Category Archives: International

Here in Bethlehem, many are struggling to find reasons to celebrate

“Here in Bethlehem, many are struggling to find reasons to celebrate. The cycle of fear and hatred seems worse than ever. And to be honest, many here feel hopeless and forgotten by the world.”
Holyland Trust.

Bethelem at the centre of Christmas celebrations is locked into an ever deepening crisis. This Christmas we will sing our carols and feast in remembrance of a joyous birth, but the reality in Bethlehem today is far removed from the hope and promise for the world we continue to believe in.

As politicians indulge in in-fighting whether to bomb another Middle Eastern nation those at the sharp end are not considered as a report on Channel 4 News made clear. No one asked the Syrian people what they felt was best. Who asked the Iraqis or Libyans? Today once viable states, however far from our view of perfect, have become ungovernable. The problem for the people of Bethlehem is that they remain occupied.

Cuban Futures Conference, London, October 2015

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Rafael Hernandez addressing the Cuban Futures Conference opening plenary “December 17th and beyond” Embassies have opened in Havana & Washington, the Miami 5 are free, Cuba is off the terrorist list and Obama and Raul Castro shook hands. What’s next?

Members of the Socialist Labour Party attended the Cuban Futures Conference held at Congress House, TUC HQ in central London last Saturday, October 3rd 2015. The original Socialist Labour Party was set up by James Connolly who was also at one time a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) alongside Keir Hardy. The name was revived in 1996 as a response to the removal of Clause 4 from the Labour Party’s constitution under Tony Blair. The leader of the SLP was, and still is, Arthur Scargill. This took Connolly’s Socialism on board and setting a distinctive tradition strongly opposing the social-democratic and neo-liberal trends in both the Labour Party and politics in general.

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Bhagwant Singh, John Tyrrell and John Mcleod at the Cuba Futures Conference organised by Cuba Solidarity Campaign  

The SLP has been involve in two delegations to Cuba in the last decade. The first in 2008 was to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century in Havana. It was then I became very much aware of a different perspective at work which was not confined to Cuba, but was having a far reaching effect on South American and Caribbean countries determined to counter the effects of their dominating neighbour to the north, the USA. Four years later it was apparent that joint organisations being developed like ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) were gaining momentum with Venezuela and Bolivia having elected Socialist governments and many others supporting the Cuban position, including Brazil and Argentina. Equador and Nicaragua also became prominent with their Ambassadors speaking at the London Conference giving testimony to Cuban achievement and leadership.

DSC00121SLP members in Cuba in May 2008 to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century.        l to r Lily and John Mcleod, John Tyrrell, Shangara Singh and Sheera Johal

 

No one claims, least of all Cubans themselves, that they have found answers to issues confronting the world and humanity, but as speakers from a variety of backgrounds illustrated how Cuba was succeeding in many ways better than far wealthier states in health, in education, in food production and so on. This was against a backdrop of continuing sanctions in spite of the recent apparent thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US. Cuban speakers made it clear that they didn’t see a change in the United States intentions, rather a different approach characterised by “charm” rather than aggression. One told us the story of the frog and the scorpion when the latter, incapable of swimming to leave Cuba, asked the frog to carry him to the US. The frog replied that the scorpion would use its sting on him, to which the scorpion replied that he would drown if he did that. Half way across the scorpion did sting the frog who asked in surprise why he had done it. “That’s what scorpions do” came the reply.

Cubans are seeking five major outcomes from the rapprochement with the US, including the return of Guantanamo Bay. The release of the Cuban 5 from their long incarceration is seen as a major step forward, but on other other hand Cuban demands that the perpetrators of the terrorist act in bringing down a Cuban airliner, living in the United States, had not been brought to justice. The five Cubans were arrested after their attempts to do just that.

Cuba is characterised as a dictatorship and undemocratic by the standards of western governments with multi-party systems. However this needs to be countered by understanding how people are elected to govern at three levels: local, provincial and national. In practice it is far more democratic by being inclusive with a far higher level of voter participation normally found in the so-called western democracies.

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John Mcleod receiving gifts, including a portrait of Che Guevara, from a street committee in Santa Clara, Cuba, on behalf of the Socialist Labour Party in 2008.

The SLP delegations have been welcomed on each of their visits by local communities with festivities taking place in the streets or buildings where they live. Doctors, teachers, police and others involved in provision of services are involved as are members of the community of all ages. In Santa Clara and Havana we were treated to street theatre, dancing and delicious local products including food and wine.

