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Friday, 29 July 2011

'What are you looking at?' - A film on multiculturalism

As I have been posting recently on the challenges of the Far Right and the need to uphold the principles of tolderance, anti-racism and multiculturalism, I thought it interesting as an Irish gay man to include a link here to a film recently directed by a bisexual woman friend of mine from a Muslim background about how this might actually work in the practice and some of the inherent contradictions and interfaces which we have to navigate through in order to reach a genuinely inclusive society.

She submitted this film recently for the Best of Boroughs film award, representing Southwark, and under the auspices of Flim London. Although a short film I think it makes a powerful point in a short timeframe. The title of the film is 'What are you looking at' with all its inherent meanings of agression and intolerance but also a challenge to the heterogenous norm from those who are labelled as 'the other'.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The need to defend multiculturalism

As a committed anti-racist and anti-Fascist, I utterly condemn the shocking events which occured in Norway last weekend. Also as the Green Party's delegate on the Steering Committee of Stop the War Coalition, I can see the immediate connecton between the wars in Muslim lands, in which the UK is one of the main spear carriers and the rise in Islamophobia. It is no coincidence that Breivik used Crusader images on his website and that Richard the Lionheart was one of his heroes.

I totall endorse the views of John Wright in this article on the Socialist Unity website re mulitculturalism and the need to oppose the deadlly menace of racism and Fascism together. And while I do not agree with George Galloway on a number of things, the news that death threats against him have appeared on the website of the EDL is truly shocking and I hope that the police follow it up.





The appalling act of mass murder carried out in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik, who it has emerged was motivated by what he believed was the dilution of European conservative Christian cultural values due to the predominance of cultural Marxism, and the onset of liberalism, multiculturalism and the Islamisation of Europe it has led to, must result in a reassertion of multiculturalism throughout the West as a bulwark of progressive ideas.


It must also result in a fresh offensive, both at the level of ideas and on the ground, against the rise and spread of Islamophobia, which thanks to the various policies of western governments and the poison spouted daily by right wing commentators in the pages of the mainstream press, has become the accepted form of racism among a growing section of polite society.

In the UK newspapers such as the Daily Star, Daily Mail, Daily Express and any of the Murdoch titles, have competed with each other over who can wage the most concerted campaign of demonisation, mischaracterisation, bigotry and slander against Britain’s Muslim community. This has helped to create a culture in which racist ideas have been able to incubate and gain traction, resulting in a brief upsurge in support for the BNP at electoral level, but even more worrying the appearance of the self styled English Defence League, a neo-fascist organisation committed to fomenting a race war between whites and Muslims. The fact that found among Breivik’s belongings by the Norwegian police was an endorsement of the views of the odious and rancid Daily Mail columnist, Melanie Phillips, comes as little surprise.

Increasingly, an insidious consensus has been forged between the right wing mainstream press and those in a position to shape cultural values, and an organisation comprised of thugs intent on violent disorder in towns and cities up and down the country, when it comes to the view that Islam constitutes a clear and present danger to British society.

The inference drawn is that Islam is a regressive religion, practiced by people of an alien culture, wherein fundamentalist ideas are the norm and where terrorist acts carried out against the West are not only accepted but supported by Muslims at home, the enemy within.

9/11 came as a shot across the bows of the received truths that had prevailed in the West for so long. The North-South hemispheric divide had seen the consumer boom enjoyed in the West paid for in the despair and unremitting poverty suffered throughout the developing world. The West’s role in supporting and subsidising corrupt regimes throughout the Arab world, the continuing injustice and humiliation suffered by the Palestinians, the decade-long suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of the sanctions, had resulted in the growth of fundamentalist ideas motivated by a growing sense of grievance throughout the region.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed 9/11 resulted in a further increase in radicalisation throughout the Muslim and Arab world, and the concomitant emergence of Islamophobia at home, with terrorist attacks such as 7/7 producing a wave of revulsion by many non-Muslims towards Islam and its adherents. This has been aided by governments across Europe, which seeking to distract from the causal link between waging war against Arab and Muslim countries overseas and terrorist attacks at home, have instead pointed to an inherent tendency towards radicalism within Islam, drawing the conclusion that the regressive impulses within the religion and its culture are incompatible with western civilisation and ergo rendering multiculturalism a failed concept.

It is not. What has failed is not the concept of multiculturalism but a body politic that has sought electoral advantage in fanning the flames of fear and suspicion towards Muslims and immigrants, pandering to a right wing populist press that views its role as the gatekeeper of ‘British values’, a concept that carries with it a strong undercurrent of racism and which has succeeded in drawing an association between Islam and terrorism.

