Monthly Archives: July 2008

Condi shows VP the door

After my previous pessimism over an attack on Iran, it seems that Condoleeza Rice has been able to prevail over Cheney and the Neocon ideas of bigger and better wars than we have so far seen in Iraq. Rice of course has had hands on experience of Iraq and so is in as good a position as anyone to comment.
“Mr Bush’s decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department’s sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest’s section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.” Source Independent 18/7/2008

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Too little, too late

According to the Guardian (18/7/2008) union leaders have tabled 130 demands for New Labour to look at. Gordo says it’s a return to the seventies, but the list includes the acceptance of changes which were unthinkable then by socialists. For example Academies are accepted as a fact of life when the demand is only that staff receive the same treatment as staff in other schools. The whole idea of Academies undermines socialist thinking, so where are the unions now? A long way from where they should be evidently!
There is something about hospital cleaning being brought back in house. Public services should never be surrendered to the private sector anyway. Look at the catalogue of catastrophe that has resulted. Hospital cleanliness is one, the latest is the failure of an American firm to mark SATs papers on time. Remember a number of railway accident fatalities after Jarvis was let loose?
The New Labour Government hates professionals with some passion having ignored teachers on the raft of poisonous proposals they have introduced, with predictable disastrous consequences for pupils, for staff, for parents. Doctors didn’t jump, and while they as private concerns themselves, weren’t beyond reproach, plans to replace family practices with clinics are not what people want. Run by large unaccountable corporations they require maximum profit. The unions are concerned about the NHS, but the basic Thatcherite philosophies underpinning health, education, prisons – every facet of life, including the conduct of our wars is outsourced. Shareholders are happy, but who else?

Israel: “worse than apartheid” say South African delegation

The following comes from Jewish Voice for Peace who report on a delegation to Israel who recall the struggle against apartheid South Africa:
Gideon Levy accompanies a group of prominent South African human rights activists, as they visit Israel and the West Bank. Many of the visitors’ comments, who are shocked by what they’re seeing, deal with comparing life in Apartheid South Africa to the conditions prevailing in this part of the OPT.
To me, the major interest of the article is in that it gives us a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of people who had been through that other struggle.
Racheli Gai.

Gideon Levy: ‘Worse than apartheid’

