Apparently I had fallen off the Progressive Blog Alliance blogroll due to some technical issue and not because some lying Zionist had accused me of anti-Semitism. So I'm back on a roll. Thanks (oh alright then, and apologies) to Nick Lewis of Net Politik.
I had an article published today in Ireland's Sunday Business Post.
Sharon’s punishment for the Palestinians
As obituaries are being written for the ailing Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, what kind of Palestine does Ariel Sharon promise to the Palestinians?
The Gaza Strip comprises 360 square kilometres of land with a population of about 1.4 million Palestinians and 7,500 Jewish settlers. It is mostly desert and much of the arable land is reserved, at present, for Jewish use only. 75% of its Arab population live below the poverty line and 13% suffer from malnutrition. It has no natural freshwater resources and no control over its telecommunications. It was occupied, together with the West Bank, by Israel during the six days war of June 1967 and has been occupied ever since. It is no stranger to Palestinian resistance or Israeli war crimes. During the ethnic cleansing campaign (1947-1949) that brought Israel into existence with its Jewish majority, Gaza [with an influx of Palestinian refugees] became the most densely populated place on earth; a distinction it still holds. Israel emerged from that war controlling 78% of what was Palestine.
Gaza and Ariel Sharon have been well acquainted since the 1950s when Ariel Sharon led "reprisal" raids against Palestinian villages that brought shame even to Israeli leaders. Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett referred to one of Sharon’s atrocities as a "stain [that] would stick to us and not be washed away for many years". Clearly he underestimated the strength of Zionist propaganda in the mass media.
During one of Ariel Sharon’s visits to the White House, President George W. Bush described him as a "man of peace". Leaving aside the fact that Bush often can’t tell one world leader from another, it is possible that he was responding to Ariel Sharon’s stated willingness to make "painful concessions" on the "roadmap" to peace with the Palestinians. To those familiar with Sharon’s history, the description "man of peace" wasn’t one that sprang to mind. Apart from the bloody and disproportionate "reprisals" mentioned above, he was the architect of the Lebanon war that began in 1982 with the slaughter of perhaps 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in a matter of weeks. The Israeli Supreme Court declared Sharon "unfit for office" because of his culpability in some particularly gruesome atrocities by Israel’s Lebanese allies in the refugee camps of Shatila and Sabra. Whenever there have been peaceful overtures by Arab states or the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Sharon’s response has always been, at best, dismissive and usually downright hostile. He has had more Palestinians killed, for example, since the PLO accepted Israel’s right to exist on 78% of Palestine than when their demand was for a "democratic secular state" or the "destruction of Israel" as the Zionists prefer to call it. In 1981, the Rabat plan, whereby the Arab states agreed to normalise relations with Israel in return for Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 boundaries, was described by Sharon as "a declaration of war". And the recent Saudi peace plan, much the same as Rabat, is now gathering dust.
In addition to the war crimes Sharon has always had a reputation for being dishonest with his political masters. His first patron, David Ben Gurion, recorded in his diary (29/1/1960) that "if he could wean himself from the habit of lying he could be an exemplary military leader." Later, in 1982 he lied to Menachem Begin about his aims in the Lebanon war. He lied to the Kahane Commission (Supreme Court), he lost a libel action against the Israeli liberal daily Ha’aretz and now he tells of painful concessions for peace.
So what does the proposed Gaza withdrawal consist of? We have seen what Gaza itself consists of. It has almost nothing and what it does have has been commandeered by illegal colonial settlers or is provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The settlers will, if the plan goes ahead, be withdrawn. Settlers have been known to kill civilians so this could bring some comfort to the Gazan population. However, if the withdrawal goes ahead, might Israel press for UNRWA to be withdrawn? UNRWA provides housing, healthcare, education, but above all, jobs. This isn’t mere speculation. Some weeks ago, Sharon accused an UNRWA ambulance team of loading a Qassam (home made) missile on to an ambulance. He was too hasty in his accusation. Israeli intelligence didn’t have time to doctor their photographic "evidence" and the accusation was exposed as another lie when the "missile" turned out to be a stretcher. But looking at American websites and other media, many commentators have happily run with the Qassam story. This does not simply expose Palestinian ambulances to Israeli attacks. Israel has attacked medical facilities without "pretext" before. It is to undermine the authority and credibility of the Agency in order to hinder all of its work. Taken with the mass campaign of political assassinations, Sharon is creating a Gaza with no viable economy or polity.
Sharon has said that his withdrawal plan is a part of Bush’s much vaunted "road map" to peace and Palestinian statehood. This is curious since his most trusted adviser, Dov Weisglass, is on record as saying that "the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process, and when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda". So the idea of following the road map is yet another lie by Sharon, though Weisglass has since been forced to withdraw his prepared statement.
But how painful is this particular concession? In a way, it represents a step back by Sharon. True, the Jewish population of Gaza is hardly a significant factor as a proportion of Israel’s population as a whole and Sharon has always said that "Zionism is not about what Israel can do for Jews but what Jews can do for Israel." But his party, the Likud, still sings the anthem Shtei Gadot with its expansionist lyric "one side of the Jordan is ours and so is the other". So relinquishing land, any land, is always painful. The outcry from the far-right isn’t just choreography, though that is part of it. But the Israel-free Gaza will be so enfeebled and dependent many Palestinians will have to leave as they have done for decades now. The ethnic cleansing that Israel has failed to fully achieve by war, they have tried to make up for by economic stealth and this will surely continue in an "independent" Gaza. If large sections of the population leave, it is likely that only the most militant would remain. If this happens it wouldn’t take much for Sharon or a successor to manufacture a pretext for reoccupation.
Some commentators are perplexed over the support that Sharon is now garnering from the Zionist "left" for his plan. This is because they fail to see that Zionism doesn’t really have a left. Traditionally, the Likud wanted Jewish rule over Palestine and the Palestinians if needs be. Ethnic cleansing was never an essential part of their policy. They were happy to go the "way of (apartheid) South Africa". This never suited the left. The call for "transfer" (the expulsion of all of the Arabs from all of Palestine) was always a Labourite demand. The strict segregation engendered by the barrier is also a Labourite idea. The fact is that Sharon has a Labour Zionist background and he has made no significant departures from that throughout his career.
