Saturday, 31 July 2010

Another cringeworthy interlude from Liverpool's LOLFash

The idiocy of the local fash continues to provide much amusement. Particularly as they've now tried to drag me into their Python-esque back-biting.

My comrades at Liverpool Antifascists beat me to the punch on this one;
As the BNP leadership contest between Eddy Butler and Nick Griffin hots up, factionalism amongst the fascists continues to be rife. Nowhere more so than in Liverpool.

Two weeks ago, we reported on the local branch’s purge of Butler’s supporters from its ranks, and the violent debacle that ensued. Since then, the Griffinite loyalists have closed ranks. They have drawn up a list of trusted members, beyond which everyone is a potential spy or traitor.

Unfortunately for them, if they’re right the local party is only six strong.

Alongside “Liverpoolbnp England,” who is actually Andrew Tierney, loyal Griffinites are advised only to trust Peter Quiggins (Tierney), Andrew Leary, “Liver Bird” (Veronika Martel), Gary James/Lucas, and Karen Otty. Adding Mike Whitby, who didn’t put the effort in to make a Facebook profile, that brings the full compliment of the “official” Liverpool BNP branch to seven.

The faction have been warning that anybody who supports Eddy Butler will be kicked out of the party. We have also heard rumours, though we stress that they are impossible to substantiate, that Peter Tierney has been adding that people should look over their shoulders and check under their cars of a morning. Whether this is a threat or paranoia about what the other side will do, we can only speculate.

But without the support of the rest of Liverpool’s fascists, however, the faction’s activity is deteriorating rapidly. Last week, they attempted to hand out leaflets in a recruitment drive in the city centre. With only three people on hand – Otty, Lucas, and Andrew Tierney – it was only five minutes before they were seen off in a confrontation with several local students. (Or, “hordes of Labour-sponsored UAF thugs,” in the BNP newspeak.)

On the other side of the factional divide, Eddy Butler and his “running mate” will be addressing a meeting in Liverpool on Monday 2nd August.

People are advised to turn up in the car park of the Elm Tree pub at 7.00pm, from where they will be redirected. However, a letter from Peter Squire reassures attendees that they only have to face “a short one hundred yard walk to the venue.”

The Merseyside BNP blog has essentially become another outlet for Butler’s leadership campaign. However, last week a diatribe written by Tony Ward briefly appeared on the site (you can view Google’s web cache here).

In it, he claimed that “while I was at that meeting I was informed my house had been firebombed!” He says that “the evidence points in the direction of the criminally stupid as they got the house I had moved from two years ago which was fortunate for me but not so fortunate for the two babies who live there and one of the parents who where in bed and trapped at the time, having to be rescued by a neighbour smashing in the rear fence.”

There have been no news reports of firebomb attacks on that night, and with such an emotive situation as two babies being put at risk this would have received national media attention. The post disappeared not long afterwards.

But, it seems, it was not the last lie that the Butler faction wished to post. On Thursday, Peter Squire posted this;
Andrew Tierney EXPOSED as a traitor talking to reds!

This morning (29th July) at about 9:30am one of our members got a text message from Liverpool Anti-fascist Phil Dickens. In this text Phil informed our member that he had recieved[sic] a phone call informing them that we are holding a meeting on Monday (with Eddy Butler and Nick Cass). Phil Dickens however said that the idiot had forgot to do 141 before the phone call, our member then asked what the number was which Phil Dickens passed on informing our member that they had been ringing the number however it was ringing out and going on to answer phone.

This number is a landline, our member then rang this number which again just rang out and went to an answer machine just as the red Phil Dickens had said. At first it was not apparent who’s number it was as our member only really has the mobile numbers of members on his phone.

Our member then however went and checked the member lists he has on his computer and checked too see if the number was on the members list. He was astonished at what he saw, it was the house number of Andrew Tierney.

This now proves what has been long suspected, the Tierneys[sic] are traitors to Nationalism and the BNP and are passing information onto the reds to cause confrontations and fights. The Tierneys[sic] are deliberately putting members including women and children in danger of being seriously hurt by our enemy.

The Tierneys[sic] have been the driving force between the massive split within Liverpool BNP and have seriously harmed the branch which was moving forward leaps and bounds until they joined. Members need to now stand up and demand these people are EJECTED from the BNP!

Update: this page, too, has now been deleted. Google's cached version can be found here.

Phil Dickens reliably informs us that, aside from anything else, he was not awake at 9:30am on Thursday 29th July. He has confirmed that he doesn’t hold the phone number of any BNP member in either faction, and due to having not been contacted by them is fairly sure that no BNP members have his number.

We wonder why Merseyside BNP think Phil or any other antifascists would text them to out their own mole, and what kind of idiot would believe this garbage.

But, then, this is from the same people who claimed that Liverpool Antifascists were kicked out of Anfield in an incident which never occurred. They also describe running past Steve Greenhalgh and being belted from behind with a camera tripod by Peter Tierney as “attack[ing] elderly women!”

Liverpool Antifascists reiterate that we do not support either faction in the BNP leadership dispute. Both groups are fascists, and it can only be a positive that they are attacking each other and leaving everybody else alone.

More news as we get it.
In the meantime, if you want an (unintentional) laugh, read "Why Daleks are better than Cybermen." Dear old Liverpool BNP explain how the Cybermen are really militant Islamists and the Daleks are racially pure. Yes, really.

If it weren't for the political violence and the mainstream media's excellent job of constantly parrotting and promoting their views on immigration, these people really would be a worthless joke.

Friday, 30 July 2010

No War but Class War - July 2010

As people around the world watched and celebrated the World Cup in South Africa, he host nation saw a wave of workers' struggles.

This included wildcat bus workers' strikes, postal strikes, walkouts by construction workers, a miners' strike, and the high-profile strike by match stewards during the world cup.

Now, the country's public sector has gone on strike. 9,000 civil servants have walked out, and business leaders are worried that this "jeopardise the country's ability to generate a positive impression of SA as a desirable country with which to trade and in which to invest." Unions are demanding "an 8,6% pay rise (backdated to April 1), a R1000 housing allowance and the equalisation of medical aid subsidies."

Elsewhere in Africa, Rwandan construction workers have downed tools over the non-payment of wages, and Kenyan agricultural workers walked off a farm over pay and conditions.

