30 May 2011

UNISON Boycott of Histadrut Sabotaged by PGFTU's Shaher Saeed

Once Again Shaher Saeed Sabotages Solidarity Action Abroad

Once again the unelected leader of PGFTU has been allowed to sabotage solidarity action in other countries. Saeed is the trade union version of Mahmoud Abbas, always willing to dance to Israel's tune. The question is how long Palestinian trade unionists are prepared to allow a quisling to head their union and allow him to get away with undermining solidarity work.

I've written on Saeed's actions before but this time they have had a decisive effect in undermining the patient work of activists within Britain's second largest union UNISON.

Following the decision of the 2010 UNISON Conference to suspend relations with Israel’s racist ‘trade union’ Histadrut a delegation was sent to Israel and Palestine from 27th November to 3rd December 2010. What prompted this was Histadrut’s support for the murderous attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its previous support for Operation Cast Lead, the genocidal attack on Gaza.

The delegation met members of Histadrut and its two public service affiliates. It also met the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and other mixed unions and workers’ organisations within Israel. On the basis of talks between the delegation and Shaher Saeed, Secretary General of PGFTU, the delegation has recommended a resumption of relations with Histadrut in order to put pressure on them to take a more vocal public stance against the occupation and the settlements.

Although the report does not describe UNISON’s discussion with PGFTU there is little doubt that Shaher Saeed did not support a boycott of Histadrut for the simple reason that he never has supported a boycott. When fellow union members have pressurised him he has made statements to that effect, but gone back on them as soon as convenient.

This time Saeed has effectively undone the work of pro-Palestinian activists in UNISON by supporting the maintenance of relations with Histadrut. Although it is understandable that PGFTU has such relations, given the position it is in, there is no reason (apart from Histadrut threats) for it to oppose trade unions in other countries from implementing a boycott. When this arose earlier this year, PGFTU had to issue a ‘clarification’ of what Saeed had previously said. This time no amount of clarification will undo the damage that Saeed has done. As long as Palestinians are content to allow Saeed to operate as Secretary-General of PGFTU, although he has not been elected, then they will bear the consequence of having this stooge at their head.

The UNISON Report is quite clear.
‘The PGFTU in particular said that UNISON should maintain links with the Histadrut so that we could specifically put pressure on them to take a more vocal public stance against the occupation and the settlements.’
There is no doubt that this is what they were told and there is little point in quibbling about it. The points to make is that Shaher Saeed is no different from Mahmoud Abbas and the quislings running the Palestinian Authority whose security forces are specially trained by the USA with the purpose of repressing and torturing their own people.

Histadrut in the Report state that:
· They did not take a stance on wider political issues;
· They feel international relations with other trade unions should only be based on trade union related matters;
· They are unwilling to alienate members of theirs who do not support negotiations with the Palestinians; and,
· They fear international pressure on Histadrut would be used against them by the right wing in Israel.

Of course this is disingenous. Histadrut’s ex-building company Solel Boneh (all its enterprises were sold off in the 1980s and 1990s) helped build the settlements. It takes very political positions – support for Israel’s attack on other countries for example. It is true that they are unwilling to ‘alienate’ their own members who for the most part are even more racist and backward.

The Report proposes ‘critical engagement’. This seems very reminiscent of the ‘constructive engagement’ that Chester Crocker proposed and Thatcher and Reagan accepted for dealings with the Apartheid regime. It was founded on the belief that the Apartheid authorities would willingly dismantle the structures of racism. It was however not engagement, but Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment which persuaded white South Africans that their time was up.

A recent development has been a conference held in Ramallah on 30th April which founded the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The statement they issued is here.
This makes it clear that the Palestinian trade union movement syupports a full boycott of Israel. It put relations with Histadrut in that context and called on international trades unions to sever all links.

It is accident that UNISON Executive have taken this opportunity not to rock the boat internationally. Motion 89 from the National Executive therefore advocates the same ‘critical engagement’ that Thatcher and Reagan pursued with South Africa (it was called ‘constructive engagement’ but the meaning is the same). It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Racists don’t understand reasoned argument. The only thing that persuades them is pressure and force. Motion 89 can be read here.

Picket Dylan On June 18th in London

Remind Dylan That Money Doesn't Talk It Only Swears

Further to my previous report on Dylan’s performance in Israel, there is news of his only concert in Britain 2 days before. Dylan is the headline act of the first day of Feis 2011 Festival in Finsbury Park. See

Yael Khan reports that they are planning a protest and want as many as possible to come.
We planning a protest - can you come? Help organise?

There are number of campaigns against Dylan’s concert in Israel. For example:

"Bob Dylan - Please Don't Play for Apartheid Israel"

We also created
"Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday: Tuesday, May 24"

University & College Union Rejects EUMC-Zionist Definition of Anti-Semitism

UCU Defies Threats and Blackmail

Wonderful news from UCU. The European Union Monitoring Committee Report on Anti-Semitism, which came from the American Jewish Committee, a group which opposed another Boycott in the 1930’s – the trade union & Jewish labour movement boycott of Nazi Germany - has repeatedly been used as a weapon deployed against all critics of Israel, including Jewish anti-Zionists.

It is no wonder that the Zionist Community Security Trust, presided over by Gerald Ronson, the far-right owner of Britain's biggest private company, Heron Ltd., David Hirsch, to say nothing of the EDL supporting, Muslim hating, Harry’s Place have complained so bitterly about this rejection.

What does the EUMC actually say? That 'antisemitism; includes:

'Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour'

Now this is strange. Accusing the Jews of being one people was always an anti-Semitic notion. It was the anti-Semites who held that a Jew might be Polish but s/he belonged elsewhere 'Jews to Palestine' was their favourite slogan. The idea that Chinese, British and Argentinian Jews, all of whom speak different languages and hold to different customs, are members of the same people was a shorthand for race.

So we have the absurd position whereby a definition of anti-Semitism is itself anti-Semitic!!

The EUMC definition goes on to hold that ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.’ is also anti-Semitic. But who is it who regularly makes comparisons between Israel’s actions and the Nazis if not the Zionists. When Matan Vilnai, Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister promised a ‘bigger Shoah (Holocaust)’ for the Palestinians of Gaza he was as good as his word when a few months later1,400 civilians were murdered including 400 ‘terrorist’ children. But noone accused him of anti-Semitism.

The EUMC definition wasn’t deployed against Vilnai. It was used exclusively against Palestinians and their supporters who compared Israel’s actions to that of the Nazis, in particular the Warsaw Ghetto. In Brighton this included a Police attack on a demonstration.

When retired Israeli Judge Ben-Itto stated how 'We must learn from the Nazis'
I can’t remember the outcry about anti-Semitism. ‘Anti-Semitism’ is reserved solely for Palestinians and the victims of Israel’s barbarism, not against its perpetrators. The EUMC is merely a propaganda weapon in Israel’s arsenal. Even the hapless Richard Goldstone was accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ by Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for his Report on the genocide in Gaza.

And the final irony of this absurd and pretentious report, beloved by cold war warriors and Zionists like Dennis McShane MP is ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ Now who holds Jews responsible for Israel’s actions and labels those of us who are anti-Zionist Jews as ‘traitors’. Please do tell. Ah yes, those who helped formulate this report!

I can’t remember Zionists protesting when on 9th January 2009 the Jewish (read Zionist) Board of Deputies of British Jews decided to hold a demonstration in Trafalgar Square to back Israel’s War on Lebanon under the title "Community to Show Support for Israel at Trafalgar Square Rally." Strange that. A definition that is only partially applied is not a definition but a propaganda weapon. Today the EUMC has all but been dropped such is its obvious bias.

At a time when the fascist English Defence League demonstrates alongside Zionists in support of Israel and every far right party of significance in Europe, apart from the Hungarian Jobbik Party, supports Israel and Zionism, it is clear that whatever else its purpose, the EUMC definition isn't about anti-Semitism but defending Israel. No better supporters are there than Michel Kaminski of the Polish Justice and Freedom Party, who opposed the Polish state apologising for the massacre of hundreds of Jews in 1941 at Jedwabne, burnt alive in their synagogue and not forgetting Robert Ziles of the Latvian Freedom & Fatherland Party, which commemorates the butchers of the Latvian SS every yeaer. But the EUMC Definition of Anti-Semitism never seems to apply to these people!

Well done UCU and in particular Sue Blackwell, Mike Cushman, Tom Hickey and all the other stalwarts in Bricup who proposed this. Note how the Zionist threats that ‘Jews’ will resign now from UCU doesn’t ever seem to include anti-Zionist Jews! Zionists and racists are always welcome to resign when they can’t accept democracy.

Below is the resolution which was passed:

70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism - National Executive Committee

Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.

Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.

