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Week commencing 12th April 2002

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Editorial - Solidarity!
Lead Story - End Zionist bloodbath now!
Feature - Birmingham tenants vote to keep council landlord.
International - World left parties condemn Israeli war against Palestinians.
British News - Campaigning against the racist vote.
More news and DiaryNCP PCS strike pages



EVERY day brings a tide of funerals in the Middle East and especially in the towns of the West Bank. The dead have not been struck down by illness or accident, and they have certainly not died from old age. They are the victims of the terrible war being waged against the Palestinians by a reactionary Israeli regime, aided and abetted by United States and British imperialism.

 This tragedy should be at the forefront of the news media. Shamefully this has not been the case in Britain where the funeral of the Queen Mother has pushed all other events to one side.

 Typical of last week's coverage were hour-upon-hour TV homage programmes, special pull-out supplements in most of the broadsheets and royal-mania in the tabloids. One devoted no less than 37 pages to the Royal funeral and just one page to the Middle East -- surely the death of one very wealthy woman from extreme old age cannot warrant such total domination of the news!

 And yet it is all part of the same picture. The over-the-top media binge on all things royal aims to promote a number of backward ideas -- a revival of monarchism, religion, romanticised militarism -- literally drummed up by the sight of bands, uniforms, princes decked in medals and regalia and a big dollop ofnational chauvinism as the establishment's version of 20th century history is preached and union jacks are waved.

 This not only seeks to divert public attention away from the reality of the war in the Middle East and the disgraceful warmongering speech against Iraq that Blair made in the US, it is meant to bolster British imperialism and soften its hideous features behind the trappings of an old woman's funeral.

 The British ruling class seized the opportunity this death presented and milked it for all it was worth. And it needed this now because the battle lines are drawn up. On the one side is the desire of the imperialist powers for global domination and on the other the anti-imperialist struggle for life and justice.

 With British troops digging in in Afghanistan, Blair and Bush issuing threats to Iraq, Israeli tanks and troops waging bloody war on the Palestinians, this is no time to be sitting on the fence hoping the world would become nicer.

 There is no impartial and kindly international referee. There is no courtroom in the sky or organisation that will intervene for peace and sanity. Imperialism and its murderous wars can only be stopped by conscious anti-imperialist struggle and through working class solidarity -- at home and internationally.

 We need to cut right through the lies and propaganda mouthed by western politicians. There is no axis of evil. The wealthy United States is not threatened by poor countries like Somalia and Afghanistan. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not a threat to the US, the south of Korea or any of its neighbours. Iraq is a victim of war and sanctions and is seeking good relations with other countries in the region. And there would be no events like 11 September if imperialism ceased its oppression of the third world.

 There is no easy road in this struggle. We cannot overcome the designs of capitalism just by voting in an electoral system devised by the capitalist class. Trying to give Blair a message in the ballot box would only give us a nasty dose of the Tories and even then the message would not be recognised.

 Our anger has to be expressed to Blair directly. His creeping, war-threatening and shameful words and deeds should be vigorously condemned and attacked by one and all. Our message should be spelled out clearly and taken to Downing Street and everywhere he and the Foreign Secretary go.

 We stand in solidarity today with the Palestinians, with Iraq, with the people of Afghanistan, with the DPRK, and with every people attacked by the forces of imperialism! Our solidarity needs to be shouted out and writ large, not just left in polling booths to be divined along with reading the tea leaves.

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Lead Story

End Zionist bloodbath now!

by Steve Lawton

ISRAELI forces invading the West Bank and conducting a brutal massacre of Palestinians, are beginning to reap a severe price for their murderous occupation. Earlier this week at least 13 soldiers were killed and nine wounded when Islamic Jihad (Holy War) detonated bombs among them in Jenin; while near Israel's northern city of Haifa a bomb killed 10 Israelis on a bus and wounded dozens more.

 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains defiant under siege in Ramallah at his surrounded and damaged headquarters, as the carnage all around him goes on with each tank and helicopter gunship attack. But the heavily armed Zionist invaders, shooting on sight, have met fierce resistance in the streets of Jenin as Palestinian fighters take them on.