In the United States, Labor Notes reports that "from California to Maine, double-digit deficits have left civil servants with a giant bull’s-eye on their backs, as politicians across the spectrum have pushed furloughs, layoffs, wage cuts, and farther-reaching measures like pension modifications as the main way to close yawning budget gaps."

What the response from the public sector unions will be is as yet unclear. However, they coulod do worse than follow the lead from other mobilisations around the US.

In response to the Hyatt corporation seeking wage freezes and increases to healthcare premiums, service industry workers have coordinated civil disobedience across the country. Fifteen cities saw action, and hundreds of protesters were arrested. As food server Andy Lopez said, "management needs to see we aren’t going away."

Meanwhile, in the cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is showing the same disregard for workers' safety that caused the Deepwater disaster in the first place;
Today, 27,000 workers in the BP-run Gulf cleanup effort may still be in danger. Some are falling sick, and the long-term effects of chemical exposure for workers and residents are yet unknown.

Workers lack power on the job to demand better safety enforcement. They fear company retaliation if they speak out and are wary of government regulators who have kept BP in the driver’s seat.

BP has said it will provide workers with respirators and proper training if necessary, but the company has yet to deem the situation a health risk for workers. The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) provided respirators to some workers directly, but BP forbade them to use them.

One rationale behind banning respirators is that they could increase the likelihood of heat-related illnesses, but Kindra Arnsen, an outspoken wife of a sick fisherman turned cleanup worker, points out that many workers are fishermen accustomed to the Gulf heat who can work safely given enough hydration and time for breaks.

Workers who question the safety of their assignments, choose to wear their own safety equipment, or speak out about the risks are threatened with losing their jobs, according to Arnsen and LEAN’s executive director Marylee Orr.

Arnsen has also spoken out in fear for her community of Venice, Louisiana. She describes illnesses and rashes her young children and husband have suffered since the explosion and cleanup and says there are days when officials tell residents to stay indoors.
Competing against the PR power of BP, and a mass media unconcerned with such issues, this threatens to be a long uphill struggle. Those involved need the solidariy of fellow workers every step of the way.

In China, the convergence of workers and environmental disputes continues;
More than 1,000 people threw rocks at police and blocked roads in southern China in protest at pollution from a plant owned by one of the country's largest private aluminium producers, state media said on Thursday.

The Chinese government has become increasingly worried about rising public anger at environmental problems, especially pollution.

The official China Daily said that in the latest incident, more than 1,000 villagers in Jingxi county, in Guangxi near the border with Vietnam, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the Shandong Xinfa Aluminum and Power Group plant.

"Almost all the residents in Lingwan village were involved in blocking the road to Jingxi county on Tuesday afternoon, and some villagers threw stones at police who had been sent by the Jingxi government," it cited a government statement as saying.

"One official hit by stones was sent to the hospital, but no other injuries were reported," the newspaper added.

Residents also blocked the gates to the plant and damaged some production facilities before dispersing.

"Villagers have been very unhappy for a long time about the pollution caused by the plant," it quoted local government official Qin Weifeng as saying.

The newspaper said the Xinfa is one of the three largest producers in Jingxi, in an area known for production of bauxite and alumina, the raw material for aluminium. China's rapid growth has caused many environmental problems, and prompted growing concern among citizens about health problems caused by pollution.
In Greece, a nationwide strike by truck drivers is "threatening fuel, food and medical shortages across the country."

Prime Minister George Papandreou issued a civil conscription using emergency legislation for only the fourth time since the end of military rule, but they have defied the order.

According to the truck drivers themselves, "we continue. Let them take us to prison. We have nothing to more to lose. If the government thinks that after two days of strike it can move to such measures instead choosing dialogue, it carries all responsibility."

This is the attitude that workers around the world need to take as we are faced with near-universal attacks to save capitalism. They only call it class war when we fight back, but we need to do just that.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Wikileaks war logs won't end the war - we need to turn opposition into resistance

As with the case of Ian Tomlinson, which I wrote about yesterday, the release of the Afghanistan war logs by Wikileaks has caused establishment embarrasment and outrage, but not much else. If we don't act upon it, it can be quietly shelved and forgotten about as time passes.

I haven't yet had time to go throug the 91,000 leaked documents which make up the "Afghan War Diary." In all honesty, given the sheer volume of documents and the other activities that take up my time, I probably won't.

However, others have, and in the mainstream media alone you can find detailed features and articles from the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Spiegel. According to the Guardian's editorial pages, "the collective picture that emerges [from the logs] is a very disturbing one."
We today learn of nearly 150 incidents in which coalition forces, including British troops, have killed or injured civilians, most of which have never been reported; of hundreds of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops, two armies which are supposed to be allies; of the existence of a special forces unit whose tasks include killing Taliban and al-Qaida leaders; of the slaughter of civilians caught by the Taliban's improvised explosive devices; and of a catalogue of incidents where coalition troops have fired on and killed each other or fellow Afghans under arms.

Reading these logs, many may suspect there is sometimes a casual disregard for the lives of innocents. A bus that fails to slow for a foot patrol is raked with gunfire, killing four passengers and wounding 11 others. The documents tell how, in going after a foreign fighter, a special forces unit ended up with seven dead children. The infants were not their immediate priority. A report marked "Noforn" (not for foreign elements of the coalition) suggests their main concern was to conceal the mobile rocket system that had just been used.
This is just a brief summary. The logs in full make it possible "to compare the reality on the battlefield in such a detailed manner with what the US Army propaganda machinery is propagating," as Der Spiegel puts it, and it would appear that they "paint a gloomy picture."

But what of the anti-war movement?

The Stop the War Coalition asks "how much longer can the British and US governments maintain the fiction that the war in Afghanistan is ... one of the most noble causes of the 21st century?"

But, whilst the leaks have created a storm, "a war of ever escalating carnage drags on, with rising civilian and military casualties and growing instability in the region." Their response is "to raise the level of campaigning so that the government, parliament and the media are forced to respond."

The problem is that "the overwhelming view of the British public, that the time to bring all the troops home from Afghanistan is now" has persisted for a long time. These war logs aren't the first leaks to offer "an embarrassment to a government and military" or "reflect badly on much of the media, which - without any independent investigation - simply churns out the line of the politicians and military waging war."

