Bill Clinton might well be hoping to end his term as President of the United States with a diplomatic success in the Middle East and to be able to go home wearing the laurels of a peacemaker. He will surely be disappointed since the United States is neither impartial nor without vested interests of its own in that region.
Israel has long been a cats-paw of the United States in the Middle East and benefits economically and militarily from the in-flow of US dollars. In return for this support the United States has a reliable ally in this oil-rich region. Washington cannot therefore be regarded as a by-stander -- it is a major player with its own imperialist agenda.
Britain too has tarnished credentials when it poses as a peace broker. It closely tails along behind the United States as a leading component of what US politicians term "the international community". This explains why the British Embassy in Yemen was recently attacked along with a US warship heading for the Gulf.
In the immediate crisis there needs to be widespread international support for the Palestinian demand that Israeli tlroops and tanks be withdrawn from the surroundings of Palestinian towns. There can be no progress unless this primary demand is met.
The Palestinians are also calling for a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to look into how the latest violence began. Such an inquiry would not be able to ignore the provocative visit to the Temple Mount holy site by Ariel Sharon -- Israel's reactionary opposition leader, a man whose hands are stained with Palestinian blood.
Given this, it is incredible that Israeli Premier Ehud Barak should talk of bringing Sharon on board as a means of unifying Israelis in the period of crisis. It would be difficult to think of a more inflammatory gesture or a measure more likely to obstruct any moves towards peace.
Far from appeasing the most right-wing and downright racist elements in Israeli politics there is a desperate need for peace and labour movement activists across the world to give solidarity to those forces in Israel which want peace and which are opposed to racism and Zionist bigotry. It is also vital that racist and fascist elements in other countries, including Britain, do not get away with trying to turn justified opposition to anti-Arab Zionism into support for those who peddle the evil of anti-semitism.
The western media and politicians are focusing attention at present on the violence itself. The rising toll of victims does indeed fuel further violence. But the crisis is not caused by bullets or stones -- it is rooted in the long history of injustice suffered by the people of Palestine.
The historic injustices have been left unresolved -- Palestinian refugees are still denied their homeland. The Palestinian people are still denied their own state of Palestine.
Over the years since Israel was created in 1948 the Israeli state has grabbed further territory from the Palestinians by means of war, clung on to it in the teeth of United Nations Resolutions condemning the annexation and behaved like an occupying colonial power towards the remaining Palestinian areas.
Israel has for years followed a policy of encouraging the building of new Jewish settlements to both expand its own state and concretise its occupation of Palestine.
Without justice for the Palestinians there cannot be a lasting peace! The spirit of Palestinian resistance is not going to fade away -- the Intifada will not die until justice is done. The conflict is not an even-handed one but that of oppressor and oppressed. If Clinton really wants to be a bringer of peace he must lift his cats-paw off the people of Palestine and recognise the Palestinians' just demands.
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JUST TWO weeks ago, the survivors of the Paddington rail crash said, on the anniversary of that disaster, that nothing had been done to prevent it happening again at any time -- and it just has.
The 12. IOpm inter-city from London Kings Cross to Leeds last Tuesday derailed just outside Hatfield and came to grief with four dead and 29 injured.
Initial theories on the cause of the accident included terrorism, vandalism and faulty train wheels. But as we go to press it seems most likely that a broken rail found at the site of the accident was the cause.
Confirmation of this will take a few days but an offer by Railtrack chief Gerald Corbett to resign implies that he believes the broken rail, the responsibility of Railtrack, to be the cause of the disaster.
A disturbing picture is emerging. The transport union RMT has reported that sub contractor Balfour Beatty has been working in the area for Railtrack replacing old and damaged rails. Some were replaced last May, the rest, including the one that broke, due to be done next month.
The union also reports an increase in the numbers of cracks in rails on that line since it has been used regularly by Eurostar trains, with much heavier than usual engines.
The accident happened on a bend, as the GNER train was travelling at 115 miles an hour. RMT is asking that if Balfour Beatty knew there were problems with cracked rails in that stretch, why a warning was not passed on to the train companies to restrict speed, especially on bends where centrifugal forces put extra strain on wheels and rails.
Since the crash, Railtrack has imposed speed restrictions on all similar stretches of track throughout Britain. This has led to a total disruption of rail services and exposes the privatised rail services' inability to deliver a safe and efficient rail service as they are contracted to do.
