Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Pressure mounts on Israel to lift siege as cabinet meets

From ynetnews
Israel may increase flow of goods into Gaza

Cabinet convenes to discuss possible easing of restrictions for Gaza public following US, European pressure. Gov't expected to approve opening of border crossings, increase of humanitarian aid

The National Security Cabinet convened on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the easing of day-to-day life for residents of the Gaza Strip. The ministers have yet to make any formal decision, but several participants said that Israel intends to open the border crossings and allow more humanitarian aid in.

The cabinet meeting was called following increased pressure by both the United States and the European Union on Israel to ease the blockade imposed on the Hamas-controlled Strip.

Support the tube strike - on the picket line with RMT leader Bob Crow this morning

On the way into work this morning I stopped by to support the tube workers on strike for 48 hours in protest at management bullying. The RMT deserves the support of those involved in the Palestinian solidarity movement as it is one of the more political unions and plays a key role in issues of social justice, as you can see from the banner pictured above.

Bob Crow points out (although you won't read this in the anti-worker Evening Standard) that they had a deal last night with the managers but then they changed their mind, presumably after instruction from Tory rich boy and mayor Boris Johnson. The bosses returned to the negotiating room and ripped up their previous agreement.

Boris and the Tories see the tube workers as their miners - that's to say they want to crush a well-organised group of workers as a prelude to hammering the public sector unions in general - with the aim of making the workers pay for the bankers crisis.

The strike is solid so not much call for anything more than token picketing.

The standard photographer was a nice enough guy - only wish they would report the truth and stop spreading lies about the dispute.

The Standard reporter is in the same union as me (NUJ) but didn't seem to be very knowledgeable. When she arrived at the picket line she asked to know if Bob Crow was here. He was standing in front of her! I urged her to print the truth about the workers' grievances.

Among other things, workers have been suspended on the Victoria Line for opening doors on the wrong side of the train. But on every other line on the system there is a fail-safe system to prevent just such an eventuality. The union has been arguing with management for years to install the system on the Victoria Line. But instead of doing so they prefer to victimise and bully staff for their own shortcomings.

Egypt shoots Palestinian at Gaza border - Israel mulls opening crossings

Egyptian police shot and seriously wounded a man who jumped a fence to get into Gaza this morning.

Meanwhile Haaretz reports that Israel may be about to respond to pressure from the US to open some of the border crossings.

Meanwhile reconstruction plans are frozen:
Gaza building project experiments with clay but coastline still not fit for swimmers, fishermen.

GAZA CITY - Thousands of non-refugee Palestinians in Gaza receiving financial assistance from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are finding it difficult to reconstruct and rehabilitate their homes, because they are unable to access sufficient quantities of building materials, UNDP programme officer Husam Toubil told IRIN.

Of Gaza’s total population of 1,416,539, according to the UN Population Fund, 1,073,303 are registered as refugees by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The remainder are non-refugees who cannot get assistance from UNRWA so UNDP is trying to assist them. more

UK government terror control orders in disarray as police use waterboarding

Three terror suspects whose freedom is restricted by control orders have won a legal battle in the House of Lords over the use of secret evidence.

Nine Law Lords unanimously ruled it was unfair individuals should be kept in ignorance of the case against them.

More at the BBC

This follows news that the police have been learning some new tricks. Six London police officers are being investigated for torturing suspects - using a bit of waterboarding.

Israel worried by Obama's push for peace

by Simon Assaf

Obama’s recent comments on Palestine have shaken the Israeli government

The sight of a US president receiving a standing ovation from students at Cairo university is not one we could have imagined a couple of years ago.

So it was symbolic that Barack Obama chose the Egyptian capital to launch his “new vision for peace” last week.

It was from Cairo that the Israeli foreign minister announced the start of the month-long assault on Gaza last December.

If George Bush had attempted to speak at the campus it would have been burnt to the ground. Obama was instead greeted with much applause.

Some things have not changed. Obama reiterated his commitment to the “war on terror”, warned Iran over its nuclear programme and justified the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yet the speech also outlined a departure from the tone adopted by George Bush in his famous State of the Union address in 2002.

Where Bush spoke of the “axis of evil” and “crusades”, Obama praised the Islamic religion and the historic contribution of Muslims.

Obama also carefully distanced himself from the debacle in Iraq

He even acknowledged that the US was wrong to overthrow the popular Mossadeq government in Iran in 1953 and appealed for negotiations.

But the most dramatic change of tone came in Obama’s statements on Israel.

After setting out why the US supports Israel, he said, “It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.

“For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation...

“So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

In a remarkable passage he added, “For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation.

“But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the centre of America’s founding.”

There are two messages here. The first is that Palestinians must lay down their weapons. But he is also saying that Palestinians are suffering as black slaves did.

Obama’s speech has caused deep unease inside Israel’s government.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the recent elections promising to reject even limited statehood for the Palestinians.

His ambassador had been running around Washington waving bits of paper signed by Bush that he claimed allow more Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Obama has told the settlers they had to stop and begin easing the siege on Palestinians in the West Bank.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Netanyahu now understands what he already knew before the speech: the moment of political reckoning that he so feared is now rapidly approaching.

“Netanyahu will have to decide over the coming weeks whom he would rather pick a fight with: the powerful US administration or his own coalition and members of his party.”

The tension between Israel and the US highlights the deep problems for imperialism in the region.

Obama must try and reconcile tensions between the US and its Arab allies.

This friction is caused mainly by popular anger over Palestine, but also by the deep hatred of the US-backed regimes among ordinary Arabs.

Israel cares little about what happens in Afghanistan, or which governments rule in the Arab world. It has the comfort of a powerful army and some 50 nuclear warheads.

But these issues matter deeply to the US and to the rest of the West.

Would another Israeli assault on Gaza mean more mass demonstrations in Cairo and other Arab capitals?

The popular revulsion over Israel’s war on Gaza has shaken America’s allies – now the Arab regimes are demanding that the US reigns in the Israelis.

Obama’s speech is a recognition of the deep problems faced by US imperialism.

He no doubt hopes he can charm his way out of this sticky situation.

However, the ultimate test is what happens in practice.

But what is significant is that it will be the Israelis who are desperate for Obama to fail.

From Socialist Worker (UK)