And still, these practices persist. The responses to the documents, from security risks to sabotaging relationships between intelligence agencies, have simply refused to address civilian casualties and war crimes. They are simply not an issue on which the US fears any consequences.

With good reason. The recently vindicated EDO decommissioners, whose actions caused significant damage to an arms factory which supplies the Israeli military, are in an extremely small minority.

The broader anti-war movement seems capable only of countless marches which have already failed to have any significant threat whatsoever. Alongside these marches, there is none of the non-violent direct action, harbouring of deserters, or mass resistance by soldiers which made the opposition to Vietnam so succesful.

Raising awareness of the issues around this war and transforming that into opposition is important. But it can't be the only thing we do. The point is to organise that opposition into genuinely radical resistance.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Police everywhere, justice nowhere

It was entirely predictable that nobody would be charged over the murder of Ian Tomlinson by police at the London G20 protests last April. What is surprising, and encouraging, is the level of outrage and justifiable anger that this has created.

As Adam Ford has commented, the "embarrassment caused by the transparent cover-up" was "a necessary evil" in order to avoid "a very public examination of policing tactics at a time of drastic cutbacks." After all, "once again, the idea that police neutrally uphold democratically-decided laws has been exposed as a fiction, and politicians are worried."

Gladly, with public rage simmering over, it seems that they have every right to be.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look that way on the streets. At the hearing, Ian Bone lamented the "pathetic turnout." The 30 people demonstrating outside New Scotland Yard was even less than the 50 that he initially expected. Which made it "no wonder the cops get away with murder."

There is something of a response in the offing. A demonstration has been called for Friday 30th July, outside the office of the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) in Southwark, London.

Soon after that, solidarity demonstrations were called on the same date in Edinburgh and San Francisco. A much broader international call-out has asked for mobilisations at "all British Embassies, High Commissions, British Trade Offices and any other British interests globally."

How much of a demonstration will emerge remains to be seen. A lot of people are very angry at this state of affairs, but at present it is more impotent rage than an insurrection in the making.

The trick will be to transform the one into the other. As a society, we appear to have drifted away from the long history of protest and rebellion that has won us every single (limited) freedom we have. When confronted with the cold reality of the state and the role of its organs such as the police, naive surprise stops us in our tracks.

Beyond any demonstrations that may take place, there needs to be a concerted effort to remind the public that the police are not our friends. These incidents are not "one offs" but the designated role of an institution which exists to protect power and privilege.

As a new poster from Crimethinc puts it;
The ones who beat Rodney King, who gunned down Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo and Oscar Grant, who murdered Fred Hampton in his bed. The ones who broke Víctor Jara’s hands and Steve Biko’s skull, who disappeared dissidents from Argentina to Zaire, who served Josef Stalin. The ones who enforced Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the United States. The ones who interrogated Black Panthers and Catholic Workers, who maintained records on 16 million people in East Germany, who track us through surveillance cameras and phone taps. The ones firing tear gas and rubber bullets whenever a demonstration gets out of hand, who back the bosses in every strike. The ones who stand between every hungry person and the grocery shelves stocked with food, between every homeless person and the buildings standing empty, between every immigrant and her family.

In every nation, in every age, you tell us you’re indispensable, that without you we’d all be killing each other.

But we know well enough who the killers are.
The anger is there. Along with a basic, unconscious comprehension of what the police's real role in society is. But the anger will fade. The unconscious faces a barrage of distraction and subterfuge from the mass media. If we do nothing, people as a whole will do nothing, and police brutality will be forgotten. Until the next death.

If we want to change that, then we need to live up to the ideas encapsulated in that simplest of radical slogans: educate, agitate, organise!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Why using the state to ban the EDL is a bad idea

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus tells us that local politicians are seeking to get the English Defence League's planned march in Bradford banned;
Bradford Council’s political leaders have spoken out against the proposed English Defence League demonstration. 

And Council leader Ian Greenwood has explained why he wants the Home Office to ban the event scheduled for August 28. 

Coun Greenwood, said: “We have listened to the views of a wide range of local groups about the English Defence League’s (EDL) plans to come to Bradford. The Council by itself has no powers to ban such an event without the consent of the Home Secretary. In these circumstances, we are asking the Home Secretary for this consent. 

“Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, and we strongly support that right. But the EDL’s activities in other towns and cities across the country have resulted in significant disruption, some public disorder, and cost the taxpayer, local businesses and local communities many thousands of pounds. 

“The people of Bradford want to enjoy their Bank Holiday without having it disrupted by people from outside our district who have no concern about this community, no concern about its local businesses and no interest in its future. 

“We are currently gathering information about how the EDL’s demonstration could affect local people and businesses, to give to the Government in urging them to give their consent to ban the demonstration”. 
The proposal is backed by local political parties, trade unions, Bradford University, faith leaders, the Chamber of Commerce. Searchlight front campaign Hope not Hate led the way with a petition calling for the ban.

However, as I have expounded numerous times previously, it is folly to rely on state prohibition as a way to fight fascism.

The point, in relation to Bradford, is made by the fledgling Stop Racism and Fascism Network;
Hope Not Hate are circulating a petition to ban the EDL’s rally in Bradford. Whilst we agree with the motivation behind this we cannot rely on the state to ban the rally. Firstly because these laws will be used against the workers movement and the anti-racists ourselves, secondly because we cannot sow illusions in the idea the police will always protect people against the EDL. The only way we can be sure the EDL pose no threat is a mass mobilisations of working class people against them. It is down to us to oppose the EDL on the day and send them home to think again.
This backs up my own arguments that antifascism needs to be "a non-hierarchical grassroots movement, based upon radical, working-class opposition to the state and capitalism" ready to engage in militant, physical resistance to fascism. That is clearly not the case with Hope not Hate's state ban. 

If it goes ahead, then it is simply another example of the power of the state repressing protest, albeit protest of a nationalistic and reactionary nature. Whatever else that might be, it is not a victory for antifascism.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Iraqi Ministry of Electricity prohibits and shuts down trade union activities

The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity has issued an edict to "prohibit all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites; and to stop all forms of official [ministry and its departments and sites] interaction and communication with the trade unions that operate within the Ministry and its departments and sites."