Congress resolves:

1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)

2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved

3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination

HAIFA and the Nakba

The story below speaks for itself. I grew up, as the son of an Orthodox Rabbi, in a religious Zionist family. When the original fable of the Arabs running away, rather than being expelled, was first told, I can remember it being emphasised that the Mayor of Haifa even begged those wicked Arabs to stay and they wouldn’t. Later it turned out that as the Mayor was asking them to stay, Haganna loudspeakers were telliing them to get out if they valued their lives.

In fact the Irgun militia were rolling bombs down the hills into the Arab quarters and as Ilan Pappe documents in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine the Arabs of Haifa were indeed driven into the sea (the normal Zionist retort to what will happen if Israel becomes democratic) and some drowned. Now the story has been told of how Haganna also participated in the shelling of Arab Haifa and the market, although Ha'aretz has not translated the article into English.

Tony Greenstein

By Shai Fogelman, Haaretz – 26 May 2011

Why did the Arabs of Haifa flee in 1948? Didn’t Haifa’s Jewish mayor ask them to stay? Maybe because Haganah (the primary pre-state Jewish military organization in Palestine) mortar rounds shot at the midst of the civilian crowds in the market, spoke another language. Here is a story that Israeli historians do not like to tell. (HEBREW)

29 May 2011

David Cameron Resigns as Patron of the JNF

Greenwash will no longer wash away the Crimes of the Jewish National Fund

They must have hoped that no one would notice. One day the JNF listed David Cameron as a patron and the next day he was gone! If only all our victories could come as sweetly as this! Of course, as Cameron’s spokesperson explained, the problem was ‘time constraints.’ Quite. Presumably the previous 2 Prime Ministers, war criminal Tony Blair and Gordon ‘no more boom & bust’ Brown had so little to do that they wandered around trying to find organisations prepared to accept them as patrons!

Founded in 1901 as the principal land settlement wing of the Zionist Organisation, the JNF role has been the equivalent of a money launderer, except that it dealt in stolen land rather than stolen money. The Israeli government, through a plethora of laws: the Absentee Property Law 1950 and the “Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemeth Le Israel Law Law)” (1953) which granted it special status and set up a new JNF company, the JNF became in effect a quasi-governmental organisation administering policies the government couldn't be seen to openly administer.

These were coupled with the later Basic Law - Israel Lands; Israel Lands Law; Israel Lands Administration Law of 1960 The Covenant between the Government of Israel and the JNF, 1961 and the Agricultural Settlement (Restriction on Use of Agricultural Land and Water) Law, 1967 (which made it a criminal offence for a lessee of the JNF to lease land to non-Jews). The JNF and the Israeli Lands Administration had in effect joined forces and between them controlled 93% of Israeli land.

Although originally the JNF purchased land, usually from absentee landlords, in order to create its Jewish-only settlements, less than 7% of land in Palestine had been purchased by 1948, albeit that the land was of better quality than the average or as with the kibbutzim, strategically situated . After 1948 the JNF took possession of 35% of confiscated Palestinian land. Nearly 2.4 million dunumes was transferred to the JNF between January 1949 and October 1950.

The Memorandum of Association, effectively the constitution of the JNF Association Ltd. was quite explicit. Article 3 (a) stated that the purpose of the JNF was ‘To purchase, acquire on lease or in exchange, etc.,. . . in the prescribed region (which expression shall in this Memorandum mean the State of Israel in any area within the jurisdiction of the Government of Israel) or any part thereof, for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands and properties." (Government Gazette No. 354, 10.6.1954).

But this situation, whereby a Zionist organisation administered on behalf of the Israeli State, land which Arab citizens of Israel could not use, or when it was leased to them by the ILA, the JNF was 'compensated' by other state land, could not continue. After having prevaricated for 10 years

In its response of December 2004, to a petition filed by Adalah to the Supreme Court of Israel – HC 9205/04) in the Kadan case the JNF stated quite explicitly that ‘“The JNF is not the trustee of the general public in Israel. Its loyalty is given to the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the state of Israel... The JNF, in relation to being an owner of land, is not a public body that works for the benefit of all citizens of the state. The loyalty of the JNF is given to the Jewish people and only to them is the JNF obligated. The JNF, as the owner of the JNF land, does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.”

But it is recent events and the repeated demolition of the peaceful bedouin village of Al Arakhib in the Negev, for the sole purpose of ‘Judaification of the Negev’ which has brought the Greenwash politics of the JNF under the spotlight. The village has been repeatedly demolished, some 21 times, by JNF bulldozers, which in the past two weeks have finally beaten a retreat. The publicity may have become too much.

The JNF has promoted itself as a ‘Green’ organisation, planting forests and parks, omitting to say that its ‘green’ credentials have come about because of its desire to eradicate all trace and mention of the former occupants of the land it is planting, such as the establishment of Canada Park over the ruins of 3 Palestinian villages including the ancient Immwas in the West Bank. The decision by Scotland Friends of the Earth to oppose the JNF and all its racist works is welcome and we look forward to a similar stance by other environmental and green organisations.

The result is that the JNF has now become a toxic brand. Only New Labour it seems values an association with it although even Ed Miliband has kept his distance from this apartheid organisation (whilst refusing to answer questions on whether or not he would sponsor the organisation like his predecessors). See

On 7th October 2010, 50 of us wrote urging that Miliband not become a patron of this apartheid organisation. On 20th October, in response to a lying letter from the Chairman of British JNF, Samuel Hayek, who had the effrontery to say the JNF didn’t discriminate on grounds of religion, when all he had to do was look at its name(!), both Barry Stierer and myself of Brighton PSC had letters printed by the Guardian. Hayek didn’t reply to them this time around.

Now we have the final humiliation, with David Cameron deciding to cut his links. The time is rapidly approaching when the Charity Commission is going to have to decide that the JNF no longer fulfills charitable objectives and therefore should not qualify for tax exempt status. In a report by the Jewish Chronicle of 26th May 2011, we learn that:
JNF UK has declined to say why Prime Minister David Cameron's name has disappeared from its list of honorary patrons.

Twelve days ago the pro-Palestinian Stop the JNF campaign wrote to Mr Cameron, reiterating a previous request for him to withdraw as patron of the charity.

Mortaza Sahibzada, of Stop the JNF, said: "His name has been taken off the list and that is significant. Someone has decided to take it off and I doubt whether it was JNF." Mr Cameron became an honorary patron of JNF five years ago, whose other patrons still include Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

In its latest letter to Mr Cameron, Stop the JNF complained that the JNF British Park was planted on the ruins of two Palestinian villages after the 1948 war.

But Downing Street said that a review of all the Prime Minister's links with charities had been made when the coalition came into office. A number had been dropped, including JNF, the spokesman said, citing time constraints on Mr Cameron.
28 May 2011

Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation votes unanimously to support the campaign to Stop the JNF.
Stan Blackley
Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland

"Our members at today’s AGM voted overwhelmingly to endorse the international call to stop the JNF. At today's land rights conference the activities of the JNF were brought to the attention of our members, supporters and interested members of the public. Our organisation is pleased to join the call for the revocation for the JNF's charitable status in the UK and to help raise awareness on this little known issue."
Andy Wightman
Author of 'Who Owns Scotland' and 'The Poor had no Lawyers', independent writer and researcher on issues of land and democracy. Keynote speaker ('Land rights in Scotland and Palestine') at 2011 Friends of the Earth Scotland Conference Land Rights Conference in Edinburgh.

"I am delighted that Friends of the Earth Scotland has voted to endorse the call to stop the JNF. The JNF has played a central role in the expropriation of Palestinian land and it is high time that it was exposed for the crimes it has been complicit in committing."

Challenge the JNF: Stop the JNF Campaign Workshops, London, 4 June 2011

The campaign to Stop the JNF calls on human rights supporters, refugee rights and environmental justice campaigners to take action in support of the right of Palestinians to return to the homes and villages they were driven from. We invite individuals and organisations to participate in the June 4th workshop on the JNF and how to challenge its support and collusion in illegal occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Date: Saturday 4 June 2011
Venue: LSE, Houghton Street, London
Jointly hosted by: LSE Palestine Solidarity Society & Stop the JNF Campaign
Registration: £5
Contact details: gb@stopthejnf.org

Registration: 10-10.30am
Welcome: 10.30-10.45am

Session 1 - What is the JNF: 10.45am-12.15pm
The JNF and its role in ethnic cleansing and in establishing and maintaining apartheid.
Lunch: 12.15-1.15pm

Session 2 - The JNF and the environmental justice movement: 1.15-2.45pm

Session 3 - How to fight the JNF: 3-4.30pm
The Stop the JNF Campaign: founding; international co-ordination and partnerships; strategies to challenge the JNF; results and prospects.

Session 4 - The next practical steps: 4.45-6.15pm
Feedback from workshop sessions. Organising & break-out sessions: lobbying, informing the public and media; direct action; collaboration with other campaign networks, i.e. anti-racist, environmental, trade union, students.

