24 March 2013

PCS Strike Against Attacks on Pay, Pensions & Conditions 20th March 2013

Solid Strike of Brighton PCS Members in DVLA, Courts and Job Centre Plus

Below are a few pictures of pickets outside the courts and Job Centre Plus in Brighton. There were also picket lines at the DVLA office which , like all others in the country, is being closed down on the grounds that the Internet makes such officers superflous!

Representative from Sussex University Occupation Addresses Picket

Nationally a quarter of million PSC members went on strike.

PCS national president Janice Godrich said "Reports show this strike has been one of the best supported ever, by members and the public."

PCS Picket at the Courts is in the background
There have been unprecedented levels of solidarity from the public and other trade unionists, with picket line visits and speakers at strike rallies.

There will be a half day strike on Friday 5th April and Mark Serwotka has called for other unions to join the PCS on Wednesday 26th June when Osborne announces the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Big Interview with Tony Greenstein!

The weekend local paper, the Brighton Argus did an interview with me.  It's not often they interview a self-confessed communist about anti-Zionism and imperialism!  Enjoy.

This blog will be taking a week's break as I'm off for a week's 'holiday' in freezing Britain!

Tony Greenstein

Israeli Professor Yaron Raviv calls Palestinian student ‘a cockroach’

Claremont McKenna College in Southern California Ignores Racist Outburst and Accuses the Victim

The Nazi contours of Zionist Racism Revealed in Professorial Outburst

Crosspost Electronic Intifada
Racist Israeli Professor Yaron Raviv whom Claremont College, California are protecting
 It is a hallmark of the most virulent racist ideologies that the colonised are dehumanised and compared to vermin.  After all, the only relationship human beings have to cockroaches, germs and rodents is to kill them.
The truth always hurts - Israeli Professor Raviv didn't like reminding about the Occupation Checkpoints
Hitler made it clear in Mein Kampf (220) that “If the best men were killed on the front, then one should at least destroy the vermin [Jews] at home.”   To Hitler ‘Nature is cruel; therefore we are also entitled to be cruel. When I send the flower of German youth into the steel hail of the next war without feeling the slightest regret over the precious German blood that is being spilled, should I not also have the right to eliminate millions of an inferior race that multiplies like vermin?' 
Joachim Fest in "Hitler” Vintage Books Edition, 1974, p. 679-680.
Hitler warned the German people not to be ‘misled into thinking you can fight a disease without killing the carrier, without destroying the bacillus.  Don't think you can fight racial tuberculosis without taking care to rid the nation of the carrier of that racial tuberculosis.’ 

[D Irving, The War Path: Hitler's Germany 1933-1939. Papermac, 1978]
Racist abuse of Palestinian called 'cockroach' by faculty member - Claremont authorities turn a blind eye

Zionists too have compared Jewish people in the diaspora of being vermin . Pinhas Rosenbluth, a leading German Zionist, who was to become Israel's first Minister of Justice and a ‘liberal’, wrote that Palestine is ‘an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin.’  
[Classic Zionism and Modern Anti-Semitism: Parallels and Influences (1883-1914), Joachim Doron, Studies in Zionism, No. 8 Autumn 1983 citing “Feldbrief aus dem Osten’ Der judische Student (1914) p. 74.]

What is worrying about the cowardly and timid Claremont College authorities is that instead of disciplining, i.e. firing the racist professor, they have deemed it of importance whether those exercising the rights of free speech had the right to do so.  As for Raviv, he is left to his own devices, since racism is American as apple pie, they obviously see no cause for concern.  Of course in Israel, Raviv’s comments would not raise an eyebrow.  As the article below mentions, Israel’s Chief of Staff under Begin, Raful Eitan, described Palestinian as ‘drugged cockroaches’.

Nonetheless it is an important demonstration that the right of ‘free speech’ in the US applies primarily to those who capitlaism and the free market.  Universities and colleges are ideological transmission belts for the rationalisation of support for US foreign policy.

Tony Greenstein

Israeli professor working in US calls Palestinian student a "cockroach"

Gabriel Schivone and Nora Barrows-Friedman
The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2013

Israel Apartheid Week brought out the best in Israeli Professor Raviv at Claremont
Students in the five-college Claremont system in southern California are organizing against an act of racial discrimination by an Israeli professor who called a Palestinian student a “cockroach.”

Since the incident became public, the student says he has faced violent threats written on his reserved seat in the campus library, and someone flattened one of the tires of his car with a sharpened key.

The first incident occurred on Monday, 4 March, when the Claremont group of Students for Justice in Palestine launched its series of events marking Israeli Apartheid Week with street theater actions simulating mock Israeli military checkpoints at three of the colleges throughout the day. Israeli Apartheid Week is marked at campuses nationwide and internationally to educate the wider public about Israel’s occupation and supremacist rule in Palestine.

At one point that evening, a man who was later identified as a faculty member at Claremont McKenna College aggressively approached the Students for Justice in Palestine members staffing a mock checkpoint which was set up outside an entrance of the Collins Dining Hall on the campus.

The professor, Yaron Raviv, who is an Israeli citizen and teaches economics at Claremont McKenna College, demanded that the dining hall staff, the dean of students and campus security remove the Students for Justice in Palestine members from the area.

But since Students for Justice in Palestine had acquired official permission for its event and had its paperwork in order, neither the school officials nor the dining staff agreed to remove the students. They did request, however, that the students not block the doorway.

The student activists complied with this request, according to a Claremont McKenna College Campus Safety and Security officer’s incident report obtained by The Electronic Intifada.

