24 July 2017

JOHN PILGER ON WHY PALESTINE IS STILL THE ISSUE


John Pilger On Why Palestine Is Still The Issue

Almost six decades on, there’s an enduring silence by those in the halls of power – and in the media – on Palestine, writes John Pilger.

When I first went to Palestine as a young reporter in the 1960s, I stayed on a kibbutz. The people I met were hard-working, spirited and called themselves socialists. I liked them.

One evening at dinner, I asked about the silhouettes of people in the far distance, beyond our perimeter.

“Arabs”, they said, “nomads”. The words were almost spat out. Israel, they said, meaning Palestine, had been mostly wasteland and one of the great feats of the Zionist enterprise was to turn the desert green.

They gave as an example their crop of Jaffa oranges, which was exported to the rest of the world. What a triumph against the odds of nature and humanity’s neglect.

It was the first lie. Most of the orange groves and vineyards belonged to Palestinians who had been tilling the soil and exporting oranges and grapes to Europe since the eighteenth century. The former Palestinian town of Jaffa was known by its previous inhabitants as “the place of sad oranges”.
One of the many orange orchards seized from Palestinians in Jaffa. (IMAGE: gnuckx, Flickr)
One of the many orange orchards seized from Palestinians in Jaffa. (IMAGE: gnuckx, Flickr)
On the kibbutz, the word “Palestinian” was never used. Why, I asked. The answer was a troubled silence.

All over the colonised world, the true sovereignty of indigenous people is feared by those who can never quite cover the fact, and the crime, that they live on stolen land.

Denying people’s humanity is the next step – as the Jewish people know only too well. Defiling people’s dignity and culture and pride follows as logically as violence.

In Ramallah, following an invasion of the West Bank by the late Ariel Sharon in 2002, I walked through streets of crushed cars and demolished houses, to the Palestinian Cultural Centre. Until that morning, Israeli soldiers had camped there.
 
I was met by the centre’s director, the novelist, Liana Badr, whose original manuscripts lay scattered and torn across the floor. The hard drive containing her fiction, and a library of plays and poetry had been taken by Israeli soldiers. Almost everything was smashed, and defiled.
Ramallah, Palestine. (IMAGE: Michael Rose, Flickr)
Ramallah, Palestine. (IMAGE: Michael Rose, Flickr)
Not a single book survived with all its pages; not a single master tape from one of the best collections of Palestinian cinema.

The soldiers had urinated and defecated on the floors, on desks, on embroideries and works of art. They had smeared faeces on children’s paintings and written – in shit – “Born to kill”.

Liana Badr had tears in her eyes, but she was unbowed. She said, “We will make it right again.”
What enrages those who colonise and occupy, steal and oppress, vandalise and defile is the victims’ refusal to comply. And this is the tribute we all should pay the Palestinians. They refuse to comply. They go on. They wait – until they fight again. And they do so even when those governing them collaborate with their oppressors.


In the midst of the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer never stopped reporting. He and his family were stricken; he queued for food and water and carried it through the rubble. When I phoned him, I could hear the bombs outside his door. He refused to comply.

Mohammed’s reports, illustrated by his graphic photographs, were a model of professional journalism that shamed the compliant and craven reporting of the so-called mainstream in Britain and the United States. The BBC notion of objectivity – amplifying the myths and lies of authority, a practice of which it is proud – is shamed every day by the likes of Mohamed Omer.
A file image of Gaza in 2009. (IMAGE: gloucester2gaza, Flickr)
A file image of Gaza in 2009. (IMAGE: gloucester2gaza, Flickr)
For more than 40 years, I have recorded the refusal of the people of Palestine to comply with their oppressors: Israel, the United States, Britain, the European Union.

Since 2008, Britain alone has granted licences for export to Israel of arms and missiles, drones and sniper rifles, worth £434 million.

Those who have stood up to this, without weapons, those who have refused to comply, are among Palestinians I have been privileged to know:

My friend, the late Mohammed Jarella, who toiled for the United Nations agency UNRWA, in 1967 showed me a Palestinian refugee camp for the first time. It was a bitter winter’s day and schoolchildren shook with the cold. “One day …” he would say. “One day …”

Mustafa Barghouti, whose eloquence remains undimmed, who described the tolerance that existed in Palestine among Jews, Muslims and Christians until, as he told me, “the Zionists wanted a state at the expense of the Palestinians.”

Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician in Gaza, whose passion was raising money for plastic surgery for children disfigured by Israeli bullets and shrapnel. Her hospital was flattened by Israeli bombs in 2014.

