Letters FRFI 242 Dec 2014/Jan 2015

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Israel out of FIFA

On 1 November FRFI supporters were among those who travelled with the Football Against Apartheid (FAA) group from London to Paris to attend the Liberte Pour La Palestine festival, jointly organised by EuroPalestine, Abna Philistine and Union Associations Palestiniennes France, and attended by over 6,000 people. FRFI comrade Igor received loud applause when he addressed the crowd in the main hall, calling for the support of football fans across the world to press their national football associations to expel apartheid Israel from FIFA.

On 2 November FAA was invited to a meeting in the Library of Resistance in central Paris convened by EuroPalestine where representatives from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Belgium, Morocco, Germany, Australia, Israel and Britain discussed plans for the future.

The meeting discussed various boycott campaigns – in particular those against Veolia, Hewlett Packard, G4S, Intel, Soda Stream, Teva pharmaceuticals and the Israeli football team. We resolved to strive for effective, innovative and coordinated activism in order to further the cause of Palestine internationally, and to focus particularly on three priority targets during the coming year: the boycott of Teva; the cultural boycott; general awareness raising in order to encourage action to bring about disinvestment from Israeli companies.

FAA’s specific targets were:

  1. Long term – Get Israel expelled from FIFA, in line with the demand made by the Palestine Football Association
  2. Medium term – get a motion for expulsion moved by a National football association at the 2016 and/or 2017 FIFA Congress.
  3. Immediate – build grass roots support at as many football clubs in as many countries as possible. From zero in one year FAA groups have been started at nine English Premier League, one Scottish and two French clubs, with immediate plans to add two Belgian clubs.

The assembled group felt that FAA has adopted original and imagina­tive tactics to encourage football fans from rival clubs to line up behind their unique club banners in unity against Israeli apartheid, and to highlight their support for the Palestinian call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions, and for Israel to be expelled from FIFA. We agreed to help FAA develop in France through a demonstration of unity of Paris St Germain Fans Against Apartheid and Olympique de Marseille Fans Against Apartheid at their match on 9 November. We also agreed to help set up the campaign in Belgium, where the national team is scheduled to play against Israel both at home and in Tel Aviv. Looking ahead there will be a mobilisation in Wales, where the national team is scheduled to play against Israel twice in 2015.

John Tymon
North London

For further information about Football Against Apartheid see https://footballagainstapartheid.wordpress.com/


The last Straw?

So could Jack Straw at last, face trial for the rendition and torture of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife? (‘Belhaj wins right to sue UK government for torture’, The Guardian 31 October 2014)

It was Straw who, in 2001 as Home Secretary, proscribed the PKK. He has always championed Turkey for EU membership using ‘every political skill, high and low’ (as he wrote in his memoirs) and in 2012 was awarded the Order of the Republic of Turkey for his services. He showed his tolerance for fascists when he helped Pinochet escape justice in 2000. In addition to his MP’s salary Straw was paid £150,070 for journalism, speaking and consultancy work. He contemptuously dismissed critics of this largesse as ‘the hair-shirt brigade’ (Lancashire Times, August 2012).

Blackburn is the fourth most deprived borough in England with the fifth worst infant mortality rate. Bailiffs were used 4,812 times to recover unpaid council tax. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust will have to pay almost £1 billion in interest charges on PFI schemes by 2041. In the North West 13,081 houses are empty and boarded up. In Blackburn and Burnley 1 in 3 children live in poverty. Blackburn Food Bank has fed 10,300 people since it opened in 2012. Blackburn with Darwen Labour council has cut £70m since 2010 and will cut another £19m in 2015/16. (The Shuttle, September 2014).

This is Jacksy’s legacy. His prospective replacement, Kate Hollern, finds the situation ‘heart-breaking’, but her top priority is ‘social cohesion’ – ie no opposition.

Pete Lynch
Blackburn


Political ASBO

When ASBOs were first introduced by the last Labour government, activists knew that the notion of ‘anti-social behaviour’ would soon encompass political activity. Liverpool Rise for Palestine has now experienced it. Since July’s onslaught on Gaza, we have held almost weekly rolling pickets through Liverpool city centre, with frequent store invasions to demand the removal of Israeli goods or Caterpillar products from sale. On Saturday 15 November, cops produced an order under Sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2014. These provisions, which only came into force on 20 October, allow police to disperse people from a designated area if they feel there is a likelihood of ‘members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed’. Although they did not invoke the order during our protest, it is clear that they are attempting to limit or bring to an end our regular pickets. Liverpool Rise for Palestine will continue its protests, however, and will be responding to these new powers.

Robert Claridge
Liverpool


Students grill Grayling over prison deaths

During a flying visit to Greenhead College in Huddersfield on 14 November Justice Minister Chris Grayling was put on the spot by sixth-form students of Law and Politics on issues ranging from the power of the High Court to ECHR. Uncomfortable questions were lost in a fog of his own repetitive rhetoric and he responded only with information he wanted us to hear. We were not given the opportunity to reply with any debate; instead we had to settle for his answer being absolute.

Since he had recently apologised for listening to MPs’ phone calls from prisoners, I asked when he was planning on apologising to the mothers of those who have died in prison since he had been in office. In typical Grayling parlance, he expressed his deep regret for suicides in prison, stating: ‘I would say to any mother that I am really sorry about the suicides in prison, I don’t like it to happen, I don’t want it to happen and I don’t know why it’s happening.’

He went on to say ‘there seems to be no pattern to the suicides except to say that there’s a lot of mental health problems’, and ‘it’s something I want to really step up to in the way we provide support to people with mental health problems in prisons’. He did not seem at all concerned with prison being a totally inappropriate environment for those with mental health problems, although he did say that he wanted to ‘develop more specialist centres that are equipped to deal with mental health problems’ and agreed there are far too many people with mental health problems in prisons. He said ‘we have a system in place in police stations to divert people with mental health problems into the NHS rather than the criminal justice system’ yet this still does not explain the staggering number of mentally ill people detained in prison, some of them ironically ‘for their own safety’ rather than for committing any crime.

Linda Davidson’s 21-year-old son Steven, who hanged himself in HMP Glen Parva after being sent there ‘for his own safety’ following an attempt to cut his throat, is one example that comes to mind; he had no criminal record and serious mental health problems. Grayling went on to state that the majority of deaths in prison are of natural causes due to an ageing prison population, whitewashing over the disgraceful increase in non-natural deaths in prisons since he’s been in post. He made vague assurances to students he was making every effort to prevent prisoner deaths.

Grayling spent the whole session squirming his way out of questions he didn’t want to answer about prisoners’ votes and so on. I asked why he denied there was a crisis in prisons when there’s a catalogue of assaults, prisoner self-harm, staff shortages serious concerted acts of indiscipline etc. To all of these questions he offered no coherent answer.

And then I asked a general question, which he definitely didn’t want to answer! I said given the dominance of Etonians in Parliament, would you say that the class war is over and the ruling class has won?

Lily Green
Huddersfield

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