A Palestinian member of Students for Justice in Palestine, Najib Hamideh, then walked up to the professor and politely asked his reason for being there, requesting that the man identify himself. In an exchange verified and quoted in the officer’s report, the professor then responded, “Fuck off, you cockroach.”

According to Hamideh, Raviv next referred to all the Students for Justice in Palestine members as cockroaches, and then asked him which of the Claremont colleges Hamideh belonged to. When Hamideh replied that he attends Pitzer College, Raviv then responded that “all Pitzer kids are cockroaches,” Hamideh says.

The Electronic Intifada attempted to contact professor Raviv for a comment on 13 March, but he has still not replied to our request.

“Bias-related incident”

Violent, profane speech allegedly written on a card marking Nijab Hamideh’s reservation of a study carrel in the campus library.

The harangued student, as well as the Claremont chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine as a whole, are stressing to the student body and Claremont administrations that professor Raviv’s conduct amounts to racial discrimination and falls within the category of a “bias-related incident.”

In a Claremont Colleges’ document titled “Communication Protocol for Bias-Related Incidents,” it clearly states that “Bias-related incidents are expressions of hostility against another person (or group) because of that person’s (or group’s) race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation, or because the perpetrator perceives that the other person (or group) has one or more of those characteristics.”

“Use of the term ‘cockroach’ must be taken in its specific historical context as hateful, racist, enemy imagery,” Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine wrote on 7 March, both in an incident report filed with Pitzer administrators and in a public statement to the Pitzer student body’s discussion forum. The student group cited cases of the term applied to Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide and to Jews under Nazi Germany (“Students allege bias related exchange with professor,” The Student Life, 8 March).

The term has also been used by Israeli military and political leaders in reference to Palestinians throughout its history.

Reported in The New York Times in April 1983, for example, the Israeli army Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan proposed building 10 settlements for every stone-throwing incident in the West Bank and Gaza. “When we have settled the land,” Eitan said, “all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle.”

Daniel Segal, a longtime professor of anthropology and history at Pitzer College, told The Electronic Intifada that Raviv’s behavior was “clearly harmful” to the educational environment.

“Faculty should be modeling how, when we disagree with each other, we challenge each other with evidence and/or questions about the logic of the position that we’ve developed from the evidence,” he said. “Name-calling, particularly denigrating name-calling, is not conducive to dialogue across very strong political differences. And for a faculty member to do that is to corrode and degrade the educational context of the colleges; it’s an attack on the students, it’s also an attack on our community.”

“Great irony”

An Israeli instructor called a Palestinian student a “cockroach” during a mock checkpoint action.

Raviv’s use of the term “cockroach,” Segal added, was particularly troubling. “A cockroach is something that ‘we humans’ have only one relationship to. We try to stomp on them, we try to wipe them out, we try to kill them, we try to eliminate them.”

Hamideh, having graduated from high school in the occupied West Bank where he lived for 10 years, remembers being “subject to this form of abuse many times before,” he said in a Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine public statement (“Statement regarding bias-related incident on Claremont McKenna Campus,” SJP Claremont Facebook page, 8 March 2013).

“It is a great irony that at a checkpoint simulation on campus that I helped to organize, I experienced an Israeli calling me a cockroach, just as has been done to me many times before at actual checkpoints in the West Bank. To me, this is a discriminatory incident and I personally do not feel comfortable as a student on a campus where a faculty member is allowed to demean me and curse at me.”

For fellow Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine member Zavi Kang Engles, the incident at the mock checkpoint strikes at the heart of Palestinian rights advocacy by students as a whole. The professor’s “cockroach” slur “also implicated other people doing this sort of work,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “In that way, the professor’s remarks were an attack on all of SJP.”

Sixteen persons — including reporters for Pomona College’s The Student Life and The Electronic Intifada, and nearly all the members of Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine, along with supporters such as the Pitzer College student body vice president — crowded into the Pitzer dean of students’ tiny office late afternoon on 8 March, to meet with Dean of Students Moya Carter and Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Marchant.

Hamideh was visibly disturbed during the meeting, at one point nearly breaking down, his voice shaking, as he cited further personal trauma. “When I go back to my country, the [Israeli army] makes me open up my Facebook, my Gmail, and if they see any conversations [on this topic] …” He said that he was afraid of what Israeli forces might do, including refuse him entry into the West Bank in the future.

Students under investigation

In a Pitzer campus-wide statement on 8 March, Marchant wrote that his Pitzer administration was investigating what he mildly described as “inappropriate and hostile verbal comments by a CMC [Claremont McKenna College] faculty member” directed at the student during the event (“Students accuse professor of hate speech following Palestine justice event,” Claremont Port Side, 11 March).

But in its initial statement on 7 March, Pitzer’s administration was quick to emphasize that it is working with Claremont McKenna College in a joint investigation of “whether the policy on demonstrations was followed” by Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine during their event. The colleges understood that “some form of verbal exchange occurred involving a Pitzer student and CMC faculty member.”

Such remarks did not sit well with members of Students for Justice in Palestine, which stated in their public response that “both the Pitzer and CMC administrations should be putting more effort into investigating the discriminatory and harmful actions of a faculty member rather than investigating the previously sanctioned, constitutionally protected event held by [Claremont SJP].”

In the following days, Pitzer administrators seemed to agree. “I apologize, the [7 March] statement was misleading,” Marchant said in the meeting on 8 March. He explained the effort as a “compromise” with Claremont McKenna College, whose administrators remain focused on whether the student group followed school policies, while Pitzer administrators are concerned with the “verbal exchange.”

