Mar 242012
 

With thanks to Dave Watt.

 

In 1975, as part of a programme to increase the Jewish population in the Galilee (the Judaization of the Gaililee), the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate 20,103 dunams (about 5000 acres) of Palestinian land to make way for twenty new Jewish settlements. In reaction to this, and years of such expropriations, the Palestinian community established a Committee for the Defence of Arab Land.

On March 30th 1976, they called a general strike and mass protest to demonstrate the government’s plans. The excessive force used by Israeli forces against the protests saw 6 Palestinians shot dead and hundreds injured.

Land Day has since come to symbolise Palestinian resistance to Israel’s racist policies and has been commemorated by Palestinians every year since, with thousands of activists taking part in actions around the world to show their solidarity (this year will see the Global March to Jerusalem take place on March 30th).

Aberdeen SPSC invite you to join us on Thursday, March 29th to find out more about Land Day and the land legislation and policies used by the Israeli government to force Palestinians within Israel from their land. A short presentation will be followed by a screening of the film Lemon Tree, which tells the story of a Palestinian woman whose livelihood (her lemon grove) is threatened when the Israeli Defence Minister moves into the house next door.

Lemon Tree Screening and Presentation - 
7.30-9.30pm,
March 29th,
Room 051 MacRobert Building,
Aberdeen University (all welcome)
Feb 192012
 

On March 1st the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be hosting three exciting speakers at Aberdeen University: Fathe Kdirat and Itaf Njoum Karma from Jordan Valley Solidarity, and Leehee Rothschild from Boycott from Within (Israel).

Fathe and Itaf, both Palestinians, will be discussing Israel’s destruction of communities and the environment in the Jordan Valley, and the on-going illegal Israeli settlement construction that continues to drive Palestinians from their land.

The Jordan Valley makes up a large section of the West Bank, around 28% in total.  It has been one of the worst affected areas of the West Bank during the Israeli occupation, which began in 1967.

The occupation saw the Jordan Valley’s population drop by 88% and was thereafter the site of Israel’s first settlements.

Since the occupation Israel has gone about taking almost complete control of the area.  This map (click to follow link) published in December 2011 by the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows that 15% of the Jordan Valley comprises  settlements (blatantly illegal under international law[i]), 27% comprises nature reserves, often used to control natural resources such as water supply (to the detriment of Palestinians) and 56%  comprises  closed military areas.

In addition, 87% of the Jordan Valley is designated Area C, i.e. under Israeli control. The 1993 Oslo Accords divided the occupied West Bank into 3 sections: Area A, under the full control of the Palestinian Authority (3% of the West Bank); Area B, under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli military control (25%); and Area C, under the full control of Israel (72%).  Designating land as Area C gives Israel unlimited autonomy to do as it pleases and to ignore the rights of Palestinians.  For example, according to UN OCHA 94% of Area C planning applications submitted by Palestinians were denied between 2001 and 2007.

One of the main focuses of Israel policy in the area is to clear the Jordan Valley of its Bedouin population.  In September 2011 the Israeli government announced its plans to expel 27,000 Bedouin from their homes and lands in the Jordan Valley.  This process is due to be completed in the next 3-6 years; the initial stages have already begun.

The role of activism, resistance and international solidarity is crucial in the fight to prevent this attempted ethnic cleansing of the Jordan Valley.  Fathe and Itaf will talk on how Palestinian communities and internationals are working together to witness, catalogue and resist Israel’s actions, and the importance of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel.

One crucial component of the BDS campaign is the small but important resistance movement within Israel itself.  This includes the campaign group Boycott from Within.

“We, Palestinians, Jews, citizens of Israel, join the Palestinian call for a BDS campaign against Israel, inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid. We also call on others to do the same.” Boycott from Within Website

Organisations like Boycott from Within are operating within a state becoming increasingly reactionary to the growing success of the calls for the end of the occupation, equal rights for Palestinians within Israel, and the right of return for Palestinian (the three main tenets of the BDS campaign).  In July 2011 the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed an anti-boycott bill, criminalising those who support boycotts of Israel or its illegal occupation and settlements.

The bill has implications for individuals and organisations alike; for example companies deciding not to source products from illegal settlements in the West Bank may be barred from government contracts.  More recent Knesset bills have turned their attention to NGOs working in Israel, such as groups aiming to promote human rights.

One such law proposes to place a limit on the funding NGOs can receive from foreign governments and institutions, meaning many will be unable to function.

Leehee Rothschild will be speaking about her involvement in internal resistance movements such as Boycott from Within and Anarchists Against the Wall, as well as exploring issues of propaganda within the Israeli education system.

The talk starts at 7pm on March 1st in room 268 in the MacRobert Building at Aberdeen University.  For more information contact: Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk


[i] for example see the International Court of Justice ruling 2004, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN Security Council Resolution 446

Aug 012011
 

By Dave Watt.