So with massive military strength, a reduction in Palestinian attacks, a Palestinian leadership either dead or brought to its knees, the uncritical support of an American President (and Congress and Presidential hopeful) and no viable alternative government of Israel, why is Sharon withdrawing from Gaza? When the disengagement plan was first discussed, Sharon’s extreme right critics argued that he was rewarding the Palestinians. His words in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel’s most popular daily newspaper) are informative. Of unilateral disengagement from Gaza he said that "this should be seen as a punishment and not a reward for the Palestinians".
I joined the Progressive Blog Alliance recently. It's a group of bloggers who get listed on each others' blogs by joining the group. On 24/10/2004 someone accused my blog (and therefore me) of being anti-Semitic though the commenter didn't give any examples when asked by the founder of the PBA. However, I now find that I have been deleted from their list of blogs. Now just how progressive is the Progressive Blog Alliance? I have now written to my accuser to challenge him to find eveidence of my alleged anti-Semitism and to the founder of the PBA to get him to clarify the position about my membership.
Sir: It is difficult to share the optimism expressed on the pages of The Independent. with regard to Sharon's plans for 'disengagement' from Gaza.
Since Israel will have control over the land, air and sea of Gaza, this so-called withdrawal will have succeeded in officially turning Gaza into the biggest prison camp in the world. This is simply the latest Israeli ploy to delay a final solution while taking as much land as possible. Israel is continuing to expand its settlement activities in the West Bank as well as building its illegal wall; as Sharon says, he aims to 'strengthen Israel's grip over the land that is crucial to our existence'.
Delaying a solution indefinitely will not result in peace for either people. Putting the Palestinians inside walls from within which they cannot get out will not make them vanish, it will simply mean both people will lose. The Palestinians are the biggest losers physically and economically, but the Israelis have lost the moral high ground. It is impossible to have any respect for a society which calls itself democratic, yet persists in treating the Palestinians as sub-humans.
Former Government Secretary to Ehud Barak, Isaac Herzog, is given space in the Guardian. to denounce the Palestinians' rejection of Barak's generous offer. In his comment he complains of "generalised attacks on Israel in some foreign papers". Needless to say, he doesn't say which papers. It's certainly not the Guardian. and if it's not the Guardian, which is it? The Independent. supports the Sharon plan too. So that leaves out the only two UK papers that ever dare criticise Israel. The New Statesman's never going to stick its neck out again. So which foreign papers is Herzog reading? Unfortunately he doesn't say. If he did I'd subscribe.
If you thought that Bill Clinton's sexual prowess was blown out of all proportion during the Monica Lewinsky case then just look at The Guardian. today. He's certainly got them aroused at Farringdon Road and all he had to do was rise from his sick bed.
Or should he? Uri Avnery fears an Israeli civil war in the event of settlements being dismantled. These hard right rebellions in Israel always look choreographed to me but who knows? Suppose Avnery is correct. What does he suggest? He doesn't say.
This is an open letter (lifted from Dead Men Left) by Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi exile, to Alex Gordon of the RMT, an apparent dupe of the occupation forces in Iraq.
Your message regarding the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) was copied to me by a friend, and I felt that I must write to you, in your capacity as a representative of the RMT trade union, which has a proud history of struggle for working class rights and international solidarity with workers across the world. I fully agree with you on two points. Firstly, it was wrong and undemocratic to disrupt the European Social Forum plenary on the occupation of Iraq by an organised small group of hecklers. The second is that no Iraqi was involved in the disruption of the meeting or the shouting down of speakers. I myself was shouted down by the same group of disrupters when I went to the platform to appeal to them to stop the disruption and to stage a quiet and dignified walk-out of the meeting when IFTU general secretary, Subhi Mashadani, starts his speech and to walk quietly back after he finishes.
However, I take issue with the rest of your contribution and appeal to you to take a second look at the dire consequences of the war on Iraq and to revise your opinion of the unelected leadership of the IFTU and of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), which dominates this leadership with the backing of the Iraqi National Accord, an organisation of former Ba'athist military and security men led by US-appointed prime minister Ayad Allawi, former Saddamist agent in charge of all Ba'ath party organisations in Europe.
I am sad to say that the (IFTU) leadership, in its present post-occupation reincarnation, appears to have succeeded in convincing you that it is a staunch opponent of the occupation of Iraq and of the institutions set up by the occupation authorities. Alas, this self-projected image of the IFTU is false, and I will explain why below. Before doing so, I draw your attention that I will list, in the course of my arguments, the crucial questions that the IFTU need to answer in relation to the occupation of Iraq and the Allawi regime. In asking these questions I have in mind the fact that Bush and Blair were also against the occupation of Iraq and wanted to end it "as soon as possible."
Bush and Blair did do their best to end the dreaded occupation by handing "sovereignty" to the Allawi regime, which in turn "invited" them to remain in Iraq as the "multi-national forces. "Bush and Blair are now "fully committed" to withdrawing the troops the "moment" the newly elected government in Iraq asks them to do so. The "presence" of the US-led forces is merely to make sure that Iraq will have free and fair elections. To withdraw the troops now will lead to civil war and the "murder" of all "active trade unionists and socialists. " Delete "active trade unionists and socialists" and replace with "free Iraqi men and women" if Bush is making the claim. And to legitimise this entire process the US and Britain asked the UN Security Council to pass resolutions noting the transition from invasion to occupation, to occupation-plus-Bremer-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), to "multi-national forces" assisting an interim, but sovereign, Iraqi Interim Government until elections are. . . The UN Security Council noted all this in resolutions 1483 and 1546.