Stop the JNF Campaign

26 May 2011

Bob Dylan’s Nightmare – Israel June 20th

I have to make a confession. I’ve been a Dylan aficionado for most of my life. Together with the Beatles, Stones and Simon and Garfunkel he defined the ‘60s musically for me. He was the child of the civil rights movement, who played at the Washington March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, the year of Alabama’s last stand.

Unfortunately the older he has grown, the more foolish and greedy Dylan has become. It is as if the elder Dylan was determined to act out the worst caricatures of his younger self, a form of self-castigation. Who for example could imagine back in 1964 that Dylan would allow a song of his (Forever Young) to appear in a Align Centrecommercial for Pepsi Cola? The line about ‘money doesn’t talk, it swears’ and the stanza from one of his greatest but simple songs, It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding comes to mind:

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done

That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on

All around you

I know that people are inclined to talk up his more recent work but for me the last great albums were from the 1970s –Blood on the Tracks and Street Legal in particular. There then followed his Christian period and the truly atrocious Slow Train Coming. Dylan was thought to have reached the bottom of the pit when he told his audience in 1980

"I told you 'The Times They Are A-Changin' and they did!" he told a crowd in New Mexico. "I said the answer was ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and it was! And I'm telling you now, Jesus is coming back, and he is! And there is no other way of salvation."

In 1971 he had declared, in an interview in Time magazine, that the Neo-Nazi Zionist Rabbi Meir Kahane, was ‘"a really sincere guy. He's really put it all together.’ One can only assume that it is Dylan’s ignorance and political idiocy which prevented him from understanding that the very segregation he once opposed was at the heart of Kahane’s philosopy, and worse.

Today Dylan is ploughing the same furrow that has guided his career – a love of the money that he lyrically disdains. It should therefore come as no surprise that he is playing in Israel on June 20th. An Israel which maintains a brutal occupation in the West Bank, bombs and murders in Gaza and which treats its Arab citizens in the same way as South Africa treated Black people under Apartheid. But no doubt the money is good. The fact that at 70 years of age Dylan is already fabulously rich and shows no signs of wishing to spend his fortune in retirement, one can only assume that it is a love of money for its own sake that is his guiding principle.

As to whether or not to try and dissuade him from going I disagree with Lenni Brenner. Of course Dylan will no more listen to the voices of Boycott than he did to those who asked him to speak out against the Vietnam War. But the call for Dylan not to go to Israel is aimed primarily at those who still fondly imagine that the Dylan of 1963 bears any resemblance to the old man of today.
Dylan is a pastiche of his former self. His lyrics are often borrowed wholesale from others, without acknowledgement and the songs themselves are dark and broody for the most part. They represent the depths to which Dylan has sunk since his visit to a dying Woody Guthrie, an idol of whom no more is spoken.

The words of one of his most underrated songs, Masters of War, come to mind when one thinks of Dylan taking blood-soaked shekels whilst he fawns in front of an almost completely Jewish audience.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good

Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll

All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

Below is an article by Lenni Brenner, the Jewish anti-Zionist who wrote Zionism in the Age of the Dictators about the collaboration between the Nazis and Zionist movement and also an article on his racist pro-settler song ‘Neighborhood Bully’. As the right-wing Jerusalem Post noted Neighborhood Bull was ‘Dylan’s 1983 Likudnik paean to Israel and the Jewish people. Chances? None. He has never performed it.’Has-Been Bob Dylan's May 24 Birthday
By Lenni Brenner

Hi folks,

I recently received a request from an Irish anti-Zionist to try to get Bob Dylan to cancel his upcoming June 20 engagement in Israel. Below are my answer to the Irish comrade and an article I wrote in 2003 on how I triggered off Bob's song writing career in 1961. The Dylan of that era was a genius, but today he's such an obvious intellectual has-been that his playing in Israel in 2011 will end up being an embarrassment for Zionism.


Hi comrade,

There are two reasons why people shouldn’t waste their time trying to get Dylan to boycott Israel.

1 - He’d play in Hell if he could make money at it.

2 - All intelligent Americans, Jew or gentile, see today’s Dylan as a crackpot.

Below is an article I published in 2003 in CounterPunch re me and Bob. I ended it by declaring that

“His radical songs will live on. But “do a good deed and throw it into the sea.” His later theological trapeze act, swinging between Jesus and the late Lubavicher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, can only be described as the all-time-most-pathetic American Jewish tragi-comedy shtik.”

Bob was born into a Jewish family, but the Bob I met in 1961 had become an atheist lefty who went on to write the political anthems of that age. Then he became a Jesus-freak and, later yet, he topped that folly by reconverting to Orthodox Judaism. And within Orthodoxy he hangs in with the Lubavicher sub-sect, whose followers believe that Schneerson was the messiah, who will - any minute now - rise out of his coffin and save his followers.

Let me put this in its real world sociological context. Orthodoxy is Israel’s official religion. But no more than 10% of America’s Jews are Orthodox. Every day, Orthodox males say, as part of their morning prayer, “
Thank you God for making me a man, not a woman.”

About 40% of American Jews belong to either the Conservative or Reform Jewish sects. They have dropped that male chauvinist manure and now have women rabbis and gay rabbis. The other 50% have completely abandoned any type of Judaism.

So now we have a unique situation. Bob is one of the most famous people on the planet. But his fame is due to songs he wrote in his leftist period. When he got into Christianity he discredited himself intellectually with 99% of Jews, from Orthodox to atheist. We may disagree on everything else, but we all believe that Christianity is a fairy-tale, and that any Jew who converts to any form of it is sick in the head. The result is that when he got involved with the Lubavichers, most Jews didn’t cheer, not even most Orthodox, except for the Lubavichers, who are ridiculed even by most Orthodox. We all saw his reconversion as another chapter in his mad autobiography.

Since all of this is from a Jewish perspective, it may be hard for Irish folks to understand. So let me give you an Irish analogy. Imagine if Bob O’Dylan was born into a Catholic family. Then he became an atheist leftist and a great songwriter. Then O’Dylan joined Paisley’s Protestant church. Later he reconverted to Catholicism, studied hard and became a priest. Who on the Island - atheist, Catholic or Protestant - would respect Father O’Dylan?

American Jews have the highest income and education of any ethnic or religious stratum in the U.S. That means that they are the most travelled. But the Israeli government admits that more adult American Jews go to Britain than Israel. So I suggest that you just ignore his Tel Aviv gig, or else play with it. Something like

‘Only American Jewish fools like Bob Dylan go to Israel. Educated Jews go to Shakespeare’s home town. So what is the new Dublin government doing to get them to come to the land of Joyce and Yeats?’

Stay well, give 'em hell, Lenni


May 3, 2003

Big Joe Williams, the East Village, Peyote and the Forging of Dylan's Art

I don't say I was Bob Dylan's room-mate. Calling some-one your room-mate means that at least one of us paid rent. It was the winter of 1961. I was crashing at banjo-picker Paul Shoenwetter's pad on East 4th Street between Avenue C and D, in what is now called the East Village, but which we knew as the Lower East Side, along with Vince Hickey, a jazz drummer, and Tom Condit, a socialist buddy, when St. Paul brought in yet another stray.

Vince married black, to the daughter of Victoria Spivey, an ol' timey blues singer. He was an encyclopedia on ragtime. Tom and I were up to our asses in the civil rights struggle. Bob, at 19, going on 20, 4 years younger than me, was our junior colleague. He couldn't be expected to say much that was new or interesting or amusing to us worldlings. However we recognized a marvelous musician, and welcomed him into our fraternity of the rebellious, brilliant and crazy.

The highpoint of one chat is chiseled into stone. Peyote was still legal. The problem was that it tasted like tiger piss going down. Then it upsets your stomach. But that's the best news it ever had. That means the veggie was kickin' in. It gave me spectacular eyes-closed color visions and the tummy-ache vanished.

Tom processed some. He ground-up a batch of dried up fist-sized buds, and put the powder into gelatin caps. That solves the taste problem. He laid 50 caps on me and split. I took 30 and was waiting for them to come on, when Bob walked in. I gave him the 20. He downed them, told of a near-by party and left. After my technicolor show came on, I walked over.

I vote the winter of 1961 as New York's greatest. Four fulsome blizzards had left huge mounds everywhere, and then, on Friday night-Saturday morning, February 3-4, another storm dumped 17.4 inches on the city. The total accumulation was the greatest ever. For the first time, the mayor had to ban non-essential traffic so plows could clear a lane down the side streets, with many parked cars buried for months under humongous glaciers. For me, high, those streets, with icicles as big as they get, hanging off tenement fire-escapes, were the once-in-eternity Siberia-in-the-Apple, well past any piddling prophet's paltry Paradise.

The party was at the home of Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer. Bob was adding whiskey to the peyote, as he, Mark Spoelstra and other folkies played in a back room.

