Sep 222017
 

Suzanne Kelly asked the Cock and Bull about its current stance on Donald Trump, given that it had proudly supported the tycoon years ago. With all the incontrovertible evidence Trump was a bigot, let alone how the environment and Menie residents were treated, surely the restaurant would have had second thoughts? Not quite. By Suzanne Kelly

A long time ago, Donald J Trump showed up in Aberdeenshire with a host of empty promises, a bad reputation, and more than a whiff of racism and sexism.

Despite how Menie Estate residents were treated by his team (water cut off for months for the Forbes family, who he called pigs; journalists arrested; a respected photojournalist threatened, etc. etc), a selection of businesses were keen to get in bed with him.

Many local businesses did and do trade with him (even though the Trump organisation fired a chef for having a photograph on his private Facebook page that they didn’t like – a story well-known in the catering trade), and fair enough, everyone has to make a living.

Some local restaurateurs supported the Menie Estate residents, and their support is steadfast and appreciated to this day. BrewDog attended an event there to sell beer and it got a good deal of criticism at the time. However, they decided subsequently to make a video poking fun at the bouffanted racist (what do you call someone who prevents black people from owning dwellings in his apartment buildings but a racist?).

While plenty of local businesses understandably did business with Trump, some went out of their way to take a pro-Trump stand.

The Marcliffe fawned over the tycoon, and invented the phrase ‘The Trump effect’ to say how much money was flowing into the area because of Trump’s presence.

Only that’s not what happened. The Marcliffe has been in sell-off talks from time to time, and its profit margin probably cannot have been helped by the homophobic comments of proprietor Stewart Spence. The Trump club posts year-on-year losses, and observers rarely see even a half-full parking lot. The environment has been changed and residents badly treated: this is the real Trump effect.

Few businesses went as far as the Cock and Bull. They hung a pro-Trump banner which many say also ridiculed an elected councillor.

They won’t take a stand on Trump now, but they tell me that it was a former employee who hung the banner – ie a big boy did it and ran away. The venue had all the intervening years to say they did not stand with Trump if they wanted to. They didn’t do so then and they refuse to distance themselves from him now.

The restaurant was approached, in polite terms, on Facebook to find out its current position. The chance to take a stand against Trump and all he stands for was turned down.

Instead of supplying an answer – and any sensible business that cared about racism, sexism, the welfare of residents across the road from them, and of the rights of people in the catering industry to have whatever they want on their personal Facebook pages – they decided to suggest I was asking for the opinions of their employees.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan

Whether or not you like the restaurant or what you think of Trump, readers are invited to compare the initial conversation with what the Cock posted subsequently. Ask yourself if they are misrepresenting what the initial conversation was.

Ask yourself why they didn’t name me, which both made me look cowardly, and prevented me having a say early on to derail the misconceptions they offered up. The restaurant uses the scales of justice as an image; readers might want to use those scales to measure the two threads.

It is up to the individual whether it’s more important to have a good steak dinner from a venue that will not condemn racism or not. It is up to a business that has literally flown the flag for Trump in the past (even though there was more than enough evidence that he was as bigoted as the entire world can now see) whether they will either change their opinion, stick to their support, or instead start a hysterical campaign against the person who asked them if they still have the courage of their past convictions.

This is not a witch hunt as the restaurant suggests; it was giving them the chance to say no to bigotry and sexism (let alone the current Trump threat to use nuclear weapons against 24 million people suffering under the N Korean dictatorship).

Political differences are one thing and are to be celebrated. We are talking about a president who has the endorsement of the Klu Klux Klan, who has denigrated women and is implicated in rapes, and who is being investigated for collusion with Russia contrary to US law.

Contrast what the Cock and Bull posted with the initial questions, and ask yourself who is being dishonest and manipulative – me or them.

Why boycott dictators and those who support dictatorships in the first place? Because every business, charity, and high-profile person (let alone newspapers such as the P&J) which is friendly to the corrupt adds respectability to the dictators in question. The despot needs the veneer of respectability, and those who go along with bigotry are complicit. This is not a political point. This is a question of ethics: do you support racism and sexism or not.