Speakers at the London Conference this year demonstrated Cuba’s achievements in health, exporting doctors and nurses, while maintaining a high level of care at home. Indicators of child mortality at birth was 6 per 1000 compared to 8 per 1000 in the USA. (In the UK it is 5 per 1000. It was pointed out that Cuba used the NHS as a model for its care system. It was hastily qualified to the NHS as it once was!)

Schools and clinics we visited were not lavishly equipped but clearly they manage to carry out excellent work. Gifts of even basic commodities were received gratefully. As the Cubans we met pointed out “we have little, but what we have we share”. DSC00163

Visiting a school in Santa Clara, Cuba, 2008

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Visit to a centre for young people here seeing services demonstrating a rescue exercise. Fidel Castro used to visit regularly on his birthday.

The Conference was against a backdrop of events on and after 17th December, 2014 when there was an apparent thaw in relations between Cuba and its powerful neighbour to the north, the United States of America.

Later in April 2015 President Obama announced that Cuba is of the list of state sponsored terrorists.

So what of the future? How far have things changed? Cuban speakers were cautious believing that what they were seeing was a change in tactics by the US rather than a fundamental shift in their attitude to Cuba, aggressive posturing being replaced by a charm offensive. Cuba they still see as an undemocratic dictatorship as a one party state. The gains of the Revolution will have to continue to be defended, including “health, internationalism, educations, women’s rights”. Others, including the US can learn much from Cuba.

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Arleen Rodriguez with translator on Cuban Futures. The return of Guantanamo Bay remains unresolved as does the Blockade and compensation for 50 years of aggression.

It was felt that the support of many South American and Caribbean countries was instrumental in convincing the US that a new approach was necessary, as was world solidarity seen here today.  It was noted that Obama still talks about “trading with the enemy” while Kerry referred to the relationship as “neighbours” rather than “friends”.  A resolution to end the blockade will be taken to the UN. How will the Obama administration vote? Cuba will not be going cap in hand but proceed with a dignified conscience to maintain a dignified sovereignty based on a record of solid achievement.

Free speech or responsibility

The shooting of people in Paris brought about a swift reaction of revulsion, horror and disbelief. The immediate response was to want to act in a display of solidarity with all who shared such feelings that this must end. Having seen the line up of those who gathered in Paris to do just that feelings of revulsion, horror and disbelief returned as my mind cleared so that I could see just what I was supporting.

Benyamin Netanyahu has been prominent in Paris, then Jerusalem – or was it the other way round? So confusing are image upon image of the self-righteous making political capital out of this event. He claimed he had to be there because the Palestinian leader would be present. While other leaders from Western Europe have shown concern that this will fuel Islamaphoebia, their role in promoting endless wars in Islamic countries while funding Israel in some way or the other is overlooked. A massive coup for a man who hates free speech as much as anyone when it comes to his own State, and who has made it look as if he has regained his status as untouchable for whatever he says or does, particularly with regard to Palestinian people.

France was responsible for providing the highly secret nuclear reactor, maskerading as a textile factory until Mordechai Vanunu clarified its purpose back in 1986 in an article published by the Sunday Times in the UK. He remains under close supervision in Israel after serving years in prison, much in solitary confinement, for his expose providing a service to mankind. More recently Germany gifted 5 nuclear submarines to Israel capable of holding and firing nuclear missiles. There are reports that NATO have brought this frightful weaponry into commission. Israel therefore has the capacity to threaten anyone anywhere with the blessing of all those participating in the Paris street theatre.For some reason Cameron appears to have missed out on this particular photo opportunity, although it was clear that the General Election in May 2015 might have had an effect on his attendance at a demonstration. No one remembers him taking part in one before.

All are jostling to speak out in the name of “free speech” for the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish pictures offensive to Islamic feeling not restricted to “extremist” views. It has done so once more as a further act of defiance in the name of press freedom. The big problem is that the “free” press does not publish large areas of truth for our benefit, rather it kowtows to powerful corporate interest which included the media, health, food, military interests etc. etc. Mordechai Vanunu told the truth in 1986. Those demonstrating in Paris are content to let him and other courageous whistle blowers rot in obscurity. Publishing pictures offensive to large sections of the population does nothing to serve the furtherance of “free speech” where it most matters to the wider population freeing them of corporate greed and exploitation. It does serve the interests of the corporate need to divide and rule.

“We’re not Charlie” Views of young Muslims in France. While Charlie Hebdo went ahead and published a new edition with a picture of Mohammad Muslims were placed in a position where many wanted to show revulsion at the violence but at the same time their dismay at disrespect for their feelings.