After dawn on Sunday, the 5th, I left for Paul's. I was alone when Bob came in, 20 minutes later. We chatted about the night, and I got on him about a southern song they sang, Just lookin' for a Home. "Bob, you never saw a boll weevil. Mark never did. None of us have. If one flew in the window, or crawled in under the door, or whatever the hell they do, we wouldn't recognize it. Stop singing about boll weevils and sing about your own life and times."

He was slouched on a couch. In a hot second he was upright, his smiling young face suddenly electrically alive: "That's what Joe Williams told me!" His new maturing face mirrored his thinking as the implications of what we said sank in. Others have that experience. Someone tells us something but it doesn't click until someone else slams it in.

It is idle to speculate as to whether Bob could have eventually figured out by himself that he had to do his own thing. I say with certainty that Big Joe and I were, in life, the agencies that propelled him to his destiny. I remember nary another word. But his expressions were unforgettable. Here was the most gifted young musician-poet of his time and place suddenly getting his act together as an adult and performer.

For at least the first minute, almost two, after his exclamation, his thoughts put themselves spontaneously onto his face. His initial reception of my statement was followed by a series of self-induced facial shocks as he silently cooked our old/new ideas in his pot. Then he regained his composure, leaned towards me with his elbows on his thighs and we talked for a few more minutes. Then, as we had been up for a heap of hours, we crashed. There was no doubt that both of us thought a profound thing had happened to him.

Of course I had no idea that he would make such an impact on the world. But that visual scene was hardly one that anyone could forget, even if it happened with a nobody. To be sure, it wasn't quite as if the scales immediately fell from his eyes and he received sight forthwith and arose and was baptized, as with Saul becoming Paul. But thru his cogitations he did spring up and go. The few words remembered and circa 10 minutes forgotten are how the mind sometimes turns events into memory. A highlight stands in for a whole conversation. The physical details are so vivid because the night was so spectacular and my vision was keyed up by peyote.

As his career took off shortly after, in the full bloom of our friendship, I had further reason to think about that morning, and lock in the incident. I'm sure that he saw it the same way. For the next two years, I was his wise buddy, who pulled his coat on a crux matter for him as a poet and person. In any case, we got up in the Winter dark. We had no food. Bob cleared out first, saying "I have to do some writing." Yea verily, a bright young fellow came into that pad, a full man went out.

I never asked him what Big Joe actually said. But we get the spirit of it in Robert Shelton's No Direction Home. Williams' recalled that "Bob...wrote me thanking me for the advice I had given him about music. What he earned, what he done, he got it honest. They ask me: 'Is he real?' And I tell them that they should let him live his own life."

Being in on the pad's chats, he understood my "sing about your own life and times" to be more ideologically loaded than Williams' "live his own life." I was also able to musically critique him because I had heard many of the best folksingers of the day and had listened to thousands of folk songs on records. In that period, Dave Van Ronk introduced me to Allen Lomax, the great field-collector. After listening to them, I read Lomax on the complex stylistic evolution of American folk music. It was obvious to me that what we call the folk music tradition was actually innumerable singers doing the old songs and making up new ones about their lives and times.

The ideological level varied from none to highly political. It is a myth that folk singers were all poor and illiterate or nearly so. And some were musically highly cultured via their churches. Accordingly, Bob welded our notions together because I added the obligation that his art should reflect our times - his, Mark's, mine - its experiences and demands, to Williams' down-home blues sagacity.

Yet note again how the kingly power, chance, plays with us. If I had to be ahead of time to drink with Woody, I had to be the 2nd to hit Bob like the sun, moon and stars falling on him. We ran into each other over the next two years, at Gerde's Folk City and other hangouts, notably Dave and Terri Thal's crib. Terri was Bob's first manager. They were fellow Trotskyists. Bob was there, sometime after his return from his 1962 trip to Europe. Boll weevil Bob told me how he didn't like to work in clubs for pay because "the people I want to play for can't afford the admission."

He ground on, all about how his record company took advantage of his youth to screw him financially, and how he had to make bootleg British records as Blind Boy Grunt. Management atrocity tales were boring old news to a seasoned red, so I tried to get him off himself. "That's very deep Bob." He shot back: "How deep is deep? Forty inches? Six feet?" With him completely wrapped up in his career, my like-it-is sarcasm zipped over his self-centered head. But his verbal facility was evident even in that answer that ain't an answer.

I bumped into him on 6th Avenue and Waverly in the Village in the Spring of 1963. I offered to pay the bill for a coffee. I explained that I had sold a silver goblet boosted from a Reformed Jewish Temple. He smiled and we went to what was then a plain American greasy spoon, now the Waverly Restaurant, got us a table and enjoyed the fruits of what we knew was a crime.

My ex-Christian ex-gal had taken me to a Village Episcopal church. After the ceremony, I went up to the alter and did for to partake of my first communion, without benefit of clergy. I took a wafer from a vessel. Yea, verily, Jerusalem Slim's body is like unto a Napoleon pastry. So, in return for certainty on a subtle point of Christian ritual that had perplexed Jewish minds for centuries, I led her thru the open doors of an empty sanctum we happened upon in those innocent, pre-crime wave days, down the aisle and onto the raised rabbi's platform. The ritual goblet held some of what looked like wine, except that it didn't smell of alcohol. Coke, in a sacred vessel before an altar, is, by American law, a religion, to be protected from desecration. Good. Even great. I'm describing a legal transgression that doesn't merit repetition. But, in the real American 20th century, that Temple wasn't Judaism. And in the 21st century Reform ain't even religion. Its what a minority of Jewish kids grow up doing if they live in our secular Coke present, but are hung up on their parents' ancestral religion. A book of proverbial truths, spiritual fantasies and barbaric war stories, also reduced, in the physical world, from the perpetual miracle of intoxicating wine, down to flat soda, in an empty shrine.

Bob approved of the double miracle, the conversion of a profaned vessel into capitalist lucre, and then into coffee and snacks, because he also had a contemptuous familiarity with Reform's instant platitudes.

I don't remember every word that passed between us. I told him I was heading back to the Bay Area and its politics. After maybe an hour, he felt "a song coming on." "You know I love to hear you say that." I left my buddy, pen in hand.

Shortly after I took off for Berkeley. We've had no contact since. If history records me, it will be as a historian and political activist. Beyond that, my advice to Bob that winter morning will be seen as my proudest artistic contribution. His radical songs will live on. But “do a good deed and throw it into the sea.” His later theological trapeze act, swinging between Jesus and the late Lubavicher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, can only be described as the all-time-most-pathetic American Jewish tragi-comedy shtik.

Lenni Brenner, editor of 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis, can be reached at BrennerL21@aol.com

Sunday, September 25, 2005

What! Bob Dylan? Bob Dylan write a racist song? The Bob Dylan who wrote ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ and ‘Hurricane’ and all those other great songs about racism and injustice? Surely not!

But I’m afraid it’s true. And I think it says a great deal about the complacent and unquestioning culture in which we live that Bob Dylan’s racist song has attracted no serious attention at all.

Even a smart Marxist Dylanologist like Mike Marqusee loses all sense of critical perspective in the face of the song. But the far-right fanatics and sectarian bigots who benefit from the song know its worth to them and proudly celebrate its propaganda value, as you can see if you check out the website which displays the lyrics.

‘Neighborhood Bully’ appeared on the 1983 album Infidels and is generally passed over by commentators as musically a poor song from a disappointing album. In the best of all the Dylan biographies (Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan), Howard Sounes simply remarks that “ ‘Neighborhood Bully’ seemed to support Israel in its battles with its Arab neighbours.” In his book Chimes of Freedom, Mike Marqusee says that the song is about the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak.

In fact only the third and fourth lines of the fourth stanza are. Since ‘Neighborhood Bully’ consists of eleven five-line stanzas that leaves 53 lines, which are NOT about Osirak. I would argue that what the song is really about is this.

The third stanza identifies the Jews as a people who for centuries have been oppressed and driven into exile, the victim of prejudice and religious persecution. All the other stanzas are much more specific in their focus, and describe Israel. Israel is personified as a man who is abused as a bully but who bravely fights back against his enemies. Alone in a hostile world, this solitary yet heroic individual is mercilessly persecuted. Friendless, he lives just to survive.

It’s not hard to see why the lyrics are an artistic failure. The personification of Israel as a male fighter doesn’t work because he’s a cartoon figure. A fighter who can defeat a million enemies clearly isn’t in the real world but exists in the realm of fantasy or folk tale. The fighter’s enemies and critics are vague and ill-defined.

But ‘Neighborhood Bully’ is much more than just a song in praise of Israel in its conflict with other Arab states. It is, in every aspect, quite specifically a Zionist song. It contains a number of assertions which lie at the heart of Zionist mythology. Israel, the song asserts, is the innocent victim of irrational and vicious persecution. Israel struggles just to survive in a hostile world. Israel has made a garden of paradise in the desert sand. It took crumbs and made wealth. Israelis have no place else to go. They are unfairly accused of being on their neighbour’s land. Israel fights alone, struggling just to exist, using obsolete weapons, with no allies.