People who have formed opinions based solely on what the Cock posted after my initial approach should have both sides of the story: not just the Cock and Bull cock and bull side of things – which is far from the real, complete picture. For instance, this sentence they wrote is a complete fabrication and huge distortion:

“I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list.”

This statement by the Cock is untrue; it is a gross exaggeration.

“…had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.” The Cock writes; I will be interested to have them show proof of these inflammatory remarks I am meant to have made, as I am unaware of any at all.

The original post:

SK: “Just a quick question; yes or no will be fine: does the Cock and Bull support Trump? Thank you”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie: 

“Not sure I’m understanding your point here Suzanne, are you asking all businesses in the area to poll the political affiliations of their staff?”

Suzanne Kelly:

“It seems pretty simple to me. I’m aware of the position of many area businesses such as the Marcliffe, and a number of restaurants. Why do you add 2+2 and get 5? I am not asking anything about political private affiliations of your staff. Did the Cock and Bull ever hang a pro-Trump banner? I was told the restaurant had gone public with its support for Trump – in which case my question is even more valid than it already was.

“In case you don’t know, there is a major anti-Trump backlash, an international boycott of his businesses and their supporters (and even an app), and I’d be delighted to tell my contacts re. the boycott that the Cock and Bull has not, and does not, side with Trump’s racist, sexist ideas.”

Third party:

“They did have a ‘We Welcome Trump to Menie’ (paraphrasing here) banner. I saw it but it was some years ago. It wasn’t there last week.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“Sorry for the late reply – business to run, wages and bills to pay and all that. Personally I have no clue as to what you are going on about but given the tone of your posts you obviously have an axe to grind and have chosen a local business page to do so (not cool).

“However if you are alluding to the fact that Donald Trump dined at this restaurant many years ago when planning his course then yes he did. If you or your contacts choose to boycott us and all other shops, restaurants, hotels etc he has frequented and add us to your “blacklist” for that reason then it is your prerogative to do so and I respect your decision.

“We also have many guests staying and dining with us who play on his course so if that is classed as support then you may want to add that to your reason to boycott also.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“Thank you. Now returning to the question, and in the intervening hours people such as (Third party) have mentioned the banner your restaurant hung, are you pro-Trump as the Marcliffe for instance, or do you oppose racism and bigotry? I just want to let people know if your welcome to Trump still stands. Thank you.”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“I’ve seen your witch-hunt on the Tripping up Trump page – you’ll get nothing further here. You want to up the boycotting of local businesses because you “think” you know their views then you be my guest.”

Suzanne Kelly:

“I gave you a chance to disavow your previous pro Trump stance in light of a mountain of evidence the man your banners supported is a bigot who has been caught in numerous lies; as you don’t wish to distance yourself from the man, I know all I need to. Many thanks.”

(Third party suggested I stay out of this issue)

Suzanne Kelly to third party: 

“Lol. You don’t seem to be aware the cock n bull story – or to be logical. They put up a sign welcoming Trump; they made a public declaration, which is their right. I have the right to ask them if it still applies even though it is evident to the world Trump is a racist and sexist. All the best”

The Cock and Bull Balmedie:

“A mountain of evidence? A banner that was hung some ten odd years ago by a member of staff no longer here that supported a golf course (golf course!) being built by a man who was at the time a business man and not president-elect?

“Due to this we are meant to support racism, sexism and bigotry as you have implied? A disgusting implication and had it not been for your inflammatory comments regarding the restaurant elsewhere I would not have felt the need to reply.

“Enough time wasted, I’ll get back to running a restaurant where thankfully the good vibes from lovely customers outweighs the frankly awful “boycott local businesses” campaign being run by yourself.”

Here is what the Cock and Bull posted on Facebook on the 20th September:

“I was made aware this week that due to us voicing our support for a new golf course in the area a decade ago, a journalist and anti-Trump activist was looking to include us in a “blacklist” to encourage customers to boycott the Cock and Bull, her words were “time to up the boycotting of pro-Trump businesses”.