 The Lebanese Hezbollah (Party of God), meanwhile, launched fresh rocket and mortar strikes on Israeli positions in the Shebaa Farms of southern Lebanon.

 Israel shelled the border Lebanese town of Kfar Shouba in response, but Hezbollah's resolve has strengthened in defence of the Palestinians since it began its offensive at the end of March.

 Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon still refuses to accept withdrawal demands from governments and peoples the world over. Even as it became known secretary of state Colin Powell was on his way from Washington to Tel Aviv, via talks in Morocco, Egypt and Jordan, Sharon gave no quarter to Palestinian men, women and children.

 Powell, weakly critical of the US client Middle East pawn, persisted in laying responsibility for the "passions" of violence, in part, at Arafat's door. He said Tuesday he would meet Arafat if circumstances permitted and said he would offer US observers to monitor a truce. No one is holding their breath.

 The United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia -- meeting in Madrid -- issued a joint statement Wednesday demanding Israel withdraw and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

 UN secretary general Kofi Annun said that withdrawal from Ramallah is "specifically including Chairman Arafat's headquarters"

 But the fact the entire Palestinian people face annihilation through the hell unleashed by the Zionist entity has counted for little when US and British imperialist interests are at stake. Both the US and Israel have generally rejected any EU intervention. Last week an EU delegation was cold-shouldered by Sharon and prevented from meeting Arafat in Ramallah.

 While the Madrid plan was emerging, another, combining Saudi and US elements, was being put together by Germany tor the EU foreign ministers meeting this Monday. Hints that trade relations with Israel could be affected were also made.

 But action on the ground is what is needed and time is of the essence for Palestinians suffering the Zionist Operation Genocide. Imperialist interests are not invulnerable. Oil is still a major factor. Iraq, itself under threat of attack bv the US, has now announced suspension of oil supplies to countries backing israel for 30 days.

 The oil minister Dr Amir Muhammed Rasheed, in a letter to OPEC. said: "The Iraqi decision is not meant to harm anybody but to put an end to the Zionist-American aggression against the Palestinian people and to force the Israeli forces to stop the mass killing of civilians and to compel them to withdraw from all Palestinian territories."

 Iran is responding in kind. Majlis (Parliament) speaker Mahdi Karrubi said last Tuesday: "Iran is prepared to stop oil exports to the countries which back Israel." And last Friday. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appealed to Islamic oil-producing countries to follow suit even if for the symbolic one month period. At the same time Iraq is reiterating its call for OPEC to impose a total embargo on supplies, but this is still being resisted by Saudi Arabia. While Kuwait argues it will cause their country damage, even though a post-Gulf War normality has been established between Kuwait and Iraq.

 That is despite the fact US and British warplanes carried out 19 air attacks on Iraq last Sunday alone from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Since 1998, from bases in Turkey as well, the US and Britain have struck Iraq no less than 37,495 times, Iraq News Agency revealed.

 With such aggressive US/British intervention. it is small wonder from across the Arab world, and from around the world, massive pressure, protests and solidarity assistance have mounted in support of the Palestinians.

 Jordan pushed Israel into finally allowing medical supplies to be airlifted by helicopter into Ramallah where wounded and dying Palestinians have been prevented from receiving help and left to die.

 Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances transported medicines and blood to victims. The Indonesian Government too -- its Muslim peoples fierce defenders of the Palestinians -- has announced it will send supplies together with a 15 strong medical team.

 In the Yemen, President Saleh spoke on the al Jazeera satellite channel last Friday and lashed the US. He said: "We reject any statement describing the Palestinians' struggle for independence as 'terrorism' - This is an attempt to fake the facts." He stressed the need for Arab nations to implement the Arab Joint Defence Agreements to act in unity against the enemy.

 The massive destruction to the Palestinian nation makes action to end the Zionist terror absolutely vital. Palestinian ambassador to Tehran, Salah Zawawi, addressing the Majlis in appreciation of Iran's support, said eight billion dollars worth of damage had so far been inflicted on the Palestinians.

 But their resistance against the Israeli invasion will never end, he said.

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Birmingham tenants vote to keep council landlord

by Caroline Colebrook

THOUSANDS of council tenants in Birmingham last week voted to reject plans -- in line with the Government's current policy of privatising council housing -- for the tranfer of the city's 84,000 homes to a not-for-profit company.