'Neighborhood Bully' evades the core issue of the conflict, which is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and the fifty year history of Israel’s ferociously violent suppression of any form of Palestinian identity or statehood. The dream of right-wing Zionism is to expel all Palestinians from Israel and create a pure Jewish Greater Israel; in that sense Dylan’s song formally enacts that aspiration, as imaginatively it liquidates the Palestinians. They simply have no existence in the song. As a Zionist song, it erases their tangible, historical existence.

As a reproduction of the Zionist master narrative ‘Neighborhood Bully’ is a song crammed with demonstrable historical lies, which it is worth identifying and rebutting. Its most blatantly dishonest line is at the start of stanza six: ‘He got no allies to really speak of.’ But of course Israel, notoriously, is financed, armed and protected by the world’s only superpower, the U.S.A. It is supported at every level - financial, military, diplomatic and ideological. Historically, the success of the Zionist project has always depended on the support of the most powerful and reactionary forces in the world– originally Britain, latterly the U.S.A, and even, in 1948, Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Dylan asserts that hostility to Israel is utterly irrational, and says it’s as if Israel was guilty of doing something as fantastic as change the course of rivers. Ironically, this is precisely what Israel has done. Arab citizens of Israel have been expelled from their villages to clear the way for water diversion projects. This happened to some 3-5000 Arabs in 1951. Five years later, in classic ethnic cleansing, they were forced out of their new homes, over the border into Syria. Today, Israel controls all water resources in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The average Israeli consumes 350 litres of water per day, but the average Palestinian is permitted only 50 to 70 litres. In refugee camps Palestinians sometimes only manage to obtain 19 litres of water per day. Nearby stand illegal Israeli settlements to which water resources are diverted and used for gardens and swimming pools.

The occupation also serves to negate countless other Palestinian rights. In the Oslo period alone, when Israel was supposedly negotiating to end the occupation, 35,000 acres of Palestinian land was stolen for Israeli settlements. During the first year of the first largely non-violent Intifada 500,000 Palestinian fruit trees were uprooted by settlers and soldiers.

What has attracted no comment at all is Dylan’s language in this song. He says that ‘every maniac’ is given ‘a license to kill’ Israel. These maniacs form ‘a lynch mob’. In other words, opponents of Israel are violent, prejudiced and irrational. But lynching, historically, is a form of sectarian violence associated with white American racists. It is a curious sleight of hand that makes Arabs equal to white American racists, especially when those Arabs are resisting Israelis, some of whom are white American racists. As a defence of ethnic cleansing ‘Neighborhood Bully’ is truly remarkable, as it turns truth and justice on its head. What’s more historically the violence and terrorism of Zionism has always greatly exceeded the retaliatory violence and terrorism of its victims.

As for prejudice: religious discrimination is institutionalised in Israel. It is a state which privileges Jews, with a wide range of discriminatory practises against non-Jews. Bob Dylan has the “right” as an American Jew to buy a home in Israel; a Palestinian refugee, whose home still stands inside Israel, neither has the right to reclaim property stolen by Jewish terrorists, nor even has the right to return to his homeland. In a powerful echo of apartheid South Africa, Palestinians who marry Israelis are not permitted to live in Israel. How apt that the artwork for the Infidels album shows Bob Dylan on a hill outside Jerusalem, exercising his sectarian privileges.

Finally, in claiming that opponents of Israel are “maniacs” Dylan dehumanizes them. He doesn’t engage with critics of Israel; he simply hurls abuse.

It gets worse. In the penultimate stanza, Dylan asserts that the enemies of Israel wait “like a dog waits to feed”. They are now not maniacs but dogs. This is the language of the racist and, historically, the language of Zionism. Noam Chomsky, for example, has noted how the Israeli Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan referred to Arabs as “roaches”; how on one occasion Palestinian prisoners were made “to crawl on all fours and bark like dogs”; how Israeli guards told Palestinians “You are a nation of monkeys”; how Gideon Hausner, prosecutor of Adolf Eichman and chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocuast Memorial Center, referred to the Palestine Liberation Oraganisation as “the centre of a cancerous growth which has metastized all over the world”; how one Israeli Defence Force officer remarked of Palestinians: “There are two alternatives, to live with them or to destroy them. Personally I hate them. They stink. They do not share our culture. They sleep with goats. It is necessary to vaporize them, to turn them to a gas.” Moshe Dayan, the Israeli military leader, suggested that Palestinians be told that “we have no solution, and you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever prefers – may leave…” (Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, Pluto Press, Updated edition 1999, pp.130, 240, 254, 354, 481)

Finally, no Dylan commentator has ever considered the context of ‘Neighborhood Bully’, which was recorded in New York in the spring of 1983. This was a time when Israel’s standing was at a very low ebb internationally after its invasion and occupation of the Lebanon. This was a very strange time to be asserting that Israel was a victim and releasing what is essentially a crude musical rant in defence of Zionism.

Fortunately Zionism was an allegiance that Bob Dylan maintained only very briefly in his music. But ultimately I think this song stains Dylan’s oeuvre in much the same way that anti-Semitism stains the achievement of T S Eliot, but in a way that is worse. Eliot’s anti-Semitism pre-dated the Holocaust. It was the kind of sniffy anti-Semitism which was very common among the English upper classes of the period, and also among many English novelists who were not conservatives like Eliot (there are derogatory references to Jews, for example, in the fiction of Graham Greene and Patrick Hamilton). But none of those writers, as far as I’m aware, produced malign representations of Jews after Auschwitz. Whereas the music of ‘Neighborhood Bully’ muffles the recent screams, and the memory, and the continuing unfulfilled need for justice of the victims of this.

Bob Dylan intended his song title ‘Neighborhood Bully’ to be ironic. But the irony was subtler and sharper than he intended. ‘Bully’ originally meant ‘hired ruffian’ and that is precisely what Israel today is – the local thug hired by the biggest world bully of them all.

25 May 2011

'Welfare Reform' is Literally Killing People

New Labour Began the Attacks on the Disabled and 'Welfare Reform' - the Tories and Clegg are Finishing Off

The story below has been covered, both in the Guardian and the Sunday Mirror, though not those disgusting tabloids which were cheer leaders for Hitler in the 1930’s – the Daily Hate Mail and the Daily Express – the latter owned appropriately by Britain’s biggest pornographer, Richard Desmond.

The story of people being repeatedly called back to medical tests when they win an appeal, although it is obvious that their condition has not improved, is a scandal to which the Coalition Government is turning a blind eye. This was what Clegg’s Orange revolution inside the Liberal Democrats meant. This is the free market at work. As the so-called left of the Lib. Dems. collapses, like the bunch of opportunists they always were, we have a situation where there is consensus between all 3 major establishment parties.

But we should not forget that New Labour has been wholeheartedly behind the government’s ‘welfare reform’. Not surprising given that ‘welfare reform’ was begun by New Labour. Shadow Minister for Welfare, Stephen Timms has made clear his support for the principle behind the Government’s savage attack on Welfare. As he says on his own website, ‘The Bill’s basic idea is good….. Disabled people are particularly worried. I support reform of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).’

Reform of course means the abolition of Disability Living Allowance, a lifeline to the disabled that the John Major Government introduced! New Labour proposed in its 2010 Green Paper on Care to abolish Attendance Allowance (DLA for the 65s and over and the Tory/Libs abolished it for those receiving the Mobility component of DLA who are in care.

Our first demand should be that Miliband lives up to his claim that Labour represents an opposition by sacking Timms. Timms is a Tory and he should join his true friends.

The same goes for all the other New Labour 'advisers' to the Tories on Welfare - Frank Field, John Hutton and Alan Milburn. If Ed Miliband is serious that Labour is an Opposition then he should sack these turncoats and traitors and appoint someone like John McDonnell as shadow Welfare Minister.

And at the same time we should be stepping up the campaign to oppose the attempt to make claimants and working class people pay for the bankers’ crisis.

Tony Greenstein

23 May 2011

VICTORY - The GMB Dissociates Itself from the Kennedy Scott Report Urging Further Privatisation of Job Centres

Persistence Pays Off as Paul Kenny Finally Comes Clean
It’s taken what seems like a very long time, but finally, GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny has come out and made it clear, crystal clear, that the GMB is opposed to any privatisation of the benefit or employment services. It has been like drawing teeth but it was worth it because the issue is an important one. Companies whose only motto is greater profit are only involved in ‘welfare reform’ and employment services for one reason, and one reason only.
Some like A4E go as far as creating their own sham employment agency to cream off a bit more (and they are still contracted to provide their ‘services’). Even those who are not in some way fraudulent (and many like Maximus have long records for fraud in the USA) are involved in cheating the unemployed. It’s not any personal inadequacy or ‘employability’ to use the jargon that is the issue, it is a system based on profit that pays the gambling debts of bankers whilst screwing the unemployed into the ground.