We will not deny that we were advocates of the course when the plans were submitted ten years ago as we knew that the oil would not sustain the city forever and and know first-hand how important golf tourism is to Aberdeen. I was contacted by said journalist and asked to publicly renounce any support for Donald Trump I may have (the man, not the course) in order for us to be excluded from the boycott list. I refused. I did this not because I endorse Trump’s policies (I do not) and not because the political affiliations of anyone connected with the Cock and Bull are any of her business (they are not) but because her hatred for the man had overshadowed any other contributions that we make to our community and I wanted no part of it. She was not asking me the important questions of why you should choose to shop/dine/stay in my (or any) establishment – do we run our business ethically and sustainably, do we treat our staff fairly and morally, do we source our supplies responsibly, do we treat our customers hospitably and equally and we do we connect with our local community charitably. None of this was relevant to her and in my silence I was then branded a supporter of racism, sexism and bigotry. I find it incredibly sad that someone would want to tear down what another has built up due to an ill-conceived, ill-judged difference of opinion. Ours was not the only local business named that may be added to the list so by sharing this I hope that customers will make up their own minds about where they want to take their business using the points raised above and not be swayed by another person’s agenda. Our diversity of opinion is what makes us interesting but it is our humanity that allows us to understand why another’s opinion may differ from our own and our empathy that allows us to live together despite these differences.”

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Dec 232016
 

With thanks to Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Aberdeen Branch.

In a victory for free speech and democracy, December 14th saw a significant defeat for forces attempting to silence criticism of Israel , as a motion raised by Councillors Greig and Boulton of Aberdeen City Council was debated at a meeting of the full Council.
At first viewing, the motion had much to commend it, roundly condemning racism and xenophobia and calling for tolerance and diversity in the city.

However, on a more thorough reading, aspects of the text raised concerns with a number of individuals and organisations, who recognised the potential for the motion – if passed unamended – to actively lead to suppression of freedom of speech and political protest.

The concerning points stated that (author’s emphasis):

“That this Council..
3. Believes that the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world is to build cultural, academic and economic bridges.
4. Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or country of origin and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.”

Any person of conscience who was involved in the international campaign of boycott against apartheid South Africa, or the current campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, will recognise the danger inherent in those innocuous-looking paragraphs – indeed, if passed in the 1980’s, the motion would have put the Council not only in a position opposing the international boycott campaign against the South African apartheid regime, but also actively condemning any organisation who did!

These concerns were proved well-founded when the joint proposers of the motion were quoted in the press, directly linking the motion to current BDS activity in Aberdeen, specifically the ongoing campaign by SPSC Aberdeen Branch against Jericho Dead Sea Cosmetics’ stall in Union Square.

The councillors voiced vague unsubstantiated accusations of ‘anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel sentiment’, a charge robustly challenged by Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell, who responded:

“We hope the city councillors will continue with the city council’s proud historical record of opposing racism and apartheid in South Africa and by also opposing the racist apartheid policy of the current Israeli government. Criticism of the crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people is not being anti-Semitic.”

SPSC members contacted councillors ahead of the debate to voice their concerns over the motives behind the motion, i.e. the bid to stifle criticism of Israel and prevent legitimate protest.

The campaign to criminalise BDS activity and support for Palestinian rights is not new, but is relentlessly gathering pace, with Theresa May’s new definition of anti-Semitism the most recent threat to legitimate criticism of Israel, openly conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

Fiona Napier from Aberdeen branch of SPSC said:

“The national boycott campaign against Jericho (targeted due to its exploitation of the Dead Sea, highly symbolic of the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation) has been the subject of increasingly sinister attack from the pro-Israel lobby and their supporters.

“A malicious campaign of unfounded claims has seen SPSC activists in court on ‘racially aggravated’ charges, and the campaign here in Aberdeen has been subject to unwarranted constant police attention, due to a constant stream of ‘anonymous’ calls reporting alleged ‘hate crimes’. Despite this opposition, we have refused to be silenced, and it is clear from Cllrs Greig and Boulton’s remarks that this motion is being used as yet another attempt to shut us down.”

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) responded to the motion via a robust statement sent to all councillors before the debate, pointing out:

“The councillors putting forward the motion have been clever with their words, but if passed, we are concerned that this motion will put the City Council and its councillors in direct opposition to legitimate human rights campaign groups that are supported by many local individuals and organisations – and we presume many councillors too. Given the recent press comments from Cllr Greig, the motion is clearly directed at opposing such human rights groups and the ATUC as well.”