Dr. Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist, whose clinics for children in Gaza – children sent almost mad by Israeli violence – were oases of civilisation.
UK Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan MP, visits Gaza, 10th December 2012. He is the first British minister to visit Gaza since the ceasefire entered into force on 21 November. (IMAGE: UNRWA/Shareef Sarhan, Flickr).
UK Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan MP, visits Gaza, 10th December 2012. He is the first British minister to visit Gaza since the ceasefire entered into force on 21 November. (IMAGE: UNRWA/Shareef Sarhan, Flickr).
Fatima and Nasser are a couple whose home stood in a village near Jerusalem designated “Zone A and B”, meaning that the land was declared for Jews only. Their parents had lived there; their grandparents had lived there. Today, the bulldozers are laying roads for Jews only, protected by laws for Jews only.

It was past midnight when Fatima went into labour with their second child. The baby was premature; and when they arrived at a checkpoint with the hospital in view, the young Israeli soldier said they needed another document.

Fatima was bleeding badly. The soldier laughed and imitated her moans and told them, “Go home”. The baby was born there in a truck. It was blue with cold and soon, without care, died from exposure. The baby’s name was Sultan.


For Palestinians, these will be familiar stories. The question is: why are they not familiar in London and Washington, Brussels and Sydney?

In Syria, a recent liberal cause – a George Clooney cause – is bankrolled handsomely in Britain and the United States, even though the beneficiaries, the so-called rebels, are dominated by jihadist fanatics, the product of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the destruction of modern Libya.

And yet, the longest occupation and resistance in modern times is not recognized. When the United Nations suddenly stirs and defines Israel as an apartheid state, as it did this year, there is outrage – not against a state whose “core purpose” is racism but against a UN commission that dared break the silence.

“Palestine,” said Nelson Mandela, “is the greatest moral issue of our time.”

Why is this truth suppressed, day after day, month after month, year after year?
Israel's 'security wall', on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (IMAGE: Chris Graham, New Matilda).
Israel’s ‘security wall’, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (IMAGE: Chris Graham, New Matilda).
On Israel – the apartheid state, guilty of a crime against humanity and of more international law-breaking than any other – the silence persists among those who know and whose job it is to keep the record straight.

On Israel, so much journalism is intimidated and controlled by a groupthink that demands silence on Palestine while honourable journalism has become dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

A single word – “conflict” – enables this silence. “The Arab-Israeli conflict”, intone the robots at their tele-prompters. When a veteran BBC reporter, a man who knows the truth, refers to “two narratives”, the moral contortion is complete.

There is no conflict, no two narratives, with their moral fulcrum. There is a military occupation enforced by a nuclear-armed power backed by the greatest military power on earth; and there is an epic injustice.

The word “occupation” may be banned, deleted from the dictionary. But the memory of historical truth cannot be banned: of the systemic expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland. “Plan D” the Israelis called it in 1948.

The Israeli historian Benny Morris describes how David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was asked by one of his generals: “What shall we do with the Arabs?”
The Knesset, Israel's parliament. (IMAGE: Ze'ev Barkan, Flickr)
The Knesset, Israel’s parliament. (IMAGE: Ze’ev Barkan, Flickr)
The prime minister, wrote Morris, “made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand”. “Expel them!” he said.

Seventy years later, this crime is suppressed in the intellectual and political culture of the West. Or it is debatable, or merely controversial. Highly-paid journalists eagerly accept Israeli government trips, hospitality and flattery, then are truculent in their protestations of independence. The term, “useful idiots”, was coined for them.

In 2011, I was struck by the ease with which one of Britain’s most acclaimed novelists, Ian McEwan, a man bathed in the glow of bourgeois enlightenment, accepted the Jerusalem Prize for literature in the apartheid state.

Would McEwan have gone to Sun City in apartheid South Africa? They gave prizes there, too, all expenses paid. McEwan justified his action with weasel words about the independence of “civil society”.

Propaganda – of the kind McEwan delivered, with its token slap on the wrists for his delighted hosts – is a weapon for the oppressors of Palestine. Like sugar, it insinuates almost everything today.

Understanding and deconstructing state and cultural propaganda is our most critical task. We are being frog-marched into a second cold war, whose eventual aim is to subdue and balkanise Russia and intimidate China.
Russian president Vladimir Putin (IMAGE: Screengrab, RT).
Russian president Vladimir Putin (IMAGE: Screengrab, RT).
When Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke privately for more than two hours at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, apparently about the need not to go to war with each other, the most vociferous objectors were those who have commandeered liberalism, such as the Zionist political writer of the Guardian.

“No wonder Putin was smiling in Hamburg,” wrote Jonathan Freedland. “He knows he has succeeded in his chief objective: he has made American weak again.” Cue hissing for Evil Vlad.