According to the Iraqi Trade Unions website;
The ministerial order granted the police authority, under the terrorism act of 2005 to arrest any trade union activist who may try to protest against this unjust action, masking this undemocratic action as a pretext to protect public properties from damage may result of any protest. This is clear state intimidation of free independent and democratic trade unions organizations.
However, thankfully, "unions in Iraq are not taking this order passively." They are "are organizing meetings, contacting media and politicians to protest this order." There has been an encouraging willingness to fight, and to work across the boundaries of different union federations.

They are also asking for broader solidarity. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has written to William Hague, asking him to "call on the Iraqi Government, as a matter of urgency, to withdraw the order, and allow unions to operate freely, underpinned by a fair, just and ILO-compliant labour law."

The electricity workers union also ask that people write to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nori Al Maliki to express their opposition, and sign the Iraqi labor campaign’s appeal for a fair and just labour law.

As workers, the greatest weapon we have against the state and the bosses is solidarity. It is vital that we offer it to those in Iraq facing persecution by their government, especially if and when more militant resistance to these measures become neccesary.

It is also important that we spread the word. This turn of events has received no coverage by the mainstream media, or beyond the websites of trade unions and left-wing groups. We need to spread the word not only that the government of Iraq is oppressing the freedoms of its working class, but also that it will not be tolerated.

Whether on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or even by word of mouth, please publicise this news wherever you can.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The fury over Cameron's "gaffe" only distracts from the realities of empire

I honestly never thought I would find myself in agreement with Peter Hitchens. That is, until David Cameron made a "gaffe" about Britain being America's junior partner.

The part that has irked people, apart from that horrendous crime of "talking down Britain," is that he said "We were the junior partner in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis." Telegraph blogger Tim Collard insists that we were in fact "the only game in town," and the Mirror shares the "fury" of World War II veterans.

Hitchens, one of the few right-wing columnists who avoids overt hysteria, is of a different opinion;
For those of you who say I never have a good word for David Cameron, here’s one. He’s pretty much right about 1940, even if it was by accident.

When a politician is accused of committing a ‘gaffe’, it almost always means he has told the truth.

And 1940 was in fact the year that Britain became America’s very junior partner, a sad role we have followed ever since.

I know, I know, the USA didn’t enter the war against Germany until 1941 (and then only when Hitler declared war on them).

But Franklin Roosevelt took great advantage of our desperate position in 1940.

As the Germans advanced through France in early summer that year, he offered one of the most unfair bargains in the history of diplomacy – 50 worn-out, ancient destroyers in return for nine rent-free US military bases in British colonies.

He had already insisted on hard cash for war supplies, which rapidly depleted Britain’s gold and currency reserves.

And Britain only finished paying for ‘lend-lease’ wartime aid – down to the uttermost ­farthing, plus interest charged for late payment – on December 29, 2006.

Post-war loans and Marshall Aid came at the cost of pledges to relinquish what remained of the empire, not least the bits we had just fought so hard to get back from the Japanese, and to open up colonial markets to US competition – plus unrelenting pressure to join the European Union, which still goes on.

These weren’t the acts of besotted friends, but of a hard, wise, calculating politician who wanted the best for his own country, not for ours.
He's right. Especially when he points out that "this is how great powers behave" more generally, when they are able.

This is, in fact, a point that Noam Chomsky has made numerous times before;
Well, if you look at the British diplomatic history, back in the 1940s, Britain had to make a decision. Britain had been the major world power, the United States though by far the richest country in the world, was not a major actor in the global scene, except regionally. By the Second World War it was obvious the US was going to be the dominant power, everyone knew that. Britain had to make a choice. Was it going to be part of what would ultimately be a Europe that might move towards independence, or would it be what the Foreign Office called a junior partner to the United States? Well it essentially made that choice, to be a junior partner to the United States. US, the leaders have no illusions about this. So during the Cuban missile crisis, for example, you look at the declassified record, they treated Britain with total contempt. Harold McMillan wasn't even informed of what was going on and Britain's existence was at stake. It was dangerous. One high official, probably Dean Atchers --he's not identified--, described Britain as in his words "Our lieutenant, the fashionable word is partner". Well the British would like to hear the fashionable word, but the masters use the actual word. Those are choices Britain has to make.
And that choice has defined relations between the two countries ever since;
Britain has been kicked in the face over and over again in the most disgraceful way and they sit there quietly and take it and say, “Okay, we will be the junior partner. We will bring to what’s called the coalition our experience of centuries of brutalizing and murdering foreign people. We’re good at that.” That’s the British role. It’s disgraceful.
The media, of course, will continue to paint this as a "slip up" or a "gaffe." The common line will be that he "has tried too hard to please" or that he has to "get his historical facts right."

But, ultimately, the only slip up Cameron made is that he revealed the truth. The media has whipped up a frenzy to hide the reality, but it has already been pushed into the open. And you can bet that, the power dynamic is not a revelation for Cameron, even if he let the public in on it "by accident."

Britain is the junior partner in the imperial ventures of the United States of America. It has been since 1940, and certainly since the end of World War II. This power dynamic is motivated by the control of strategic markets and resources worldwide, not freedom or democracy, and every war it undertakes is an act of imperial aggression.

That, not a rare moment of honesty about a history we don't learn about in schools, is what we need to be angry about.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The al-Megrahi scandal is a product of the profit motive, not just corrupt individuals

BP will begin deepwater drilling off the coast of Libya in the next few weeks. The announcement, and the diplomatic rows surrounding it, display the fatal flaw at the heart of capitalism.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues despite efforts to plug the leak. The environmental damage is enormous, but concerns have also been raised over the company's safety record. Especially after news that the oil rig's warning system was switched off before the blast.

Meanwhile, late last year, the Scottish government got embroiled in a row with the United States after releasing Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. Al-Megrahi had been found guily of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Aside from the outrage over the release by families of the victims, there was also the side issue of oil. At the end of August last year, the Times quoted oil industry sources as saying that "the release of the Lockerbie bomber from prison would liberate Britain’s largest industrial company from a string of problems hampering its $900 million (£546 million) Libyan gas projects."

Thus, BP lobbied the British government, and it appears they were receptive. Leaked letters from then-Justice Secretary Jack Straw to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the British government thought it “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to see al-Megrahi released.