Rail safety expert Roy Bell said the root cause of the accident was the way that British Rail was divided up when it was privatised by the Tories in 1995. Wi th so much fragmentation into Railtrack, train operators, sub contractors like Balfour Beatty and so on, there is no single body to hold responsible, no single chain of command.
All the companies involved can blame each other and pass the buck.
Last December, the Health and Safety Executive fined Railtrack over a 20 per cent rise in the number of broken rails discovered annually since privatisation. There have been umpteen reports criticising railtrack for poor maintenance.
Rail workers have many times pointed out that the sub-contractors employed by Railtrack to do the work -- as cheaply as possible to protect profits -- employ low-paid, unskilled workers who do not have the experience and safety culture of the old British Rail track workers.
Survivors of previous crashes at Clapham, Southall, Watford, Paddington and so on have been expressing their anger and frustration that recommendations made at the various in quiries have resulted in practically nothing.
There have been enough long, drawn out, fruitless inquiries to know that what is needed is a big increase in spending on safety on the railways.
But the privatised companies are not going to deliver this as long as profit is their main moLive.
Watchdogs like the Rail Regulator, the Health and Safety Executive and the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority produce reports, warnings and impose fines.
These make little impact. Railtrack makes more than £l million in profit every day and the train companies are doing nicely too.
The only way to control the way the railways are run and to restore a culture of safety is to bring them back into public ownership.
Even if this had a very high cost it would be worth it. But is should not cost the Government and taxpayers' anything as these rail companies are in breach of the terms of their franchises which should be revoked immediately.
Mr Corbett's offer to resign is a gesture and one person departing their well-paid job -- taking with them all rights to bonuses, pension and so on -- will not be enough to put the railways back to rights. Members of the rail travelling public have called for much stronger measures -- for the whole Railtrack board to be charged with corporate manslaughter.
That might bring justice but it would not prevent future disasters. The only sure way to do that is to renationalise the whole rail network.
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by Caroline Colebrook
A LABOUR think-tank last week disclosed new plans to hand the administration of the National Health Service over to the private sector as an experiment to see if commercial firms can deliver better value for money.
Doctors and nurses would be transferred to private sector employment as part of a new plan being hatched by the Institute for Public Policy Research.
Private companies would no longer be confined to providing ancillary services such as cleaning and catering but would also supply the full range of clinical services.
The Government is wary of identifying itself with the plans just yet but it is a step that has been feared and predicted by campaigners to save the health service for many years.
It follows naturally from the Private Finance Initiative whereby private finance companies are given vast sums of taxpayers' money to build and own hospitals which are then rented back to the NHS.
Already this process has led to thousands of cleaning, catering and other staff having their jobs transferred to the private sector. And the private sector call only deliver economies by cutting wages and services.
Compulsory competitive tendering, brought in by the Tories, has forced hospitals to employ commercial cleaning companies and has led to a steady decline in cleanliness in hospitals, more cross infection and a lowering of wages, conditions and morale among cleaners.
It was this that sparked the long-running Hillingdon strike.
Health Secretary Alan Milburn, in his grand plan for the NHS launched
last summer, said the Government would be seeking a big improvement in
hospital cleaning standards. But while the cleaners are employed by private
companies and not by the NHS, the Government will have little control over
cleaners' terms and conditions or how many there
Now the Government is testing the water to see if the public will accept the handing over of the jobs of nurses, doctors and other clinical health workers.
No economies will be made without reducing their terms and conditions of employment.
Currently we are facing a crisis of lack of doctors and nurses. The Government is trying to persuade retired nurses to return to the profession. It is promising to train thousands more. Trusts are casting about overseas to steal trained nurses away from other countries.
The Royal College of Nurses last week added its voice to those who are warning that a new winter crisis is fast approaching the NHS.
The Government has invested £23 million of taxpayers' money to try to avert another winter crisis but it will be of little avail is the trained nursing staff are just notthere.
Without extra nurses extra intensive care beds cannot be opened, without skilled theatre nurses, operations get cancelled, without nurses and doctors in accident and emergency units, patients have to wait for hours on end on trolleys.
The NHS currently has a 15.2 per cent deficit in nursing staff -- about the same as at this time last year.
Already some hospitals are turning away patients and cancelling operations because of a lack of nurses.
The prospect of working for the private sector for reduced wages and conditions and less security of employmentis hardly going to tempt prospective students into the medical profession at this crucial time.