These propagandists have never known war but they love the game they play. What Ian McEwan calls “civil society” has become a rich source of related propaganda.

Take a term often used by the guardians of civil society – “human rights”. Like another noble concept, “democracy”, “human rights” has been all but emptied of its meaning and purpose.


Like “peace process” and “road map”, human rights in Palestine have been hijacked by Western governments and the corporate NGOs they fund and which claim a quixotic moral authority.

So when Israel is called upon by governments and NGOs to “respect human rights” in Palestine, nothing happens, because they all know there is nothing to fear.

Mark the silence of the European Union, which accommodates Israel while refusing to maintain its commitments to the people of Gaza – such as keeping the lifeline of the Rafah border crossing open: a measure it agreed to as part of its role in the cessation of fighting in 2014. A seaport for Gaza – agreed by Brussels in 2014 – has been abandoned.

The UN commission I have referred to – its full name is the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia – described Israel as, and I quote, “designed for the core purpose” of racial discrimination.
new matilda, united nations
The United Nations.
Millions understand this. What the governments in London, Washington, Brussels and Tel Aviv cannot control is that humanity at street level is changing perhaps as never before.

People everywhere are stirring and more aware, in my view, than ever before. Some are already in open revolt. The atrocity of Grenfell Tower in London has brought communities together in a vibrant almost national resistance.

Thanks to a people’s campaign, the judiciary is today examining the evidence of a possible prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes. Even if this fails, it is a crucial development, dismantling yet another barrier between the public and its recognition of the voracious nature of the crimes of state power – the systemic disregard for humanity perpetrated in Iraq, in Grenfell Tower, in Palestine.

Those are the dots waiting to be joined.


For most of the 21st century, the fraud of corporate power posing as democracy has depended on the propaganda of distraction: largely on a cult of “me-ism” designed to overwhelm our sense of looking out for others, of acting together, of social justice and internationalism.

Class, gender and race were wrenched apart. Only the personal became the political and the media the message. The promotion of bourgeois privilege was presented as “progressive” politics. It wasn’t. It never is. It is the promotion of privilege, and power.

Among young people, internationalism has found a vast new audience. Look at the support for Jeremy Corbyn and the reception the G20 circus in Hamburg received. By understanding the truth and imperatives of internationalism, we understand the struggle of Palestine.

Mandela put it this way: “We know only too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
new matilda, mandela
A Nelson Mandela bust in London. (IMAGE: Paul Simpson, flickr)
At the heart of the Middle East is the historic injustice in Palestine. Until that is resolved, and Palestinians have their freedom and homeland, and Israelis and Palestinians are equal before the law, there will be no peace in the region, or perhaps anywhere.

What Mandela was saying is that freedom itself is precarious while powerful governments can deny justice to others, terrorise others, imprison and kill others, in our name. Israel certainly understands the threat that one day it might have to be normal.

That is why its ambassador to Britain is Mark Regev, well known to journalists as a professional propagandist, and why the “huge bluff” of charges of anti-Semitism, as Ilan Pappe called it, was allowed to contort the Labour Party and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The point is, it did not succeed.

Events are moving quickly now. The remarkable Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) is succeeding, day-by-day; cities and towns, trade unions and student bodies are endorsing it. The British government’s attempt to restrict local councils from enforcing BDS has failed in the courts.

These are not straws in the wind. When the Palestinians rise again, as they will, they may not succeed at first – but they will eventually if we understand that they are us, and we are them.

This is an abridged version of John Pilger’s address to the Palestinian Expo in London on 8 July, 2017. John Pilger’s film, ‘Palestine Is Still the Issue’, can be viewed here.


John Pilger
John Pilger is a regular contributor to New Matilda, and an award-winning Australian journalist and documentary film-maker. Some of his more famous works include Secret Country, Utopia and Cambodia: Year Zero.

11 June 2017

BON - PETER BONSALL-BOONE - AND THE AIDS CRISIS - IGNORED BY ACON AND THE MEDIA!

Many pieces of media have written eulogies and obituary items on the death of Peter Bonsall-Boone - Bon to all and sundry - talking about his activism and things he was involved in during his long activist life - he died on 19 MAY 2017 aged 78.

I have not yet come across one, not even the AIDS Council of New South Wales - ACON - who have mentioned Bon's involvement with Community Support Network and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.





Community Support Network circa 1990

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"Bon did something about AIDS today"

- Bon walked the dog, then cooked a meal for Stewart. Stewart can't do all the things he was strong enough to do before. Stewart has AIDS. Bon visits Stewart as a volunteer of the Community Support Network. CSN volunteers learn many skills at our FREE course which enable them to assist a person living with AIDS to live with dignity and choices in their life.
It doesn't take much to do something about AIDS: ring today to find out about one of our information sessions.