Marchant’s clarifying regrets didn’t make it into his campus-wide statement made later that evening. He did, however, concede that the group informed Campus Safety and Security of its event, for which it obtained formal permission, and complied with all requests by school officials on the scene prior to the incident.

Claremont SJP has garnered the strong support of Pitzer College faculty during this ordeal. Along with news of the incident spreading rapidly throughout the student campus, on 10 March the Pitzer Faculty Executive Committee stated in a letter obtained by The Electronic Intifada that it was “extremely concerned” by the incident, urging Claremont McKenna College and Pitzer to finish investigating the matter “immediately and thoroughly.

Admonishing the Pitzer administration, the faculty committee added: “We think it is unfortunate that the initial public communications about this issue were focused on potential demonstration policy violations — we reassert that the right to peaceful demonstrations is an integral piece of an open, intellectually vigorous college community.” The committee reaffirmed a “protection from verbal assault and harassment.”

In a follow-up letter to the entire five-college student body dated 15 March, the Pitzer Faculty Executive Committee stated that “the Pitzer investigation into the matter has shown that the five college students involved in the SJP event of 4 March did not violate any procedures in carrying out their event. It is [Claremont McKenna College], however, that has the responsibility for further investigation into Professor Raviv’s behavior, and conducting that investigation is not within Pitzer College’s purview.”

The committee added that it will work with faculty and students to “organize forums for discussion of the incident and related topics,” after this week’s spring break.

Claremont College - Not a picture of tranquility but academic tolerance for racism
“Repressive environment”

Asked to comment on the situation, Liz Jackson, cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support Initiative, wrote in an email to The Electronic Intifada: “This case epitomizes the repressive environment faced by students who stand up for Palestinian rights on campuses nationwide.” Jackson added that “from Brooklyn to Berkeley, from South Florida, to southern California, students are subjected to harassment, discriminatory treatment and legal threats.”

In particular, California has become a hotbed for legal and administrative measures aimed to discourage Palestinian rights-based activism.

In August 2012, the California state assembly passed a non-binding, bipartisan resolution, HR 35, which civil rights organizations say conflates on-campus Palestine solidarity activism and rights advocacy with anti-Semitism.

The range of activities that California legislators recommended banning includes merely stating that Israel has engaged in “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing,” or using language describing Israeli policies as racist or akin to apartheid; the sponsoring of boycott, divestment and sanctions actions; and other political activities regularly organized by student Palestine solidarity groups.

It was revealed that resolution HR 35 was drafted with help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an ultra-right-wing Zionist organization which is building a “museum of tolerance” on top of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem (“California legislator promise to affirm free speech rights on campus earns praise of Palestine solidarity activists,” Mondoweiss, 4 September 2012).

“Chilling effects”

Back at the 8 March meeting at Pitzer College, Dean Moya Carter said she had met with Claremont students who were upset by the Students for Justice in Palestine mock checkpoint action, which they perceived as “hostile” and “aggressive.” According to one student she quoted, “[SJP members] weren’t being pro-Palestine, they were being anti-Israel.” However, no outside groups have contacted the college nor have any complaints about the mock checkpoint action been filed as of 8 March, according to both Carter and Marchant.

More significantly, no action has been taken against professor Yaron Raviv as of press time.

Professor Daniel Segal told The Electronic Intifada that even though Raviv is “clearly in violation of [the college’s] handbook” due to his bias-related targeting of Najib Hamideh and the other students, he was not surprised that the Claremont McKenna College administration has chosen to be protective of Raviv rather than take responsibility. “[CMC] has not cultivated a respect for and a commitment to foster dissent, particularly dissent from the left,” Segal added.

By choosing to scrutinize an approved protest action rather than pursue an investigation into one of their faculty members’ wrongful, racist conduct toward students, Segal explained that this is just the latest in a series of “chilling effects” that the Claremont McKenna administration has had on dissent and protests.

Further attacks

Meanwhile, aggressive attacks against Hamideh have taken place since the incident with Raviv became public. Hamideh told The Electronic Intifada that on 12 March, a sharpened metal key had been deliberately shoved deep into his car’s tire, flattening it. On the same day, a threatening note was found scrawled on a card marking his reservation for a carrel desk in the college’s library.

On the library carrels, each desk has a sign reading “This carrel has been reserved for” and then the student’s name. Hamideh explained that someone had written “me to fuck” under his name and scrawled under that, in different handwriting, “in the skull.” Hamideh said that although Student Affairs had been notified, and had acted “horrified,” administration officials haven’t yet taken any action.

Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine member Sonia Mehrmand said that since the incident with professor Raviv became known, students have expressed shock and outrage — but also support for SJP and its members. “It’s not slipping under the radar like it could have,” she said. “The angry voices are the loudest ones. It doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones.”

Hamideh said, “I really feel like it’s an act of desperation … When I was in Palestine, I remember first hearing about [the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement] and thinking that it was never going to happen. But like in South Africa, the BDS movement started, and then on college campuses, and it pushed through. It gained national attention. And that’s how oppression can be stopped.”
All images courtesy of Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine.

Gabriel M. Schivone is a Chicano-Jewish American and a student researcher at the University of Arizona and is a on the ad hoc steering committee of National Students for Justice in Palestine.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

See also Students Allege Bias-Related Exchange with Professor, The Student Life
By Carlos Ballesterosm Fri, Mar 8

23 March 2013

Israel is Destroying Gaza’s Fishing Industry

Once Again Israel breaks an Agreement

One of the parts of the agreement that led to the freeing of Gilad Shalit was that Gazan fishermen would not be prevented from fishing up to 12 miles from the coast.  This is quite normal but Israel fires on anyone going beyond 3 miles.  There is no possible ‘security’ justification for this – its purpose is clear – to destroy the Palestinian economy and make Gazans dependent on Israel.  Of course it also destroys an indigenous economy and causes yet more unemployment.