Scandinavian countries, with their strong traditions of social democracy and social cohesion, have experienced a sharp rise in anti immigrant sentiment and political support for Islamophobic far right parties over the past decade.

Norway’s Progress Party, of which Breivik is a former member, won more than one-fifth of the national vote in the latest parliamentary election, in 2009. Last year, the Swedish Democrats became the first far right party to enter the Swedish parliament when it captured nearly 6% of the vote despite the furore that erupted when local candidate Marie-Louise Enderleit posted a comment on Facebook that migrants should be shot in the head, put in a bag and sent back to their home countries. Denmark’s Folkparty, which recently ran an anti-immigrant campaign under the slogan “Give us Denmark back,” secured 14% of the vote in a 2007 election and has since been an influential coalition partner in government. And the True Finns became the third largest party represented in the Finnish Parliament after winning 19% of the vote in elections in April.

There is no doubt that the absorption of immigrants across Scandinavia has posed a problem in a part of the world that had long been able to protect its citizens from the vicissitudes of the global economy due to the size of their respective states’ economic footprint. But with the recent phenomenon that has seen both mainstream left and right wing political currents moving to contest the centre ground across Europe – in the UK exemplified by the convergence of New Labour and Conservative policies around welfare reform, crime, and the economy – space has opened up on the far right and left, with the far right proving more successful in filling the resulting vacuum.

Multiculturalism is the only progressive adaptation to the transformation of western societies by the process of mass immigration that began after the Second World War. But as has been shown with the rise of the far right, the concept is prisoner to the consequences of the West’s continued determination to maintain a balance of power globally which reinforces the view of the peoples of the developing world as belonging to lower civilisations and cultures than our own.

Whenever the mainstream political discourse begins from the standpoint that immigration, asylum seekers and Islam constitute a threat to society, the far right gains traction. Multiculturalism, the concept that all cultures should and can exist in equality and harmony, has come under attack by those who support the wars waged throughout the developing world to maintain a global status quo that is as barbaric as it is unjust.

The onset of the Arab Spring throughout a region of the world where the masses had been politically infantilised for so long with the connivance of the West offers hope that the baneful influence of imperialism and colonialism in the region can and will be weakened at long last.

Meanwhile, back at home, Melanie Phillips and her ilk have much to answer for.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Vote for independence for Palestine

Dear friends,


The Palestinian people are calling on the world to recognise Palestine as a state. Over 120 countries have endorsed the call, but the US and Israel are opposing and key European leaders are on the fence. If we can persuade Europe and the UK to support this non violent, legitimate bid now, it could spur a dramatic shift towards peace. Click to sign the urgent petition:

In four days the UN Security Council will meet, and the world has an opportunity to embrace a new proposal that could turn the tide on decades of failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: UN recognition of the state of Palestine.

Over 120 nations from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America have already endorsed this initiative, but Israel's right-wing government and the US vehemently oppose it. The UK and other key European countries are still undecided, but a massive public push now could tip them to vote for this momentous opportunity to end 40 years of military occupation.

US-led peace initiatives have failed for decades, while Israel has confined the Palestinians to small areas, confiscated their lands and blocked their independence. This bold new initiative could be the best opportunity to jump start a resolution of the conflict, but Europe and the UK must take the lead. Let’s build a massive global call for the UK and other European leaders to endorse this statehood bid now, and make clear that citizens across the world support this legitimate, non-violent, diplomatic proposal. Sign the petition and send this to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/independence_for_palestine_uk/?vl


While the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complex, most people on all sides agree that the best path to peace now is the creation of two states. But repeated peace processes have been undermined by violence on both sides, extensive Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank, and the humanitarian blockade on Gaza. The Israeli occupation has shrunk and fragmented the territory for a Palestinian state and made daily life a crippling ordeal for the Palestinian people. The UN, World Bank and IMF have all recently announced that Palestinians are ready to run an independent state, but say the main constraint to success is the Israeli occupation. Even the US President has called for an end to settlement expansion and a return to the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land-swaps, but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has furiously refused to cooperate.

It’s time for a dramatic shift away from a futile peace process and on to a new path for progress. While the Israeli and US governments are calling the Palestinian initiative ‘unilateral’ and dangerous, in fact the world’s nations overwhelmingly support this diplomatic move away from violence. Global recognition of Palestine could crush extremists, and foster a growing non-violent Palestinian-Israeli movement in step with the democratic momentum across the region. Most importantly, it will rescue a path to a negotiated settlement, allow the Palestinians access to a variety of international institutions that can help advance Palestinian freedom, and send a clear signal to Israel’s pro-settler government that the world will no longer accept their impunity and intransigence.