July 10, 2008
“I thought they would feel right at home in the alleys of Balata refugee camp, the Casbah and the Hawara checkpoint. But they said there is no comparison: for them the Israeli occupation regime is worse than anything they knew under apartheid. This week, 21 human rights activists from South Africa visited Israel. Among them were members of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress; at least one of them took part in the armed struggle and at least two were jailed. There were two South African Supreme Court judges, a former deputy minister, members of Parliament, attorneys, writers and journalists. Blacks and whites, about half of them Jews who today are in conflict with attitudes of the conservative Jewish community in their country. Some of them have been here before; for others it was their first visit.
For five days they paid an unconventional visit to Israel – without Sderot, the IDF and the Foreign Ministry (but with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and a meeting with Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch. They spent most of their time in the occupied areas, where hardly any official guests go – places that are also shunned by most Israelis.
On Monday they visited Nablus, the most imprisoned city in the West Bank. From Hawara to the Casbah, from the Casbah to Balata, from Joseph’s Tomb to the monastery of Jacob’s Well. They traveled from Jerusalem to Nablus via Highway 60, observing the imprisoned villages that have no access to the main road, and seeing the “roads for the natives,” which pass under the main road. They saw and said nothing. There were no separate roads under apartheid. They went through the Hawara checkpoint mutely: they never had such barriers.
Jody Kollapen, who was head of Lawyers for Human Rights in the apartheid regime, watches silently. He sees the “carousel” into which masses of people are jammed on their way to work, visit family or go to the hospital. Israeli peace activist Neta Golan, who lived for several years in the besieged city, explains that only 1 percent of the inhabitants are allowed to leave the city by car, and they are suspected of being collaborators with Israel. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy minister of defense and of health and a current member of Parliament, a revered figure in her country, notices a sick person being taken through on a stretcher and is shocked. “To deprive people of humane medical care? You know, people die because of that,” she says in a muted voice.
The tour guides – Palestinian activists – explain that Nablus is closed off by six checkpoints. Until 2005, one of them was open. “The checkpoints are supposedly for security purposes, but anyone who wants to perpetrate an attack can pay NIS 10 for a taxi and travel by bypass roads, or walk through the hills.
The real purpose is to make life hard for the inhabitants. The civilian population suffers,” says Said Abu Hijla, a lecturer at Al-Najah University in the city.
In the bus I get acquainted with my two neighbors: Andrew Feinstein, a son of Holocaust survivors who is married to a Muslim woman from Bangladesh and served six years as an MP for the ANC; and Nathan Gefen, who has a male Muslim partner and was a member of the right-wing Betar movement in his youth. Gefen is active on the Committee against AIDS in his AIDS-ravaged country.
“Look left and right,” the guide says through a loudspeaker, “on the top of every hill, on Gerizim and Ebal, is an Israeli army outpost that is watching us.” Here are bullet holes in the wall of a school, there is Joseph’s Tomb, guarded by a group of armed Palestinian policemen. Here there was a checkpoint, and this is where a woman passerby was shot to death two years ago. The government building that used to be here was bombed and destroyed by F-16 warplanes. A thousand residents of Nablus were killed in the second intifada, 90 of them in Operation Defensive Shield – more than in Jenin. Two weeks ago, on the day the Gaza Strip truce came into effect, Israel carried out its last two assassinations here for the time being. Last night the soldiers entered again and arrested people.
It has been a long time since tourists visited here. There is something new: the numberless memorial posters that were pasted to the walls to commemorate the fallen have been replaced by marble monuments and metal plaques in every corner of the Casbah.
“Don’t throw paper into the toilet bowl, because we have a water shortage,” the guests are told in the offices of the Casbah Popular Committee, located high in a spectacular old stone building. The former deputy minister takes a seat at the head of the table. Behind her are portraits of Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad and Marwan Barghouti – the jailed Tanzim leader. Representatives of the Casbah residents describe the ordeals they face. Ninety percent of the children in the ancient neighborhood suffer from anemia and malnutrition, the economic situation is dire, the nightly incursions are continuing, and some of the inhabitants are not allowed to leave the city at all. We go out for a tour on the trail of devastation wrought by the IDF over the years.
Edwin Cameron, a judge on the Supreme Court of Appeal, tells his hosts: “We came here lacking in knowledge and are thirsty to know. We are shocked by what we have seen until now. It is very clear to us that the situation here is intolerable.” A poster pasted on an outside wall has a photograph of a man who spent 34 years in an Israeli prison. Mandela was incarcerated seven years less than that. One of the Jewish members of the delegation is prepared to say, though not for attribution, that the comparison with apartheid is very relevant and that the Israelis are even more efficient in implementing the separation-of-races regime than the South Africans were. If he were to say this publicly, he would be attacked by the members of the Jewish community, he says.
Under a fig tree in the center of the Casbah one of the Palestinian activists explains: “The Israeli soldiers are cowards. That is why they created routes of movement with bulldozers. In doing so they killed three generations of one family, the Shubi family, with the bulldozers.” Here is the stone monument to the family – grandfather, two aunts, mother and two children. The words “We will never forget, we will never forgive” are engraved on the stone.
No less beautiful than the famed Paris cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, the central cemetery of Nablus rests in the shadow of a large grove of pine trees. Among the hundreds of headstones, those of the intifada victims stand out. Here is the fresh grave of a boy who was killed a few weeks ago at the Hawara checkpoint. The South Africans walk quietly between the graves, pausing at the grave of the mother of our guide, Abu Hijla. She was shot 15 times. “We promise you we will not surrender,” her children wrote on the headstone of the woman who was known as “mother of the poor.”
Lunch is in a hotel in the city, and Madlala-Routledge speaks. “It is hard for me to describe what I am feeling. What I see here is worse than what we experienced. But I am encouraged to find that there are courageous people here. We want to support you in your struggle, by every possible means. There are quite a few Jews in our delegation, and we are very proud that they are the ones who brought us here. They are demonstrating their commitment to support you. In our country we were able to unite all the forces behind one struggle, and there were courageous whites, including Jews, who joined the struggle. I hope we will see more Israeli Jews joining your struggle.”
She was deputy defense minister from 1999 to 2004; in 1987 she served time in prison. Later, I asked her in what ways the situation here is worse than apartheid. “The absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw.”
Madlala-Routledge thinks that the struggle against the occupation is not succeeding here because of U.S. support for Israel – not the case with apartheid, which international sanctions helped destroy. Here, the racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa. “Talk about the ‘promised land’ and the ‘chosen people’ adds a religious dimension to racism which we did not have.”
Equally harsh are the remarks of the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times of South Africa, Mondli Makhanya, 38. “When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. In a certain sense, it is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of the apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.
“The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all. How can a human brain engineer this total separation, the separate roads, the checkpoints? What we went through was terrible, terrible, terrible – and yet there is no comparison. Here it is more terrible. We also knew that it would end one day; here there is no end in sight. The end of the tunnel is blacker than black.
“Under apartheid, whites and blacks met in certain places. The Israelis and the Palestinians do not meet any longer at all. The separation is total. It seems to me that the Israelis would like the Palestinians to disappear. There was never anything like that in our case. The whites did not want the blacks to disappear. I saw the settlers in Silwan [in East Jerusalem] – people who want to expel other people from their place.”
Afterward we walk silently through the alleys of Balata, the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, a place that was designated 60 years ago to be a temporary haven for 5,000 refugees and is now inhabited by 26,000. In the dark alleys, which are about the width of a thin person, an oppressive silence prevailed. Everyone was immersed in his thoughts, and only the voice of the muezzin broke the stillness.”