Unfortunately and despite their best efforts to assist the people of Iraq, Bush and Blair are now facing a big problem, not of their own making of course, of some cut-throat terrorists who must be crushed before elections are held in Jan 2005. In order to crush them, many Iraqi cities, Shia and Sunni, had to be bombarded and thousands of homes had to be demolished on top of their inhabitants. This collateral damage could go up as the free and fair election date approaches... This is not intended to introduce an element of cynicism, but to know what people exactly mean when the say "we are against the occupation of Iraq" and "we are for a free, democratic, secular and federal Iraq" and that "UN resolution1546 offers the best hope for Iraqis to achieve" these goals. I also have ample and reliable information from within Iraq that the IFTU is not an elected umbrella organisation of all Iraqi trade unions as its name suggests. [The correct translation of the name is: The General Federation of the Workers' Trade Unions in Iraq]. Indeed, the IFTU itself has not officially claimed that there has been such a conference representing democratically elected trade union bodies across Iraq. However, its self-appointed (or rather party-appointed) leaders, including its general secretary, Subhi Mashadani, and its London-based International Representative, Abdullah Muhsin, have unashamedly given such a false impression to British and other trade unions. But once the role of the IFTU and ICP leaders is fully understood, and the historical parallels are relevantly drawn, it would be patently obvious that it was wrong to invite Mashadani to an anti-occupation meeting.
No prominent supporter of the Vichy regime would have been allowed to set foot in Britain let alone get near a trade union platform or a rally supporting the French people's struggle against the Vichy regime and its occupation masters. Drawing parallels has its limitation, and one might accurately state that Bush and Blair are not Hitler and Mussolini. The retort to that is: yes but try telling that to the people at the receiving end of cluster bombs, helicopter gunships, and tank fire in their besieged cities and Baghdad working class neighbourhoods. Try telling them that Allawi is not another Vichy. Most of the current leaders of the IFTU are ICP cadres. And it is impossible to understand the IFTU's policies and line without recognising this fact and without being acquainted with the party's line and policies.
A party that was once a proud organisation that had the support of millions of people in Iraq, in the late 1950's and 60's, is now at the forefront of perfecting the art of justifying the continued US-led occupation of Iraq. The party's slogan, before the invasion, was "No to war and no to Saddam's dictatorship. " The first half of the slogan was not acted upon energetically and the opposition to the invasion was tempered by some equivocal statements in the party's main organ, Tareeq Al-Sha'ab, and by its leaders, who surreptitiously took part in pre-war US administration and British government organised conferences of some Iraqi opposition leaders, some of whom later served as collaborators appointed by the occupation authorities. However, this prevarication was dramatically ended few months after the fall of Baghdad to US tanks, and the collapse of Saddam's tyrannical regime.
Political imperatives, logic and the interests of the Iraqi people would have necessitated bringing into sharper focus the party's opposition to the war and the subsequent occupation. Instead, the party solemnly declared, on 13 July 2003,that its secretary general, Hameed Majeed Mousa, would join the Paul Bremer appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Though anticipated by people familiar with the party leadership's history and manoeuvres, that statement came as a shock to some of the party members whom I met in Baghdad last year. From that day onwards, the party was seen by most Iraqis as a collaborationist force, with some of its leaders receiving their salaries from the occupation authorities. Under the hammer blows of the Iraqi people's magnificent struggle against the occupation, the IGC and its US master, Paul Bremer, were so isolated and discredited that Bremer had to disband the IGC last June in favour of passing "sovereignty" to the US-appointed Iraqi Interim Government led by the CIA "asset", Ayad Allawi. The ICP fully supported the formation of Allawi's puppet regime, and has one senior and two junior ministers serving under Allawi and his US bosses.
US ambassador Negroponte, the mastermind of terror organisations inEl-Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, and now bunkered at Saddam's Republican Palace in Baghdad, is the real political ruler of Iraq with 160,000 occupation troops and over 40,000 foreign mercenaries at his disposal. He is hard at it to build an Iraqi force to kill other Iraqis and subdue the people using Saddamist methods.
So where does the IFTU stand on all this? You need do no more than read translations of the ICP's communiqués and Tareeq Al-Sha'ab editorials to know were Abdullah Muhsin and Subhi Mashadani get their political line from. Indeed, an IFTU article by Muhsin in the Morning Star last year was almost an abridged translation of a party statement on the political situation in Iraq.
What I am trying to put the spotlight on here is not that a trade unionist is exercising his or her right to be also a party cadre but that the party line the IFTU leaders adhere to is, in practice, a collaborationist line. Their protestations to the contrary, misleading some people abroad, are laughable to most Iraqis.
The few Iraqis that you met at the ESF were ICP activists, some from here in London and others flown in with Mashadani from Baghdad. They were mobilised to support Mashadani's appearance at the ESF conference. I too, being a friend of some of them, was standing near them to the left of the platform and engaged them in discussion later. Some were in a state of denial about the occupation of Iraq, calling the US-led forces a necessary, if temporary, "foreign military presence." A phrase used by Allawi and the latest ICP central committee communique [dated 26 Auguat 2004]. Others acknowledged the occupation but strongly believed that there was no alternative to joining the occupation-created institutions. The obvious point, of saying you can't end the occupation by serving in its highest levels of political structures, was answered with strong attacks on the notion of armed resistance. I suggested that they could lead the peaceful struggle to end the occupation by following the great example of Ghandi and boycotting the occupation authorities and all their institutions. The answer was "we don't have a Ghandi."
