of the most prominent London firms, some of which offered to provide the service pro bono. But none of the firms were hired, and the idea was set aside.
Web reference: Haaretz
Last update – 10:24 08/12/2007

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UK children will be happier by 2020. That’s an order

The government are right to be worried about our young people. What they are unable to grasp is that their own ideas and policies have helped us into the mess we find ourselves. The insistence on mechanistic rather than humane processes have reaped their reward of disaffected and unhappy children.
It is not only the children who are suffering though, the burden placed on teachers has meant that they have to deal with the paperwork, so where is the time for the child? I was trained as a teacher in the now reviled 1960’s with a diet of radical education writing. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, School of Barbiana, Learning to Labour and – yes – de-schooling. None of that has darkened New Labour’s Tory hand-me-down policies. The intention of this new administration looks OK but the methods look suspiciously like more of the same, so the pressures on schools to cure the country’s ills looks like intensifying if anything. It won’t work Gordon. It won’t work Ed. Nor will it work in policing, in health or the prison service.

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Profit before environment. Point proven

The news that BP intend to extract oil from Northern Canada illustrates how the treadmill we are on annuls any thoughts of combating climate change. BP is a company that had traded on its green credentials. Now its credibility is in tatters. The land being exploited, despoiled, polluted belongs in part to the First Nation peoples.
Oil not only drives engines, it fuels the economy so that we engage in pernicious wars and call anyone who resists “terrorist”. The announcement that UK is to invest in wind farms is totally annulled by BP’s intention. The Independent heads this as “The greatest environmental crime in history”.

A bit of sense has entered the frame

At last I have heard something I can applaud unreservedly from this beleaguered government. Suddenly out of nowhere John Hutton has announced a programme of wind farms sufficient to provide for our domestic heating needs.
The advanced state of climate change that we now know is with us, not at some distant point, has to be tackled with a complete change of thinking. I was beginning to think that those wedded to the present system were quite incapable of doing that. Of course the thinking has to be replicated over and over in what we all do. Good public transport across the UK, not just in th South East where billions are spent against a pittance elsewhere. Opportunities to share personal transport and build vehicles on alternative fuels. Stop the destruction of rain forests. (We hear the area is expanding appropriate for rain forests, but it was said that was a bad sign. Why necessarily?) Solar panels and underground heat exchangers also provide alternatives. Are all our eggs going to be in one basket, even without resort to nuclear fuel?

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