For too long, Israel has undermined the hope for a Palestinian state. For too long, the US has appeased them, and for too long Europe has hidden behind the US. Right now, France, Spain, Germany, the UK and the High Representative of the EU are on the fence about Palestinian statehood. Let’s appeal to them to stand on the right side of history and support a Palestinian declaration of freedom and independence, with overwhelming support, and financial aid. Sign the urgent petition now to urge Europe to support the bid and back this move for long-term peace in Israel and Palestine:


Palestinian statehood will not bring a resolution to this intractable conflict overnight, but UN recognition will change the dynamics and will begin to unlock the door towards freedom and peace. Across Palestine, people are preparing, with hope and expectation, to reclaim a freedom their generation has never known. Let's stand with them and push European leaders to do the same, as they have stood with the people of Egypt, Syria and Libya.

With hope and determination,

Alice, Ricken, Stephanie, Morgan, Pascal, Rewan and the entire Avaaz team



MORE INFORMATION

Abbas vows to continue UN statehood bid

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/07/201171302020819197.html

Arab League will call for Palestinian State at the UN

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/14/us-palestinians-israel-statehood-arabs-idUSTRE76D21020110714

Palestinians and Israelis march for Palestinian statehood:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/israelis-and-arabs-march-in-jerusalem-for-palestinian-statehood/2011/07/15/gIQAQPnSGI_story.html

Israel campaign against UN vote:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/10/israel-plan-block-un-palestinian-state?INTCMP=SRCH

Palestinian call for statehood:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/47a391f6-b121-11e0-a43e-00144feab49a.html#axzz1SefO7Aor

Palestinian statehood and bypassing Israel:

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/20116168535227628.html

UN says Palestinians able to govern own state

http://unispal.un.org/pdfs/AHLC-Apr2011_UNSCOrpt.pdf

List of countries recognizing the state of Palestine

http://www.avaaz.org/en/countries_recognizing_palestine/?info



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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Coalition of Resistance Conference last Saturday


I was at the Coalition of Resistance conference last Saturday and chaired the workshop on equalities entitled 'The Hardest Hit' and I will report back on that shortly. In the interim, here is a full account of the conference and the motions passed and defeated. I was also re-elected to the National Council of COR.

Here Ted Knight, former Labour leader of Lambeth Council tells it like it is and makes clear the cowardice and mendacity of the Labour Party.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Green Party Trade Union Group Statement on international campaigners arrested in Israel

I understand that Ann Gray from London Green Party and others were returning last night to Luton airport, having been deported from Israel for the gross crime of trying to enter the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank. Pippa Bartolotti from the Welsh Green Party is apparently still there. But I think that we will have a news update later today. Below is the statement from the Green Party Trade Union Group on the incident.

GPTU STATEMENT (Posted on http://gptublog.blogspot.com/)
The Green Party Trade Union Group fully supports the recent statements of Caroline Lucas , Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales (letter to William Hague), calling for the release of the international campaigners arrested and unjustly imprisoned by the Israeli government. We also want ALL these campaigners to be released and for them to be able to proceed to Palestine as they had intended, but we would like especially to send our solidarity and support to , Pippa Bartolotti, Deputy Leader of the Wales Green Party, and to Ann Gray of Haringey Green Party a supporter of GPTU and a member of Green Left.

Unjustified arrest is relatively mild by the standards of many of the actions that Israel has taken against Palestine, nonetheless it shows the contempt which the Israeli government seems to show for the human rights of Palestinians and their supporters, Pippa and Ann are quite right to take part in a protest against this and in no way deserve any unlawful punishment for doing so.

And here is an interview on Russian TV with Pippa Barolotti.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Green Party defends rail jobs in the UK

The Green Party has issued the following press release today. An emergency motion on the same issue was passed by the Coalition of Resistance conference on Saturday in London. I also referred to it in my proposing the motion on a million green jobs which was passed unanimously by COR conference.

Green Party of England and Wales

020 7549 0315
press@greenparty.org.uk

Greens defend rail jobs in UK

 "Awarding train contracts to Siemens continues the dismantling of the engineering industry and technical know-how in this country."

Rally in Derby on Saturday 23 July

The Green Party has condemned the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government for giving a £3 billion order of new rolling stock for Thameslink trains to Siemens.