On the day of the Council meeting, an amendment to remove the two controversial paragraphs was tabled and following a vigorous debate, was passed overwhelming by 32 votes to 9.

During the debate, numerous speakers paid tribute to Aberdeen’s proud record of opposing apartheid and oppressive states, and urged colleagues not to allow that record to be compromised. Councillors recalled Aberdeen’s contribution towards fighting fascism in the Spanish civil war and the city’s active opposition to apartheid South Africa, and there were repeated calls to resist any attempt to stifle the right of individuals to speak out against injustice and oppression.

The amended motion which finally passed is certainly one that Aberdeen City Council can be proud of – one that celebrates diversity and tolerance and condemns racism and intolerance, but in no way attempts to curtail the right to lawful, legitimate protest. SPSC congratulates the Council on this principled position, and encourages others to take courage from this resounding defeat of the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to subvert local democracy.

SPSC Aberdeen Branch
15 December 2016
aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk

7 minute video of highlights from Aberdeen City Council debate Wed 14 Dec 2016

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Dec 202012
 

By Bob Smith.

It’s bin alleged a cooncillor wifie
At a meeting hid a wee doze
Fin voting on a nicht club licence
The cooncil war in the throes

Did the craitur hae forty winks?
Did she hear the pros an cons?
Fit wye wis she alood tae vote, 
Fin they hid a show o hauns?

She claims she’d teen medication
Iss made her a wee bit fuzzy
A’m sure there’s ither cooncillors
Faa’s brains are afen muzzy

They tak decisions aboot oor toon
Iss maks ye fair hae a think
Foo mony micht feel drowsy
Cos they’ve hid a denner time drink?

Nithing wrang wi haen an aperitif
As lang’s ye dinna bicum a bam
Jist mak sure fin ye hae a tipple
Glenfiddich is yer faavrit dram

“Glenfiddich!!” A hear The Donald roar
“A plague on aa sic drinkers
Fusky fae Wm Grant’s distilleries
Is only fit fer bliddy minkers”

A’m nae suggestin the puir wumman
Wis jist a bittie warse fer weer
The story aboot her maybe dozin
Hisna made things affa clear

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

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Dec 102012
 

Old Susannah casts her beady eye once more on the goings-on of the great, the good and the downright ugly! By Suzanne Kelly.

The chill in the air, a few days of snow, children behaving better than usual; this can only mean one thing.
Yes, it’s Christmas shopping time again. Seasonal goodwill is evidenced in every fight over a shopping mall parking space. The bon accord is clearly evident as women fight over the last sweater in the sale in the Bon Accord Mall.

Peace on earth is demonstrated as people elbow each other out of the way in each crowded shopping mall, or the strong nudge the weak away from the Apple Store’s latest product display, which will of course be replaced by a newer product the following week.

Christmas cheer is not very much on display for the residents of Hillside near Portlethen. It seems there will be no communal Christmas tree, as getting electricity to the site is beyond the technical nous of the local builder, one Mr S Milne.

The local authority, not at all resembling small-minded control freaks, have a policy where normally only one tree is permitted per area.

This year though, in a magnanimous gesture, they graciously allowed Hillside to have a tree as well as Porlethen! It is far too technically difficult to get electricity to the Hillside tree, however. Likewise there will be no lighting on the Hillside street lamps.

The lamps are made of a material which simply breaks up if hit by a car or truck – a safety feature, so I’m told (although how shattering lamp posts would stop a car careening into a house or person, or stop the streetlight itself from crashing down and injuring someone is a mystery to me).  So – no lights and no tree.

This tale reminds me how Common Good Aberdeen ensured their jubilee garden party in Union Terrace Gardens would have a thing called a generator to run the show, in case they had any electricity problems.

I guess Hillside residents have bigger things to think about than the tree, such as the infrastructure initially promised which hasn’t exactly been made manifest yet, either. Despite early promises and assurances, the unlit Christmas tree would have increased amenities available to residents by 100%. As Councillor Mollison put it back in September:

“I know residents are eager to get started so that there can be a social heart to Hillside, something that is missing at present. At the moment there are houses, houses and more houses.”