Trade unions were created to defend workers’ rights. Unfortunately, like the TUC itself, they have often become tame tabby cats, with all the perks that come with it. The leadership of trade unions is an intermediate layer between the capitalists and government and workers, with its own interests.

It is only through democratic accountability that members can ensure their union leaderships don’t work with, or go to bed with, the likes of Kennedy Scott. There are of course unanswered questions such as what was/is the relationship between the GMB and KS. There must have been some relationship otherwise why did KS think they could put the GMB’s name on their Report?

But the comments of Paul Kenny, who has been extremely foolish, and getting others in the union to dig for dirt is not a way of politically responding to criticism, even if that criticism was strident, are unequivocal and I am happy to accept them at face value.

When Paul Kenny says therefore, in the e-mail correspondence below, that ‘The report you refer to was not ours nor did we endorse it or support the type of comments quoted

I have written to kennedy scott making it clear we do not support private companies in these services nor do we support welfare to work or their views.
I have made my views clear about anyone using our logo or implying our support for Welfare to work.’

I am happy to accept his word. What is more troubling is that a Report such as this was not even read, as I suspected, by Paul Kenny. ‘I had not read or seen the document until this all came to light and I have tried to ensure that the GMB position is explained to all who seek clarification.’

However that is an internal matter for the GMB not me. Below is our latest bout of correspondence and beneath that the e-mail exchanges between Paul Kenny and Holly Smith. I have only deleted personal information from the latter and I would add that, despite everything I have said, it is refreshing to see a General Secretary correspond directly with his member and to do his own typing!

Tony Greenstein

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your latest e-mail. I will insert my replies in different colour so you have no difficulties in placing my answers alongside your comments.

Hi Tony,

You have a sad sense of logic.
I never objected to you placing our correspondence in the Public domain.
I thanked you for doing so.

Good. However there was no need to thank me. I took your thanks as being sarcastic.

For at least the third time I have to state that we do not support Welfare to Work and the report you refer to from Kennedy Scott is their view not GMB's.

Excellent. But this process has been like having to drag the truth out of a difficult witness. However the Report bears the GMB logo so it would be reasonable to assume that the GMB supported its contents. Since you now say that the views expressed in the report are not those of the GMB, will you now go on record as dissociating the GMB from those views? If so I welcome that.

I have told you that the GMB sponsored research from Portsmouth Uni which we did to show the current system of payment by revolving door results is a complete sham.
We think the research supports our view that the private sector contracts awarded by the Government are nothing but a rip off.
Kennedy Scott have no contracts with the Employment service that we are aware of and none we support.

So why sponsor a report with Kennedy Scott? I don’t know whether the GMB paid for this report but it is clear that KS wants to get a foot in the door of Welfare to Work in Britain. That much should be obvious. And do you really need to commission or ‘sponsor’ – whatever that means – research to know that these schemes are just make-work schemes? Despite all New Labour promised and said? It isn’t the implementation of them that is faulty, it is in the very assumptions lying behind them in the first place. Under capitalism virtually no job, bar that of General Secretary of a union or banker is safe. To try and make these schemes more workable is in fact to undermine the conditions of your own membership (& the unemployed).

They are based on the false premise of needing to make people ‘work ready’ or that ‘employability’ is the problem. This is a consequence of the abandonment by the trade union movement of support for a socialist society.

I have no knowledge of where you live nor do I care.

So why did you raise the question of where I live?

The confirmation that you took money from young unemployed people who gave their time to help the TUC is beyond the pale.

I confirmed no such thing. I personally took not one single penny. I was a steward and I paid the same deduction. On behalf of the TUC we obtained stewards and it was perfectly reasonable to deduct about 7% of monies received for a refugee charity.

What if someone refused, were they banned from further Involvement?

The decision was agreed to collectively and that means that it was a condition of involvement. That is the history of the trade union movement – you decide collectively and then everyone implements that decision, whether to strike, join the union or whatever. It’s part of labour movement history and traditions.

Attacks on G4S members, rants at GMB Brighton Branch

I have never attacked the Brighton Branch. On the contrary we have always given it our support and will continue to do so. All I did was point out that far from being hostile to the GMB I had provided support to members, despite it not being my role. As for G4S, they have been shown time and again to have abused and assaulted asylum seekers and the GMB has not exactly distinguished itself by support for organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers, hence the hypocrisy of your complaint.

A complete lack of knowledge about the GMB role at the TUC on Palestine shows your real agenda.

I am a committed activist on Palestine, within my own union and beyond. I am fully aware as to what happened at the 2009 TUC Conference when the GMB was in a distinct minority in supporting Israel’s massacres and bombing in Gaza. You do not deny what I wrote. Is it true or not true that you tried to amend ‘condemn’ (Israel’s bombing) to ‘regret’ because it’s on the TUC’s own site? Do you deny trying to delete any condemnation of the arms trade between Israel and Britain or for that matter the role of Histadrut? Give me just one example of concrete support from the GMB for the Palestinians? A delegation? Funding for Palestinian workers organisations? What seriously have you ever done?

The fleecing of Tribunal claimants on a level no better than a no win no fee swag bag Lawyer,are you serious?

This is childish. You abandoned a GMB member and to be blunt you are not the only union who does this. It is an open scandal that union members who lose their jobs often find that their union turns round and says you’re not paying contributions any longer as you are not working, therefore we won’t represent you. We agreed to take on your member’s case on a No Win No Fee basis. Given lack of legal aid and the unwillingness of unions to pursue cases that is the only way workers can gain access to the employment tribunal. The maximum chargeable is 35% not 20%, so your member was hardly being fleeced. Certainly he didn’t think so as he was £27k better off. But given your clear concern at the fact that your member has lost £5k, would you agree to compensate him if I give you the details?

If I had wanted, I could have got a job paying as much as your salary and work for the kind of solicitors firms you mention. Instead working at Brighton Unemployed Centre, which I helped found 30 years ago, is the pinnacle of my ambition. The money I obtain through legal work goes to the Centre, not me.

The wild guff you have sought to spread will not weaken our support for PCS or sour our work with Unison.

My intention in raising these questions, which go to the heart of what trade unionism and solidarity are all about, had nothing to do with creating difficulties with PCS. It was PCS and their General Secretary Mark Serwotka who first alerted us to what was happening. Likewise UNISON.

You could have rightly asked the GMB serious Questions but you did nothing but spread rubbish and hurl insults at all and sundry.
If it comes to believing you or Mark Serwotka you come last.

It’s not a question of whether to believe Mark Serwotka or me. There is no difference between Mark and me. The question is whether anyone can believe you.

The GMB has poured thousands of pounds into campaigns such as No to AV and of course New Labour. It has given next to nothing to unemployed centres in Britain. In that, of course, it is not alone, as the 250 centres of the 1980’s have shrivelled to about 30 today. But that neglect, which was not even benign, has meant it has lost contact with millions of workers and the price has been falling numbers of trade unions which officials have sought to remedy via mergers.

However, in the light of your correspondence with Holly Smith it is clear that our differences have now narrowed given the assurances contained in that correspondence.

Best wishes

Kind Regards

Tony Greenstein

E-mail Correspondence Between Holly Smith (GMB Steward in Brighton) & Paul Kenny

From: Kenny Paul (WI) [Paul.Kenny-wim@gmb.org.uk]
Sent: 23 May 2011 21:49
To: Holly Smith

Subject: Re: Workfare

Hi Holly,
Let me deal with your most important question first.
The GMB and myself are 100 percent opposed to Workfare and the privatisation of any public service including Employment services.
I spoke to Mark who I know well and his info was based on the document Kennedy Scott put out which suggested the GMB supported its contents by way of our Logo.
The only work we were involved in was the work we asked Portsmouth Uni to do on the Failure of the current private sector providers to help the long term Unemployed,Mark accepts GMB would never support welfare to work and we are pledged to support PCS in their struggle to retain direct employment services like Jobcentreplus.
The report you refer to was not ours nor did we endorse it or support the type of comments quoted
I have written to kennedy scott making it clear we do not support private companies in these services nor do we support welfare to work or their views.
I have made my views clear about anyone using our logo or implying our support for Welfare to work
Mark Serwotka was concerned at the report but has always been positive that GMB would never support such sentiments as expressed in the document.
I had not read or seen the document until this all came to light and I have tried to ensure that the GMB position is explained to all who seek clarification.
I am sorry that not everyone is prepared to listen to the explanation.
The good news out of all this is the research we did with Portsmouth Uni is very supportive of our case on the failure of the private sector to do anything on the field of Employment Services except line their pockets.
Anything left unanswered please prompt me
Paul Kenny

----- Original Message -----
From: Holly Smith
To: Kenny Paul (WI)
Sent: Mon May 23 21:24:20 2011
Subject: RE: Workfare

Hi Paul

No problem. Thanks very for much for replying and taking the time to respond to my concerns. It reassures me to hear that you advocate the Jobcentre workers over private providers. However I am still quite confused. Did you not read all the quotes from the report that I included in my email? Can you not see how, from that, anyone can conclude that the GMB is in support of the proposals that the report makes?

