Editorial: Don’t give in to government terror!

On 22 March the House of Lords finally gave in to the government and allowed through the latest Terrorism Bill (Labour’s fifth since coming to power in 1997), which will now become law. In the sixth round of a debate, centred in the main on the clauses that outlaw ‘glorification of terrorism’ and which has bounced between the Commons and Lords since last August, peers accepted the government plans by a majority of 112.

Baroness Scotland spoke for the government, warning the non-elected Lords in no uncertain terms that they ‘should not seek to oppose the will of the elected Chamber for too long, or on too weak a basis’. She cited the government’s insistence on specifically outlawing ‘glorification’, as well as ‘encouragement’ and ‘incitement’ as based on its need to ‘send a strong message – a message that the press and the public and would-be terrorist proselytisers understand – that we will not tolerate those who glorify terrorism with a view to encouraging terrorist outrages’. Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale then went on to put forward the ‘best example of that [as] the placard about the “magnificent four” [London suicide bombers] in the demonstration in London [against the publication in Denmark of anti-Islamic cartoons]’. In the context of the debate, this example, together with discussion as to when a celebration of the Dublin Easter Rising would and would not constitute ‘glorification’, makes it clear that any movement which is still actively engaged in struggle and which celebrates the heroes and martyrs of its past, can be criminalised.

When the Bill was first introduced in August 2005, it contained a specific and separate section outlawing ‘glorification of terrorism’. This was then withdrawn but the government simply reinserted the ban on ‘glorification’ into a different part of the Bill covering ‘indirect encouragement’ of terrorism.

On 16 January this year the Lords voted 270 to 144 to remove the ‘glorification’ part of the Bill. The debate then returned to the Commons, where on 15 February MPs voted by 315 to 277 to reinstate it. A pathetic 17 ‘rebel’ Labour MPs joined the Tories and Liberal Democrats to vote against the measure. Blair claimed the vote was a ‘signal of strength’.

In the Commons debate Home Secretary Charles Clarke insisted that outlawing ‘glorification of terrorism’ was a ‘manifesto commitment’ and in line with UN Security Council resolution 1624, which was passed on 14 September 2005 and which condemns ‘in the strongest terms the incitement of terrorist acts and repudiating attempts at the justification or glorification . . . of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts’.

While MPs who oppose the Bill imaginatively cited numerous past and current examples of movements, the ‘glorification’ of which the government would have difficulty with or might not wish to outlaw (the Easter Rising, Robin Hood, the French and American Revolutions, the French Resistance to Nazism, the EOKA movement in Cyprus, Watt Tyler, the ANC) the specific example given by Clarke of exactly what the government is intending to curb was ‘We glorify the memory of Mohammed Siddique Khan’, one of the 7 July bombers.

Robert Burden MP raised the subject of Hamas, pointing out that ‘Hamas was elected with a parliamentary majority in a free and fair vote’ and asking if the government genuinely would wish to criminalise ‘a young Muslim in the UK who hears about a Palestinian child being shot by Israeli troops – as happened a couple of weeks ago – [and] says that he supports Hamas and that Palestinians should take up arms against Israel.’ Neither Clarke nor any other Labour Minister answered his question. Nor did Baroness Scotland respond in the final debate to the Bishop of Chelmsford who asked ‘Are those who are fighting in Iraq insurgents or terrorists?’

It is precisely these questions about Palestine and the Iraqi Resistance which the government wants to avoid. Blair, Clarke and the rest of the Labour Cabinet are happy to make a public fuss about condemning anyone who supports the bombings of civilians in New York, London, Madrid, Bali and elsewhere. They can fend off questions about the struggle against apartheid South Africa or the French Revolution by stating that ‘glorifying’ these past events does not carry with it any incitement to do the same in future. But they do not want to reply to those who suggest, correctly, that this measure will be used to criminalise opposition to the ongoing war in the Middle East.

We must be completely clear – we oppose this draconian Terrorism Bill, as we have opposed all British ‘anti-terrorist’ legislation from the anti-Irish Prevention of Terrorism Act brought in by another Labour government in 1974. We will not be silenced and will continue to show active, vocal support for the Intifada in Palestine, the resistance in Iraq and the struggle of oppressed peoples around the world against injustice, occupation and imperialism.

Victory to the Intifada!
Victory to the Iraqi resistance!

FRFI 190 April / May 2006

 

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