In September, an investigation by the Sunday Telegraph revealed that "medical evidence that helped Megrahi, 57, to be released was paid for by the Libyan government, which encouraged three doctors to say he had only three months to live." This was important "because, under Scottish rules, prisoners can be freed on compassionate grounds only if they are considered to have this amount of time, or less, to live."

Libyan chief spokesperson Abdul Majeed al-Dursi promised that "Britain will find it is rewarded" for the release. With BP now set to begin deepwater drilling, it seems he has lived up to its word.

Sue Cohen, whose daughter Theo died at Lockerbie, told NBC News that "western governments seem to be run by one thing now – the great God money." She's not wrong. Indeed, it adds a new gravity to the argument that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanisatan were motivated by corporate interests.

But we cannot make the mistake of thinking this a new phenomenon, or the fault of only a few, corrupt individuals. The root of this whole saga is the incentive to maximise short-term gains above all else.

It is important to remember this as mainstream debate seeks to hang BP, or its CEO Tony Hayward, as the sole culprit in the affair. Putting profit before people, as I've noted previously, is par for the course in pursuit of petrodollars. Or, for that matter, profit more generally.

Corruption at this level is a symptom of capitalism, not an unfortunate by-product. If we want to stop it happening again, we need to fight to get rid of the underlying cause.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The disabled deserve dignity whether they're ex-soldiers or not

Private Aron Shelton lost his leg in 2008. He has since adapted to life with a prosthetic limb and can now walk 400 metres unaided. As a result, the government has withdrawn his £180-a-month Disability Living Allowance.

In the media, the focus of this story has been on the fact that Shelton was a soldier who "served his country." As the headline in the Mirror puts it, "I was there for my country ... now nobody gives a stuff!" But, in truth, that he "gave up nine years of his life" "to his country" is utterly irrelevant.

Private Shelton's case is far from extraordinary and, to his credit, he realises that. In his words, "it is no way to treat anyone who needs help - it doesn't matter whether they were injured fighting in Afghanistan or are just an ordinary civilian."

If his leg had been mangled in a car wreck, crushed in a factory accident, or even mutilated through his own stupidity, the injustice would be exactly the same.

That injustice is one felt by disabled people in Britain on a regular basis. Disability is viewed as an excuse rather than an affliction. This government, as New Labour before them, is engaged in a crusade to find as many people as possible to be "not disabled enough." Regardless of fact.

And the reality is very different from the rhetoric.

Amongst families with disabled children, "23%, almost one in four, had to turn off their heating to save money and one in seven, 14%, are going without food." More broadly, "disabled people face poverty, social isolation and are more likely to have accidents because of harsher eligibility criteria for a diminishing pot of funding for social care support."

As Emmanuel Smith wrote for the Guardian's Comment is Free;
I am 54 years old and deafblind. I have Usher type II syndrome, which means I have partial hearing and extremely limited vision (progressive sight and hearing loss). All I can see is light and shade, and I have been registered blind since 1985. I would be very restricted in the type of work I can do, but am a keen volunteer. It would be very difficult for an employer to take me on with my complex limitations.

I worked for 20 years for the civil service before I was forcibly retired on medical grounds 14 years ago. I survive on incapacity benefits, DLA and a small pension (this is reduced as I only worked for two decades). Contrary to what many people believe, this really does not amount to much. I am also allowed to earn £80 extra myself, which I do by playing the piano in local venues.

This coalition government wants to speed up what Labour started and move me from incapacity benefit to employment support allowance, with no transitional relief. This could mean a potential extra cut of £40-50 a week. Add to this a rise in VAT, stricter requirements for DLA (which is awarded to help with the extra costs associated with having a disability, such as paying for communication support) and, suddenly, the "firm but fair" rhetoric used by the coalition government looks anything but.

It's time the government stopped using disabled people and the support we get as a political football. We are not scroungers; just vulnerable people who already experience higher levels of poverty and discrimination. Yet, this government wants to pile on more.
Bendy Girl has suggested that, in response, "maybe we cripples need to take heed of the media and form that all powerful disability lobby they keep banging on about," and she's not far wrong.

As with most things, the only effective way to challenge the government's attacks on the disabled is through organisation. But whilst useful in drawing attention to the cause, lobbying cannot be the limit of a campaign which seeks any serious victories. The state can ignore letters to newspapers, petitions with a million signatures, and even static protests.

On the other hand, direct action is a lot harder to brush away. More than that, if built from the ground-up on the basis of mass participation, it creates a culture of resistance that is difficult to extinguish. And that is the key to victory.

When the disabled are not easy scapegoats or pitiable victims but active rebels, the government would do well to tremble.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

More suffering for the people of Fallujah and why we can't gloss over war crimes

Doctors in Fallujah have been reporting a rise in birth defects since 2004. Alongside this, a new survey has found that cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality are all on the increase as well.

According to the report's abstract;
There have been anecdotal reports of increases in birth defects and cancer in Fallujah, Iraq blamed on the use of novel weapons (possibly including depleted uranium) in heavy fighting which occurred in that town between US led forces and local elements in 2004. In Jan/Feb 2010 the authors organised a team of researchers who visited 711 houses in Fallujah, Iraq and obtained responses to a questionnaire in Arabic on cancer, birth defects and infant mortality. The total population in the resulting sample was 4,843 persons with and overall response rate was better than 60%. Relative Risks for cancer were age-standardised and compared to rates in the Middle East Cancer Registry (MECC, Garbiah Egypt) for 1999 and rates in Jordan 1996–2001. Between Jan 2005 and the survey end date there were 62 cases of cancer malignancy reported (RR = 4.22; CI: 2.8, 6.6; p < 0.00000001) including 16 cases of childhood cancer 0-14 (RR = 12.6; CI: 4.9, 32; p < 0.00000001). Highest risks were found in all-leukaemia in the age groups 0-34 (20 cases RR = 38.5; CI: 19.2, 77; p < 0.00000001), all lymphoma 0–34 (8 cases, RR = 9.24;CI: 4.12, 20.8; p < 0.00000001), female breast cancer 0–44 (12 cases RR = 9.7;CI: 3.6, 25.6; p < 0.00000001) and brain tumours all ages (4 cases, RR = 7.4;CI: 2.4, 23.1; P < 0.004). Infant mortality was based on the mean birth rate over the 4 year period 2006–2009 with 1/6th added for cases reported in January and February 2010. There were 34 deaths in the age group 0–1 in this period giving a rate of 80 deaths per 1,000 births. This may be compared with a rate of 19.8 in Egypt (RR = 4.2 p < 0.00001) 17 in Jordan in 2008 and 9.7 in Kuwait in 2008. The mean birth sex-ratio in the recent 5-year cohort was anomalous. Normally the sex ratio in human populations is a constant with 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls. This is disturbed if there is a genetic damage stress. The ratio of boys to 1,000 girls in the 0–4, 5–9, 10–14 and 15–19 age cohorts in the Fallujah sample were 860, 1,182, 1,108 and 1,010 respectively suggesting genetic damage to the 0–4 group (p < 0.01). Whilst the results seem to qualitatively support the existence of serious mutation-related health effects in Fallujah, owing to the structural problems associated with surveys of this kind, care should be exercised in interpreting the findings quantitatively.
Last night, BBC News covered this story in more detail. The report, though harrowing, is worth watching.