People who are reasonably well informed on Iraq will benefit a great deal from closely examining the IFTU website (set up in London) ( www.iraqitradeunions.org). Reading the headlines of the website, you would be forgiven to think that there was no war or invasion of Iraq and tens of thousands of people did not die at the hands of the US-led occupation. Nor has there been a US bombardment of Najaf, the working class districts of Baghdad, particularly Sadr City, Falluja, Samarra and many other cities in the past weeks and months…
The IFTU, rightly, very strongly and swiftly condemns the atrocities committed by the terrorist gangs. But they always do so in the manner of Bush, Blair, Allawi and the occupation forces. They always try to portray the hugely popular patriotic resistance as "remnants of the Saddam regime" and "secretive anti-democratic" forces. On the other hand, the IFTU and the ICP are yet to launch a campaign against the massacres committed by the occupation forces. Associating the resistance with terrorist gangs is one of the most insidious acts of the IFTU and the ICP. They dare not condemn the resistance openly, in Arabic within Iraq, but they always issue statements, in the wake of terrorist crimes, trying to surreptitiously suggest that Zarqawi and the other terrorists are the resistance in Iraq. In fact the only very strongly worded IFTU statement on its website is dated 3rd March 2004 condemning the murder of worshippers by unknown terrorists who bombed Shia mosques/shrines in Karbala and Khadimyia. The wording of the statement is very interesting in the way it mimics the occupation authorities' style of condemning such atrocities. Those particular bombings were widely described by Iraqis at the time as the work of occupation forces' agent provocateurs out to incite civil war between Sunni and Shia. People of the Baghdad district of Khadimya stoned the US forces and accused them of perpetrating the crime. These forces moved in on that day (2nd March) within minutes of the bombing of the famous shrine, thinking that the people would welcome them as their protectors. Obviously, for those who know the reality of IFTU, it is not surprising that the statement does not even mention the occupation. These one-sided, well-synchronised statements on terrorism are designed to apologise for Bush's policies in Iraq, or for what Blair portrayed as the engagement of the occupation forces in a "second war" in Iraq, the war against terrorism. As it happens, the vast majority of Iraqis reject Zarqawi and his ilk -as do the armed resistance and its supporters in Falluja, Basra, Najaf, Sadr City and across Iraq. Many even suspect that the occupation forces are somehow encouraging the likes of Zarqawi, or at least failing to prevent their crimes, as a way of obscuring the fact that most Iraqis now actively support a patriotic and widespread resistance movement.
While rightly condemning Zarqawi, the IFTU and the ICP are keeping quiet about the Israeli-trained American assassination squads. (See reports, undenied by Bush or Blair, published by Seymour Hersh). Does the IFTU mention anywhere that the occupation forces have admitted that the attacks on them by the resistance rose in August to 2,700? Does it mention how many of these 2,700 attacks a month were claimed by Zarqawi? Six. Six headline-grabbing, TV-dominating, stomach-churning moments. The mildest, and furtively stated, criticisms are reserved for the US bombardment of the cities. 'Bombing cities in which civilians die is not the way to defeat the terrorists' is the best we can hope for from the IFTU and the ICP in the way of condemning the US-led war crimes, being assisted by the Allawi regime, which the ICP is part of.
Just as Iraq's 25 million people were reduced, in the public's mind, to the threat from weapons of mass destruction, ready to be unleashed by Saddam within 45 minutes, the resistance is now being reduced, with the help of the IFTU and the ICP, to a single hoodlum by the name of Zarqawi. And just as we should have been told, before the war, whether the 45-minutes-from-dooms-day WMD threat referred to "battle field or long range missiles, "to judge whether the war was legal or had a moral foundation, we today need to be aware that the IFTU and ICP assisted "war on terrorism" is nothing but a new deceitful attempt to wage a new war against the Iraqi people, in the interest of the Bush administration and the neo-cons, and to multiply the profits of the transnational companies.
So what does the IFTU stand for in Iraq today? On the front page of theEnglish version of their website there is a picture of the leaders of the IFTU seated under an IFTU banner. The words on the banner are worthy of verbatim translation, because they sum up the IFTU's main demands and platform for Iraq and its working class after the invasion and the occupation of the country: "The General Federation of Workers' Trade Unions in Iraq [this is the full and accurate translation of the IFTU's name] struggles for:- Defending the fundamental rights of the Iraqi working class.
- Endeavouring to restart the wheel of production as soon as possible
- The immediate improvement of the economic and social conditions of the workers "
It is unreal. No war, no occupation, no torture and murder of workers, no privatisation, no selling of Iraq's assets to the US and British transnationals, no Bremer and Allawi re-enactment of Saddam's 1987 law banning trade unions and strikes, no US bombardment of working class districts, no workers falling victim to radiation emanating from the US and British depleted Uranium shells, no working class children dying of water born diseases stemming from raw sewage (also fed into the Tigris and Euphrates), because the greatest military and economic power in the world can't bring electricity supplies to the sewage plants to their pre-war levels,...
These slogans remind me of the yellow unions under Saddam when they were allowed to talk about everything, and make all manner of demands, as long as they did not criticise the mass murderer and the political nature of his regime. If you dig deeper into the IFTU website you will find ICP justifications for joining the occupation-appointed bodies dressed up as IFTU stands.
The IFTU's Abdullah Muhsin relies on the nimbleness of the party's phraseology when writing, on behalf of the IFTU, on the Bremer-appointed Iraqi Governing Council: "The UN helped in forging a compromise and the idea of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) was born. Both Iraqis and the UN supported it. The US and UK administrations agreed. In July 2003 the IGC was formed. The IGC, despite the fact that [it] is not the best or the preferred ultimate perfect model of running Iraq post-Saddam, nevertheless remains an acceptable alternative to the US vision. It represents all sections of Iraqi society -including Arabs, Kurds and other nationals."
A Bremer-appointed IGC is "an acceptable alternative to the US vision" ? And there is much more where that quotation comes from. Reading the ICP and IFTU literature might keep one in touch with the surreal, but it gives all well-informed people on Iraq immunity against subterfuge, collateral oxymorons, deceit, dissembling and much more. There is a very good reason why the IFTU and ICP have to camouflage their practice with such contortions: they are addressing the left in Iraq, not renowned for their propensity to be easily fooled about their own society, and they are addressing anti-war and progressive opinion abroad. This is their main role. And that is why the CIA, Bremer and Allawi kept the ICP on board all the US-appointed or approved bodies. Why else would the CIA do that to such a small organisation, which doesn't even register in all the opinion surveys held in Iraq since the occupation? But there is another very good reason: to confiscate the glorious memory, dating back to 1920, of the tens of thousands of Iraqi socialists, secular democrats and, since 1934, communists who died at the alters of British colonialism, Ba'athist fascism and US imperialism in Iraq.