A special thank and a big shout out for all the marvelous Christians of Gaza…

A MUST READ!!
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A special thank and a big shout out for all the marvelous Christians of Gaza…

We all know about the previous summer aggression on Gaza and how many Treacherous countries stood beside it, utterly and completely supporting it, financially and emotionally.. We all know also about the traumatic harrowing scenes that all saw through the media during the sudden circumstances of that brutality. And we all know as well about the very first crisis that happened with the people of the boarders, especially in the east ( Al-Shojaeya, Al-Zaitoon, Khoza`a and the boarders of Rafah) Most of those people evacuated their properties as quick as they could before facing the death. They went, with their innocence, to the schools of the UN which they sheltered in to protect their families from the madness of the enemies. And many of the refugees, especially in Al– Shojaeya and Al- Zaitoon, left their homes and suburbs and went to the churches of the Christians. Perhaps some of you would wonder and say that the writer of this piece is mad or silly in saying something all know, but the truth is that I must mention how great the people of Gaza are and let the world know who we are.

A week ago, I made a short conversation with one of the refugees, who lives in my area, about his days during the war.

-“How were you feeling when you left your home with your family?”I began the conversation,
-“Well, First of all we all have to pray to our God to bless our great precious martyrs and to pour from his glorified Mercy on them. Then we pray to God to put a quick healing on our brave injuries and to make their families patient, Ameen. When I heard the tragic bombs and when my eyes saw the flying mutilated bodies in the skies, I decided with my family to leave my dangerous home to escape from the real death. Actually, we left it and went to a UN school, but it really was not a good place to stay in especially when you have young daughters like me. The school really was so crowded as a hell. As a result, I decided to leave that school…”

-“Ohhh, so tragic, well, when did you go eventually?
-“After leaving the school, I searched and searched for another place to stay, but I failed and my feet got exhausted. Eventually and after hours, I found a church called the church of the Patriarch Provius. I did not care about it and even I was not thinking of entering it as I knew that that place just would be for praying and preaching not for staying and sheltering. My wife asked me to enter it, but I was so hesitant. I thought that the warden would refuse and reject us due to the religious goals of that church. Well, I entered it anyway after a while and then really got shocked of what I saw. There were refugees inside that church with their entire families. So I found someone not to feel alone. The owners of that church welcomed us so hardly as though we were their special guests”

-“Mashallah, and what happened then?”
-“Then they gave us a special place to stay in and six mattresses and three bottles of water. We used to get three meals per day. The basic services were really acceptable and no one of the refugees complaint about anything. The owners of that church really dealt with us as special companions even if we are Muslims. Finally I got assured about my young daughters”

-“Where the vicars and the Christians praying inside that church and where did you use to pray?”
-“Believe or not, no one from the vicars or the prayers came every Monday. They refused to pray in order to let us rest well and feel free with our stricken families. They are really generous! We as Muslims were praying inside that church and used their water to have ablution. I was really feeling that that church was like my home and even better!!”

Those are the people of Gaza. We are humans and we love each other Muslims or Christians. We are two souls dwelling to each other to hoist the fluttering flag of our Palestine.

Mohammad S Arafat (Mr. Pen)

Shoja`eya`s Diaries (1). Young Gazan Writers

 

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“Ya Allah, I`m so weak and I can do nothing….I cannot make decisions, so please help me” The Paralyzed mother Om Ahmad was praying to Allah (God) to help her getting ut her serious problem.” Ya Allah, I`m disabled and cannot walk like others. I lost all my family last week and I`m alone with my little baby Ahmad who is mentally disabled. I cannot deal with this difficult situation. I wanted to leave this dangerous place as I`m so scared of the coming few minutes, but I cannot leave with him, so please help me.”

The dreadful bombings where targeting the homes all around Om Ahmad`s home mercilessly. The horrible voices hither and thither where heard loudly. There were no sirens although the streets were full of spread burnt corpses and injuries. Om Ahmad went out her home carrying her baby difficultly, creeping like children, and not knowing whether she would live or die. She could not carry him for a while, and she did not know what to do. She cried and moaned. She wailed like children over the harsh situation that she was in, but the blare of a rocket cut in her voice. Miraculously, she left her baby in front of the door crying, and then she left the area on the last spurt creeping on her knees. The baby remained in that dangerous area under the bombs not knowing his fate and the mum hurried to an unknown area leaving her little kid crying. Finally, this story can be over when we say that the entire family got abolished as if the air removed the dust.

Done by: Mohammad S Arafat (Mr. Pen)

The Stolen Surprise. Gazan Young Writers

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“Mum, when will I see my little brother Ahmad in front of my eyes?”
Kholood, the eldest daughter, asked her pregnant mother happily, waiting
for the day to see her brother Ahmad in.” I want to see him very soon,
please. I want not to stop hugging and kissing him. I want to play with him
and to be proud of him as many of my friends vilify me because I don`t
have a brother. But now they will never dare to. He will protect me and my
three sisters when he grows up Inshallah.” 