Why was the GMB quoted as saying the report was 'innovative' when it was launched in the House of Lords?
Why did you yourself say that you "welcomed the idea of pilots" of these plans "across the country" if you tell me that you are opposed to them?

Did you know that the report ‘reflects on the importance of outsourcing welfare to work provision to independent providers’, and recommends ‘best practice is for contractors to have a presence in job centres’. I am confused as what you have to said to me in your email is in contradiction with what the report actually says. You state that the union was "trying to establish facts" and "trying to expose the current payment schemes" but I am at a loss as to how you think this report does this in the slightest. How do you think it does?

You state that the PCS has our full support and this has been made clear to them - so why was Mark Serwotka angry about the report that GMB has put it's name to, and why were PCS members calling out 'shame'?

Can you say unequivocally that the GMB, and yourself, opposes all welfare to work programmes? Can you state that you are opposed to any privatisation or introduction of private providers into the welfare state?

And finally, may I ask if you have actually read the report and what it is recommending? I spent hours reading it on Friday morning, so I was knowledgable about it's content and could make an informed opinion, yet what you are saying in your email is very inconsistent with the report's conclusions.

Sorry for the extensive questions in my email, but I am still confused as to your, and the GMB's position over this, so am just seeking clarity.

Thanks for your time.

From: Kenny Paul (EDG) [paul.kenny-edg@gmb.org.uk] On Behalf Of Kenny Paul (WI) [Paul.Kenny-wim@gmb.org.uk]
Sent: 23 May 2011 18:34
To: Holly Smith
Subject: RE: Workfare

Hi Holly,

Sorry about the delay in responding to your note.

The GMB seems to have been accused of supporting Welfare to work.

This is not true.
The GMB appears to have been accused of having some sort of deal or partnership with a company called Kennedy Scott.

This is not true either.

The union has by bitter experience seen the impact of private sector firms on all walks of Public Service Provision.

The Introduction of the Private sector into Employment services is the latest in a long line of political dogma.
These companies which were given contracts by this and the last Government are paid on little more than a revolving door basis.

They are not a patch on the supportive and caring Direct service provided by Jobcentre staff.

The "success" of these companies is held up as evidence to open up more doors for these companies.
The truth is that if they were Judged on the same level of success which Jobcentre plus has in placing people in decent stable sustainable Employment they would lose every time.

The current system of payments to these companies and the criteria they are judged by leaves the person who needs support without it and the taxpayer picks up a bill for lining private sector pockets.

The Union worked with Portsmouth Uni to establish the facts about how these private sector companies had failed the Unemployed and we used the GMB members from Remploy who were throw on the scrapheap and left without proper help because in Money terms they take more time and support to place into suitable and stable mainstream employment.

The Remploy data base claims on how they have helped many thousands of Disabled people into mainstream jobs is highly dubious.

Placing people into Charity shops or collecting Trolleys at Supermarkets is not what everyone wants to do.

The Union therefore is trying to expose the current payment schemes and we believe that Jobcentre plus do and can provide the best most caring service if the measurement used on real success in helping people into work was on a like for like basis.

The PCS has our full support and that has been made clear to them.

The GMB does not support Welfare to work nor will it.

The confusion has been around the use it appears of our logo.
That matter is being dealt with.

Thanks for writing to me and as you can see by my grammar I do as many of my own letters as I can manage.

Paul Kenny

-----Original Message-----
From: Holly Smith

Sent: 23 May 2011 10:11
To: Kenny Paul (WI)
Subject: FW: Workfare

Hello Paul

I am a GMB shop steward for Brighton Council.
On Friday I sent an email to my Regional and National Officer about great concerns I have about recommendations the GMB has made about a welfare to work programme.
I am not sure if you read your own emails or not, or if a secretary reading this would be able to pass my comments on.
As our General Secretary I am appalled that you appear to be giving your backing to these recommendations and would very much like to hear your comments on this.

Please read my below email for further detail.

Thank you


Holly Smith
Contracts Team & GMB Shop Steward
CityClean & CityParks
Brighton and Hove City Council
Hollingdean Depot

>>From: Holly Smith
Sent: 20 May 2011 12:50
Subject: Workfare

Hello Paul and Richard - I was given your names as people to contact about an issue I have. If you are not the right people to discuss this with, please advise me on how I take this forward through the correct channels.

As I am sure you are aware, the PCS trade union is currently holding their Congress in Brighton. I attended a meeting there yesterday at which they launched their new booklet ‘Welfare – An Alternative Vision’, an excellent straightforward and accessible booklet which sets out to debunk the myths around benefit claimants and reinforces why we should all be fighting to defend our welfare state. -

Speakers at the meeting included Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, and John McDonnell MP. They both spoke at length against the introduction of private providers into the welfare service, and were extremely angry about ‘a trade union’ that has come out in support of introducing private providers to work with the DWP, and the ‘welfare to work’ programmes. Eventually someone in the audience shouted out and asked who it was; I was appalled to hear it was the GMB.

I spoke to PCS members at length about this after the meeting, and have been researching it this morning.

In essence, the GMB has, through a report called ‘Welfare to Work in the 21st Century’ made recommendations that the DWP pilot a US Welfare-to-work programme developed by a company called America Works. The report has been authored by an accountancy firm called PKF (!). You can read the full report here:

Here are some choice selections from the report itself –

The report ‘reflects on the importance of outsourcing welfare to work provision to independent providers’
The report recommends ‘best practice is for contractors to have a presence in job centres’
And recommends ‘the Government should robustly monitor the sub-contracting market to ensure that competition is maximised’

I am incredulous that a trade union is actually recommending and encouraging a Tory Government to increase their free- marketeering! Why on earth are we encouraging the opening up of the public sector to private providers? Do we really believe that introducing a profit motive into the public sector ensures the best possible service??

I have been researching the scheme, and the companies involved, this morning. Here are some of my findings -

- The guy who set the company up, a Mr Cove, is described as ‘one of the nation's leading advocates for private solutions to welfare’

- Mr Cove ‘influences policy makers internationally in his belief that private-sector efforts must be tapped by government’. (taken from his own website).

- The company themselves state “work first was a better strategy to reduce welfare than education and training programs”.

- Candidates participate in up to four weeks of unpaid training, focusing on soft skills like ‘developing a positive attitude’

- Employers ‘try out’ each candidate for up to four months during which time they have no employee rights, and if they are found not to be suitable they are simply released!

At the launch of this report in the House of Lords, the GMB described it as ‘innovative’. How about ‘regressive’ or ‘oppressive’? In a statement Paul Kenny said “The GMB is looking at how best to support both our members who are facing redundancy as the public sector cuts bite and those suffering the scourge of long term unemployment. We welcome the idea of pilots across the country to evaluate how best to do this.”

Apart from the immense political and moral objections I have to opening up welfare provision to private providers, cheap labour, subsidising employers, the treatment of the workers who will be forced into these schemes, etc etc., then does the GMB not realise schemes such as this actually takes jobs away from other workers and serves as a mechanism for keeping wages down and profits up?? Why would a private company keep employing a unionised workforce who have fought for a decent salary and terms and conditions, when they could simply sack them all and rely on an army of cheap labour which they get extra subsidies for, who they can have on permanent rotation?

Of course the GMB should be advocating job creation and getting people into work – but absolutely not in this manner. Why not advocate a massive house building programme, that employs skilled labourers to create quality social housing to solve the massive housing crisis we have in this country? Why not push for manufacturing jobs in sustainable technologies? I could go on.

I had a meeting with the other shop stewards in my workplace this morning (who are copied into this email), to discuss this matter. We would like to know why on earth our trade union is actually advocating the further exploitation of the working class. We feel that this report is nothing but an opportunity for private providers to profit from exploiting workers, and is an attack on unemployed workers, an attack on workers in jobs, and essentially an attack on trade unionism and it’s core values.

I would like your advice as to how we progress this complaint further, and also to ask how we go about writing an emergency motion for this to be discussed at Congress.

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.


Holly Smith
Contracts Team & GMB Shop Steward

CityClean & CityParks
Brighton and Hove City Council
Hollingdean Depot

E-mail Correspondence 23rd May 2011 Between Paul Kenny (GMB) and Tony Greenstein (Brighton Unemployed Centre)

From: Kenny Paul (WI)
To: tony greenstein
Sent: Mon, 23 May, 2011 16:50:53
Subject: RE: GMB Gen. Secretary Paul Kenny Openly Supports Further Privatisation of Public Services

Dear Tony,

Thank you for your latest note and for posting my earlier reply on your blogsite.