That the Government is considering these new plans gives the lie to all the promises made in last summer's grand plan for the NHS. The real agenda -- the capitalist agenda that applied no matter what Government sits on the front benches -- is to continue with the privatisers' bonanza.
Paul Marks, the national secretary for health in the giant public sector union Unison, condemned the new plans: "What the commission is suggesting in a dangerous experiment. Unison has always warned that PFI is a staging post to privatisation.of the NHS.
"There is increasing evidence that PFI is a costly failure and there is no need to include staff in schemes.
"A recent opinion poll, carried out by Mori for Unison, showed that 77 per cent of the public do not want health care delivered for profit.
"It is essential that the Government categorically rules out these plans and reassures the public that the NHS is in safe hands."
In the run-up to the next election, the Government is staying cool about these proposals. As Paul Marks said, PFI has been a failure from the point of view of patients, health workers and taxpayers. But from the point of view of high finance, greedy for easy profits, it has been a roaring success.
Campaigns to save the NHS need to prepare for a new front opening on this battlefield
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by Steve Lawton
HASTILY convened and shakily concluded, the Mid-East emergency summit in Egypt ended Tuesday with a ceasefire call, while Israeli forces were nevertheless still gunning down the enraged mass Palestinian resistance engulfing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As we go to press, those battles are intensifying and the Israelis have so far conceded nothing.
To date, the renewed Intifada -- which last raged in 1987-91 -- has led to over 100 Palestinian deaths from US-made-and-supplied Israeli weapons: guns, tanks, rockets. One in five of them were children, with 3,500 or more wounded, many gravely. According to Palestinian medical relief committee figures, by last week 1,134 of the wounded were children.
Emerging after two days of intense talks in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, US President Bill Clinton said the two parties -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Premier Ehud Barak -- agreed to take immediate action to end nearly three weeks of bloody conflict.
The summit, hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak with recently crowned Jordanian King Abdullah, UN secretary general Kofi Anan and European Union security head and former Nato chief Javier Solana present, produced a statement presented by Clinton but which neither Barak or Arafat formally signed.
It declared that Israeli troops must pull back to positions held prior to 28 September, end the closure-siege of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which traps three million Palestinians and re-open Gaza airport. Leaders agreed that a special committee to investigate the crisis should be formed and constituted according to US and UN dictates.
This is all conditional on the Palestinians also reverting to circumstances prevailing before the crisis. But Palestinian leaders and activists of the Intifada remain extremely sceptical. Many see this as a staged act to undermine the vital Arab summit later this month, to prevent any moves for Arab unity and possible sanctions against Israel.
This bloodbathwas engineered in East Jerusalem by the Likud leader General Sharon, who is hated in the Arab community for his record of vicious warmongering and outright anti-Arab massacres. Most notoriously, those at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, where families expelled from Palestine in 1948 to make way for the creation of Israel, were systematically murdered -- an act that an official Israeli tribunal itself condemned.
But General Sharon receives much less attention for his past massacres than former Yugoslav President Milosevich does in the West for his alleged crimes. Sharon sparked off the chain of violent events when he 'visited' Al Aqsa mosque, among East Jerusalem's most important of Muslim holy sites, on 28 September with official Israeli consent.
His deliberately insensitive provocation resembled more a military operation at what Jews call the Temple Mount, but Arabs know as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) which contains the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, accompanied as he was by a sea of US-armed Israeli soldiers.
And Barak, who even after returning to Tel Aviv from the summit repeated his call for a "national emergency government" with Sharon, has hardly acted to genuinely further a resolution of the conflict. Barak holds a third of the 140-Knesset (parliament) seats; with Sharon he would secure a majority.The twists, however, are almost daily.
imperialism holed above the line
Clinton, for long posing as the behind-the-scenes impartial 'honest broker', was jolted into action by the near-catastrophic bombing of the state-of-the-art destroyer USS Cole docked at the Yemeni harbour of Aden. With 17 navy dead, including many still to be located, and a gaping house-sized hole midship, it came within a hairs breadth of being quickly sunk with hundreds on board.
Once again, the US image and its power has been shown to be vulnerable at the heart of its technological prowess. As though to point to the ranking of imperialism, within days the British embassy in Yemen was also bombed.
Alarm flashed around the world. Suddenly, again, nowhere is safe for the Western powers. US embassies across the Middle East region were temporarily shut down. Israel issued a memo last weekend warning Israeli's not to travel to any Arab country.