Far from preserving Israeli ‘security’ the actions of Israel ensure even more Gazans are unemployed and therefore attracted to those who shoot rockets in retaliation for Israeli actions.  This kind of starvation blockade is, of course, ignored by the BBC which is only concerned when Israel complains.
From Alan Hart to Tim Llewellyn and Orna Guerin, BBC correspondents have complained about the way coverage is distorted (Orna was simply banished to cover other countries) but policy is laid down by the BBC & Foreign Office – don’t do anything to upset the United State’s watchdog in the region and being the government’s lapdog, after Hutton in particular, the BBC oblige.

Gaza fishermen protest as Israel breaks pledge to stop attacks

  Israel Continues Siege on Gaza by Harrassing & Attacking Fishermen
One of the enduring characteristics of Israel’s occupation is that whatever pledges it makes as part of an agreement, sooner or later it breaks them.  In November last year, as part of the prisoner exchange with Hamas, it agreed not to harass or limit fishing within a 12 mile border.  Suffice to say that it has been seizing and shooting at fishermen from Gaza regardless.

This is on a par with all of its agreements, Oslo included.  Land is confiscated, water stolen, unarmed demonstrators shot  - all by the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’.

The prolonged Israeli naval blockade has destroyed Gaza's fishing industry and marine sports
Under years of Israeli blockade, the Gaza fishing industry has become the hardest hit sector, leaving thousands of fishermen struggling to make ends meet, especially in light of the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy on fishing maritime areas and frequent harassments, that prevent Palestinian fishermen from practicing their right to fish freely along Gaza's 40km coastline in the Mediterranean Sea.

The naval blockade was imposed following the second Palestinian uprising which broke out in September 2000 and was tightened in mid 2006, since then fishermen have been forced to fish in shallow waters.

Under the Oslo Accords of 1993, Palestinians are allowed to fish for up to 20 nautical miles from the shoreline but in 2006 this limit has dropped to three. Due to the restrictions enforced by the Israeli navy, the number of active fishermen has dropped from approximately 10,000 in the year 2000 to around 3,500 today.

PTC: As a result of the naval blockade and restrictions at sea, as you can see 100's of these fishing boats are anchored at Gaza seaport, simply because fishermen cannot reach areas abundant with fish.

Following the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, Israel announced that fishermen can reach up to six nautical miles, but since then many attacks have been reported within this limit.

(Interview: Gazan fisherman)

Transcript: (I'm a fisherman struggling to support my family, the current limit of 6 nautical miles is not enough, we need to reach at least 10 miles to be able to fish in areas abundant with fish. In the past, I was injured, abducted while fishing, my boat was confiscated, when they approached me they asked me via a loudspeaker to take off my clothing and jump into the water and swim towards their military gunship)

According to the Union of Fishermen, since the year 2000, nine Gazan fishermen have been killed and hundreds injured and abducted while fishing in Palestinian waters. Many fishing boats were attacked and drowned and just this last year 36 boats were confiscated and taken to Ashdod port.

(Interview: Michael Colman, Australian Activist)

Transcript: (Palestinians should be allowed to fish in Palestinian waters without the threat of attack by the Israeli occupation force, the 36 boats that are currently in Ashdod need to be returned to the Palestinians, that is directly affecting 36 families who no longer have a livelihood, this is unacceptable).

Israel claims that Palestinian militant groups smuggle weapons via the sea, and the naval blockade is necessary to stop them. Some here say that these attacks aim to sabotage the already weak economy in the tiny coastal strip, as Gaza's 3500 fishermen's income supports about 40,000 people.

(Interview: Gazan Fisherman)

Transcript: (3 to 6 nautical miles limit is not even enough for swimming and fishermen come under fire even in that zone. All Israeli claims of weapons smuggled via the sea are baseless, we demand that the international community put pressure on Israel to lift the blockade).

Due to the strict restrictions on fishing and ban to reach areas rich with fish, Gazans are forced to import fresh fish from the Egyptian side or frozen fish from the Israeli side.

Some here think that Israeli restrictions at sea aim to prevent fishermen from getting close to the gas fields which were discovered recently in Palestinian territorial waters.

Meanwhile, fishing boat construction is dying in Gaza and only boats damaged by Israeli gunship bullets are repaired on the beach. Fishermen say there is no point in making new vessels due to the naval restrictions

(Interview: Boat Builder/Maker)

Transcript: ( We only fix damaged boats, as there is no point building new boats in light of the imposed fishing limit at sea, most of the needed materials that we need such as fiber are brought in from the underground tunnels )

Although Gaza is located on the Mediterranean Sea, marine sport is also banned simply because any boat built for fishing or recreation can come under fire even within the allowed fishing distance.

(Interview: Mahfouz Kabariti, Fishing and Marine Sports Association)

Transcript: (people are afraid from sailing on recreational boats, or even practicing any marine sport, especially in light of the daily shooting at fishermen that could be heard day and night. The Israelis prohibit the importation of any kind of marine sport equipment such as jet skiing and speed boats for what they say due to security concerns and people here are denied their right to practice any marine sport )

(Interview: Adie Mormech, International Solidarity Movement)

Transcript: (There are so many aspects by which Gazans cannot just achieve a normal life and sport is one of them, it's not only about fishing, life is way beyond work, it's also about leisure and there has been a long history of sport activities along the sea, whether it is boat races or surfing and a lot of other sports activities, they are no longer possible because of the attacks by Israel)

PTC: Many maritime sports like Jet Ski are forbidden by the Israeli navy, Israel justifies the measure for security concerns. Palestinian sailors wish to sail from Gaza to take part in international sailing championships.