However, there is just one minor point to pick up on. Namely, the idea that "fierce fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents" is at the root of this problem and that "the use of novel weapons (possibly including depleted uranium)" doesn't need to be overtly identified with either side.

In fact, what happened in Fallujah can only accurately be described as a war crime perpetrated by the United states military. "Balance," as ever, only obfuscates this fact.

The US Army National Ground Intelligence Centre's report on the "Battle of Fallujah I," states that it "was not simply a military action, it was a political and informational battle whose outcome was far less certain" than military victory. They were concerned that "the effects of media  coverage, enemy information operations (IO), and the fragility of the political environment conspired to force a halt to U.S. military operations."

Reading the report, it soon becomes clear why;
During the shaping operations, Regimental Combat Team-1 (RCT-1) from the First Marine Division established a cordon of traffic control points (TCPs) on major roads around Fallujah in order to isolate the city's defenders and prevent their escape. Supplies of food and medicine were allowed in, but only women, children, and old men were allowed out. Other MEF units simultaneously conducted aggressive counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the surrounding area (Ar Ramadi, Khaldiyah, Al Kharmah, and Northern Babil) in order to interdict and prevent insurgent groups outside Fallujah from interfering. Civilians were warned to evacuate the city.
In other words, whilst the women and children were allowed to escape, the men were contained within the city walls to await their fate.

There is a strong parallel here with events in the Srebrenica Massacre during the Bosnian war. There, Serb forces separated the men and boys from the broader group of Bosniak refugees at Potočari, busing out the women and children, and slaughtering the men.

As Noam Chomsky has commented, the only major difference is that "with Fallujah, the US didn't truck out the women and children, it bombed them out."

Then, according to the NGIC report, "on 5 April 2004, Phase II kicked off;"
Two battalion task forces from RCT-1 assaulted Fallujah, about 2000 men in total, mostly light infantry supported by 10 M1A1 tanks, 24 AAVP-7 tracks, and a battery of M198 howitzers. The 2d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (2/1) attacked from the northwest into the Jolan district while the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5) attacked from the southeast into the industrial district (Shuhidah). The MEF
During the campaign, at least one US battalion had "orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not." As a result, according to Iraq Body Count's analysis, "at least 572 of the roughly 800 reported deaths during the first US siege of Fallujah in April 2004 were civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children."

The US withdrew on May 1st, but went back in on November 8th. This time, the consequences would be even starker.

Dahr Jamail was the first to report that "he U.S. military has used poison gas and other non-conventional weapons against civilians in Fallujah." This was backed up by reports in the Washington Post that "some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water."

The March-April 2005 edition of Field Artillery ran a special on the assault, which stated quite candidly;
WP [white phosphorous] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breaches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high-explosive]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out. .. We used improved WP for screening missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions. 
Then there was the use of depleted uranium. Deplete uranium is 1.67 times as dense as lead, giving bullets  and shells tipped with it a higher pressure at the point of impact which leads to deeper penetration.

It is also known to have adverse health effects. In 2001, it was reported that malignant diseases had increased by 200% in Kosovo since the 1998 NATO bombing campaign. It has been linked to Gulf War syndrome and the increased likelihood of veterans to have children with birth defects. At the same time, Iraqis have blamed it for the rise in cancer rates country-wide.

The latest survey from Fallujah seems to confirm that link. This makes the campaign there part of a wider tradition going back through the use of Agent Organge in Vietnam to the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki: not only horrendous, destructive acts, but ones whose effect reaches far beyond the present.

This is what media outlets such as the BBC gloss over when they talk about "fierce fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents" or fail to identify who is behind "the use of novel weapons."

But this needs to be pointed out, and remembered. The seige of Fallujah in 2004 was a horrendous war crime, and for the poor, wretched children being born there the horror of it is only just beginning. By glossing over who the perpetrators of this attrocity are, we are only adding insult to injury.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Anarcho-blogging roundup #2

Once again, I find myself away from my home and the computer in it.

This time, I'm in York enjoying a combination of history, culture, and pub lunches. To tide people over until regular blogging resumes, I thought I'd offer another roundup of the anarchist/left-libertarian blogosphere.

Julia from Ten Minutes Hate is on a longer hiatus than myself, but suggests a trawl through the archives.

Ann Arky comments on Child Abuse by the State

Kevin Carson, at the Centre for a Stateless Society, explains exactly why free-market capitalism is an oxymoron. Related to that, though she hasn't updated her blog for a few months, Anok asks whether anarcho-capitalism is fascism or freedom.

The Cactus Mouth Informer introduces us to Mr Wantage.

Ian Bone has a few words about Galloway, Moat, the EDL, and the underclass. The Barnsdale Brigade are reflecting on the police in the Raoul Moat situation, as well as suggesting McDonalds pay for the NHS.

Mollymew tells us how workers in Williamson, New York have taken strike action to a whole new level - by picketing at other plants to which their work is being outsourced. @ndy offers a write-up of the Kennon Auto dispute.

Also from @ndy, check out the latest set of Antifa Notes. Liverpool Antifascists' coverage of the BNP's dissident purging, and Anti-Racist Canada's efforts at Putting Things in Perspective For Our Neo-nazi Friends are also worth a read.

No Borders Brighton have something to say about mindless bureaucracy, racist shock tactics, and more appaling standards in detention centres.