As the crisis mounted and Is raeli forces rocketed Ramallah, Gaza City and Jericho after two undercover Israeli soldiers were lynched, a brief 10-year leap in oil prices occurred last week and stock prices plummeted in the US and in Asia.
When investors get nervous (and oil is at its centre), when the US is kicked, and there is the prospect of an Arab resurgence undermining US-compliant Gulf regimes, the US-Israeli relationship comes into sharper relief. And the US is forced, despite election distractions, to seek a way to prevent any of its declared 'vital interests' from being threatened.
Around the world governments have been viewing developments with alarm and have also demanded action. And Arab states have reacted forcefully. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, on behalf of King Fahd, for one, said in the Saudi Al-Warnn daily that his government will take "decisive measures" if Israel continued its attacks. The oil bar gaining-chip threat was clear.
European leaders gathered quickly in Biarritz, France -- scene of many militant pro-Palestinian protests -- and appealed for an immediate summit to get the process back on track. But France and others doubt the outcome.
Arab rage, solidarity spreads
The sense of a growing common front with the Palestinian cause is in the air. As the renewed Intifada was declared, so also worldwide opposition to Israel and its US ally remains strong. Edward Said recently suggested that the way forward would be to create a mass movement akin to anti-Apartheid struggle.
Over 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets In Manhattan last week, with over 150 mosques from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut sending support. It ended close to the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.
The imam from the Al Daqwaa mosque in Brooklyn said increased political and economic clout is the way to make the Administration "evenhanded". But he warned: "There is another lesson we must never forget: You fight back when someone hurts you. You never give up. And sometimes, brothers and sisters, you fight to the death."
In London hundreds protested last weekend outside the Israeli embassy and a wide banner was held up showing the last moments of the slaying of 12-yearold Mohammad al-Durrah, whose father was shot. while an ambulance driver attempting to rescue them was also killed. The banner said: "A child's terrifying last moment" as an example of "Israeli state sponsored terrorism". The event was broadcast to the Arab world, and fully in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of Indonesians marched through Jakarta and dipped Israeli flags in the blood of a slaughtered goat last week, while they ritually burned others. In Sydney, Australia demonstrators tried to storm the US embassy; while in Madrid protesters gathered at the Israeli embassy demanding an end to Israeli aggression.
In Cape Town Israeli flags were burnt and torn up in the Greenpoint Stadium, while the rally called upon the South African government to sever its ties with Israel and condemn the murder of Palestinians. A group leaving the rally pelted a MacDonald's outside the stadium and damaged several vehicles.
Bahrainis, chanting anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans, set out from the Hamad Kanoo Grand Mosque fora rally at which speakers spoke of the significance of the Sharon-violated Al Aqsa mosque. Bahraini journalists were urged to give up a days pay to support the Palestinians.
In Cairo, expected to be the scene of the all-important Arab summit on 21 October, protests continued last weekend with demonstrators demanding the Mubarak government get tough with the "Zionist enemy".
Cairo's Islamic leaders called upon their followers to stand firm with the Palestinians and to help them in any way necessary.
Around 10,000 demonstrated in Khartoum, Sudan, and stoned the US embassy. "We won't be ruled by the CIA", they shouted. in Amman, Jordan thousands defied the ban on demonstrations and demanded the government close the Israeli embassy and throw open their border. Last Sunday there were skirmishes between Jordanian border troops and the Israeli army.
Hundreds held mourning prayers in honour of the Palestinian dead in Istanbul, Turkey. Morocco recalled its diplomatic envoy from Israel last week and Oman shut down its trade mission in Tel Aviv and the Israeli office in Muscat. Israel is now represented in the Middle East only in Qatar, Morrocco and Tunisia.
An effigy of Clinton was torched by Pakistani Muslims last week as National Islamic Front members staged a rally in Karachi, while across Pakistan religious and political leaders condemned Israeli "atrocities" against Palestinians.
In New Delhi meanwhile, activists of the Indo-Palestine Friendship Society staged a oneday hunger strike in front of the Israeli embassy. They demanded Israel withdraw, adhere to UN resolutions, apologise for the massacre and compensate victims and their families for the death and destruction caused.
At all points of the globe, there has been a reaction, especially as the Palestinian wounded have been brought to several Arab countries to be treated. A 12 year-old who was shot in the eye, arrived in Qatar for treatment; in United Arab Emirates some injured Palestinians were hospitalised.