Since 2008, five siege-breaking missions organized by international activists succeeded in breaking the blockade by sailing to Gaza port from various European ports, but a new project called "Gaza Ark" aims to break the blockade by building a big boat using existing resources with the help of a crew of internationals and Palestinians and sail it out of Gaza port, the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping. They will carry Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers, to challenge the Israeli blockade and bring the worlds' attention to the plight of Gazans under the sea blockade.

Yousef Al-Helou, For The Real News Gaza.

Joe Catron
The Electronic Intifada Gaza City, 5 March 2013

“The situation for fishermen is very bad,” Mos’ad Baker said in the Gaza seaport Sunday. “We still face the Israeli navy daily.”

He had just returned from a flotilla that spent the morning sailing the Mediterranean coast of the Gaza Strip from the seaport to Beit Lahiya and back.

With more than 50 boats, the flotilla was part of a campaign against the Israeli navy’s attacks on Palestinian fishermen and to demand that Israel return 36 fishing boats it has seized. The protest was organized by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC).

The event followed a series of protests the UAWC mounted last month as part of a global day of action for boycotts of Israeli agricultural companies.

For the several hundred fishermen who spent their mornings in the seaborne rally, accompanied by international activists and television cameras, it offered a rare window of relative safety at sea.

Israel gave a commitment in its 21 November 2012 ceasefire agreement with Palestinian resistance groups to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals” and “refrain … from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas.”

The Hamas-run administration in Gaza announced the next day that negotiations for the truce in Cairo had expanded the three-nautical mile fishing limit imposed by Israel, as part of its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, to six nautical miles.
Violations of ceasefire deal

But attacks on fishermen quickly resumed. According to Zakaria Baker, another fisherman who facilitates the UAWC’s five local fishing committees in the Gaza Strip, Israel has captured nine more boats since 21 November.

“They have kept more boats since the ceasefire than between 1994 and 2005,” he said, adding that since the truce, at least five additional boats have been shot and three fishermen wounded. “As for the boats the Israelis capture, they shoot nearly all of them first.”

I was injured when two Israeli warships approached my boat” on 17 December, Mos’ad Baker said. “One circled it, creating turbulence, while the other sprayed it with gunfire.” A bullet struck his left thigh, he added. “Then they arrested me and confiscated my boat, which is now in Ashdod [a port in Israel].”

Zakaria Baker said that since the ceasefire, most of the boats Israel has targeted lay within the six-nautical-mile area Israel has unilaterally declared permissible for fishing, but several were north of Gaza’s al-Shati (Beach) refugee camp, where he, like Mos’ad and much of the extended Baker family, lives.

Israel has claimed to agencies like the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that fishermen can sail northeast along the Gaza coast to 1.5 nautical miles from Israeli waters safely. But according to Zakaria Baker, the miles of sea between this nautical extension of the “buffer zone” and the camp are now the most dangerous.

“The Israelis are trying to push the limit down to al-Shati camp,” he said. “They want to drive fishermen further from them and establish new boundaries for the siege.”

Because the Baker family includes many fishermen, the Israeli navy’s targeting of the profession has hit the family particularly hard.

“Three of my family’s other boats have been confiscated,” Mos’ad Baker said. “They are also in Ashdod. Three of my nephews have been detained at sea.”

Boats rarely returned

The limitations and threats against fishermen have driven many from the profession, while impoverishing many who remain. A 2010 report by the UN’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the territory’s registered fishermen had declined from 10,000 in 2000, just before Israel began tightening its restrictions, to 3,500. The same document estimated that five years of the siege would cost fishermen 7,041 metric tons of fish and $26.5 million in income (“Between the fence and the hard place,” August 2010 [PDF]).

Israel rarely returns boats it has impounded, Zakaria Baker said. “Five boats have been returned over the last year, without their engines, GPS systems, or nets. Only the bodies of the boats came back. Each fisherman had to pay 600 new Israeli shekels [$160] for his boat’s transportation.

“They have said they will return two other boats, but with terms that the fishermen must sign,” Baker explained. “The first [term] is that the fisherman must pay for storage of his boat in the Ashdod seaport. The second is that they will follow the orders of the Israeli military. The third is a continuation of the second: if the Israeli navy captures the same boat again, the fisherman will have already agreed for them to confiscate it forever. The fourth is that if the engine of the boat is over 25 horsepower, the Israelis have the right to do whatever they want, including shooting the boat with the fisherman in it.”

In August 2011, eight fishermen refused to pay for the return of boats, stripped of their engines and equipment, which Israel offered under similar conditions.

Adalah and Al-Mezan, two Palestinian human rights organizations involved in their cases, wrote then “that the impounding of the fishing boats and the conditions imposed by the Israeli navy constituted a grave violation of the rights of Gaza residents to occupation and property under both Israeli domestic law and international law.”

For Zakaria Baker and the other fishermen who sailed the coast of Gaza Sunday, crimes against them by Israel are routine.

“Israel’s violence against Palestinian fishermen has not only continued, but escalated,” he said. “These attacks could only happen with the silence of the international community. Our action is an appeal for global support to end them and make Israel return the boats.”

Joe Catron is a US activist in Gaza, Palestine. He works with the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and other Palestinian groups and international solidarity networks, particularly in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions and prisoners’ movements. He blogs at joecatron.wordpress.com and can be followed on Twitter @jncatron.