As ever, there's much more out there than what's listed above - even if you don't venture beyond one small segment of the political spectrum. But then, this isn't an exhaustive list - it's just filler whilst I can't blog properly.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why does so much of the left still cling, hopelessly, to Labour?

Unlike a great many on the left, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the Labour leadership election. Every time the candidates crop up in the news, I tune out. However, whilst it still goes on, there is one thing I should comment on.

At the start of the month, Alastair Darling wrote in the Mirror that "under the Tory plans 1.3 million people will lose their jobs in the next five years." The cuts "will hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest," and "the inevitable cost in human terms is harder to quantify." But whilst "the Tories, with Lib Dem blessing, are doing what they always wanted to do," we "should not let history repeat itself."

Today, in the same paper, Andy Burnham tells us that the new government's "White Paper is the biggest threat to the NHS in its 62-year history." Those who value the health service should "get ready for the mother of all battles" as its future comes under threat.

They're both right. There needs to be a concerted effort to challenge both the actions of the present government and the ideology behind them. The NHS will be one of the biggest battlegrounds.

However, it is a mistake to assume that Labour is on our side in this fight.

When it is pointed out that Labour, although they said it would be more graduated, promised the same cuts as the Tories are now implementing, it's often suggested that this is because the Labour in power was "New Labour," the neo-liberal creation of Tony Blair.

Ed Miliband, for example, has run a campaign to get Labour "back to its roots." Ed Balls has pledged to "rebuild party membership, strengthen our links with the trade unions and the Co-op Party and give more support to councillors and party activists across the UK so we can win again." And Dianne Abbot has been widely touted as the left's candidate of choice.

But we need to get over this naive idea of the Labour party's "roots." And, for that matter, the idea that any party can represent working class interests over those of the ruling class.

Old Labour, held up to the light with teary-eyed nostalgia by too many people, was just as keen on breaking strikes, attacking trade unions, and serving the needs of business as its "New" counterpart. Their treatment of members of Militant Tendency (themselves no favourable bunch) is just one demonstration of this.

Amongst the current leadership contenders, we can look to their voting records as an idea of their character. 

Andy Burnham supported top-up fees, replacing Trident, introducing ID cards, a tougher asylum system, and the Iraq War, as well as strongly opposing an investigation into said war. Ed Balls was moderately against measures to curb climate change, strongly in support of ID cards and Trident, and strongly against an investigation into Iraq. Ed Miliband and his brother David have similar records.

All four are actually moderate hawks in terms of the mainstream political spectrum. They do not represent genuinely left-wing views, and they don't even come close to the libertarian left.

Diane Abbot's record is better. She voted very strongly against the Iraq war , terrorism laws, and Trident, and moderately against top-up fees. But she copped-out on climate change and opposed an investigation into the illegal war. She is a hypocrite on private education. And, like all people who gain positions of power and privilege, she is corruptible.

When these neo-liberals, and their fellows, try to claim the mantle of the left and the working class, they need to be told in no uncertain terms to fuck off. When they talk of "Tory cuts," we should remember that we face the ruling class's cuts, and even if the Tories swing the axe harder it was coming at us no matter what.

The Labour Party, Old or New, offers nothing of worth to ordinary people.

We need to organise for a genuinely radical response to the attacks ahead, not simply give the axe to someone who'll be slightly more gentle with it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Why David Cameron's "Big Society" offers no genuine people power

David Cameron has today launched his plans for the "big society."

According to his speech, made in Liverpool today;
You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You can call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society.

The Big Society is about a huge culture change...

...where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace...

...don't always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face ...

...but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.

It's about people setting up great new schools. Businesses helping people getting trained for work. Charities working to rehabilitate offenders.

It's about liberation -the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street.

And this is such a powerful idea for blindingly obvious reasons.

For years, there was the basic assumption at the heart of government that the way to improve things in society was to micromanage from the centre, from Westminster.

But this just doesn't work.

We've got the biggest budget deficit in the G20.

And over the past decade, many of our most pressing social problems got worse, not better.

It's time for something different, something bold - something that doesn't just pour money down the throat of wasteful, top-down government schemes.

The Big Society is that something different and bold.

It's about saying if we want real change for the long-term, we need people to come together and work together - because we're all in this together.
This all sounds great. After all, one of the central tenets of anarchism which I continually espoue is ordinary people coming together and taking control of their own lives.

There are just two problems.

Firstly, this "people power" is being managed from the top-down, not the bottom-up. Dave insists that "government cannot remain neutral on that," and while having a benevolent government willing to foster such local autonomy sounds great in theory, only a fool would take him at his word and believe that this is his goal.

Which brings me to the second problem. Further on in his speech, Dave betrays the state's real motives. The "government has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap - and indeed, more widely, in connecting private capital to investment in social projects."

Yes, private capital. The Big Society will "help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups through intermediaries." [Emphasis mine.] That is, the government will "leverage" private sector "investment," effectively replacing state control with direct control by capital.

We know that, where it matters, local people won't have control. Hence the desperate fight against the axing of the school rebuilding scheme. Or the threats to charities from local authority funding cuts.

This is not about giving people power over their own lives. It is about privatising the local government under the guise of participatory democracy. It is, like the Tories' "free schools" and "workers' cooperatives," a capitalist scam trying to pass itself off as libertarian.

Real community control can only come from below. Though disguised, the "Big Society" is is just another class attack which should be resisted through genuine grassroots organisation.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Burkhas, state bans, and womens' rights in other cultures

In a rare display of common sense prevailing over authoritarianism, Tory immigration minister Damian Green has said it would be "undesirable" for Britain to follow in the footsteps of France and vote on a burkha ban.

Talking to the Sunday Telegraph, he said that this would run contrary to the conventions of a “tolerant and mutually respectful society.” Though that idea was somewhat undermined by his desire to send a "message around the world that Britain is no longer a soft touch on immigration."

Green's views on immigration aside, as I needn't rehash my opinions on the idea that Britain was ever a "soft touch" on immigration, whether or not to ban the burkha is an interesting question.

Views are rather polarised on this subject. On the conservative and nationalist right, the broad consensus is for a full ban on burkhas, and often goes beyond that to other forms of Islamic dress and even architecture. Whereas liberals, multiculturalists, and Islamic conservatives feel that wearing the burkha is a right or even (in the case of the more hardline amongst the latter group) an obligation.