 The vote was 66.8 per cent against the transfer in a 65.5 per cent turn-out.

 But this rejection came just four days after tenants in Glasgow voted to accept a similar transfer of that city's 80,000 homes in a £5.6 million deal.

 The Birmingham vote, in which only a third of tenants supported the transfer, surprised Government ministers and now forces Birmingham City Council to draw up new plans for the repair and renewal of the housing stock it had hoped to unload.

 This includes many houses in a very poor state of repair and 290 tower blocks.

 Great pressure had been put on the tenants to vote the way the Government wanted, with promises of repairs and regeneration if they complied and threats of further neglect of the properties if they did not.

 Dennis Minnis, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for housing, said: "Throughout the process we have been honest in saying that existing resources are not enough to deliver the improvements that tenants deserve.

 "We will continue to look for alternative resources to secure decent homes for all Birmingham's tenants."

 But the council has been less than honest in failing to point out that the " not-for-profit" company to which the homes would have been sold would be heavily in debts to banks and finance companies who are looking to make a profit.

 In the long term they would dictate a very commercial policy on rent levels -- which would rise steeply. This has been the experience of tenants involved in many other transfers throughout the country.

 So far, in England, 152 councils have transferred some 600,000 homes. This follows years of neglect of these homes, many of which are in terrible repair. Tenants are told the only way to get repairs is to vole for the transfer.

 Rent freezes are promised untill the short-term but they rise in the long-term. And tenancies are less secure, tenants are tnore vulnerable to eviction, especially if they have financial problems and are behind with the rent.

 Most council tenants have sccure tenancies where eviction proceedings are long and complex, allowing a lot more time for tenants to sort out housing benefit claims or make longterm agreements to pay rent arrears gratlually.

 The Birmingham vote could force the Government to reconsider its policy on signing off council homes.

 Dave Prcnds, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, which has campaigned against the privatisalion, said: "The Government must reconsider its approach to housing financing to give councils more options to refurbish and replenish their housing stock."

 And George Brumwell, general secretary of the builders' union Ucatt also welcomed the vote. "We are overjoyed with the resounding No vote delivered by the tenants of Birmingham," he said.


 "The result should signal to central Government that their preferred policy of stock transfers in dealing with the backlog of repairs and maintenance needs to be scrapped."

 Speaking for Birmingham, Unison, branch chairperson Tracy Twist said: "We now have a job of work to do in rebuilding morale of staff and tenants in Birmingham and restoring the service to its proper level.

 "The ballot result shows that the council cannot easily mislcatl tenants who were rightly suspicious of the council's motives."

 And speaking for the Birmingham Defend Council Housing campaign, Frank Chance said: "the privatisers should hang their heads in shame...

 "The council was shameless, bombarding tenants with videos and propaganda but not allowing us one penny to put the other side of the argument. But we still beat them."

 Meanwhile in Glasgow, in a 64 per cent turnout 58 per cent of tenants voted to accept a transfer of their homes.

 This allows an intensive campaign and a promise by the Treasury to write of the City's £l billion housing debt.

 A quarter of the City's homes are reckoned as not fit to live in and many tenants were desperate For improvemcnts and repairs.

 Tommy Sheridan, a Member of the Scottish parliament who campaigned vigorously against the transfer, said: "I hope this is not going to turn into the Railtrack of housing."

  Britain's home owners racked up a recorded £7 billion in debt against the value of their homes in the last three months of 2001, according to official figures released last week.

 This follows sharply rising values of homes and intense advertising to encourage people to take out loans against the new higher values or their homes.

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World left parties condemn Israeli war against Palestinians

PARTICIPANTS of the International Conference of Left Parties denounced here on Saturday the "undeclared war" by Israel against the Palestinians.

 The participants of 43 left parties from 22 countries called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories in a resolution, adopted at the end of the twoday conference.

 The conference was organized by Cyprus' left-wing AKEL party under the theme of "solidarity with the Palestinian people."

 The resolution condemned Israel's attempt to annihilate Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and urged an immediate lifting of siege on him in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

 The participants also decided to organise a legal campaign aiming at bringing a prosecution against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before the International Court of Human Rights.