I have explained in unambiguous terms the GMB stance on Welfare to Work and our complete opposition.

I have also explained what the GMB position is with regard to highlighting the failure of both this and the previous Governments policy of using Revolving door measurements of the "success" the private sector have been credited with and upon which large amounts of public money has been squandered into the pockets of these private providers.

This Money could have been better directed to help the long term Unemployed and those who are discriminated against such as the Disabled, the Young, Older workers and those other groups Employers tend to be less keen to give fresh opportunity's to such as Ex offenders, and those recovering from some form of substance dependency .

The GMB sought definitive evidence that the current system used to determine payment to these private sector companies are bad value for the person seeking support and for the taxpayer who picks up the bill.

The GMB has always argued that the most cost effective and compassionate support for those seeking work or training comes from direct employed Jobcentre staff. If performance were rated on criteria which applied fairly between the public and private sector the public sector wins and wins big. The pilot scheme you refer to is one where these criteria can be tested.

The current situation cannot be challenged by merely passing resolutions and then wandering home.

Those who deliver Public Services by direct means have been undermined for years by various forms of CCT, Best Value and every other form of excuse to privatise a public service.

The GMB has no agreement with any company engaged in this type of work that I am aware of with the exception of Remploy and their record of assisting disabled workers into mainstream employment is highly dubious.

The GMB operates in the real world. It is no good pretending that these difficult situations don't exist.

The retreat to the leafy lanes of XXXX is not an option for everyone.

In your comments to my earlier email ( which incidentally I sent to you at 11-22am on Sunday Morning) you said that you did not need to verify any of your conclusions since you had been present when Mark Serwotka had made all these allegations against the GMB.

I have spoken to Mark, who knows GMB well and he has advised my that he made no such attack on GMB.

It is clear that Mark and colleagues from PCS have every right to seek an explanation and an Understanding of the GMB position.

The support for our comrades in PCS in their struggle is unwavering and I don't think Mark doubts that for one moment.

It appears therefore that you have made a wild and unhelpful attempt to create a split between 2 Unions who are having to face up to this Governments Cuts to our services.

In conclusion, I accept that anybody who supports Welfare to Work and Exploitation of the Unemployed are beneath contempt.

In fact the only lower form of life I can think of is someone who would get Young Unemployed persons recruited at something like the TUC conference as Stewards and then take a portion of their meagre Lunch expenses as a FINDERS FEE.

Some Low life's about eh?


Paul Kenny

GMB Gen. Secretary Paul Kenny Openly Supports Further Privatisation of Public Services

From: tony greenstein

To: Kenny Paul (WI)

Cc: RegionalSecretaries@gmb.org.uk

Sent: Mon, 23 May, 2011

Dear Paul,

It seems that my comments have hit home. I posted your reply on my blog because this is a matter of public concern. It is not a private matter and your e-mail was not headed 'private'. This e-mail will also be made public.

I am disappointed though that you immediately resort to trying to shoot the messenger rather than dealing with the message by instructing your local minions to try and dig up some dirt on me. Unfortunately their attempts at 'research' are on a par with the Report that you have endorsed. What it does reveal is that you know your position is indefensible. Knowing that by the time the truth gets its boots on, lies have gone 12 leagues round the world, I will comment briefly on the personal allegations:

i. Yes I rent a house in xxxx and I claim housing benefit. So what? I suspect it is worth far less than the house that you live in. I also happen to have my autistic son live with me and there is therefore a need to be near his mother. His mother also cares for him and she lives in xxxx. Do you have a problem with that? One thing is for certain. I don't receive the £80,000+ a year which is the going rate for General Secretaries, to say nothing of the expense accounts and allowances. Try to remember, every time you dine out on the union, you are spending a few annual subscriptions. In fact New Labour got a 1,000 votes in the Council elections, so it can't be that leafy!

ii. Yes there are some low lifes around. E.g. union officials who get into bed with anti-union private American companies who are involved in workfare and 'welfare reform' - which are merely different sides of the same exploitative coin. The quality of your 'research' probably explains why I have ended up in the past 2 years representing at least 2 of your members in disciplinary/grievance hearings and employment tribunals, despite my being a member of UNISON. I won £32,000 at the Brighton employment tribunal for one of your members, for unfair dismissal, after the GMB simply dropped the case of a builder [whose name I can give confidentially] who was summarily sacked. Likewise I took up the case of an Asian woman and GMB member who worked for Hove YMCA. She was being racially harassed and bullied and then put on a disciplinary for capability. After your official failed to provide support, I had to submit a grievance, attend numerous disciplinary and grievance hearings before she was exonerated and her pay restored. This is all a matter of public record.

But since I did the work that the GMB did, maybe you'd like to compensate the unemployed centre for the work involved - at solicitor rates about £5,000. You might also like to compensate your member as we do ET cases on a CFA [no win, no fee] of 20% and therefore the unemployed centre received over five thousand pounds which the union should pay.

To deal with your specific allegation. If anyone had charged a 'finders fee' for stewards at the TUC Conference they would be drummed out of the unemployed centre without a moments thought. But of course those you got this information from are second hand gossips and liars. What we did do was to make it a condition, for those who wanted to become stewards, to pay a £10 donation to the local Refugee Trust, a charity which the Unemployed Centre helped set up. The Refugee Trust provides support for asylum seekers and refugees who have no other means of public support. Do you have a problem with this? Does the GMB provide any help at all to asylum seekers and refugees? I look forward to your apology for getting it wrong again. Your union represents many of those who have brutalised and abused asylum seekers in detention such as in G4S. Your crocodile tears over these alleged 'finders fees' are just that.

To deal with more substantive matters:

i. You say that 'I have explained in unambiguous terms the GMB stance on Welfare to Work and our complete opposition.'

Do you actually read what you put your name to? The Report with Kennedy Scott, 'the road to work and opportunity in the 21st century' is subtitled ‘welfare to work’ in the 21st century'. Section 1.3 'emphasises the importance of 'those delivering welfare to work provision coming from the public, private and voluntary sectors;' Section 1.5 speaks of 'the effectiveness of social networks and outplacement arrangements (alongside welfare to work provision) in mitigating the impact of unemployment.' and 'having a presence for welfare to work providers in Job Centres to enable assistance to be provided as early as possible.'

There are so many other favourable references to 'welfare to work' that I can only conclude that you have not read the report you have endorsed. To me that is even more shocking.

Yes we are well aware of the 'revolving door' nature of these make-work schemes. That is why I am surprised that you continue to advocate the same, with the added ingredient that the person placed will have a longer time before they leave, not least because of the coercive measures use to ensure that they put up with lousy conditions.

These programs are not designed to help particularly vulnerable sections of society but to ensure that welfare provision is kept at a minimum by forcing e.g. the disabled into work regardless of their own needs. They are not an added bonus but part of the overall demolition of the welfare safety net.

You speak of money being 'squandered into the pockets of these private providers.' Agreed. So why co-sponsor a Report with one of these providers?

You say that 'The GMB has always argued that the most cost effective and compassionate support for those seeking work or training comes from direct employed Jobcentre staff.' I find that difficiult to square with arguing for 'a presence for welfare to work providers in Job Centres to enable assistance to be provided as early as possible.'

I don't doubt that 'The GMB operates in the real world. It is no good pretending that these difficult situations don't exist.' I don't think you need to teach your granny how to suck eggs. However there is a difference between operating in the real world and advocating measures that make that real world even worse for the most exploited. The question is how you change that world, not how you adapt to it.

You say that you have spoken to Mark Serwotka and that he made no such attack on the GMB. I didn't say that he had attacked the GMB, but as you admit, he has every right to seek an explanation from you. The point though is why you didn't consult with him before embarking on this Report.

What I did say was that 'Mark Serwortka, PCS General Secretary made mention of the fact that there was a trade union in Britain which had come out in favour of more privatisation of job centres in Britain and had even co-authored a pamphlet with one such pirate, the US Workfare company Kennedy Scott. It emerged that the union was the GMB.'

Likewise Holly Smith, a GMB steward who you will no doubt subject to the same defamation as myself, was at the meeting and wrote that:

'Speakers at the meeting included Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, and John McDonnell MP. They both spoke at length against the introduction of private providers into the welfare service, and were extremely angry about ‘a trade union’ that has come out in support of introducing private providers to work with the DWP, and the ‘welfare to work’ programmes. Eventually someone in the audience shouted out and asked who it was; I was appalled to hear it was the GMB.'

I have no interest whatsoever in creating a split between PCS and the GMB. You seem to have managed that entirely by yourself.

You state that 'anybody who supports Welfare to Work and Exploitation of the Unemployed are beneath contempt.' I agree. And now we are in agreement I trust you will, as they say of government ministers, consider your position.


Tony Greenstein

Secretary - Brighton Unemployed Centre