From August 3rd to 7th, the Aberdeen branch of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be walking 84 miles along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, raising funds for the Plant-a-Tree-in-Palestine project. The route of the walk has been selected because of symbolic similarities with Israel’s Separation Wall in the Occupied Territories, and Roman efforts to contain a rebellious Scots population during the Roman occupation of Britain.

On the 9th July 2004 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that “the construction by Israel of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its associated regime are contrary to international law”[i]

The Wall has a huge negative impact on Palestinians in the West Bank, destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people by eradicating agricultural land and separating farmers from their crops and resources[ii].

The Wall, 85% of which lies within the West Bank itself, also blocks access to health services, schools and neighbouring communities[iii].  Israeli NGO Bimkom found that the Wall’s route “almost totally ignores the daily needs of the Palestinian population”[iv].  The 2004 ICJ ruling further noted that Israel was obliged to abide by international law, and therefore to stop construction of the wall and destroy the sections which have already been established[v].

By choosing to walk this route, SPSC campaigners aim to raise awareness of the injustices that are caused by the construction and continued existence of the illegal barrier that separates Palestinians from their families and land.

The walk will be raising funds for the Plant-a-Tree-in-Palestine project. This initiative seeks to support the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to sustain and rebuild their land by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life, and is part of the wider Stop the JNF campaign[vi].  The JNF owns 13% of land in Israel, and leases it only to people of Jewish heritage.

Human Rights Watch has said that Israel’s close involvement with the JNF:

“makes the state directly complicit in overt discrimination against Arab citizens in land allocation and use”[vii]

The JNF enjoys charitable status in 50 countries across the world, though its status in the UK is currently being challenged by a motion to parliament, EDM 1677[viii].  The JNF was recently dealt a blow when David Cameron became the first Prime Minister in 110 years to not be a patron of the organisation[ix].

To sponsor the group please write a cheque made out to Aberdeen SPSC and send it to:-

SPSC Aberdeen, 21 Broadfold Drive,
Aberdeen, AB23 8PJ,
or donate online at http://www.scottishpsc.org.uk.

References and links: 

[i]    International Court of Justice (2004), ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, online at: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

[ii]   Amnesty International (2004), ‘Israel/Occupied Territories: Wall should be dismantled in line with court decision’, online at: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=15477

[iii]   Ibid, and Human Rights Watch (2010), ‘Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, online at: http://www.hrw.org/node/95061 (see page 15)

[iv]   Bimkom (2005), ‘Between Fences: The Enclaves Created by the Separation Barrier’, available online at: http://eng.bimkom.org/_Uploads/4GderotEng.pdf (see page VI)

[v]  International Court of Justice (2004), ‘Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, see point B.  Online at: http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

[vii]  Human Rights Watch (2008), ‘Off the Map: Land and Housing Rights Violations in Israel’s Unrecognized Bedouin Villages’.     Available online at: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/62284/section/1 (see page 28).

[ix]  See The Jewish Chronicle (2011), Cameron’s JNF split: it was Israel’, available online at: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/49789/camerons-jnf-split-it-was-israel

Jun 222011
 

Voice’s Dave Watt invites readers to come along to a Talk/Discussion on Palestine

The Aberdeen branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) are hosting Zaytoun representative Sandy Stuart‘s talk on his experience of the Palestinian olive harvest.

This is an excellent opportunity to come along and find out about Palestine and a chance to buy Palestinian produce.

“I first became involved with Zaytoun/ Palestine as a distributor for Palestinian products about 7/8 years ago and have been active in this ever since. It then seemed a logical step then to go to the West Bank and support the farmers directly during the olive harvest.” - Sandy Stuart

Zaytoun is a Community Interest Company founded in 2004 to create and develop a UK market for artisan Palestinian produce.

The company is a cooperative, and a member of the International Fair trade Association.  As a member of the International Fair Trade Association it’s Primary objective lie with the welfare of the producing communities

Quakers Meeting Hall,
98 Crown street, AB11 6HJ
30th June 2011 at 7:30pm

 

Apr 292011
 

By Dave Watt.

Democracy – The belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves. The Cambridge Online Dictionary

Democracy is one of our modern society’s buzzwords and we all nowadays accept it as a given that stable communities should be free and democratic.
Democracy to us is a positive concept but in our history it is only in the last hundred and fifty years or so that Britain has embraced the idea of democracy.

Previous to this it was regarded, particularly by our rulers as being neither more nor less than rule by a howling mob.

It is, in fact, less than eighty-five years since women over 21 were allowed to vote and less than 100 years since august journals such as the Times’ editorial announced that:

The suffragettes are a regrettable by-product of our civilisation, out with their hammers and their bags full of stones because of dreary, empty lives and highstrung, over-excitable natures

About the same time, the good bit less august Daily Sketch , declared that:

“The name of a suffragette will stink throughout recorded history”

Obviously tabloid journalism was alive and kicking the underdog even back in 1912.