Bon was involved with the training of volunteers who did the training course allowing people to care for people living with, and dying from HIV/AIDS.

Over the years Bon not only looked after people who were very ill, but often those who had been abandoned by friends and family because they were gay/lesbian and or had AIDS.

These were terrible years and they exacted a heavy toll on those who were carers - and cared!!! - and left many traumatised and in a worn-out emotional state.

Bon, who did so much, and cared so much, was not immune to the ravages of these times and abused his health many times, leaving him susceptible to all sorts of health problems, which no doubt created problems for him as he aged.

09 June 2017

ALDI WILL LOSE SUPPORT IN AUSTRALIA BECAUSE OF ITS ANTI-UNION ACTIVITIES



Retail giant Aldi faces claims of wage theft and breaking the law

When Nichole McLaughlin asks her partner Paul Joyner what time he will be home from work, he often cannot answer.

With no finish time on his roster, Mr Joyner - a permanent part-time worker, not a casual - does not know what time he will leave work at Aldi's Stapylton distribution centre.

Paul Joyner said Aldi's work arrangements causes disruption to family life: "The school pick-up time would be the ...

Paul Joyner said Aldi's work arrangements causes disruption to family life: "The school pick-up time would be the hardest thing." Photo: Bradley Kanaris
 
The father-of-three also said he had worked for free for the retail giant to pay off "negative hours" accumulated because he was not given enough shifts to complete the hours he is contracted to work.
"I was at minus-78, and now I work extra to pay back those hours," Mr Joyner said. "And I don't get paid."
His claim is "categorically rejected" by Aldi, which said in a statement: "The enterprise agreement provides for an averaging arrangement of hours and employees receive payment for every hour worked."

Mr Joyner, who used to coach his son's soccer team, said the uncertainty caused disruption to his family life. He said it also made it difficult to make commitments such as taking his children to sporting events and leisure activities.

"The school pick-up time would be the hardest thing," Mr Joyner said. "We get it drummed into us 'You don't have a finish time'."

This lack of certainty created other worries for workers with children, he said. "Childcare's until 6 o'clock and then you start paying $2 every minute. So 10 minutes – there's 20 bucks. You do that a couple of times a week and it soon adds up."

Aldi is celebrating its one year anniversary this year. 
Aldi is celebrating its one year anniversary this year.
  Tim Gunstone, an organiser for the National Union of Workers, said Aldi's "peculiar employment arrangements" were stressful for workers.

"Workers are sent home early when it suits Aldi, but when the work is busier, or poorly planned by management, workers are told they have to stay at work until everything is finished," Mr Gunstone said.

"The lack of any finish time on rosters makes it impossible for workers to refuse the overtime they are being required to do."

Mr Gunstone said the NUW believed Aldi's employment practices were against the law because permanent part-time workers should be provided with the hours described in their employment contract in each pay period.
When a worker is required to work without pay to work off "negative hours" this is in effect wage theft.
Tim Gunstone, an organiser for the National Union of Workers.
"The second is that Aldi are requiring employees to work without payment when they are "paying off" the negative hours," he said. "The third is that permanent workers must be provided with a start and a finish time for their rostered shifts."

Mr Gunstone added: "When a worker is required to work without pay to work off "negative hours" this is in effect wage theft."

However, an Aldi spokeswoman said: "The suggestion that employees work unpaid overtime is categorically rejected."

She said workers received payment for their "contract hours" even if they do not work the required amount of time.

"They are then rostered to work additional hours above their contract in subsequent fortnights, to complete the hours for which they have already been paid," she said. "The Fair Work Commission has examined and approved this work arrangement as being lawful and suitable."

But the NUW is vowing to renew the fight and lodge a dispute with the Fair Work Commission if Mr Joyner's concerns cannot be resolved with Aldi.

"We would expect that such a dispute would be resolved by arbitration, and expect that a Commissioner would find that Paul was owed money for every hour he worked without payment while 'paying off negative hours'," Mr Gunstone said. "This could create a substantial underpayment affecting thousands of Aldi workers."

Associate Professor Angela Knox, from the University of Sydney Business School, questioned whether the arrangement was "good practice"
.
"There is a difference between a practice being legal and it being good, especially for workers," she said.

"This type of practice has been used in large chain hotels for over a decade but there are more 'checks and balances' in place, normally."

But Associate Professor Knox said caps were usually imposed to prevent workers accruing a debt as large as 78 hours.

She questioned whether Aldi's workers understood the ramifications of the provision, which created large "negative hours" balances.

"The specific details that would explain how the system operates are not outlined, hence managerial prerogative is maximised," she said.

