Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Rich Diet?


I got some interesting pictures yesterday of a red squirrel female who is obviously nursing young. A close look at her right side
between fore and hind leg will show two teats.


I first noticed because of the cleavage from the front view. She's eating peanuts about five meters from me while a CD is playing quite loudly (Rory McLeod).
It seems to make the wildlife quite calm
to have either the radio or some other sound source going.
I shall keep the blog posted if/when she chooses to bring the young around.

14 comments:

JP said...

Hi Ed,

JPA in Dorset here. Do me a favour and dont publish this! I can paste stuff here for you relevant to your blog struggle for the Palestinians. I can't post links because its premium rate from the Morning Star alot of it.
My Mum lives in Braemar! so, I might check you out on the way up. Have a good one bro/comrade and PEACE.

JP (ajit8.blogspot.com)

ajit8 said...

Nine die in Gaza battle
(Thursday 05 July 2007)

ISRAELI troops clashed with Palestinian guerillas inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing nine in fierce fighting that drew in Israeli aircraft, tanks and bulldozers.

The Israeli military said that troops had probed about half a mile inside Gaza in search of rocket-firing squads when airmen covering their advance spotted a group of armed Palestinians approaching.

Aircraft fired at the guerillas and a ground battle developed between the patrol and the guerillas.

Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said that the group's fighters had opened the clash by firing at an Israeli undercover unit.

There was a heavy exchange of fire as Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved in and soldiers took positions on rooftops.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance forcess hit back with small-arms fire, laid mines and fired mortars at the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Two of the mortars landed on the Israeli side of the border post, which has been closed to most traffic since Hamas asserted control of Gaza last month, the Israeli army said.

Seven guerillas were killed and Hamas identified six of them as its members. The identity of the seventh armed man was not immediately known.

Israeli aircraft later dropped missiles at guerilla targets in the area, killing two Hamas fighters.

The incident took place close to the Bureij refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, which has been a site of frequent clashes between guerillas and the occupation army.

Deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas and a Fatah spokesman both condemned the Israeli operation and urged Palestinians to fight back.

"We assert that our people have the full right to defend themselves and to confront these aggressions," Mr Haniyeh said.

Hamas officials said that, along Gaza's northern border with Israel, about 15 tanks and three bulldozers had moved into Palestinian farms and were levelling the land. The army claimed that it had no such vehicles in the area.

In Gaza City, about 400 civil servants were prevented from entering their offices as part of the power struggle between the Palestinian government in the West Bank, which is loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Hamas rulers of Gaza.

The Hamas-dictated working week in Gaza runs from Saturday to Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday assigned as the weekend.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently said that the Palestinian working week would run from Sunday to Thursday, as it does in Israel.

Hamas forces barred people from entering government offices on Thursday, saying that they were closed because it was the official weekend.

Most Palestinian civil servants are loyal to Fatah.

ed iglehart said...

Hi JP,
Thanks for that. It's sure distressing. I'll respect your request, and it would be good to see you here, as long as you don't berate me as a gentrifier of a formerly diverse and productive agricultural enterprise. It was dead on its feet when we got here, due to the well-intentioned but disastrous industrialisation of agriculture. Now it looks like a suburban garden (without neighbours), but the biodiversity may well have increased....

In friendship and peace,
ed

P.S. Here's the BBC version:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6272188.stm

ed iglehart said...

Here's the BBC version

Anonymous said...

Case for a boycott
(Friday 29 June 2007)
ROBERT GRIFFITHS

ROBERT GRIFFITHS explains why he believes that opponents of an Israel boycott have got it wrong.

UNITED States plans for the so-called "greater Middle East" do not include an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state which can act in the interests of the Palestinian people.

The key objectives of US foreign policy in the region are to ensure reliable supplies of oil, to maintain pro-US regimes and remove those which do not comply with US diktats, to redraw national boundaries to produce a patchwork of weak client states, to spread US military bases and facilities up to the borders of China, Russia and India and, eventually, to create a "free trade" area from Pakistan to north Africa in which US corporations are free to buy up energy resources and infrastructure.