The rival bidder, Derby-based Bombardier, has laid off over a thousand workers, as the last remaining train builder in the country. The Bombardier factory in Derby is now under threat, and so are thousands more jobs in the Derby area in other rail businesses that supply the factory.

Green Party transport spokesperson Alan Francis said: “We need more train carriages and more manufacturing jobs in the UK. Train manufacturing in this country should be expanded, not forced to close down. It is a dereliction of duty by the government to stand by and see the loss of skills and jobs.”

Derbyshire Green Party Chairman David Foster said: "The coalition government is playing political football with the livelihoods of thousands of people in Derby and Derbyshire.

 "One of the most worrying aspects of this deplorable decision is that it continues the trend of dismantling the whole engineering industry and technical know-how in this country. We have already witnessed the demise of the British automotive industry and rely heavily on foreign manufacturers. If we don't wake up to what is happening, we risk losing our national engineering heritage.

"I urge the people of Derby and Derbyshire to show their opposition to this decision and come to the rally in Derby on Saturday 23 July."

At a pre-general-election rail debate in Westminster in 2010 (1), Alan Francis was the only politician to argue not only for more train carriages for the rail network, but to also to state that they should be built in the UK to preserve British jobs.

Francis was on a panel with Chris Mole, then a Labour government transport minister, Stephen Hammond, then a Conservative shadow transport minister, and Norman Baker, then a Lib Dem shadow transport minister. The debate, before an audience of senior rail industry people, was chaired by the BBC's Nick Owen.

When questioned about orders for new carriages, all of the panelists claimed that they wanted to see more carriages on the network. But Francis was the only one to talk about building those new carriages in this country.

Alan Francis said today: “This shows that all three of the main parties are so wedded to the free market, they are willing to sacrifice British manufacturing and British jobs. After the debate, I was congratulated by a member of the audience from a Derby rail company. He thanked me for being the only panellist to raise the issue of train building in this country.”

Notes

1) The Rail Debate, 17th March 2010, Central Hall, Westminster, see
part 8 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxuBUEorm_I&feature=related

Friday, 8 July 2011

Coalition of Resistance Conference tomorrow


Tomorrow is the Coalition of Resistance's second national conference at the University of London Union in Malet St London from 10am to 5pm. Speakers will include, Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary) Mehdi Hassan (New Statesman) Dot Gibson (National Pensioners Convention) John Mc Donnell MP, Joe Malone (FBU) Katy Clark MP, Alex Kenny (NUT) Barnaby Raine (School Students against the cuts) Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition) and Ben Hassan Mokhtar (Tunisia Democracy Campaign)

I will be running a fringe meeting entitled 'The Hardest Hit' with speakers from the disability, black and ethnic minority and LGBT communities. The fringe will examine how the cuts are impinging on these communities and the speakers will be Deborah Sowerby, long term disability activist and former Community Development Officer of London's pan disability organisation, Inclusion London, Zital Holborne (from the national executive of the PCS Union and Co-Chair of Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts) and Nathan Sparling, LGBT Officer of NUS Scotland.

I will also be putting a joint resolution to the conference from Green Left and Socialist Resistance. The resolution is as follows:
Conference calls on CoR to support the the "One Million Jobs" campaign http://www.campaigncc.org/greenjobs being run by the Campaign Against Climate Change. Conference instructs the CoR steering committee and national council to support the campaign by promoting it on our website, at our meetings and at every level of activity. The campaign seeks to build a new Green economy which would help us both combat the cuts and harmful climate change.
We are facing a global environmental crisis and a global economic crisis. We need solutions to both - now. Many climate activists, and several national trade unions, have decided to fight to make the government create one million green, climate jobs. The TUC has also supported this policy at its Congress last year.
Sooner or later gradual climate change is going to turn into swift catastrophe. So we need drastic cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases we put into the air.
This will take government regulation and international agreements. It will also take a lot of work - jobs.
We have to build wind, wave, tide and solar power. We have to renovate and insulate our homes and buildings.
And we have to provide a network of cheap buses and trains. There are officially two and a half million unemployed people in Britain. Many more are not counted in government figures. We may be facing a long recession, or the economy may 'recover' sales.
But the experience from many countries now is that business has to sell a lot more, for a long time, before jobs start to recover. We will have mass unemployment for many years. We have people who need jobs and work that must be done.

A million climate jobs in the UK will not solve all the economy's problems. But it will take a million human beings off the dole and put them to work saving the future. The cuts proposed by the current government will ensure that hundreds of thousands of public sector workers will lose their jobs. The result will be another plunge into recession.

