“What Tony Blair will be thinking”. This piece from the Stop The War Coalition is enlightening.

Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcott inquiry is receiving extensive coverage. Acres of newsprint. This blog’s remit is ‘news that doesn’t normally get out’. With that in mind – here are two short videos.

and the second…

And here is Blair defending his position in that Fern Britton interview.

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News from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist network.  Together with the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign they have organised a  UK & Ireland tour with Hajo Meyer & Haidar Eid (Dr Eid via video link from Gaza) called:

“NEVER AGAIN.FOR ANYONE”. The IJAZ Network say:

“On January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day, leading politicians from the U.S. and Europe will join in honoring the memory of Jews killed in the Nazi genocide. Yet the immensity of that tragedy is dishonored by the hypocrisy of the ceremonies: those who pay homage to the victims of yesterday’s silence are silent about today’s inhumanity. We say, “Never again!” For anyone. Never again for the people of Gaza. Never again for all those struggling against dehumanization, racism and genocide everywhere, every day”.

Hajo Meyer tells us: “My great lesson from Auschwitz is – whoever wants to dehumanise any other must first be dehumanised himself. The oppressors are no longer really human whatever uniform they wear”.

Dr Hajo G. Meyer was born in 1924 in Bielefeld, Germany. In 1944, after a year in the underground, he was caught and subsequently survived 10 months in Auschwitz. An IJAN member, Dr. Meyer is on the board of the IJAN.

Dr Haidar Eid is a refugee whose parents were expelled from the Zarnouqa village in 1948. Dr. Eid is a member of the PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) Steering Committee and a co-founder of the One Dutch “A Different Jewish Voice”, of European Jews for a Just Peace. He is the author of three books on Judaism, Holocaust and Zionism. Democratic State Group.

He lives in Gaza, where he is an Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University.

Tour Dates

♦ 21 Jan, 7.30pm: Sir Charles Wilson Building, University of Glasgow.

♦ 22 Jan, 7.30pm: D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre, Tower Building, Perth Rd. Dundee

♦ 23 Jan, 2pm: Augustine Church Centre, Edinburgh.

♦ 24 Jan, 7.30pm: The Showroom & Workstation, Paternoster Row. Sheffield

♦ 25 Jan, 7.30pm: Quaker Meeting House, Liverpool.

 ♦ 26 Jan, 6pm: Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, University of London.

♦ 27 Jan, 7pm: House of Commons (Portcullis House) Westminster, London.

♦ 29 Jan, 7.30pm: The Grosvenor Hall, Glengall Street, Belfast.

♦ 30 Jan, 6pm: Central Hotel, Exchequer Street, Dublin.

For the full schedule go to International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Never Again or the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign for more information or to sponsor one of these events, please contact: uk@ijsn.net or campaign@scottishpsc.org.uk

The IJAN say: “We are urgently looking for sponsors for the tour. If you haven’t already, please consider  endorsing/sponsoring the tour now! And we are also looking for representatives form communities that have faced genocide to participate in the planning of the tour and to respond to the main speakers“. 

‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me’ – Pastor Martin Niemöller

House of Commons Meeting. January, 2009

On the 14th. January, a meeting took place at the House of Commons, London which gave voice to women’s uncensored experiences of detention and deportation. 

See also The World to Win blog: Not a crime to seek asylum Public Event: Can You Hear Us?

A spokesperson said:

“While the brutal detention of children has been finally condemned, little has been said about the detention of mothers and its impact on families, including children, and other vulnerable people…

…Over 70% of women seeking asylum are rape survivors [1]. Many are detained in prison-like conditions throughout Britain, including in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre which holds over 400 women and their families. This is in breach of national guidelines and international agreements”.

The following information is sourced from LAW (Legal Action for Women):

At the meeting women testified about their struggles against an increasingly punitive immigration system, and their demands for change.

 They included rape survivors, mothers separated from their children, lesbian women, and several women who were recently released from Yarl’s Wood. Some have been involved in hunger strikes and protests against the brutal, profit-orientated regime run by SERCO [2] and against violent deportations by privatised security companies.

Ms Idri Jawara was one of the speakers. Ms Idri Jawara was married in Gambia in October 1991 and her husband insisted she adopt his family’s tradition of carrying out female genital mutilation. As a victim of this practice herself, Ms Jawara refused to inflict it on her daughters and other girls.

As her marriage began to deteriorate, Ms Jawara began a lesbian relationship with a close friend. When her husband found out he raped and beat her daily and eventually took her to a Sharia court where he accused her of having a forbidden relationship. The court found her guilty and sentenced her to death by stoning on 11 May 2009. On 13 May, Ms Jawara fled to Britain. She was entitled to claim asylum under the Refugee Convention because of the persecution she suffered and because she couldn’t rely on the Gambian government to protect her.

 In June, when she submitted her claim, she was detained in Yarl’s Wood IRC. Despite having explained she was a victim of rape, her case was put into the fast-track process which allows only two days for an asylum application to be made and a further six days to appeal a refusal. This leaves no time for people to gather the medical and other expert reports essential to corroborate a claim of persecution.

Like 98% of other applicants considered under the fast track, Ms Jawara was refused. Like hundreds of other women, Ms Jawara was then left without legal representation as her lawyer concluded, without having gathered any of the key evidence, that her case had no merit. She tried to represent herself at her appeal hearing but was too embarrassed to speak about her sexuality and her appeal was rejected.

 Faced with imminent removal, she found a new lawyer who put in a Judicial Review and commissioned an expert report from Black Women’s Rape Action Project. Her removal was suspended after the Gambian authorities refused to issue a travel document.

She was finally released shortly before Christmas. What makes people angry is the lack of money to help the vulnerable.