If Tony Blair needs a written job description as Middle East envoy for the Quartet, a posting forced on the EU, UN and Russia by his employer President Bush, this is it.

The chief objective of the Israeli ruling class, which is pursued by all three major electoral parties, has been to ensure that any future Palestinian state is hopelessly fragmented, divided and dependent.

In 2005, nearly 200 Palestinian trade union, women's, youth, legal, cultural and community organisations called for a worldwide non-violent campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international human rights law. The initiative came originally from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and the PLO-affiliated General Union of Palestinian Workers.

Supporters of Israeli expansionism launched a ferocious counter-attack, joined by some well-meaning but confused supporters of the Palestianian cause.

Some of their objections to the proposed trading, cultural, academic and sports boycott have a familiar ring to them.

First, there is the practical point that such boycotts do not work or that they are ineffectual unless carried out on a wide scale nationally and internationally.

It is true that boycotts did not bring down the dictatorships of General Pinochet or the Greek colonels. The biggest international boycott of recent times - that against apartheid South Africa - played less of a part in winning an historic victory than the internal mass struggle.

When it began in the late 1950s, the boycott movement was small and very uneven. Governments, business and their hired academics and commentators poured scorn on it. Some anti-apartheid campaigners within as well as outside South Africa expressed doubts and even opposition.

But the campaign highlighted the inhumanity of the apartheid system and boosted the morale of the liberation movement.

Eventually, the movement to boycott South Africa and disinvest funds influenced the policies of national governments, international institutions and major transnational corporations. After a period of intransigence and sanctions, Afrikaaner unity began to crumble and National Party politicians were eventually compelled to negotiate seriously with the ANC.

Former head of the ANC military wing and current government minister Ronnie Kasrils has joined the Jewish Not in My Name campaign in South Africa.

"I support the call now for the isolation and the boycott of Israel, I support sanctions," he told reporters at a street protest in Cape Town. "That is actually in the interests of all the people - Muslims, Jews and Christians - in the Middle East because the sooner we can stop this conflict, the sooner we can get to negotiations, to a settlement for peace and a recognition of the Palestinian people's national rights."

Recalling the ANC appeal to British academics for a boycott of South African academia, he has also written that "the boycotts and sanctions ultimately helped liberate both blacks and whites."

Second, it is argued that a boycott of Israeli products and institutions will strengthen the most intransigent elements in Israeli society and so harm the Palestinians themselves, especially those who travel to work in Israel.

In the short term, these consequences are probably unavoidable. But for those Palestinian workers and students crossing the border checkpoints, how much more wretched can life become? The arbitary closures, humiliations, beatings and arrests will continue regardless, as will the periodic shut-downs of Palestinian universities.

Most bodies representing Palestinian workers and students in the occupied territories and Israel proper are fully aware of the further sacrifices they will have to make if a boycott policy bites, yet they still urge the world's peoples and governments to carry it out.

The international economic, financial, cultural, tourist and diplomatic isolation of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' has ultimately strengthened the forces for reconciliation and unity in the north of the island, while maintaining the resolve of Cypriots in the south, including the many thousands driven from their homes by the Turkish invasion of 1974.

Third, objections are raised that a boycott is not supported by progressive Israelis and their organisations and may even alienate them to the detriment of the Palestinian people.

The Socialist Party argues that a boycott would "alienate Israel workers, who are the only force capable of removing the brutal Israeli regime and spearheading the reaching of a lasting settlement with the Palestinian people."

It continues by arguing that capitalist politicians are using the boycott issue to drive workers into the arms of the Israeli right.

"Whereas, in the case of South Africa, a majority of black workers there supported international sanctions against the ruling white elite," we are reminded, "Israeli workers are not in agreement with sanctions against Israel."

In fact, there are considerable risks for any Jews and Arabs within Israel - and for their institutions - who publicly support a boycott or other sanctions. Some do, nonetheless.

Even if they do not, the point of principle is not whether Israelis support a boycott of Israel or whether it harms the economic interests of Israeli workers or disrupts the studies of Israeli students. Who ever objected to sanctions against South Africa on the grounds that the white Federation of South African Labour opposed them?

Rather, the primary question is, what do the Palestinian people - the victims of the oppression at issue - call for?