22 March 2013

The Self-Destruction of the Socialist Workers Party – Now is the Time for a New Left Party

Sexual Harassment & Alleged Rape Were the Symptoms Lack of Democracy was the Cause

Martin Smith on the look-out for teenage SWP members?

On Sunday March 10th an Emergency Meeting of the SWP voted to endorse the Central Committee’s [CC] handling of the allegations of rape and sexual harassment against Martin Smith ‘Comrade Delta’, as well as upholding the expulsion of four activists.  The CC had used to good effect its control of the SWP machine, coupled by bullying, threats of physical attack and plain old fashioned rigging, to maintain its position.  The immediate response was the resignation of scores of activists and the formation of an International Socialist Network.   The CC has won a Pyrrhic victory and in so doing possibly created the catalyst for a viable socialist party in Britain.
The original source of the conflagration in the SWP and its causes have been dealt with previously in SWP Crisis Over Cover-up of Rape & Sexual Harassment Allegations against former National Secretary Martin Smith  SWP Central Committee - Rabbits Caught in the Headlights - Gilad Atzmon Rides to the ‘Rescue’ of Martin Smith and the SWP leadership as well as guest posts by Simon Pirani Parallels Between the SWP and the WRP?  A Comparison by Simon Pirani formerly of the WRP and Women’s Liberation & Class Oppression by Camilla Power. 

People can also refer to the Weekly Worker which has made much of the running on the issue including printing the first open resignation letter, by former Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker..


The SWP as it would like to be thought of

To some, like Tom Walker, the cause of the problem in the SWP was a hostility and inability to come to terms with feminism.  I disagree.  This was the symptom of a deeper malaise.  Feminism is a movement of democracy within capitalism, it is not a complete analysis or solution.  It too is subject to factors of class. 
Martin Smith's only non-SWP supporter - Gilad Atzmon

In other words feminism and women’s liberation are not immune from class society.  Women operate as both oppressors and oppressed.  Who can doubt that white women in southern Africa or Israeli women are/were, at one and the same time, both oppressors of Black and Palestinian people – women included – at the same time as they were oppressed by white or Israeli men?  Who can doubt that the White woman on a slave plantation was superior to the Black slave, of either sex?   Did Nazi or SS women show solidarity with Jewish women?

The answers to the above questions are obvious yet they are ones that the feminist movement has avoided, as have some of its male proponents.  Thirty years ago, with the formation of the Jewish Feminist Group and its adoption of a pro-Zionist position, supported by the feminist magazine Spare Rib, Black women and Women of Colour produced Outrage by way of reply.
SWP leadership's leading internal critic - but with a strategy that guaranteed defeat
A parallel is a national liberation movement where the future oppressor and the present day oppressed combine to demand freedom and independence.  One of the key differences between the revolutionary socialist and Stalinist traditions has been whether or not the oppressed classes economically should keep silent and postpone their own demands for socialism and equality in order not to alienate the richer capitalist section of the movement.

The communist parties were particularly appalling in this respect as one can see today from the support of the South African Communist Party for the police massacre of the Marikana miners.  In Britain after 1945, the Communist Party even proposed the continuation in power of a National Coalition including the Tories!  In Iran, the alliance between Khomeini and the Tudeh Party led to the butchering of thousands of socialists.

Laurie Penney - an early astute critic of the SWP's handling of rape allegations
At certain key times women come together across class to make specific demands.  The suffragettes were a good example.  The demand for the right of women to vote crossed class boundaries.  But even then the Women’s Social & Political Union, set up by the Pankhursts, later organised exclusively among the middle class.  It broke from its alliance with the Labour Party because the latter adopted the call for universal suffrage!  Why?  Because it supported the maintenance of the property qualification for those voting.

It is no accident that a number of officers and members of the WSPU ended up in Sir Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists, including its General Secretary, Nora Dacre Fox (Elam) who became their Southern Women’s organiser.  Emmeline Pankhurst and two of her daughters, Adela and Christabel, moved to the far right after the First World War.  Only Sylvia campaigned for universal suffrage and opposed-imperialism and fascism.

SWP students - nearly all of whom have now resigned or been isolated
The idea that the root cause of the SWP’s problems lie in the magic properties of feminism are an illusion.  Feminism in the 1970’s and ‘80s produced Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt, whose hostility to the working class is matched only by their ardour to secure equality between oppressors. 

However an organisation which is undemocratic and whose leadership behaves in an exploitative and manipulative fashion, is indeed likely to replicate the patriarchal aspects of capitalism.  And being astute, the SWP CC thrust its leading women comrades into its defence.  Of the 7 members of the SWP’s Disputes Committee who exonerated Smith, no less than 5 were women. Candy Udwin chaired the crucial session at the AGM, which not only exonerated the CC and Smith but which barred the victim from attending or listening to the session.  The same session which was packed with pro-CC speakers and which was forbidden from discussing the issue itself was confined by Udwin to the question of whether procedures were followed.

The Changing Contours of Capitalism - There’s no success like failure

It seems to me that there are two, interrelated causes of the crisis in the SWP.   The first is, like the Bourbons, the far-left is condemned learn nothing and forget nothing.  It is the antithesis of the Marxism it nominally espouses.  The leadership of the SWP saw socialism and desire for an end to alienation and oppression, including personal oppression, in much the same way as the leaders of the Catholic Church take Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and its injunction that the meek are blessed and one should seek righteousness to heart.