“Hahahaha,” the tired mother smiled a very lovely innocent smile” you will see him very soon. Just try to force yourself to be patient for just five days. Your dad will get so happy and finally he will be a father of a real son. He finally can walk proudly among his neighbors not caring about their insulting words. I`m sure he will be the happiest father in this life. My aim is just to cheer him up.”

The five days have gone very quickly in safe and sound, full of joy and smiles in spite of the sever situations that Gaza was in. The family did not know the taste of sadness after the happiness killed their sorrow. But all of that was erased after the news about their uncle reached them. The mother`s brother got martyred with his entire family. That news made the family upside down. Their hopes got abolished and their joy got stolen. Everyone got shocked.

The mother was about to deliver the baby on that day, but she began to bleed severely before the time of delivering came. So the father called the ambulance and it arrived after ten minutes. Then the mother was moved to the hospital and entered the intensive care room to be treated before going to the room of birth. Doctors did their bests to make the mother alive, but, alas, she passed away.

Kholood and the sisters` screaming filled the hospital and everyone got really sad. They realized that they will never have a mother again and a brother as well. Everything has happened in some moments quickly.

After half an hour of crying and suffering, they heard a crying of a baby boy from the intensive room, so Kholood smiled a fake smile under a shade of sorrow. She did not know if she should smile or cry. Everything got mixed with each other. Happiness was mixed with sadness, but sadness was more. Her brother Ahmad was alive and her mum got dead. His tears were mixed with theirs. He will be motherless from the first day he saw the life in. Who will care him? Who will nurture him and make him a man to protect his four sisters? Who will look for Kholood and the other three sisters? Who will care the father? Where the family will get the humanness from after they have lost it? Who will let the family`s life smile? Those questions have been asked by kholood and her three poor small sisters until now.

Written by: Shaima` Al- Kholy
Edited and translated by: Mohammad S Arafat (Mr. Pen)

 

My Beloved Home!!! Gazan Young Writers “Mosab and Mohammad”

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Arif`s family got their breath back after about forty five days at the UN school and its bad circumstances. They lived in what no one would live in miraculously. The class, that they used to live in, had more than seven stricken families, and every family of those had more than eight members including crying babies and little needy children. The class was really crowded as though there was an enthralled audience watching a very heroic film. The crying of the babies filled the place and the groans of the elders were heard as if it was a room in a full of patients hospital. Men did not know how to stop their and their children`s suffering as there was no choice except accepting their cursed fate. Women were just thinking of nothing, but were thinking anyway. The clashes between couples filled the class and the slapping on cheeks was really hard. The situations there were really too dreadful and merciless for Arif and his family who were patient until the final spurt of the brutality. Once they heard the news about the ratified ceasefire, they forgot every bad moment that they lived in.

“Let’s gooooooooooo!!!” Arif cried out happily at his family.” Let’s go back to our home. It`s waiting for us as we used to wait for this moment!!”
“Al Hamdulilah,” Arif`s wife praised her God smiling at her husband,” Finally we got to go to our beloved home and enjoy our life with our children like others.”
The wife wanted to collect the things that the charities donated for them, but Arif stopped her” What are you doing? We are not going to take anything from this place to our home. There are still many families lost their homes and they need these things.”

Arif`s wife got smiled and collected asked her children to begin the magnificent journey to their home!!

While walking towards home, everyone of Arif`s family was thinking of what he/ she would do once arriving the home. The girls thought about their pink room that their father painted for them before the beginning of the aggression. They thought about the big dulls and toys that they will play with. The little boys thought about the pets that they left at their home and about their little babies that should have been bigger by now. The eldest son thought about his new room that his Father built for him to get married in. The mother was thinking of her lovely big kitchen that she missed and the clothes that her husband gifted to her in their wedding. All were thinking about their lovely things except Arif who was really worried about the shock that he would get if something would happen to his home. He just stayed silent waiting for the emergence of the home.

After half an hour of walking, the family arrived at the area of their home happily diving into their hopes and dreams, dreaming for a better future and thinking positively, but the scene that they saw as they arrived destroyed their dreams and turned their hopes into ghastly horrible nightmares.

The home was disappeared as though someone uprooted it and threw it into an unknown place…

Mohammad S Arafat (Mr. Pen)

The night that we were waiting for!!!