One might think that having achieved universal adult suffrage in 1928 that Britain had been a full modern democracy since then. However, there were still such corrupt anomalies on the go as the businessman’s vote whereby a business owner was given a vote for each shop or establishment he owned as well as a vote for his home address.

In addition, the gerrymandering of votes in Northern Ireland by the Protestant Establishment ensured that the native Catholic population was continually on the wrong end of the electoral process. In fact, one Protestant businessman actually had forty-three votes and although this was an extreme case, many of Ulster’s ruling Protestant elite had multiple votes until the Irish Civil Rights Movement of the mid 1960s.

However, here we are in the twenty-first century with universal suffrage for those over eighteen, nobody asks your religion when you turn up at the polling station and we would regard anyone campaigning to curtail women’s voting rights as being something of a loose screw.

In addition, the candidate will spend large chunks of their working week in Parliament and nowhere near the constituency in question

So, do we live in a democracy where one person’s vote is worth the same as another’s? Unfortunately not. If you live in a key marginal constituency – you will get an inordinate amount of media coverage, assorted party leaders will turn up and tell you and you fellow voters what a fine, discerning, intelligent electorate you are.

Your vote will be sought after by phone and occasionally by canvasser and you will be generally coaxed, cajoled and pleaded with to vote for Party A over Party B or vice versa.

However, if you live in a firmly committed area where they simply weigh the vote for Party A or B you will be largely ignored apart from the usual leaflets and the odd party political broadcast. The committed voter, like the poor, is always with us and, like the poor, can be safely ignored by any astute politician on the make.

Voting Systems - There are several types of voting system. The most common in Britain is First Past the Post (or FPTP). This is where a people in an electoral constituency vote for one candidate to represent that constituency. While this is ostensibly fair it is deeply flawed, as the list below will show by a specimen election result.

Aberdeen East

Total Electorate in Constituency 50,000 voters

Candidate A (Longer Sticks on Lollipops Party) 13,000 votes

Candidate B (Shorter Sticks on Lollipops Party) 12,000 votes

Candidate C (Don’t Waste Precious Wood on Lollipop Sticks Party) 10,000 votes

Candidate D (It’s a Bloody Shame the Poor Can’t Afford Lollipops Party) 5,000 votes

Turn out 80%

As you can see from this, although the Longer Sticks on Lollipops Party have won the seat they represent less than a third of the votes cast and in parliament will actually be representing the wishes of just over one fifth of the electorate despite a massive 80% turn out.

this is not much cop when it comes to electing people who are willing to represent the public’s interests

Consequently, bearing in mind that it would be a bold back-bencher indeed who would stand against the wishes of his political overlords (and their pet lobbyists) it looks like the poor voters in Aberdeen East better get bloody used to having longer sticks on their lollipops for the foreseeable future.

The defenders of this system frequently mump on about how important it is to have constituency member of parliament who will be dedicated to that area alone and will be accessible to its residents – obviously forgetting that candidates are more than occasionally parachuted in as a constituency candidate from outwith the area and that most MPs or MSPs will actually be able to answer a phone, read a letter or an e-mail while the brighter ones will even have learned how to read texts on their Blackberry.

In addition, the candidate will spend large chunks of their working week in Parliament and nowhere near the constituency in question.

The next style of voting system is the Single Transferable Vote (or STV) which I have been obliged to do the tedious arithmetic for on several occasions and the details of which I will not go into here, as you would be fast asleep by the time I had finished (if you aren’t already). Suffice it to say that each voter gets several votes and lists them in preference order and the lowest voted candidate is removed then the next etc. until one of the top few are elected.

This is probably more democratic than first past the post but is probably best suited for choosing your student representative when you’re at university than a political contest. This is used in local council elections, so you can see by recent events in Aberdeen that this is not much cop when it comes to electing people who are willing to represent the public’s interests but mainly keeps the same old faces in power while pretending to be a bit more democratic.

There was a move afoot after 2003 to have this system replace the Parliamentary List System – presumably by those in Holyrood who objected to having their cosy little club invaded by a crowd of Greens and Socialists in that year.

The Parliamentary List System (or Regional Ballot) is probably the most democratic of the systems at present in use in the UK but is only used in Scotland and Wales.

It’s democratic and it’s simple and most countries in Western Europe use it and have been using it for over fifty years

The principle behind the list system is that the voters second vote is for a political party within a larger electoral area known as a region. (A region is formed by grouping together between eight and ten constituencies.) There are eight Scottish Parliament regions and each region has seven additional seats in the Parliament.