In The Left: There’s no success like failure’ I pointed out the obvious.  Capitalism has restructured the working class and to a large extent, atomised it.  There are no big battalions of miners, car workers, and shipbuilding workers in Britain today.  The concentration on the working class at the workplace and strikes, which are of course important in their own right, is not in itself an answer to the question of how to build socialism.  Capitalism no longer lives in fear of the industrial proletariat.  Many classes – serfs, peasants, indentured labour – have been oppressed and exploited but the concentration on the working class was because of its potential for it being able to change society.  Unfortunately there is no evidence for this bar Russia nearly a century ago, one of the most backward capitalist states in Europe.

Rather than face up to this, the SWP has concentrated its fire on the supposed threat to Leninism.  What was Prof. Callinicos's (or Stallinicos as he is known) response to the allegations of rape against a former National Secretary and the way it was handled?  Nothing.  Instead we have a patently dishonest article In Defence of Leninism  or rather the SWP Central Committee’s interpretation of Leninism.  In Leninism is finished: a reply to Alex Callinicos Louis Proyect argues, on the basis of Lars Hi's Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In Context, that Lenin had never even sought to build a vanguardist democratically centralist controlled party but a party modelled on the German Social Demoratic Party. 

I claim no expertise in these matters but as I showed in Rabbits Caught in the Headlights  with my own expulsion, the SWP CC use democratic centralism not in order to intensify the fight against the state, whilst preserving our own secrets, but in order to control its own members.  It was bureaucratic centralism, honed to perfection by the CC. 

This means that like the Papacy, the CC is infallible.  It cannot make mistakes.  There is no analysis of history, where it has gone wrong, whether its root assumptions are correct. Respect, the Socialist Alliance, the failure of anti-war movement - these never happened.  Therefore no lessons were drawn.  Factions are verboten for all except 3 months of the year and the CC’s own permanent faction.   All attempts to discuss the failure of the socialist left, the failure of resistance to the Coalition’s attacksor even to discuss the question of how to resist the Government’s Divide & Rule tactics between benefit claimants and workers or the public and private sector go by default.  Even to map out a simple explanation of what has caused the latest capitalist crisis, its options and perils, is fraught with peril.

Far from Democratic Centralism providing some form of solution to the infiltration of spies such as Mark Kennedy in anarchist and direct action groups, it has actually done the State’s job for it by neutralising far-left groups politically.  The key task ahead, the formation of a socialist party from the grassroots upwards, not the ghost that presently masquerades as the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, is an urgent necessity not least because if we fail now, then the far-right in the form of UKIP+ could step into the breach.

Just in case they feel missed out, as they have barely commented upon what has happened, a few words for the Socialist Party.  They may not have the horrific practices of the SWP and their own internal structures, whilst no more democratic than the SWP’s at least seem able to tolerate a measure of dissent, but they are wedded to the same idea.  The belief that the road to socialism lies in the incremental growth of the revolutionary party, though with the SP it is in alliance with left trade union leaders in a rerun of the formation of the Labour Party.  In short economism long past its sell-by-date.

How should the SWP Central/Disputes Committee have reacted?

What would a democratic party have done if it had faced the problems that faced the SWP leadership over Martin Smith?

The first thing that should have happened, if the CC was seriously interested in investigating the matter, was to suspend Martin Smith's membership pending an investigation.  This is the normal response of an employer in these circumstances and one would indeed expect such an action in response to a complaint of rape or sexual harassment by a woman member of the union.

The second and most obvious solution would be for the woman alleging rape to be helped, supported sympathetically and directed to a Rape Support Group or the Police.  Comrades should have been specifically directed to support her whilst the matter was investigated.  Instead she and the woman who alleged sexual harassment were left to hang out and dry and even worse - they were victimised and villified.

If the alleged rape victim was unwilling to either go to the Police, understandable given their record, or to a Rape Crisis Group and she positively wished the Disputes Committee to deal with the problem, despite them having no forensic powers, or powers to question under oath, then they clearly faced a choice.  Either to refuse to undertake the task or to accept that both people could not remain in a single party and to therefore decide the question of whether the woman was raped on the civil test, the balance of probability.

In actual fact, if Martin Smith was concerned at all for the fate of the SWP as opposed to his own power and privilege, he would have resigned until his name was cleared. 

Those who personally knew Martin Smith on the DC should have stepped down.  That they did not do so suggests that there was a determination to exonerate a trusted comrade and dispense with what they saw as a nuisance complaint.  The woman concerned should have both been represented and allowed to cross examine Smith.  Instead and quite outrageously, the women were denied all sight of Martin Smith’s evidence but he was allowed to see what they had said.

People complain about bourgeois justice but there are strict rules about things like Disclosure.  In employment tribunals, where I practice, there are standard Orders whereby all parties have to provide a Standard List of Documents.  If the employer provides evidence during the Tribunal one can object and usually one will succeed.  Likewise in a criminal trial even more stringent rules apply and lack of disclosure can be fatal for the Prosecution.  This, it should be borne in mind, has been forced from the bourgeois state.  It was not granted as of right until the cases of wrongful conviction and police racism and brutality that sparked the riots of the early ‘80’s, became too much. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 was brought in.  It has to be said that the SWP’s ‘justice system’ is not a patch on the bourgeois state's.

Likewise through a representative Smith should have been able to cross-examine his accuser, but not about her drinking habits, sexual relations, mode of life but about the allegations themselves and any relevant context.

The third thing would have been to look at the evidence itself, after a serious and reasonable investigation.  It is of course impossible for me to comment on what, if any evidence was uncovered or gathered.  However there is one matter I am curious about and yet no one seems to have touched upon it.