One of them, Waeel Al Bayouk, who was shot in the head, said: "They chase us with their guns as if they were chasing birds. They use their M-16 American guns to hunt us down." He told how Israelis dress like Arabs, kidnap Palestinians, torture them, burn and then throw them onto the streets. A mother, Nafya Fouad, said: "They shoot at children with dumdum bullets; when these bullets enter the body, it tears it apart."
With possibly four Israelis now captured -- Hezbullah claiming one to be a colonel, the uprising unabated, Israeli intransigence and aggression ignoring the so-called summit, the days ahead will be crucial in the Middle East.
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by Renee Sams
THE IMPORTANCE of a strong civil rights movement was stressed by Sukhdev, the mother of Ricky Reel, as she led the 2,000-strong demonstration in London last Saturday, demanding an end to racist laws.
The march was 14 October, the third anniversary of her son's death and she spoke of "many families like us, that the police have ignored".
"We were turned away," she said, "simply because our colour is black."
Mrs Reel also made the point that bereaved families, with no knowledge of the law or police procedure, have to turn themselves into experts, with only their determination to uncover the truth about how their loved ones met their deaths.
"It is unjust," she said, "and a very bad experience for all the families.
"Justice has no colour but the authorities find it easier to put obstacles in the way of those seeking redress for the death of their loved ones."
She said she was sure this endless fight for justice, far from making them give up the struggle, has just made them more determined. "Our campaign will continue," she told the demonstrators.
On the march were many organisations helping asylum seekers and an ever-growing number offamily campaigns seeking justice for unlawful killings.
The latest of these is the campaign of the Walton family who are demanding that police investigate the death of their son Garry, a 21-year-old Irishman.
Garry's grandfather told the New Worker that Garry had gone on holiday in November 1996 to Tenerife. While on a pleasure boat trip, several eye witnesses confirmed that he was subjected to continuous racial taunting and harassment by a group of racist white men from Essex.
He had drinks thrown over him and after a scuffle, Garry was thrown overboard.
There were no less than 60 witnesses to the murder but Spanish police allowed them to leave the scene of the crime without even getting their names and addresses.
"The Essex police have wilfully lied to us," said Mr Walton, "while pretending to co-operate with the police in Spain they are still refusing to take any action.
"Four years later they have not even questioned the person identified by witnesses, despite pressure from the Home Office, Interpol and the Irish Foreign Office."
Mr Walton expressed the shock he and his family felt when told by police that they could not take any action "because they cannot justify spending tax payers money on investigating the death of an Irishman in Spain".
The family are calling for an investigation by the Race and Violent Crime task force into Garry's murder and a meeting with the Home Secretary to review the case.
On the platform at the rally were some members of the 40-strong Civil Rights Caravan, now on its way round the country, supporting isolated vulnerable refugees and migrants.
Ladislav Balaz, a Roma from the former Czechoslovaia where he was a leader of the Romany parliament, spoke for them.
He and his family suffered a spate of violent attacks by fascist
skinheads, part of the widespread violence against the Roma in that
They fled to this country and here have faced more threats and racial abuse, including an arson attack on their accommodation and even death threats.
Ladislav called for more people to join the campaigns and help in the struggle, imploring: "Please fight for your rights now. Next time it will be too late."
Also on the platform was Imran Khan, solicitor for the Lawrence family. He spoke of the need for change: "Justice is not some abstract idea -- it is a reality. But the law is not justice, nor will it ever be. It is being used against people, not to help them."
He was incensed at the hypocrisies ofthe Government, which has the most racist laws and deters asylum seekers, characterising them as "bogus".
"We've got to make a change," he stressed. " We must make sure that the National Civil Rights Movement is a real movement, supporting those who need it."
* A woman police sergeant was last week accused of misconduct that allegedly contributed to the death of a black man in custody who was dismissed as a drunk.
Patrick Jean-Louis was in reality only slightly drunk but very ill when he was taken into custody in Plumstead police station, south London on 2 November 1998. He died in custody four hours later from heart and intestinal problems.
The woman custody sergeant railed to comply with Police orders by not ensuring the man was properly searched. She also faces three charges of failing to comply with the Metropolitan Police code of conduct.
A Police Complaints Authority report said: "With hindsight cleary a doctor should have been called."
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