​Aldi's spokeswoman said salaries were above market rates, while staff turnover was low: "Our working conditions are also considered to be some of the best in the industry, with independent employee satisfaction surveys returning consistently high scores."

​Mr Gunstone said he had spoken to more than 100 Aldi workers who had concerns about the company's practices but "they felt they had no choice but to accept it".

He said Aldi also tried to prevent its workers engaging with the union - a claim contested by the company.

"Aldi routinely place managers in lunchrooms when union organisers visit sites – for the explicit purpose of monitoring the unions engagements with workers," he said. "At Paul's workplace managers have repeatedly interrupted organiser conversations with employees."

Mr Joyner, who is a union delegate, said many of his colleagues shared his concerns about Aldi's work practices but feared the consequences of speaking out.

"They'd like to say stuff too but they're scared," he said.

With the impending arrival of retailers such as Amazon, Mr Gunstone said the conditions for warehouse workers were at risk.

"Aldi's work practices are one example of the ways in which these jobs are increasingly becoming insecure, and how many major retailers are increasingly involved in a race to the bottom when it comes to job security and casualisation," he said.

"Amazon – which is setting up in Australia – are known for their low wages and anti-union attitude."
Larissa Andelman, a barrister who practices in industrial law, said the Australian labour market had a very high level of casualisation, and the line between casual and permanent employment was often blurred.

"However the rise of 'zero hour' contracts in England has caused a significant financial hardship to those affected and there has been political and legal action to limit and cease these kind of arrangements," she said.

"It would be most unfortunate if these kind of arrangements were found lawful in Australia as they impact adversely on the most low paid and marginalised workers who are often young people and women."

08 June 2017

A '47 MILLION DEVELOPMENT' IS ABOUT TO FORCE TWO ELDERLY MEN OUT OF THEIR RETIREMENT VILLAGE. SIGN THE PETITION



  
7 JUNE 2017
A '$47 million development' is about to force two elderly men out of their retirement village. Sign the petition to keep Richard and Stephen in their community: 

Stop Richard and Stephen from becoming homeless!


Retirement Village Residents Association
ASQUITH NSW, Australia
                                              The Castle Mk II
This is a script that appears to be similar to The Castle movie. However at this moment, it is more of a tragedy than a comedy. Unfortunately there is nothing “that is going straight to the pool room,” in this tragedy.
It is taking place at the Parkview Village in Waitara, where the residents were informed in mid 2014 that the village would be demolished by the owner, Vasey Housing Association, and replaced by a $47m 12 story building containing 117 units. This was the start of a drive to get all residents to vacate the buildings. They were successful in that there are only two residents left, Richard Best and Stephen Baume. 
At a Tribunal on the 9 June, Mr David Elkins the CEO of Vasey, has engaged one of Australia’s largest law firms to terminate the lifetime resident contract and evict Richard and Stephen, who will then be homeless.
Richard and Stephen are the only two souls left in the village that housed 55 residents. There was a lot of pressure on the residents to leave, which included bullying by way of a threat. At a budget meeting in late 2015, the residents were informed that due to the closure of the village, there would be an increase of $500 per quarter in their charges for residents remaining in the village. The oldest person to leave was a 92 year old lady; a terrible age to be forced to leave her home, friends, doctors and other support systems she had relied on for years.
Richard and Stephen are in their seventies and have lived there for 7 and 10 years respectively. They had been told that they had lifelong leases and could stay there until they died!
Have they been too demanding in their negotiations, which have caused this impasse? All they are asking for is like accommodation, but it must be in close proximity to where they are staying. They chose this village because it was ideally suited for their needs. Richard grew up and lived in this area for most of his life. There are extensive medical facilities close at hand with a variety of specialist doctors in the fields of oncology, cardiology which are needed. They have been using these services for years and would not like to change any of this, at this stage of their lives.
They do not want to change homes but if they have to, it is essential that they do not change their local environment and support systems. Walking around this deserted village without knowing if or when this matter will be resolved is extremely stressful and is potentially damaging to the health of a senior citizen. The anxiety caused has manifested itself in changes to their normal sleep patterns.
Richard and Stephen have been engaged for almost a year in fighting their cause, mostly on their own. However, as a result of the Tribunal proceedings to evict them, the RVRA (Retirement Village Residents Association) has started this petition on their behalf. Peter Hill, Hill & Co Lawyers, the RVRA honorary solicitor has agreed to defend these disadvantaged residents in this case, on a pro bono basis.
This is a very worthy cause, which we hope you will support by voting for this petition. 
Your one vote could easily turn to three, if you share this with two friends. Please do so; it makes an enormous difference to how soon we will be able to present the petition to the CEO of the Vasey Housing Association.
Thank you for your support!
For more information, come to our website: RVRA- www.rvra.com.au

07 June 2017

THE IMPROBABLE RISE OF JEREMY CORBYN


The improbable rise of Jeremy Corbyn


In late 2015 I had just arrived in London on sabbatical and was staying in a scruffy part of the city's north – full of cultural diversity and social disadvantage. On the first morning, as I emerged from my basement flat in search of the Sunday papers, a woman came towards me brandishing a greeting card and pen.