We cannot halt climate change only by action in the UK. Climate change is an international issue - our campaigning and sucesses here will have an impact on campaigners internationally as we have been inspired by mass movements elsewhere - whether it is the Arab revolutions, the Greek and Spanish protesters or the huge mobilisations against nuclear power in Germany.
This will be one of the largest anti-cuts conferences for some time, and although we do not expect it to be as large as the first COR conference last November, which had over 1,000 attend, we do expect it to be large.
Other resolutions will cover working with the trade unions, campaigning against expenditure on war, and organising the structure of COR - including electing a new National Council, for which I will be putting my name forward to represent Green Left. Other fringe meetings will deal with the Crisis in the Eurozone, with James Meadway from the New Economics Foundation and speakers from Greece and Spain, Fighting Privatisation with Tony Kearns from CWU and Clare Solomon ULU President, and Greening the Economy with Peter Allen (Co-Convenor of Green Left) Green councillor Jonathan Essex from Redhill and chaired by COR Chair and Green Party National Campaigns Coordinator, Romayne Phoenix. Looks like an exciting lineup and a good place to get the campaign against the cuts rolling again.




Thursday, 7 July 2011

Deaths in Police Custody - A film showing by the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum


‘Deaths in police custody’– A film produced by the Met Police and the London Ambulance Service followed by discussion.


Monday July 11th 2011

5.30-7.30pm

Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:


CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy j-j@freezone.co.uk or PatientsForumLAS@aol.com


VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie Sisterjossi@hotmail.com


VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother director.glf@pop3.poptel.org.uk


VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander PatientsForumLAS@aol.com


BSL signers will be available


Nearest Tube: Waterloo British Rail: Waterloo Buses:1,4,26,77,68,168,171,172,176,188,507,243,341,381,507,521


PATIENTS’ FORUM AMBULANCE SERVICES (LONDON) LTD

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Another serviceman sentenced for objecting to the war in Afghanistan while the language of war continues apace

Details here of another serviceman, this time a sailor, sentenced to imprisonment for refusing to fight in Afghanistan. There is no sense to this war, and the recent BBC documentary on the Afghan war, reveals that many of those who are, or were, in positions of power share those views - including the former UK ambassador to Kabul.

As the body bags continue to roll back to the UK and the US, this madness must be stopped. Stop the War Coalition is calling for troops out by Xmas and intends to occupy Trafalgar Square in October on the 10th anniversary of the Afghan war in protest against it.

Here Sanum Ghafour lifts the lid on how the language of war uses clean words to cover up atrocious deeds. "If I had a pound for every time Tony Blair used the term 'regime change' ", she says, "I could probably afford to buy a weapon of mass destruction."


Friday, 1 July 2011

London Gay Pride and Green Left AGM

Tomorrow unfortunately I have a clash and am hoping to go to two events which I hold equally seriously. The first is the AGM of Green Left, being held in Brixton, south London. As the Secretary of Green Left and a founder member I fully intend to attend the group's fifth anniversary AGM. I will be presenting my report as Secretary and as one of the two international officers about the last busy year. I will also be taking the minutes of the AGM. Over the last year, apart from doing the Secretary's mundane task, I have also represented GL on the Steering Committee of the Coalition of Resistance and also have built a number of international contacts, as well as putting several motions to the Green Party conference, including some this coming autumn.

However, I have decided in the light of some differences of opinion within the group and also because I just need to ration my time and energy more, not to stand for election to the committee this year. I will remain an active supporter but will not take on any portfolio. I also think that as someone who has been centrally involved over the last five years that it is time for new young people to come forward and steer the organisation for the coming year. Green Left is still a small group within the Green Party, but remains my inspiration as far as being in the party is concerned. I also noticed that at the Green Party conference in February, one of the Lib Dem guests who was critical of the alliance with the Tories, when asked how the Orange Bookers had taken over the party, replied that the party had been insufficiently "factionalised". I think this very true and Green Left continues to fulfill the role of being a radical voice in the party and long may it do so. It also has built links with other Left groups, particularly in COR, Stop the War Coalition and elsewhere. I wish Green Left success in the year ahead.

I will be leaving the AGM early to go to London Pride, which for me as a gay man is an essential part of the calendar. At a time when LGBT people are being persecuted across the world it is vital that we in London celebrate our diversity and continue to fight for genuine equality. I will also be hoping to have a good old day out and kick up my heels. Hopefully the weather will be fine. It is a real pity that the Green Party could not get its act together to have a stall or a presence at this year's Pride, and I blame those out gay elected politicians in the party who need to seriously pull their finger out. The LGBT community is an important segement of the Green vote.