 There are 42 million displaced people worldwide [3]. Women and children are 80% of the casualties of wars [4]. The role of the British government in fermenting and supporting many of these wars remains hidden. Instead we are bombarded with political and religious ‘leaders’ claiming, without any concrete evidence, that people blame immigration for a scarcity of resources. Yet recent research confirms the positive contribution immigrant people make to society. [5] Over six years ago women seeking asylum in the UK founded the All African Women’s Group. They describe that when people hear directly about the suffering and injustice they have experienced, both in their countries of origin and since their arrival in the UK, there is often an outpouring of sympathy, compassion and outrage. “What we see that makes people angry is the lack of money to help the vulnerable.

Women and children are left destitute by government policies while billions are squandered on war. We never hear from government that there’s no money for these wars which kill and maim, force us to flee our countries and drain the vital services everyone needs to survive. Of course, we also experience hostility and discrimination from some people, especially those in authority.

But racist attacks increase every time the government launches another witch-hunt against us as ‘bogus’ or ‘scroungers’ – we are held up as scapegoats for people’s frustration at political and economic priorities which undermine most of us, whether we were born here or not.” But despite being isolated, denied access to dependable lawyers, subjected to slave labour and negligent healthcare, abused and assaulted during deportations, and terrorised by the threat of being sent back . . . women continue to organise creatively in their own defence.

References:

 [1] A Bleak House in Our Times: An investigation into women’s rights violations at Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre, Legal Action for Women

[2] SERCO Group plc won an £85 million contract to run Yarl’s Wood initially for three years, with optional extensions up to eight years.

 [3] UNHCR annual report, June 2009 [4] UNHCR Refugees Magazine Issue 126, April 2002

[4] UNHCR Refugees Magazine Issue 126, April 2002

[5] Can Migrants Save the Global Economy? Counterpunch article.

(Source of references, press release and photograph: LAW)

See this link. Sky news two hours ago.

Gaza one year on

January 1, 2010

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First of January. Janus the god of  gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. Looking backwards and forwards at the  same time.

 In December last year anti-war protestors stood together on the streets protesting against the Gaza massacre. After closing and controlling its borders, we heard news of Israel brutally bombing and then invading Gaza.

This week an email from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network reminds me of  the 1,417 Palestinians dead including 313 children and youth:

” Since the attack, which destroyed houses, wells, factories, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings, the blockade has created conditions of genocide through contamination of water supplies due to white phosphorous, raw sewage pouring into the sea, and the prevention of food, medical and other humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza. People living in Gaza are already feeling the terrible long-term effects including a huge increase in birth defects and in cancers, especially in children”.

Over the past year many of us made trips to Palestine in solidarity. To bear witness. To bring food. To film and to write the reality.

 I would have wanted to be there too. For the present – and this time – family circumstances did not and do not allow me to go the distance. I had to travel to Palestinians online instead. 

Travelled in my head each day to the month-long protest that took place at the Rafah border organised by the International Movement to Open the Border. To speak to the women who sent me messages and photographs. Posted twice, three times a day – learning there were some things that would never see the light of the mainstream press. Began to understand why no-one would pay a writer to write about it. Followed the story anyway. Days and days and months of it.

Travelled to the Palestine Trade Union solidarity conference in Liverpool. Heard the writer   Sameh Habeeb speak for the first time. He’s helping us to understand Obama, Afghanistan and Palestine:

 Obama’s failure will only increase over time. The troops in Afghanistan will be doubled, as well as the loss of lives of Americans due to this careless policy. The American-made Iraq will never exist. Palestinians will continue to be denied their inalienable rights granted by International law and a Palestinian state will not be realized in the near future.

Gazans will remain suffering under the internationally endorsed siege, with its children continuing to be killed and starved. All of this is due to American foreign policy, which is concerned with economic and material self-interest rather than humanitarian concerns. Indeed, neither Barack Obama nor the American government will solve such problems as they remain bias and supporters of the victimizers against the victims”.

Last year I started out thinking I had the freedom to write the truth as I saw and heard it.  A late night phone call from a government office shook me out of this particular day-dream.  It wasn’t that simple.

This month I read:  “the Gaza Freedom March coalition mobilised an international contingent of over 1,300 international delegates for a non-violent march alongside the people of Gaza which was planned to take place yesterday”.

I read: “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry informed the organisers on December 20 that the Rafah border will be closed over the coming weeks into January, and that they will not be able to enter Gaza.  Egyptian embassies and missions heard a clear message from supporters of the march by phone, fax and email. Let the delegation enter Gaza and let the Gaza Freedom March proceed”.

I’m thinking:  This place is familiar. The author of the blog GHAZAWIYYA has the following to say (see this link for the source – quote unedited).

“The Viva Palestina convoy should not have accepted to leave to Lathqiyyeh in Syria based on what Egypt demanded they do. This is not resistance. The convoy should have held on their demands despite the Egyptian regimes refusal to allow them to pass through Nweiba’.

What the Egyptian authorities are doing is to put off people, and they are succeeding in doing that as long as their is no persistence and resistance. Now, one other thing I would like to criticise Viva Palestina’s Alberawy for is his statement that the convoy is “humanitarian and in solidarity” that does not wish to pressure the Egyptian government! Not that I am for the humanitarian discourse, but, I mean isn’t it humanitarian enough for Mr. Alberawy to uncover the Egyptian regime’s injustice and corruption?

Couldn’t Viva Palestina have took advantage of this refusal by Egypt to defy this wicked and torturous regime? They should have kept the half a million dollars to support the solidarity workers in Aqaba and work on a movement to Jordan in support of a civil disobedience”. (Quote source: the blogger Natalie Abou Shakra  at GHAZAWIYYA)