The woman herself seems to have been a very young comrade, 17 apparently.  Smith is, I guess around the age of 50.  If this is the case then Smith is about 3 times as old as the woman.   There is no law against this but in general inter-generational sex is exploitative and to be frowned upon.  A man of 50 is about 2/3 through his life.  A woman of 17 is about to start adult life.  There is a biological clock.  People become more frail as they get older and the younger partner is expected to care for them in later years.  This is not exactly equality as most such relationships involve older men.  But an older man forming a relationship with a teenager has a confidence, in Smith's case a party reputation and perspective that a teenager doesn’t possess.  In other words he has power over her personally.  Such a ‘relationship’ cannot be equal.  It may not be a crime but it is indicative of a breach of trust for a senior member of the SWP to sleep with young members of the party and calls into question his own motives. 

But there was a second charge by another woman, a full-timer who has it would seem been dismissed, of sexual harassment.  Even the Chair of the Disputes Committee, Pat Stack, who I always knew in the student movement as an ultra-loyalist, believed that it was proven.  Together on the balance of probability I would therefore reach the conclusion that the rape accusation was more likely than not and on that basis Martin Smith would have been expelled.  That is not to say he was guilty but faced with two conflicting versions I would have preferred the testimony of the woman in view of the second allegation and the admitted sexual relationship.  

But of course this was not an option.  It did not happen and the woman in question was effectively called a liar.  It now appears that the rape allegations against Smith aren’t the first of their kind amongst the SWP leadership.  Allegations of rape and sexual harassment against another full-timer were also heard by the Disputes Committee  when the allegations against Smith first surfaced.  The evidence was overwhelming re the sexual harassment and he was suspended for two years.   Unlike the 4 SWP Facebook members who talked about the allegations who were expelled, instantly, without a hearing, by SWP Secretary Charlie Kimber.  Allegations of rape are less serious, it would appear, than conversing over Facebook.

Is there a pattern?

The SWP CC is a self-perpetuating body.  It employs about 100 full-timers who keep tabs on the membership and quell any incipient rebellion.  It presents a slate for election to annual conference.  It is not possible to vote for or against individual members.  There has rarely been an alternative slate and there has never been a successful challenge.  The SWP leadership is quite immune from challenge and as recent events demonstrate it will do anything to keep its power intact.

Clearly any democratic party of the Left has to have an internal democracy which means that its leadership is elected and that members have the rights to form factions.  The alternative is a leadership which sees itself as apart from the membership and even begins to see that membership as a threat.  Sections of the SWP leadership seem to have developed a cult-like relationship.  It is inconceivable that some members did not know of Martin Smith’s tendency to form relationships with teenage party members, itself a sign of potential abuse.  The possibility that Smith’s behaviour was not a one-off are strong. 

In SWP: We need to talk about "Karl"  there is another allegation of a cover up of rape, this time by a full-timer a District Organiser.  According to Andy Newman of the increasingly right-wing Socialist Unity blog, a ‘long-time editor’ of SW (presumably the late Chris Harman):
‘used to have a reputation that “no means yes”, and when he vistied some districts, experienced comrades in the know sought to ensure he was not left alone with young women.
When women who had been assaulted complained, they were diminished and hounded out of the SWP. I know of one occasion when a victim of sexual assault was sat down with a senior woman CC SWP member who told her to keep quiet for the good of “the party”, excusing the behaviour because “capitalism fucks everyone up”, and then warning if she didn’t keep quiet then no-one would believe her, and the SWP would destroy her reputation.
During the 1980s there was a strange phenomenon of several angry young womwn comrades who used to talk about the sexism of this leading comrade, but they had been intimidated out of explaining what had happened, and instead the discusion often focussed on seemingly trivial details, like the fact that he always referred to women socialists by their first names, and male comrades by surnames (lenin and marx, but Rosa and Clara, for example)
To fnd an organisation that systematicaly for decades covered up sexual assault and who intimidated women who complained into silence praised in this was is disgraceful.
Even worse, I know of an IS/SWP district in the 1970s who colluded in silence and looked the other way when a leading industrial militant was raping his own step-daughter: the individual in question had previoulsy been in the IMG, who had also covered it up. When as a young 17 year old I confronted him at a party and asked him loudly if he was still fucking his duaghter, it was me cautioned by the SWP, while the truth of thse allegations was quietly ignored.’

Like all bureaucracies, the SWP’s has developed rhythms and modes of behaviour which it deems acceptable.  Preying on young women in the party seems acceptable to a certain leadership-friendship ‘fuck circuit’ as they have been called.

Where do we go from here

The SWP conference has taken place and some 71 of those who have resigned have posted a public statement as to why they did so. (see below)   A new International Socialist Network has also been formed  which does have the potential to bring about a party of the socialist left that is serious about building a new society.  The largest party in Britain today comprises ex-members of the SWP, notwithstanding the hundreds who have been expelled over the years,

But such a network and hopefully an organisation should not look back to the IS with rose-tinted glasses.  I was expelled from the IS in 1972, as the organisation moved from being a party of Luxembourgist to Leninist democracy (at least according to Cliff).  Many were the mistakes it made and to imagine that there was a golden era will be to eventually repeat the mistakes that were made on the way.  But the need for a new party of the socialist left, a party which is anti-capitalist but not sectarian, which prides itself on debate whilst at the same time being a party of activists (unlike the 5,000 missing members of the SWP) is something to aim for.

What is essential is that those who resign in disgust at the behaviour of the SWP are not lost to socialism.  Now is the time for all those who are resigning from the SWP, including those who have had a former association and been expelled, to come together.  As for the SWP itself, with its student organisation in ruins (members of the Brighton-Sussex SWSS have resigned en masse) its days are numbered as the leadership relies on the votes of the politically and in some cases physically dead.

Tony Greenstein