 They also expressed in the resolution their "concern over the negative consequences and the dangers which the Israeli aggressiveness will have on peace and stability in the region."


 "The brutalities exercised by the Israeli army against the Palestinians and the Israeli attempt to destroy all material infrastructure and economic resources of Palestinian people limit the possibilities of their survival and is tantamount to an attempted genocide," said the resolution.

 Meanwhile, the resolution condemned "all those powers in the international community which tolerate and encourage the Israeli aggression against Palestine."

 It called on the United Nations to take all appropriate measures for the immediate implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions 1397 and 1402 and to take immediate and decisive steps for the termination of the war and the dispatch of a UN peacekeeping force to the Palestinian territories.

 During the conference, the participants decided to take certain measures to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people, including the organization of peaceful protests in their countries and the demand of the suspension of financial aid provided to Israel by certain countries.

 Among the countries participating in the conference are Austria, Egypt, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Jordan. Russia. Spain, Syria and Turkey.

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British News

Campaigning against the racist vote

by Daphne Liddle

ANTI-Racists have been active in recent weeks leafleting in some 26 local authority areas where the neo-nazi British National Party plans to stand a total of 68 candidates in the 2 May local elections.

 The BNP has targeted eight London boroughs but is fielding 21 candidates in the north-west of England, concentrating on Burnley and Oldham where they and other racists succeeded in provoking race riots last year.

 It is trying to present a new, respectable image and, in public at any rate, distance itself from its violent and criminal past while cashing in on media hysteria about Britain being over-run with asylum seekers.

 But the anti-racists have hit back with a barrage of anti-fascist literature, giving details of the criminal convictions of many of the candidates and of the real, fascist nature of the BNP.

 Forexample, Searchlight anti-fascist magazine has produced thousands of copies of a newsheet, The Oldhammer, in collaboration with Oldham United Against Racism.

 This has disclosed to votes that the BNP activists in Oldham include a convicted drug dealer, football hooligans banned from every ground in the country and common criminals.

 This campaign has been reported in the local Oldham Evening News Chronicle as well as national dailies, The Times and The Guardian.

 The BNP reacted furiously by denying that the five men named in the leaflet were even members, although one was their local organiser and a former parliamentary candidate.

 In Burnley last month 26 white rioters were sentenced to a total of 56 years for their part in the disturbances in the town last June.

 The court heard how a group of white men gathered outside the Baltic Fleet pub in Briercliffe Road on Sunday 24 June, chanting racist abuse.

 They attacked two Asian taxi drivers before moving to the nearby White Hart pub where the windows of an Asian restaurant were smashed and a taxi business raided. Part of the group then moved on to Oxford Road where Asian shops were burgled and set on fire, with families trapped inside.

 These provocations helped to set off the riots in Burnley.

 In Bexley, south London, BNP activists have harassed anti-racist leafleters by following them in cars but this has not prevented hundreds of leaflets being distributed.

 Anti-racist campaigners in all areas are concerned to encourage a good turn-out of all voters. A low turn-out can make the extreme right-wing vote appear larger as a percentage of the total.

 Shahid Malik,who was injured in the Burnley riot when police tackled him to the ground as he tried to calm tensions, said: "I think its a frightening number of candidates and the BNP are obviously looking to consolidate the gains they made during the general election.

 "It's worrying that they are putting so much energy into Burnley and the authorities need to take their heads out of the sand.

 "Everyone needs to vote. This is not a battle for the Asian community but for everyone living in Burnley."

 Meanwhile Operation Black Vote, the campaigning group aiming to increase black involvement in elections and the democratic process as a whole, last week warned that the coming local elections will probably see a sharp fall in the number of black councillors throughout Britain as many have been deselected by main stream parties.

 Gee Bernard, a black councillor in Croydon who has been a Labour activist for 30 years, said: "Labour is weeding out black councillors and unless you are a 'yes' person they don't want to know."

 This follows a recent study which showed that the three main political parties lost votes in seats where they stood a black candidate.

  In Bradford, candidates from all parties have asked for security checks after a record 30,000 applications for postal votes were received.

 This has raised concerns that some applications could be fraudulent and might even involve trying to get votes in the name of people who have died.

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