"Would you like to sign?" she asked. Just up the road was the strangely incongruous sight of a group of photographers pointing lenses at a modest '60s maisonette. "It's a congratulatory card," she explained, "from his neighbours to Jeremy. He's won."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn greeting supporters on the final week of the election campaign.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn greeting supporters on the final week of the election campaign. Photo: Getty Images
 
And then it dawned on me. I was lodging just along from the newly elected leader of the British Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn. I signed the card, explaining I was only a temporary neighbour, but was overjoyed at his victory.

Corbyn's rise is a most improbable political story. A complete outsider more at home marching with the comrades than debating in the Commons, he fought against apartheid, welfare cuts, privatisation and successive Gulf wars. He was on the progressive side of every major vote in his long parliamentary career.

In this week's election Corbyn is pledging to create a million new jobs and to scrap zero-hours contracts. 

 In this week's election Corbyn is pledging to create a million new jobs and to scrap zero-hours contracts. Photo: Getty Images

 The grim technocrats who ran Labour for a generation despised him or, at best, saw him as a sort of harmless beatnik curio. In the era of spin, a man who bought his clothes from the co-op supermarket and spent weekends tending cabbages on his allotment was never going to be taken seriously as a politician.

He made it onto the ballot paper only because a few MPs with no intention of voting for him signed his nomination form. They wanted to broaden the debate, but Corbyn's candidature prompted thousands of supporters to join the party. Under a system where the votes of ordinary members carry considerable weight, he won by a large margin.


Corbyn took up the job as leader of the opposition with the support of only a handful of the MPs who sat behind him. Most were convinced he was unelectable: the complete opposite of the polished, poll-driven sound-bite savvy politicians they believed themselves to be. But these disgruntled parliamentarians sat on their hands for a year until a challenge could be mounted.

Then a second ballot produced another emphatic Corbyn victory despite the fact Labour MPs had lined up to deliver withering public denunciations of a sort that would have sent most of us under the doona, sobbing. He responded to these attacks with an almost saintly forbearance.

Corbyn's equanimity comes from a sense that his constituency is beyond Westminster; that it is possible to cut through the white noise of public life – and the bilious scorn of the tabloids – by speaking directly to working people in the old-fashioned language of redistribution and social democracy. When radical MP Tony Benn retired from parliament in 2001, he declared he now intended "to devote more time to politics". Corbyn too, sees politics as a vocation, not a career.
Like Bernie Sanders he has thrived on the campaign trail, delivering passionate stump speeches to adoring crowds, with plenty of spontaneity, warmth and popular engagement. Theresa May, by contrast, appears wooden, remote and scripted.

The media paint Corbyn as a hard left ideologue, but Labour's manifesto simply revives the Keynesian tax-and-spend politics of social democracy, an approach Tony Blair jettisoned in favour of neo-liberalism. There is nothing frightening or outrageous in promising more resources for public health, transport and education. The nearly 30-point opinion poll lead the Tories enjoyed early in the campaign has narrowed to just a few points in the lead up to polling day.

But to win the election Labour must court the sort of voters who preferred Trump to Clinton last year. Those from the rustbelt towns are suspicious of the inner urban cultural elite members, which are well represented among Corbyn's constituents in Islington. As Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times the poor and disenfranchised don't believe those who "talk equality while living privilege".

Although Corbyn has been described as looking more like a geography teacher than a leader of the working class, he nevertheless has the common touch. When asked whether he would move into Downing Street if he became Prime Minister, he said, "I did not become leader of the Labour party to get a new house. There are going to be pressures. Security issues, no doubt. But I like where I live.

My neighbours like me being there as well, most of the time." I can vouch for that.

George Morgan is associate professor in the Institute of Culture and Society and the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University.

29 May 2017

WE KNOW WHAT INSPIRED THE MANCHESTER ATTACK, WE JUST WON'T ADMIT IT


We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It


In the wake of the massacre in Manchester, people rightly warn against blaming the entire Muslim community in Britain and the world. Certainly one of the aims of those who carry out such atrocities is to provoke the communal punishment of all Muslims, thereby alienating a portion of them who will then become open to recruitment by Isis and al-Qaeda clones.