The MSPs chosen to fill these 56 additional seats are known as regional MSPs. Regional MSPs are allocated seats using a formula which takes into account the number of constituency seats that an individual or party has already won.

However, the outright winner in any serious democracy contest would undoubtedly be Proportional Representation (PR), which is remarkably simple whereby every one in the country votes and all the votes are added up, and each party is allocated seats in the parliament according to the percentage of the votes they have been given. It’s democratic and it’s simple and most countries in Western Europe use it and have been using it for over fifty years.

Why don’t we? Mostly it is more of the previous objection to the aforesaid cosy little club being invaded by those pesky troublemaking Green and Socialist radicals who are presumably closed to the blandishments of the lobbyists, who infest the corridors of power like poisonous termites, busily undermining the democratic process for big business interests.

Voting
Despite the title of Ken Livingstone’s 1987 book pointing out:‘If Voting Changed Anything They’d Abolish It’, Should you bother to vote? Yes, you probably should, ideally. An awful lot of people fought an awful long time to get you a vote so you should probably get down there and stick that cross down. You never know.

From their point of view an oppressive Conservative government got into power in 1979 and has stayed there ever since

One day the electorate might get it right and we might find ourselves with a government that cares for the old, sick and impoverished, has everybody in a house and a job, doesn’t send poor kids from depressed areas off to kill other people’s kids for oil and profit and cares for the environment. You never know.

Who does vote and who doesn’t vote?
Affluent people tend to vote and the poorer people seem not to. Figures in Scotland show that there can be up to a 15-20% difference in voting figures between poorer and richer neighbourhoods even within the same constituency on occasions.

Why is this? Basically what the underprivileged have seen for the past thirty years is an ongoing attack on their quality of life by a succession of right wing free market supporting governments. From their point of view an oppressive Conservative government got into power in 1979 and has stayed there ever since. Consequently, their disenchantment with government and the democratic process has meant that this has taken a back seat to the struggle for a decent life.

In addition, with the advent of the Poll Tax, which was effectively a Sod-The-Poor-Tax many people on the poorer end of society became disenfranchised and simply dropped off the electoral roll by simply being unable to afford to pay the Poll Tax. Its replacement by the almost-as-unfair-Council Tax has obviously not induced these people to get back on the electoral roll.

From an electoral view the parties which have traditionally suffered most from this, have been the socialists who have considerably more support within the poorer sections of society but owing to this disillusion and the aforementioned virtual disenfranchisement have been consistently punching below their weight at election time. Even when they are doing well (and don’t have their hands round each other’s throats, vigorously choking the electoral life out of each other as the SSP and Solidarity are doing at present) this factor reduces their electoral impact.

Who pays for a political party’s election funds?
There is a strange sideways jump in public morality about election funding. To keep it simple: large financial concerns of various kinds will bankroll political certain parties election funding on the expectation that when the party gets into power then the large financial concern can reasonably expect the party in government to enact legislation which will increase their profitability. They are seldom disappointed in this.

Needless to say, whereas this would be regarded as mere bribery and corruption in everyday life, in politics it is just regarded as the norm. For example, Abraham Lincoln, on being elected back in 1861, discovered his Republican party had promised enormous and unrealistic concessions to so many business concerns that, being quizzed a few weeks after the election as to why he was looking so glum, famously replied that “There’s just too many pigs for the teats”.

The Last Word on Democracy
When I was a kid there was a series on TV about an idealistic young US senator which had an impressive voice over at the start, which said:

Democracy is a bad form of government…but all the others are so much worse“.

Something to think about anyway.

Feb 112011
 

By Patrick V Neville.

In Aberdeen on February 5th 2011, around 100 people participated in a peaceful demonstration against the over-stayed presidency of Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak.

Amongst the flags and banners were images of the violence, which has left numerous people dead, and phrases such as -

“30 years of oppression is enough”

“We are all Egyptians today”

“We all need freedom and justice”

“British media: Stop calling a revolution a crisis” and

“No Mubarak any more”

Mubarak has stayed in power for 30 years against the wishes of the majority of the Egyptian population.

His regime has been described by many as corrupt and in the interest of maintaining power and money. This has been at the expense of the Egyptian people, who are extremely tired of the regime’s favouritism towards corporate entities, whether they are local or foreign.

This discontent arose from Egypt’s natural resources such as gas being sold abroad for less than the true value, jobs in Egypt moving to factories abroad and as a Mubarak cabinet member bought hazardous agricultural fertilizers from Israel without later charge, this names a few of the crimes committed by the Mubarak regime. Poverty in Egypt has also risen dramatically due to rising prices.

This type of leadership in combination with an ever-growing divide between the rich and poor was a time bomb waiting to go off.

I would like to say thank you to all the people in Aberdeen who attended the demonstration, which was held on St Nicholas Street, Aberdeen, for showing that we do not stand for exploitation of a nation’s people.