Bush gives Israel amber to attack

I feel sick in the stomach. According to a report in Haaretz (13/7/2008) the George W, Bush has given Israel an amber light to attack Iran. “Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” according to a Pentagon official.
Condoleeza Rice has already being saying that the U.S. will “not hesitate” to defend Israel from Iranian aggression. As I have said before America it seems to me America is at its most dangerous in the last gasp of an administration hell bent on taking control of resources in the Middle East. Israel is the base and can do some of the dirty work when th U.S. is short of manpower and has already stretched its budgets to deal with conflicts. It is probably Dick Cheney who is most influential here. As we have seen death and destruction means little to him. What I suppose is the hope is that the next administration will be bounced into clearing up the mess.
Apart from the human cost in Iraq the damage to the country’s heritage is immense. The history of a nation, which gives a sense of identity and purpose to its people, has been savagely destroyed from “shock and awe” onwards.

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Good News from Bethlehem

I’m not referring on this occasion to the birth of the holy child, but the opening of a new music school with the name of Edward Said. News from Bethlehem makes grim reading so I want to draw attention to something positive happening. Edward Said with Daniel Barenboim founded the East-West Divan Orchestra which brings together musicians from Arab and Jewish communities. Their visit to Ramallah in 2005 resulted in a overspill audience watching a relay of the concert on screens erected outside.

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Break the siege of Nilin

I received an invitation to join those who will tomorrow (9th July) courageously face heavily armed occupying forces who have shown no mercy in the neighbouring village of Bil’in. In addition to tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and sound bombs have used live ammunition. A few weeks ago they gravely wounded someone protesting about the loss of their land, their jobs, their rights. The action of the occupying was judged illegal even by an Israeli court, but that too was ignored. And the rest of the world remains silent..
Dear Friends, I regret I shan’t be with you tomorrow but wish you every success in achieving your goal in the struggle over brutal oppressors. I am ashamed that our western governments are not only silent but complicit with the powerful forces sustaining the oppression. How else could they have built this barbarous symbol of inhumanity stealing land and throwing your livelihood away?
John Tyrrell

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How does Zimbabwe maintain her Independence?

My overriding impression from to visiting Zimbabwe and Botswana in 2006 was what an impossible position the black African population continue to find themselves in. Ownership of resources remains outside their hands to a large extent with outside interests continuing to “own” land and mineral deposits. So when Gordon Brown threatened Mugabe with withdrawing British companies, Mugabe’s response was “what are you waiting for?”
The European settlers and their dependents may be having a hard time with inflation rising exponentially, but many, if not most continue to have funds stashed away outside the country. A pound will buy billions of worthless Zimbabwean currency. This is not the case for those without links outside, although as we know many now have relatives who have fled. In UK thousands are still being forced to return. In South Africa resentment of Zimbabweans competing with local residents for jobs has spilled over into violence. It was said that the Zimbabweans were rather better educated than those they attempted to settle alongside.

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Castro writes

Fidel Castro is still active and continues to write regularly in Granma. His memory is triggered by day to day events, commemorating those like Allende who had resisted U.S. dominance in the region, but also remembering those who had chosen a different path. In doing so he describes his own involvement. This he does in a rather matter-of-fact way. There’s no self aggrandisement but it comes across as valuable eye-witness accounts of an interesting period in history of ongoing struggle.
In this article he remembers Trujillo who gave support to Batista after he left Cuba after the 1959 Revolution which celebrates its 50th anniversary during the coming year. The article is also reveals the humanitarian (this was a term I heard on several occasions when I was in Cuba used when referring to Fidel) aspects of what could have become an authoritarian and oppressive regime. Cuban exiles returned later in 1959 to stage a counter revolution. The main protagonists might well have been imprisoned, tortured, executed. They were instead free and allowed to go to the U.S. where to this day they continue to work with the government to undermine the Cuban revolution.

The Public is Irrelevant

Talking about the U.S. election campaign Noam Chomsky believes that all the candidates are well to the right of public opinion. That view seems to chime in with the feeling in the U.K. Judging by reaction on doorsteps in this year’s local election it seems that we in the U.K. are stuck in a no win situation. People believe, for example, that public services are of vital importance and no one I spoke to thought that privatising them was O.K. In fact they felt strongly to the contrary, yet none of the 3 main choices, i.e. parties likely to gain power, think differently. All favour pandering to the power of large privately owned corporations. In the U.S, we know of the connection between the likes of the Vice President, Mr Cheney, and companies like Haliburton, currently making millions out of involvement in Iraq and looking for bigger and better wars.
While MPs have voted themselves a pay and perks deal, they can also benefit business and other interests. Clearly their inside knowledge is valuable to companies on the make. When did we last hear of Philip Gould an early New Labourite. Wasn’t he snapped up by someone like Tesco for his knowledge of planning and where Tesco could buy up land for new stores as well as shutting out competition. Patricia Hewitt recently departed from the Department of Health works for Boots, not to mention Blair now businessman cum philanthropist cum opportunist cum you name it. Made us sick when in office and now we know why.

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Don’t embarrass the President

A report has not been published because, it is said, it would embarrass President Bush. It explains not a trivial matter though. It says that biofuels have caused world food prices to rise by 75%, whereas the US government maintains that they contributed only 3%. So keeping the President happy and in ignorance is far more important than starvation and hunger round the world.
“President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: ‘Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases.’ “ Source Guardian 4/6/2008

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