This approach of not blaming Muslims in general but targeting “radicalisation” or simply “evil” may appear sensible and moderate, but in practice it makes the motivation of the killers in Manchester or the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015 appear vaguer and less identifiable than it really is. Such generalities have the unfortunate effect of preventing people pointing an accusing finger at the variant of Islam which certainly is responsible for preparing the soil for the beliefs and actions likely to have inspired the suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

The ultimate inspiration for such people is Wahhabism, the puritanical, fanatical and regressive type of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, whose ideology is close to that of al-Qaeda and Isis. This is an exclusive creed, intolerant of all who disagree with it such as secular liberals, members of other Muslim communities such as the Shia or women resisting their chattel-like status.

What has been termed Salafi jihadism, the core beliefs of Isis and al-Qaeda, developed out of Wahhabism, and has carried out its prejudices to what it sees as a logical and violent conclusion. Shia and Yazidis were not just heretics in the eyes of this movement, which was a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, but sub-humans who should be massacred or enslaved. Any woman who transgressed against repressive social mores should be savagely punished. Faith should be demonstrated by a public death of the believer, slaughtering the unbelievers, be they the 86 Shia children being evacuated by bus from their homes in Syria on 15 April or the butchery of young fans at a pop concert in Manchester on Monday night.

The real causes of “radicalisation” have long been known, but the government, the BBC and others seldom if ever refer to it because they do not want to offend the Saudis or be accused of anti-Islamic bias. It is much easier to say, piously but quite inaccurately, that Isis and al-Qaeda and their murderous foot soldiers “have nothing to do with Islam”. This has been the track record of US and UK governments since 9/11. They will look in any direction except Saudi Arabia when seeking the causes of terrorism. President Trump has been justly denounced and derided in the US for last Sunday accusing Iran and, in effect, the Shia community of responsibility for the wave of terrorism that has engulfed the region when it ultimately emanates from one small but immensely influential Sunni sect. One of the great cultural changes in the world over the last 50 years is the way in which Wahhabism, once an isolated splinter group, has become an increasingly dominant influence over mainstream Sunni Islam, thanks to Saudi financial support.

A further sign of the Salafi-jihadi impact is the choice of targets: the attacks on the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015, a gay night club in Florida in 2016 and the Manchester Arena this week have one thing in common. They were all frequented by young people enjoying entertainment and a lifestyle which made them an Isis or al-Qaeda target. But these are also events where the mixing of men and women or the very presence of gay people is denounced by puritan Wahhabis and Salafi jihadis alike. They both live in a cultural environment in which the demonisation of such people and activities is the norm, though their response may differ.

The culpability of Western governments for terrorist attacks on their own citizens is glaring but is seldom even referred to. Leaders want to have a political and commercial alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil states. They have never held them to account for supporting a repressive and sectarian ideology which is likely to have inspired Salman Abedi. Details of his motivation may be lacking, but the target of his attack and the method of his death is classic al-Qaeda and Isis in its mode of operating.

The reason these two demonic organisations were able to survive and expand despite the billions – perhaps trillions – of dollars spent on “the war on terror” after 9/11 is that those responsible for stopping them deliberately missed the target and have gone on doing so. After 9/11, President Bush portrayed Iraq not Saudi Arabia as the enemy; in a re-run of history President Trump is ludicrously accusing Iran of being the source of most terrorism in the Middle East. This is the real 9/11 conspiracy, beloved of crackpots worldwide, but there is nothing secret about the deliberate blindness of British and American governments to the source of the beliefs that has inspired the massacres of which Manchester is only the latest – and certainly not the last – horrible example.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

28 May 2017

ANTHONY FOSTER DIED ON 26 MAY 2017 - AND WE ARE ALL DEVASTATED!



Article by Chrissie Foster in the Australian on Friday 7 April 2017

RIGHT TO THE VERY END, THE CHURCH WASN’T LISTENING

Final royal commission hearings revealed the ugly truth of indifference to victims

It is difficult to stop crying.

A child sexual abuse expert from the U.S. Bruce Perry, simply picked a random example. He spoke via video link to the Royal Commission into institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; he was one of 36 experts in the field who gave evidence last week at the final week of the hearing titled case study 57, Nature, Cause and Impact of Child Sexual Abuse. Perry’s example was of ‘a little five-year-old child and somebody is raping you’ and he talked of what it does to the young mind.

They were painful words to hear because that is what happened to our little five-year-old Emma and, not long after, to our six-year-old Katie. To hear what their infant minds had to deal with was crushing – a dreadful add-on to the vision of rape by the priest, which already haunts us.

It was like a knife to the heart.