There is nothing like renegade, persons or organisations, to accomplish this mean task. Did the trade unions in Britain take such a considerate and caressing stance towards the institutions set up by the occupation forces in Europe? Or, indeed, would the TUC and the unions have been so supportive of an occupation-imposed authority if Hitler's forces occupied Britain? I am bringing these rather stark examples, because it is sometimes forgotten that the Iraqi people and their land have been occupied by the mightiest military forces in the world and that the Iraqi people expect, and are entitled to, not only sympathy but active support in their struggle for liberation and democracy. They don't expect the collaborators in their midst to be held up as representatives of the oppressed working class and people of Iraq. They certainly don't expect it from democratic and proudly free unions such as the RMT.
I have no doubt that the misleading picture painted by the IFTU and ICP leaders has had its toll. I also have no doubt that this is a temporary state of affairs. Not least, because US Abram tanks and Apache helicopters on the one hand and the valiant resistance, peaceful or armed in legitimate self-defence, speak much louder than the honeyed words of the IFTU and ICP leaders. The RMT and other unions could also examine the fact that, for eight long years, the ICP leaders played a similar role, in relation to Saddam's tyrannical regime, to the one they are playing today in relation to the US-led occupation.
From 1972 to 1978, they were tireless in their efforts within Iraq, and here in Britain, to convince the unions and the Labour party to accept Saddam's tyranny as a reformed regime, which was implementing "progressive and patriotic measures," and to support the party in proudly joining Saddam's "Patriotic and Nationalist Progressive Front." They had two party politburo members serving as ministers under Saddam. It was worker, student, and other organisations, which the party then controlled, which undertook that task. All these organisations, including the then IFTU, were later disbanded by the party because Saddam ordered it to do so, as part of being in the "same trench," as he was fond of reminding the ICP leaders. Saddam, who was described then by the ICP leaders as representing the "left wing" of the Ba'ath party, even published a pamphlet entitled "One Trench or Two Trenches?" to remind them of their role, which later included the crushing of the 1977 Karbala uprising. Iraqis, including some ICP members, who continued to expose Saddam's fascist policies abroad, and even those he killed and tortured at home, were dubbed as "infantile leftists" or "reactionary Kurds" by the ICP leadership. The RMT, UNISON and other trade unions, including my own union, NATFHE,should also take on board the fact that the IFTU wasn't accidentally chosen by the Bremer-appointed IGC as the sole organisation representing Iraqi workers(albeit outside the banned state sector). There are several other such umbrella organisations led by other parties in Iraq, including Iraqi Kurdistan, and including the non-party controlled Union of Unemployed Workers (which is now part of the Federation of Workers Councils and Trade Unions).
The IGC's sponsorship of the IFTU was born out of a deal struck between the Communist party and the Iraqi National Accord, led by CIA asset Ayad Allawi. [NB: My guess is that the IFTU does not correctly state its full name in English, because the Arabic name is the same as the Saddam licensed federation. This will allow it to lay a claim to the vast resources of the yellow unions, of which many IFTU activists were members from 1972 to 1978 when the ICP was in Saddam's cabinet. The Arabic name is claimed by others (accused of being Islamists or former Ba'athists). It is also intended to gain acceptance by appeasing unions abroad and international union bodies, by implicitly admitting, at least in English, that they are not the only "federation of unions" in Iraq. ] There are also individual unions such as the Basra oil workers union and the South oil workers union, both of which are strong unions that took part in a widely supported strike, stopping oil exports in protest at the US bombardment of Najaf in August. Both these unions don't recognise the IFTU leadership as speaking on their behalf. Workers across Iraq are entitled to ask what did the IFTU leaders do to lift the siege of Najaf and Falluja and to stop the bombardment of the cities? One incident that exposed the IFTU's duplicity here in Britain was its active campaign to support Tony Blair's move to invite Ayad Allawi to address the Labour party conference.
This is what the IFTU told the Guardian only last month: "The invitation to the interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to address the Labour party conference is an opportunity for those who honourably opposed the war to extend support to Iraqi democrats who are trying, in the most difficult circumstances, to construct a vibrant civil society. Allawi is criticised for having been a Ba'athist but many decent people joined the Ba'ath party - and he was nearly assassinated by Saddam's agents in Britain. The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions strongly supports the current process to prepare the ground for democratic elections. His presence at Labour's conference is an excellent opportunity for a real dialogue with him: Abdullah Muhsin, Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions".
Who else could defend and try to legitimise the CIA's man in Iraq, and Saddam's former thug, with such left and liberal sounding eloquence? Having failed in that mission, Tony Blair and other Labour party leaders made sure that the IFTU and the Kurdish partner of an Iraqi minister were given ample opportunity to spread confusion at the conference and get it to, in effect, support President Bush's policies in Iraq. For let us not forget that President Bush also says that the US will leave Iraq as soon as the future elected Iraqi government asks it to do so! That eloquence in defending the US-chosen prime minister extends to the US occupation itself. Let us read, at length, how the US-led occupation is being"opposed" and, at one and the same time, accepted de facto and de jure by the IFTU, echoing its ICP master's voice:"
As a consequence of the war, the occupation and the failure of Iraqi parties to agree on holding of a national conference April 2003 to elect a transitional government, the occupation authorities (US and UK) became de facto the transitional authority in Iraq.
Their authority was further consolidated by the UN Security Council resolution 1483, which internationalised the occupation of Iraq. The US administration interpreted one of UN resolution 1483 articles, which relates directly to the formation of an Iraqi political transitional authority as meaning that the new Iraqi political body would exist merely to advise and assist the occupation authority during the transitional period of the occupation. All Iraqi forces rejected this flawed idea.
The UN helped in forging a compromise and the idea of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) was born. Both Iraqis and the UN supported it. The US and UK administrations agreed.