We shall see if many new amenities spring up with alongside the new developments coming our way in city and shire; I am sure the developers will continue their joined-up, philanthropic, community-focused, environmentally sound philosophies in all things they do. The worst part, of course, is seeing the hopes dashed of all the children who dreamed of seeing Stewart throw the switch on their Christmas tree.

Old Susannah had a pleasant week with Christmas drinks and dinner parties starting a bit earlier than usual. Perhaps most fun was an event held by Shelagh at Torry’s Oil and Glass art and craft business.

Children of all ages were able to make either a glass Christmas star or glass ornament for a £5 donation; a pound from each ornament or star went to the VSA. Shelagh raised over £50 for this worthwhile charity (well done, and thanks for the mince pie as well).

It must be time for some seasonal definitions.

Pantomime (noun) ancient entertainment form normally adhering to certain formulas, such as telling a fairy tale, having a heroine, a hero, a villain and a pantomime ‘dame,’ commonly held close to Christmas time.

His Majesty’s Theatre will hold its annual pantomime this year but it may be outshone by a bigger pantomime taking place over on Twitter: two comic characters slugging it out in traditional Punch and Judy form, rivalling anything ever done by the ugly sisters.

Donald Trump and Alan Sugar are having their own little show with an enthralled audience laughing along. Donald tweets that a grateful Alan Sugar should ‘drop to his knees’ (‘oh myyy!’) and thank him. Sugar says Scotland doesn’t want Trump – how cruel! (Accurate, but cruel).

Without a trace of irony, Trump demanded Sugar tell the public his real financial worth. No doubt The Donald will make a similar disclosure. Things escalated, and surely Sugar was worried when no less a figure of moral probity than Piers Morgan has sided with The Donald.Sugar has some wild idea that wind farms are not necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s just hope Sir Alan doesn’t mention the Glenfiddich, or things could get even uglier (although that is hard to imagine).

Glenfiddich (proper noun) a brand name of whisky, originating with the Scottish Grant family.

One Christmas day back in 1887 a terrible tragedy-in-waiting occurred, and the first ever Glenfiddich whisky came forth from the still. No doubt if its distillers realised this brand would one day be an affront to Scotland’s main benefactor Donald Trump, the still would have been smashed and the project scuppered.

This upstart brand of whisky insulted the Donald by allowing the Scottish people to pick their Top Scot of the year – and no doubt by a hoax or an ‘orchestrated campaign’, this year’s winner is someone Donald doesn’t like. Glenfiddich hasn’t been reasonable on this point at all. Firstly, letting the people decide what they want isn’t something you’d catch our local or national governments doing.

Secondly, the award surely should have gone to Donald himself, for all the good he’s done to our area by creating millions of jobs, stabilising our movable sand dune system, and bringing us much-needed popularity and publicity we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Previous Top Scot winner J K Rowling was once a Lone Parent, and we remember what a bad bunch these can be, according to a former government in Downing Street. Thankfully, David Cameron will be harking back to that earlier appraisal of lone parents. He’s sticking it to these feckless individuals in the new budget, quite right, too.

It also looks like that nice Mr Osborne will open up Scotland for business – by allowing gas companies to search for gas on the mainland. Why waste time with renewable energy when we can pump chemicals, untold reserves of water, and even explosives into our countryside. What are a few earthquakes or contaminated water compared to being ‘open for business?’

Anyway, the Scottish public were told by Trump not to buy Glenfiddich, and that he was banning it from his classy golf courses and hotels forthwith. The makers of the single malt tried to shirk their responsibility by saying that people choose the award winner, but clearly that’s just not good enough. The people of Scotland have since rallied to Trump’s call. They are buying Glenfiddich and Grant whiskies as fast as they can.

Old Susannah has no doubt the motivation for these sales is not to drink a toast to Forbes with Glenfiddich, but rather so people can empty the alcohol down the drains, showing their esteem for the poor, slighted Trump. And so it should be.

If you see me leaving the shops with bags full of Grants and Glenfiddich, it will be so I can dispose of them, not so that I can enjoy one of the most delicious single malts our area has to offer, created in a lovely distillery which still uses water power in production in a very environmentally sound manner. Heaven forbid.

Many people contacted Trump’s golf course to offer to take the offending booze off Trump’s hands, but alas – all such philanthropic requests were turned down.