The priest was Kevin O’Donnell, he was 66 years older than Emma, he was our parish priest, with access to the primary school and its 300 children where I, as a Catholic, sent our girls. He went to prison in 1995 for 14 months for sexually assaulting children (rape charges were dropped in a plea bargain). I believe that from 1958 until he was arrested, he sexually assaulted at least 100 children.

Memories haunted our girls. Emma took her life aged 26 after a traumatic teenage and young adult life filled with despair, self-harming and drug addiction. Katie began binge drinking and was hit by a car while drunk. She spent 12 months in hospital and now, 18 years later, still receives 24-hour care, as she always will. Childhood sexual abuse was the cause and self-destructive behaviour was the impact.

Four weeks before came Case Study 50, titled Catholic Church in Australia, a three-week hearing during which Australia’s archbishop gave disturbing testimony.

In his evidence, on three occasions Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous said the reason they did not act to stop child sexual abuse was because “nobody understood the seriousness of the effects of sexual abuse on children”. This common, if absurd, excuse has been used by the hierarchy, both here and overseas, since 1994. In using it, they admit knowing about the crimes. And not stopping them. Crimes that attracted the death penalty until 1961.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge stated: “I have no right to go to a priest, who is not an employee of mine, and say, “Excuse me, are you in a sexual relationship?” What if that “sexual relationship” was with a child?

When, on a panel of five archbishops, one described the forced, often violent, rape of thousands of children as “misbehaving”, not one of them said a word. God almighty, what is wrong with these sanctimonious men of religion? What do they need to make them understand? Another $450 million royal commission?

I once handed my most precious treasure, my three children, to the Catholic Church for their primary school education and at that school was the pedophile O’Donnell. The archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little, knew about O’Donnell’s crimes by then. Evidence before the royal commission has told us that in 1986, the year before Emma started school, Little received a letter from a nun informing him that O’Donnell had sexually assaulted a boy over several years.

We have lost count of how many victims have taken their lives.

Little did nothing – an act of criminal neglect.

This was not the only time Little put his priests before the safety of Catholic children. In 1978 a magistrate and a barrister approached him about a boy in their parish who had been sexually assaulted by priest Bill Baker. The archbishop yelled at the two men to leave his office. But he acted: days later he transferred Baker to another parish, where his crimes were not known. As adults, some of his victims went to police. Baker was jailed for a few of his crimes and then lived on a generous church pension.

Further royal commission evidence shows the Catholic hierarchy was told in 1958 that O’Donnell was raping children. They did nothing and he raped others freely for another 34 years until retiring with an honorary title from the church.

Can today’s archbishops be trusted with the safety and lives of your children?

We don’t have to look far for the answer.

Last year some parents in Melbourne tried to remove from their parish a priest after newspapers reported that the church had made a $75,000 payout to a victim of his sexual abuse. The royal commission has established that the maximum of $75,000 is only awarded in the very worst cases. Tellingly, the church sided with the priest, who
denied the abuse, against the parents. Eventually he was transferred. His new parishioners complained. He was moved again. His present location is unknown.

We have lost count of how many victims of priests have taken their lives. Of course, the crimes devastate parents and grandparents of victims, siblings, spouses and children of victims, and loving friends. Emma’s closest friend Lu, took her own life five months after Emma.

Where were the church hierarchy representatives at this final royal commission hearing? There was much they stood to learn about the damage their colleagues had done to the 4445 victims in their care. They might have better understood those blighted lives, perhaps even developed some empathy for them. But no. They stayed away. All of them.

They didn’t care then and they don’t care now.

My husband, Anthony, and I have attended 108 days of royal commission hearings and seen many other days of evidence via webcast. We are grateful to the royal commission for seeking truth and justice about these crimes. Without it, victims would still be fighting a losing battle against a powerful and once influential institution.

The royal commission will release its findings on December 15 but these will go nowhere unless politicians act on them. We hope they vote for the safety and protection of voiceless, innocent children and not cave in to the untrustworthy churches and their manipulative lawyers and lobbyists.

Implementing the recommendations will help make Australia the safest country in the world for children.

Who doesn’t want that?


Chrissie Foster is the author of Hell on the Way to Heaven with Paul Kennedy.


Anthony Foster died on Friday 26 May 2017 when he was taken off life support.

The following is probably the last tweet he made – a few weeks ago:

Anthony Foster @Anthony Foster_.Apr 6

“RIGHT TO THE VERY END, THE CHURCH WASN’T LISTENING” By Chrissie in today’s Australian tinyurl.com/zrqspx7#caRoyalComm @australian


It was almost prescient! But very tragic for everybody.


OBITUARY FOR ANTHONY FOSTER

RED JOS - ACTIVIST KICKS BACKS



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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm

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