In July 2003 the IGC was formed. The IGC, despite the fact that is not the best or the preferred ultimate perfect model of running Iraq post-Saddam, nevertheless remains an acceptable alternative to the US vision. It represents all sections of Iraqi society -including Arabs, Kurds and other nationals. "So, the Bremer-appointed IGC was the fault of the Iraqis (which Iraqis?) for not holding a national conference, and, in the circumstances, the bestpossible outcome. The IFTU goes on to list some of the wonderful achievements of thedefunct and totally discredited IGC, including: "Preparing the ground to end the occupation, dissolving itself and handing power to an Iraqi interim government (which was achieved on 28 June 2004)" Let us read on to see what a left and liberal sounding defence of the evolution of the US-led occupation looks like, and how one could shelter behind another UN resolution to accept the occupation, in practice, and openly defend the next US-led occupation tactics and the US-chosen regime :
"The unanimous UN resolution 1546 on Iraq is an important signal for ending the occupation and regaining Iraqi national sovereignty. It will help to undermine anti-Iraqi terrorism and will assist Iraqi democrats - like the new trade union movement - to help build a secular and secure civil society. Whilst the IFTU is aware that the legacy of Saddam's dictatorship, war, sanctions and the effect of the recent invasion will not be eradicated on June28th, the IFTU nonetheless welcomes and endorses the commitment given in the resolution to the ending of the power of the Coalition Provisional Authority on that day and handing the political power to the Iraqis. The interim government is not an end in itself- it is a means to an end. Its role must be to prepare Iraq for full democratic sovereignty. This will include full authority and control over Iraq's financial and natural resources. The IFTU will play a full part in this process and will seek to ensure that workingmen and women are alerted to the importance of participating in the democratic renewal of their country. The IFTU also support the convening of a national conference to reflect the diversity of Iraqi society. The concrete goal of the national conference is elect 100 seat transitional assembly that will oversee the current interim government until national elections are held in January 2005. "
Can't be clearer, can it? Even down to using the phraseology of the US generals who officially call all people resisting the occupation as "anti-Iraqi" forces. Every military communiqué, on bombarding Najaf, Sadr City in Baghdad, Samarra, Tel Afar, Falluja and other cities and villages, referred and continues to refer to the eradication of the "anti-Iraqi" forces or terrorists. It is time to call a spade a spade: the leaders of the IFTU and the ICP are part of a left-wing sounding, trade-union 'friendly' campaign to oppose the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq under the pretext of keeping them to prevent civil war and to hold elections in January. It is time to call a spade a spade: the leaders of the IFTU and the ICP are part of a left-wing sounding, trade-union 'friendly' propaganda war designed to justify the "new war" to crush the resistance of the Iraqi people by portraying entire cities towns and villages across Iraq as hideouts for mass murderers and terrorists such as Zarqawi.
I and many trade unionists in Britain of Iraqi origin, who opposed Saddam's tyrannical regime for decades, were shocked and dismayed that most of the unions at the recent Labour party conference accepted the message from the ICP,IFTU leaders and other Allawi collaborators and voted against a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the occupation forces. This is tantamount to abandoning the Iraqi people to be crushed by the US tanks and cluster bombs. This is tantamount to abandoning solidarity with the workers and people of Iraq. The Iraqi people's blood is as precious as that of the people of Europe who resisted the fascist forces, even if today the British Government and the US administration refuse to count the Iraqis they have killed and are continuing to kill. And Iraqi collaborators can be as treacherous and deceitful as any of the collaborators in Europe under the Nazi jackboot. For the Iraqi people in their besieged cities today, and for the thousands of tortured people at Abu Ghraib and other prisons, the US tanks, helicopter gunships and heavy bombs are no different from the Hitler's forces in France or Albania.
I am confident that Britain's unions and most Labour party members will eventually see through and reject these collaborators, much as the Iraqi people rejected their calls to support Saddam's regime from 1972 to 1978, and much as they are rejecting their calls today to support the US-appointed Allawi regime. I am also confident that Britain's trade unions and most Labour party members will, sooner or later, stand by the Iraqi people's struggle against the US-led occupation and for liberation and democracy.
Arjan el Fassed is still having trouble convincing people that he and not Nelson Mandela wrote the now famous Mandela memo to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. I am posting this now because I was on a South African blog having a complain up about Mandela's apparent reticence about tackling apartheid in occupied Palestine and someone submitted the following quote as if it emanated from the man himself:
"Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians contrary to the rules of international law. It has in particular waged a war against a civilian population, particularly children."
I'm surprised that Zionists haven't made more this than they did but the description of Israel is so "on the money" most Zionists probably think it's better to ignore it.
I had ignored this blog until it was recommended by a commenter. Aron's Israel Peace. blog seemed too oxymoronic to entertain but it's actually a good resource. Aron has also blogged the Yitzhak Laor comment that the London Review of Books believed wouldn't "help anyone". In his article, Laor has a good pop at those simultaneously "macho and schmaltzy" Zionist lefts who wring their hands about what a great opportunity Yasser Arafat passed up when Ehud Barak offered him tuppence ha'penny for most of Palestine. He demonstrates the collusion between Barak and the Zionist left's literary liars prior to the Barak instigated collapse of the "peace" talks. He also has a crack at our very own Guardian. newspaper, specifically for running with a load of tosh from the likes of Amos Oz and David Grossman.
Here's a quote from the article but please read the whole thing.
"One cannot be a European liberal and support Israeli Apartheid. One cannot be a European liberal and support a state that prevents marriage between religions, etc. etc. In short Zionism does not conform with values of liberalism. It is always closer, even if it is "Left", to Le Pen or Heider. It is not a matter of minor disputes. Even if you take the simple fact, that none of the writers I quoted here, and their colleagues, has ever supported the refuseniks, warmly supported by every simple minded European, we can understand that intellectual lack within that discourse of Israeli writers on the Left. Amos Oz can receive the most prestigious prizes in Barcelona or Berlin, he can't really talk about peace, for the discourse of peace in Israel traverses the old clichés that used to work before Oslo, before the current Intifada, before Ehud Barak and his junta, supported by the same Amos Oz, turned it to another part of history: Apartheid in a world ruled by one super-power. Talks of peace with no politics, no support of resistance, solidarity with the victims are empty and hollow, fit for ceremonies, not a debate."
I'm going to boycott the LRB for a while so if anyone sees an article by some Zionist "leftist" in there, please let me know.
The London Review of Books has rejected an article by Yitzhak Laor on the grounds that "this piece won't help anyone". The article is an exposé of the so-called left Zionists' complicity in the genocidal campaign being waged against the Palestinians. I wonder what the LRB is so afraid of. If I had a subscription I'd cancel it.