Practical Joke (compound noun) a gag or hoax designed to embarrass or otherwise humiliate the object of the exercise.

We all love a good practical joke, don’t we? What could be nicer, particularly at this time of year, than making a fool of another person? Where’s the harm in setting up someone for, let’s say, a telephone prank? It’s not really illegal, so that means there are no problems (unless you let something like ethics get in the way).

A nurse committed suicide over such a prank lately. The ladies receiving the hilarious joke phone call probably panicked, thinking that they were going to get in a lot of trouble if they didn’t do what the pranksters wanted, believing for some reason that no one would call a hospital for laughs, thereby deterring nurses from taking care of people.

Then, realising they were made to look idiots, probably fearing for their future careers and dreading the onslaught of inevitable media intrusion, one of those involved took their own life.

But let’s remember, the radio station involved ran all this through their legal department, which didn’t see any legal reason not to interrupt nurses from hospital work (work which is probably usually kind of dull, and not at all of life and death importance like being a DJ), impersonate the most powerful people in the country, and in the process intimidate an immigrant to the UK.

The two DJs involved said they couldn’t have foreseen anything like this. I’m sure they spent lots of time working out the possible outcomes and permutations of their actions, as all practical jokers do in advance. It’s also fine because after the fact, the radio station in question is going to review some of its procedures – can’t say fairer than that.

Our laws might have something different to say about the situation, but as long as the station manager and station legal team are fine, who are we to nit-pick?

Finally, the DJs are each receiving counselling and medical care. Let’s hope no one calls their doctors or nurses with innocent, cute prank calls, now.

Next week: perhaps a story on Stewart Milne saving the day at Hillside and springing for a generator? Or, more likely, more local and national definitions.

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Sep 212012
 

By Dave Black. 

In November 2010 the Aberdeen-based oil and energy company Wood Group signed a contract with Dorad Energy to build a natural gas power station in Ashkelon, Israel.
This contract is worth approximately £563 million and the 800-megawatt power station will produce 8% of Israel’s electricity in the near future.

New gas fields have been discovered within Israel’s off-shore area and Wood Group is intending to expand its operations. Shlomo Cohen, the Group’s Israel manager last year stated that:

“The company considers this project as a cornerstone for extensive operations in Israel”.

On numerous occasions Wood Group has been given the opportunity to clarify whether or not the new Ashkelon power plant will supply electricity to illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It has refused to do so, even when asked by a local MP. However it has stated that it is

“…safe to say that Wood Group does business in a number of parts of the world where there are distressing conflicts which cause hardship and inequity”. 

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has been ongoing since 1967, noted as the longest occupation in modern history.  This occupation has seen mass government-backed Jewish settlement building in the area, in clear contravention of the Geneva Conventions. Settlement building was also deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

Despite the flagrant breach of international law, and the consistent Palestinian position that settlement building in the West Bank is a critical barrier to any peace agreement, Israel continues its policy unabashed and unpunished.  The United States continues to fund Israel to the sum of $3 billion a year and the European Union fails to tear up its trade agreement with Israel, whilst paying lip service to the language of human rights, democracy and justice.

However, although still very small, there have been increasing signs of discontent with Israel’s ongoing occupation and settlement building.  For example, this month the Co-operative, the UK’s fifth largest supermarket, built on its previous policy of refusing to stock goods produced in Israeli settlements, and has ended all trade with companies such as Agrexco who carry out part of their agricultural production in these colonies.

Early Day Motion 2717, raised at Westminster earlier this year, may be also relevant to the Wood Group’s activities.  The EDM is entitled “Proposed EU Legislation on Financing of Illegal Activity in the West Bank” and welcomes the findings of a recent EU report following visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah last year.  The motion ends by calling for:

“economic operators aiding and abetting the building, maintenance or servicing of illegal Israeli settlements [to] be excluded from public contracts in the EU”

 To date the motion has 77 signatories.

Take action

Write to your MP, ask them to sign up to EDM 2717 if they haven’t already, and request that they write to Wood Group to clarify its position on potential fuelling of illegal Israeli settlements.