Gazan Young Writers “Mosab and Mohammad”

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The night that we were waiting for!!!
Both, the groom and his bride, prepared themselves to go to their flat that they rented on Gaza beach, after finishing celebration their wedding. They got in a red car towards that flat thinking of the first night that they would live with each other. . The atmosphere in that car was merely silent, but the thoughts were working more than speech .The groom looked at his pretty bride waiting for the first moments in the coming night with her wanting to know about the secrets that night would show him. He was thinking of the surprises that will happen during that lovely first night. He got so shy with his face red when he thought of himself with her wife on the smooth red bed that he bought after getting paid from the bank. He thought about his bride`s red lips that he will never leave and the lipstick that he will be drawn into. He also thought about her black tall hair with two the that he would clamber towards the top of love. Her blue magnificent eyes enthralled him completely and turned his dreams into reality. Her small white shining face was the same as the moon in the moonlit night. Her beautiful attractive white dress of the wedding was as a sign for their white future.The groom was looking at her husband`s silver ring that she gifted him during their wedding happily, but she was shy in the same time. Then he pressed on her warm white hand so that increased her shyness as a sign of love. She thought of the lovely atmosphere that she would have with him alone inside a very nice locked room. She wanted to do everything that her husband would ask her to do as long as he`s her prince. She wanted to make him the happiest person on earth as he promised her to love her forever.After ten minutes of mutual thoughts between both in the car, they arrived at their flat preparing for the nicest night in their life. They entered the room, that was lined with ostrich`s feathers, with shy silent smiles. The dancing candles were lightening that room and the windows were open looking over the sea. There was a very attractive perfume was smelled from that room. The husband got worried that the candles would discover the secrets that they will do and the sea will see them as well. So he left his wife`s hands hardly for some moments and went and closed the windows and put out the candles except one candle that he put over the head of their red lovely bed.
The wife was standing not knowing what to do as it`s the first night with her husband. After a while of looking at each other, the husband asked her to go with him to the shower to had one and then to pray two times to their God to bless them and to make it easy for them both before doing anything.Suddenly, the phone rang and the husband finished his praying and answered it..” Hello!!”

“Sorry for calling you in this time, but I just wanted to tell you that your family and your bride`s got killed after a reconnaissance drone targeted the car that was supposed to move them to their homes…!!”

Share if you care…
Mohammad S Arafat(Mr. Pen)

 

 

We must not forget!!! Mr Pen, Gaza

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It was only a matter of minutes rather than hours and even days before the patient people of Gaza heard the news of the ceasefire agreement through Radios and TVs. That happy news was like the best thing that they never heard before as this aggression stayed for more than fifty days. They did not believe that until the clock chimed 7pm and the fireworks launched singing the songs of triumph. They expressed their stolen joy with the simplest ways of celebration they could use. They got happy and the grandmothers shrilled as strongly as they could manage. The children filled the streets vigorously not knowing how they would celebrate that special day…..But wait a minute, please. We forgot something…. Where is the joy of the children who lost their parents? Where are the smiles of the women who are windows right now? Where is the shrill of the mothers who lost their sons and daughters? Where is the voice of our martyrs? Where will the people who lost their homes and lands celebrate? They did not get happy at all as they are still under the cloak of sadness that the enemies covered them by. They are still drowning into their blood and sorrow. They think that no one cares about them. However, we must make a decision to try to give them their imprisoned joy that they lost during the brutality. We all MUST console with them by staying silent for one minute and read Al- Fateha Surah for the sake of their martyrs` souls and the injuries` efforts and other families.

For who he does not know Al- Fateha Surah, you can read it as following. It`s in English language, thank you:

(In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the merciful* All Praise is due to Allah, the lord of the worlds* The Beneficent, the Merciful* Master of the Day of Judgment* Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help* Keep us on the right path* the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray).

Gazan Young Writers “Mosab and Mohammad”

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Once the reconnaissance drones and the airplanes disappeared from the cloudy skies over Gaza. Once the soldiers got back to their military basics. The sky turned into a clear blue sky with the sun shining. The owls with their hoots perched on their branches sadly. The horrible bats groaned and rushed to their dark caves. The birds went out their warm roosts happily singing the songs of victory, inviting other kinds of birds to join them. The reptiles slithered out their burrows towards their lovely lagoons. The moles went out their scooped-out holes in the ground and began a new journey of looking for food. The hidden fish in the bed sea trembled slowly towards the surface of the sea to smell new oxygen mixed with the taste of triumph. The afraid children left their mums` humane laps towards the voice of the fireworks happily not believing what happened. Boys and girls wiped their tears out and smiled. Mothers and grandmothers raised their voices with lovely shrills crying with joy. The atmosphere turned into noise of happiness after it was silent. Everyone is happy and everyone is victorious…
Congratulations Gaza, Congratulations Palestine…