The new South Africa has signed a trade agreement with the last (hopefully) of the apartheid states. According to Reuters, Israel's Ehud Olmert hailed a "new" era of South Africa ties. All very strange when you consider that Israel had ties with South Africa through the whole of the apartheid era. What is new here is that the ANC seems to have lost its political memory.
There are moves afoot in France to outlaw anti-Zionism it seems. It's as well that the Guardian. should report such things. But to do so without any criticism and under the deliberately misleading headline "Spread of racism 'could kill French democracy'" shows just how far The Guardian. has thrown in its lot with the racist war criminals of the state of Israel. I think this makes three editions in a row with uncritical space given to Zionists. I could be wrong; it could be more.
Michelin is trying to ruin a man of 78 for satirising Israel's "prisons, concentration camps and torture chambers". Michelin wants compensation from Shimon Tzabar for publishing a pamphlet lampooning the Michelin restaurant guidebook.
The latest I could find on this is that Michelin's financial/legal bullying has paid off and Tzabar is going to drop their name from his publication.
I don't usually buy The Guardian. but the report I posted about below didn't appear on line. I don't usually read the business pages either but a puff piece on Starbucks and its Zionist CEO Howard Schultz caught my attention. Now two years ago, almost exactly, I wrote to Oxfam to complain about their return of a £5,000 donation from a Professor Honderich because he had expressed sympathy with Palestinian suicide bombers. I don't have their reply anymore but they said that they couldn't accept money from someone who expressed support for violence. According to the article linked above it appears that Oxfam has overcome its squeamishness about violence and is happy to work on a joint venture with Starbucks in spite of their CEO's open support for Ariel Sharon's atrocities in the occupied territories. People can write to Oxfam for an explanation of what is at best an inconsistency by following this link.
A friend of mine very kindly typed up this ridiculous article from The Guardian*. denying that Israel is an apartheid state. It touts such differences between apartheid and Zionism as Israel wanting to keep the natives out rather than exploiting them and the fact that skin colour was the main determinant of one's rights in South Africa whereas religion is the decisive factor in Israel. You have to admire the guy's (Benjamin Pogrund's) chutzpah. The hand wringing about bad practices in Israel together with some kernels of truth are there so have a careful read and respond.
*The "original" article isn't on line so I have posted it to my other site.
There is one wilful lie in the article:
"The Jewish state was born in pain [what does that mean?]: it was attacked and Arabs suffered mass dispossession in the war for survival" - in November 1947, as soon as the UN announced the partition plan [granting 55% of Palestine to the 30% Jewish population] and Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine, the Zionists began the ethnic cleansing. Britain withdrew from Palestine in May 1948 and the State of Israel was declared. By this time hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had already been dispossessed and displaced. The Arab states mobilised to prevent further ethnic cleansing and land grabbing by Israel. This is all very well documented. If Benjamin Pogrund is not a deliberate liar he is certainly running with the most infamous lie in the Zionist book. Again one has to ask why does The Guardian. publish such rubbish?
A bit like the quotes I posted earlier, this site is a very useful resource, particularly for those agonising about whether or not Israel can exist without racist oppression backed by its apartheid laws.
Well, no-one, nothing and nowhere according this post by Kurt Nimmo. He even seems to have the Daily Telegraph. on his side in suggesting that Zarqawi might not actually exist. I'm being careful here, I was beginning to wonder if Saddam Hussein existed until "we got him".
Palestine Solidarity Campaign's on line complaint against Alliance and Leicester Building Society for closing their account without giving a reason was such a long time coming I missed it when it came. There has already been some campaigning activity against A & L and long may it continue.
The UK has withdrawn its ambassador to Uzbekistan because he blew the whistle on torture by the Tashkent regime. As a special treat, later today, maybe Jack Straw will tell BBC Radio 4 why the Uzbeki regime is morally superior to that of Saddam Hussein.
Well that, I presume, is the Zionist version of why an Israeli tank shell was fired at the top floor of Palestinian businessman Ghazi Filfil's home, injuring him, his wife and all of his nine children.
Amid the emotion laden coverage of the atrocity at Taba you might be forgiven for not knowing that around 100 people have been killed by Israel in Rafah in Gaza. The link above shows that, whatever the mainstream media does for Israel, Rafah will not be forgotten.
I shouldn't tempt providence but as it moves towards midnight the deadline of Ten Pound Challenge III looks set to pass without a winner. There were some valiant attempts though. A racist troll and former blogger said that he knew of one case of an ambulance being used in an armed attack on Israel. The challenge was to find two, out of the "numerous examples", that Shuli Davidovich (of the Israeli embassy in London) claimed there were. A guy called James offered to find two examples of Israeli soldiers firing on ambulances. He said he would accept a fiver as examples of this are easier to find. The readers' editor of The Guardian. said that he knew of no such examples. By far the best entry was from Father Ted who linked to "numerous examples" of Israel's use of Palestinian ambulances to attack Palestinians. But that still wasn;t the challenge. Also he wouldn't tell me his diocese. So what can you do? I would have paid him the tenner as well...honest.
When I first read a series of anti-Semitic versus anti-anti-Semitic letters in the Weekly Worker I wondered why they publish some of the nonsense they do. Well, now I have had a letter published there, I know the answer. They don't have enough letters to print so they print anything.
I posted earlier that I thought that the Amsterdam home of Ken Bigley's brother was raided because the brother was an embarrassment to Blair. I have now found (on a pro-war blog maintained by a guy calling himself Eric) that the Daily Telegraph. seems to have lent itself to a smear campaign against Ken Bigley himself. This link is to a Telegraph. article dated 2/10/2004. This is the quote from the article that "Eric" ran with:
"British hostage free? [the headline is Eric's - even the Telegraph wouldn't dare stoop to that]
Dutch intelligence officers raided the home of Kenneth Bigley's brother last night. An intelligence officer from the Foreign Office is understood to have accompanied them to Paul Bigley's home in Amsterdam.
The raid came amid claims that the British hostage was free to roam his kidnappers' home in Iraq and was "caged" only for terrorist videos.