Write to Wood Group and ask that it takes heed of Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel.  Read more about the BDS campaign here

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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

Jan 122012
 

On January 2nd an Aberdeen-based member of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) took part in a new project to re-plant trees in previously devastated areas of Palestine.  Dave Black, along with other members of the Stop the JNF international delegation, joined individuals from a nearby refugee camp, trade union representatives, youth activists, Stop the Wall campaigners and representatives of political parties. The group planted 111 trees, representing the number of years that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has been in existence, playing a key role in Israel’s policy of displacing and dispossessing Palestinians.

The JNF controls land that the organisation openly decrees is solely for the benefit of Jewish people; non-Jewish people are not able to live or work on the land and it can only be sold or rented to Jewish people.
The organisation is a quasi-governmental one, with extremely close ties to the state; it is often referred to as a para-statal organisation.

Despite the JNF’s clearly discriminatory policies, the Israeli state maintains this strong relationship with the organisation.

The trees were planted in Tulkarem district, formerly one of the richest and most important districts of Palestine. In 1948, most of its lands were taken and dozens of villages destroyed. The JNF played a key role in the destruction of some of these villages and the ethnic cleansing of their population.

The land where the trees have been planted, in the city of Tulkarem, was historically part of the agricultural land of the city. However, in 2002 the Israeli military bulldozed the entire stretch of land, supposedly for “security reasons”.  Tulkarem has also been one of the districts most affected byIsrael’s illegal separation wall, which has destroyed some 8.4 square kilometres of olive and other fruit trees, 37.3 km of water networks, 15 km of agricultural roads, as well as irrigated agricultural land in Tulkarem, Qalqiliya and Jenin districts.

Despite poor weather on the day there was a large turnout and the event was welcomed by those involved.  A representative from the Palestinian Farmer’s Union explained the importance of such events that bring different groups together:

“the participation of farmers, youth groups, friends from various organisations and others increases belief in the justice of our cause and the belief that we are not working alone against the Occupation. The land that was so important land to us was uprooted by the Occupation”. 

He also added that the event was timely because of the ongoing attacks by settlers on Palestinian land.

Aberdeen’s ties to the project were already significant as the local branch of SPSC last year raised £650 for the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project.

Over 5 days the group walked 84 miles along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, raising awareness of the Stop the JNF campaign and also of the separation wall.

The group’s efforts went towards funding the planting event in Tulkarem.  It is hoped that the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project will build to support the ongoing struggle of Palestinians to rebuild by providing resources for villages to plant trees that are indigenous to Palestine’s natural environment and agricultural life.

The delegation included members of Palestine solidarity and campaign groups in Scotland, England, the United States, France, Austria, as well as a representative of Midlothian Trade Unions Council.  The main activity of the delegation was 5 days of fact-finding and educational visits around Israel and the West Bank, followed by the day of tree planting in Tulkarem.

The group visited Al-Araqib in the Naqab/Negev desert, a Bedouin village which has been destroyed 33 times since July 22nd 2010.  The trees of the village have been destroyed and thus the village’s livelihood and the JNF has been instrumental in displacing the Bedouin people of this area.

Within clear view of the village that remains is the Ambassadors Forest, one of the JNF’s many forests in Israel.  As the delegation spoke with villagers, including the sheikh of the village, a truck drove by on the sandy, desert road.  The truck was on its way to provide water for the new JNF trees; the wrong trees planted at the wrong time, thus requiring much additional water.  The village of Al Araqib has no water supplied to it, but instead villages have to watch trucks drive past on their way to irrigate trees that are steadily taking over their land.

The group also spoke to a staff member of the UK ambassador’s officer in Israel, who was visiting the village in preparation for the visit of the British ambassador and Parliament Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt.

The chance meeting allowed the British members of the delegation to raise the issue of the UK’s complicity with the JNF and Israeli crimes, and specifically Early Day Motion (1677) which was tabled last year and currently has over 50 signatories.

The Early Day Motion outlines the discriminatory nature of the JNF and calls for the revocation of the JNF’s charity status in the UK.  The motion also criticises the Prime Minister’s patronage of the JNF, a situation which was addressed for the first time since the foundation of the JNF when David Cameron stepped down as patron last year.

For the first time since its creation not one of the three main party leaders in the UK are patrons of the organisation.