Which is not to mention the extremes on both sides, fascists and Islamists.

For my part, I find myself in agreement with the assesment offered by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown;
White liberals frame this sinister development in terms of free choice and tolerance. Some write letters to this paper: What is the problem? It is all part of the rich diversity of our nation. They can rise to this challenge, show they are superhuman when it comes to liberty and forbearance. 

They might not be quite so sanguine if their own daughters decided to be fully veiled or their sons became fanatic Islamicists and imposed purdah in the family. Such converts are springing up in Muslim families all over the land. Veils predate Islam and were never an injunction (modesty of attire for men and women is). Cultural protectionism has long been extended to those who came from old colonies, in part to atone for imperial hauteur. Redress was necessary then, not now. 

What about legitimate fears that to criticise vulnerable ethnic and racial groups validates the racism they face? Racism is an evil but should never be used as an alibi to acquit oppressions within black and Asian or religious communities. That cry was used to deter us from exposing forced marriages and dowry deaths and black-upon-black violence. 

Right-wing think tanks and President Sarkozy of France scapegoat Muslims for political gain and British fascists have turned self-inflicted "ethnic" wounds into scarlet propaganda. They do what they always have done. Self-censorship will not stop them but it does stop us from dealing with home-grown problems or articulating objections to reactionary life choices like the burqa. Muslim women who show their hair are becoming an endangered species. We must fight back. Our covered-up sisters do not understand history, politics, struggles, their faith or equality. As Rahila Gupta, campaigner against domestic violence, writes: "This is a cloth that comes soaked in blood. We cannot debate the burqa or the hijab without reference to women in Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia where the wearing of it are heavily policed and any slippages are met with violence." What happened to solidarity? 

Violent enforcement is evident in Britain too. A fully veiled young chemistry graduate once came to my home, her body covered in cuts, tears, bites, bruises, all happily hidden from view. Security and social cohesion are all threatened by this trend – which is growing exponentially. 

As for the pathetic excuse that covering up protects women from male lasciviousness – it hasn't stopped rapists in the most conservative Muslim nations. And what a slur on decent Muslim men, portrayed as sexual predators who cannot look upon a woman without wanting her. 

We communicate with each other with our faces. To deny that interaction is to deny our shared humanity. Unreasonable community or nationalistic expectations disconnect essential bonds. Governments should not accommodate such demands. Naturists can't parade on the streets, go to school or take up jobs unless they cover their nakedness. Why should burqaed women get special consideration? 

Their veils are walls, keeping them in and us out.

Yes, it is undoubtedly true that "whether opted for by the woman or pushed on her by others, the inherent message of the veiled woman is that femininity is treacherous." I also agree that "the overwhelming argument against the burka ... is that there is such a thing as society."

However, it does not follow from this that the state should have the right to dictate what people can and cannot wear. We need to fight for public consensus, not state sanction.

Alibhai-Brown gives an example of this herself;
A traditional Pakistani friend of mine – who always wears the shalwar kameez – recently refused service from a burka-ed librarian in one of our big libraries. The next time she went in, the face was no longer hidden.
Imposing rules from above inspires an attitude of defiance, as was the case when the headscarf became the symbol of the Iranian revolution. Overtly racist violence or intimidation, such as tearing the veil from peoples' faces, creates a fear which sees the oppressed close ranks with their oppressor against external aggressors.

Raising public awareness, especially in tandem with liberal, reformist, or secular muslim groups, is none of these things. It is about consciousness raising, defiance against patriarchy, and solidarity with women.

In a secular society, people are free to practice the religion of their choosing, but also to not practice religion as they see fit. In a truly free society, the one restriction on liberty is that you cannot harm others or limit their freedoms, because basic human rights are universal.

We cannot shrug off these principles, or our opposition to patriarchy, coercion, and authoritarianism, in the name of "diversity" or "tolerance."

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Israel's racist migration policy sees children facing deportation

The following appaling story comes from Al Jazeera;
Children of undocumented migrant workers who were born and have lived their whole lives in Israel are now facing deportation [EPA]
For most children summer is a carefree time. But for the children of Israel's undocumented migrant workers, deportation looms on the horizon.

It has been a hotly contested issue since last July, when the Oz Unit, a strong arm of the interior ministry's population and immigration authority, first hit the streets.

As the state took aim at Israel's 250,000 illegal labourers, 1,200 children were marked for expulsion along with their parents.

The move, a sudden reversal of Israel's long-standing policy against deporting minors, sparked public outrage. Protests and media scrutiny delayed the deportations but only temporarily.

In October, Eli Yishai, the interior minister, indicated that the families would indeed be expelled. The following month, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, announced that the children would be allowed to finish the school year.
Roei Lachmanovich, a spokesman for Yishai, commented: "The government's decision is that Israel should minimise the number of foreign workers in Israel. It is nothing against those 1,200 children - the decision is against the illegal workers who think getting pregnant gives them permission to stay here."

"There's a way that these parents use the children," Lachmanovich added, accusing the mothers of hiding behind their children to avoid deportation.

Forbidden relationships
But, in fact, many of the women became illegal simply because they gave birth in Israel.

State policy forbids migrant workers from having children in the country. If a woman does, she must send her newborn home. If she keeps her baby in Israel, she loses her work visa.

Romantic relationships are also forbidden for foreign workers. In June, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on the story of Charlene Ramos, a Filipina caregiver with employment and a valid work visa, who faces deportation because she married another migrant labourer.

Hanna Zohar, the director of Kav LaOved, an Israeli NGO that advocates for workers' rights, says: "Israel decided to bring migrant workers. But they are not only workers, they are human beings."

Labourers should not be punished for falling in love or having babies, Zohar argues. Nor should they be expelled for it.

"Deporting children and their family is not humane," she says.
This confirms my point, made in December, that "it is not just Palestinians who suffer under Israel's two-tier labour system."

Then, I wrote how organising pressure had forced Israel's main trade union body - the Histadrut - to alter its racist policy towards migrant workers, if slightly. The task for activists in Israel now is to exert that same pressure against the racist policies of the state, in defence of families being forced out of what is - at the end of it - their home.

I sincerely hope that they succeed.