Paul Bigley's computer was seized and he was interrogated about his alleged contact with the Tawhid and Jihad group, which yesterday claimed responsibility for Thursday's killing of at least 35 children in Baghdad."
And here are the comments:
At 12:00 PM, David said...
And this amid increasing concern that the two italian women were not in any real danger but co-operated fully with their kidnappers'? Hmmm
His brother spent a long time in the ME yet Bigley did not follow the simplest of rules on personal safety, using a flash 4x4, same routine etc......
'Something is not right'
At 8:51 PM, miklos rosza said...
Don't forget the Japanese "hostages" whose captivity turned out also to have very possibly been fake; there was also an Australian woman who briefly claimed to have been taken, only to call a press conference and denounce the war. All of these people are the equivalents of the "human shields," whose only real concern seems to have been their vanity and specious moral superiority. They will go down in history as moral cretins on a par with Oswald Mosley and the other Nazi sympathizers of 60 years ago.
At 10:49 PM, Anonymous said...
I don't think the two Americans who were murdered would take too kindly to accusations that they were colluing in the whole thing.
At 7:34 AM, Anonymous said...
I don't think that accusation has been leveled.
Now there's a hard right wing hate site in America that has denounced a freed former captive as a collaborator, a stooge, a quisling and so on. But even they had the decency to wait til he was free. This "Eric" couldn't wait that long and now he won't be able. As everyone now knows, Ken Bigley was murdered last night.
Following the statement by Sharon's senior advisor, Dov Weisglass, that Israel has unilaterally frozen the "peace" process (I know, "what peace process?") Colin Powell has said that the US does not "doubt Sharon's commitment to the road map. How's that for slavish devotion?
Naomi Klein offers a welcome antedote to the plethora of pro-war blogs that have been set up lately. In fact it seems the more America is losing control in Iraq, the more in-denial blogs get started up. What I like about Klein's article here is the way she calmly describes Moqtada al-Sadr's appeal and demands without leaving herself open to the charge that she supports a reactionary.
According to Jack Straw, the Iraq Survey Group's definitive report, that there are (and were) no banned weapons in Iraq, merely "highlights the nature of the threat from Saddam in terms of his intentions and capabilities in even starker terms than we have seen before". So there we have it: the absence. of weapons just goes to show what a menace Saddam Hussein really was.
Ha'aretz editorialises that Israel has undermined its "credibility" in the eyes of the world for wilfully lying about UN ambulances being used to transport Qassam rockets. The editorial points out that the Israeli army used real or fake UN vehicles for military purposes back in the 1950s. Strange that the editorial didn't mention Israel's more recent abuse of Palestinian ambulances for troop movements in occupied territory given that this was the subject of a report Amira Hass report in....today's Ha'aretz. (Thanks to Father Ted - see Comments below).
"The latest deaths lifted to 4,435 the number of people killed since the outbreak of the intifada or uprising against Israeli occupation in September 2000, including 3,410 Palestinians and 954 Israelis." Cue the comments saying that Israel only targets combatants.
The UN today accused Israel of lying about the use of ambulances for armed attacks. They said that video released by Israel shows a stretcher being loaded on to an ambulance. The Israelis said last week that the object was a Qassam rocket. Imagine with all their state-of-the-art technology making a mistake like that. You don't think it was deliberate do you? And if so why? Less than two weeks ago Shuli Davidovich, spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in London said that there were "numerous examples" of Palestinians using ambulances to launch attacks on Israel. A regular Zionist visitor to this blog admitted that he only knew of one and the Guardian. readers' editor said that he didn't know of any, in spite of having happily published Davidovich's latest lie. It looks to me that Israel is storing up "justifications" for firing on ambulances. Of course I could be wrong.
There's a fair old ding dong going on over at the Workers' Weekly. I won't clutter up this blog with the correspondence but follow the link above and astonish yourself. Royston Bull, a former doyen of Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party, kicked off by making a reference to "Jewish/imperialist colonisation" whilst engaging in a clumsy and homophobic denunciation of Peter Tatchell and co's flirtation with Zionism. My friend Roland Rance (there I've declared my interest) countered that he (Roland) wasn't party to this colonisation and that therefore the use of the word "Jewish" to denounce imperialism was at best a crass generalisation... Royston counter-countered that he wasn't aware of Roland Rance being opposed to the establishment of the state of Israel, to which Roland counter-counter-countered that that said more about Royston Bull's activism (or lack of) than it did about Roland's. Charlie Pottins also joined the fray taking Roland's side; rather touchingly, I thought, given that Charlie and Roland have had their disagreements in the past. Then Tony Greenstein weighed in to praise Roland Rance's anti-Zionist work and to denounce Royston Bull's anti-Semitism and homophobia. He also demanded an explanation of Arthur Scargill as to how and why Royston Bull was so elevated within the ranks of the Socialist Labour Party. Finally, so far, Royston Bull engaged in some breathtaking hypocrisy when he said that "the issue is about political understanding [which Bull obviously does not have], not ..... grotesque distortions about who did what. [which Mr Bull had started two weeks before]. Then, having denounced Jewish. colonisation in Palestine, he went on to say that the cause of anti-imperialism cannot be advanced without first "driving this rotten Zionist stunt into the sea". Now then, we'll have to wait and see if he means driving all of Palestine's Jews into the sea. What I'm hoping for is that Royston Bull and Peter Tatchell bump into each other on the way to the next Free Palestine/anti-war demonstration. Perhaps then we'll all get some peace.
I ask because Ken Bigley's Amsterdam home has been raided by Dutch intelligence officers with a British intelligence officer in tow. The Bigley family have been told by the authorities to keep a low profile but they have been a serious embarrassment to the Dear Leader.
Liaquat Ali Khan interviews renowned plagiarist Alan Dershowitz. I've never found Dershowitz impressive but it seems that whilst diapproving of the liar wholeheartedly Ali Kahn does seem to respect his intellect. I find some of Dershowitz's disingenuous statements weaker than some of the more nutty (and apparently youthful) Zionists who have posted comments here. No, I prefer Finkelstein's demolition of Dershowitz which left the latter babbling ad hominem. attacks (whatever they are).