Later in the week delegates visited refugees in Ramallah (in the West Bank) who had originally lived in the Palestinian village of Imwas.  The refugees told the group the fate of their village in 1967 when it was overrun by Israeli forces set on taking the Latrun Salient, a hillside seen as a key strategic target.

Photos were shown, taken from exactly the same position, that illustrated the dramatic changes to the village and land in the 1960s and 70s.  The first photo showed part of the thriving village, the final one showing what is now known as Canada Park.

Canada Park is one of the many parks and forests that JNF has been responsible for establishing in Israel, or in this case Israel and the West Bank.  Sections of the park, such as where the village of Imwas once stood, are within the Palestinian side of the “Green line”, or armistice line drawn up at the end of the 1967 war.  However, there is no sign of this and almost all visitors to the park remain oblivious, nor is it explained that the walls of the park entrance are built with the bricks of the houses of Imwas.

Delegates visited the park along with Said, a direct descendant of a family which was displaced from Imwas.  Said stood with his own children at the remains of his father’s house, now only the barest of remnants.  The group was also shown the other remaining evidence of the village: unmarked, unprotected memories scattered around the archaeological set-piece of Roman Baths for tourists to enjoy.  The gravestones of villagers stand just a few feet from one of the park’s picnic benches – a stark, chilling image.

Another JNF park, British park, was also visited.  This was of special interest to the UK participants on the delegation.

The park is built over 2 Palestinian villages: Ajjur and Zakariyya. The villages were 2 of the roughly 500 villages where massacres and forced population transfer of Palestinians from their lands in 1948.

This period is known by Palestinians as the Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe”.

The JNF played a key part in planning the Nakba and then went on to expropriate the land of Palestinian refugees and proceeded to build parks, such as British Park, on the land using funds raised by the JNF around the world.

In 1948 the village of Ajjur was populated by 3000 people. Three of the original houses of Ajjur remain today, including what was previously a clinic and is now a winery serving the new Israeli towns that now intersperse British Park.  Where the market of Ajjur once stood is now inhabited by a play-park and some, presumably, “British” sheep; a favourite picnic spot for those visiting British Park.

On the fifth day of the delegation the group visited Al-Walaja, a town that was established in the West Bank after the original village of Walaja was destroyed; the JNF went on to build the Kennedy memorial on the land.  After years of living in caves near the original town, the new town was established and former residents could return to some form of normality.  Normality, that is, until the development of Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, which is set to once again devastate the village.

The wall is still under construction and already surrounds much of the town, but when complete will completely surround the town.  Residents will be forced to use an access road controlled by the Israeli military if they wish to leave. This wall will cut residents off from much of their agricultural land, and will inevitably lead to displacement away from the town as residents look to find viable employment.

The locations visited by the delegation left those involved in no doubt of the JNF’s deep complicity in crimes against Palestinians, past and present.

Witnessing the situation that faces so many Palestinians inevitably shocked, saddened and deeply moved those involved.

However, none of the delegates failed to be inspired and in awe of the resistance of the Palestinian people who fail to lie down and accept the injustice that has been forced upon them.

Many different forms of resistance were seen, some large and obvious and some more subtle but no less impressive.  The commitment to resistance of those that were encounters served to emphasise the important of the ongoing efforts around the world to show solidarity with Palestinians, such as the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign against Israel.

The Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project is one such way in which people can resist the injustices enforced by the JNF and the Israeli government.

The project will never be able to compete with the financial clout of the JNF and the 240 million trees that this has allowed the organisation to plant in Israel and the West Bank.  However, the project does allow a positive way to act against such crimes, enabling Palestinians to resist ongoing attempts at dispossession.

As Stop the Wall Co-ordinator Jamal Juma pointed out, it is also serves as an ideal way to educate those affected, Palestinians young and old, about the role of the JNF in the dispossession of their homes.  The project also offers great potential for future collaboration between Palestinians and the international community to take part in non-violent resistance against the Israeli government’s attempts to entrench the illegal occupation of the West Bank, dispossess Palestinians within Israel of even more of their lands, and take away the rights, enshrined in international law, of 7 million refugees to return to their homes in Israel.

For more on the Stop the JNF campaign:   www.stopthejnf.org
Join the Palestine campaign in Aberdeen:  Aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk
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