This has to be starting point for solidarity action on our part, not what is in the short-term interests of the Israeli people or even what we perceive to be in the best interests of the Palestinian people.

This does not mean that we suspend our own critical faculties, still less that we act in ways which breach our own fundamental principles of working-class solidarity, social emancipation and mass struggle rather than individual terrorism aimed at civilians.

Certainly, active support from Israeli workers would enormously assist the Palestinians.

The Israeli Histadrut trade union federation has recently organised a wave of strikes on economic and social issues. But it has never lifted a finger against any of the invasions, occupations or massacres perpetrated by the Israeli state.

Its abject failure to defend even the most basic human rights of Palestinian migrant workers has led the PGFTU to call on the trade union movement internationally to sever relations with Histadrut.

At the same time, the boycott, disinvest and sanctions campaign does not propose that political and trade union links with supportive organisations in Israel should be broken.

Fourth, some opponents of a boycott object that Israel is being singled out for special opprobrium, others hinting that this reflects a latent anti-semitism. Yet sanctions have been proposed by left and progressive opinion against military and authoritarian regimes in Burma, Turkey, Indonesia, Colombia and Malaysia. There could be no objection in principle to the victims of British or US imperialism calling for a boycott or sanctions against Britain or the US.

What makes Israel a paramount target is the sheer scale and brutality of its oppression, which is committed in the face of countless UN resolutions, as well as international charters and conventions in defence of basic human rights.

That is not to say that there are not fascist and other deeply reactionary elements which grasp every opportunity to peddle their anti-Jewish filth under the cover of attacking Israel or "zionism." This means that great care must be taken when considering the rationale and content of measures aimed against Israeli state and government policy. It also requires campaigners to exclude fascist and anti-Jewish elements from the Palestinian solidarity movement.

Attempts will also be made by unscrupulous supporters of Israeli expansionism to paint all pro-Palestinian campaigners as witting or unwitting dupes of fascists and anti-semites.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty dishonestly implies that all supporters of a boycott are members of a "kitsch left," which is in alliance with Isamic clerical fascists and opposed to Israel's very existence.

The tragedy is that Israeli state terrorism is daily eroding the material basis for the two-state solution which most of the left and the labour movement in Britain wishes to see.

Boycotts and sanctions will not on their own bring about the establishment of a viable, sovereign and independent Palestinian state alongside a secure and sovereign Israel. But they immediately help to highlight the plight of the Palestinians, the vileness and illegality of Israeli policies and the hypocrisy of the main imperialist powers who collaborate in the crushing of a whole people.

Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain.

Anonymous said...

Proletarian issue 18 (June 2007)
Support the Palestinian unity government
Economic terrorism and political dirty tricks continue in the latest attempts by imperialists and zionists to divide Palestinians against each other and inspire a civil war.
Since the Palestinian general elections of January last year – widely applauded by all independent observers for the high levels of participation and the absence of coercion – life for the Palestinian people has gone from bad to worse, with Israel and its backers in the ‘international community’ stepping up their campaign of economic terrorism and political dirty tricks.

Having noisily denounced Arafat and the Palestinian Authority for years on account of their supposed lack of democracy, the good folks in Washington, London and Tel Aviv decided that, in fact, they had invested the parliamentary process with undue veneration. The reason for this sea change was, of course, the unexpected victory of Hamas, which gained 76 of the 132 seats.

Hamas had consistently maintained military pressure on Israel, at a time when the Palestinian population was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the willingness of the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas to toe the line of Israel and the US. The vote for Hamas was a vote for continued resistance to occupation and against the one-sided compromises that have characterised Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004.

Israel and its backers quickly came up with a plan to punish the Palestinian electorate and to destabilise the Hamas-led government. The first step of this programme was economic: international aid from the US and the EU was completely stopped; payment of monies collected by Israel (now amounting to nearly $1bn) was stopped; economic sanctions were implemented. The policy is, basically, to starve the Palestinians into submission.

As a result, 70 percent of the Gazan workforce is now without work or pay; 51 percent of Palestinians depend on food aid (up from 37 percent a year ago); 64 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line (this has grown from 20 percent in 1998 and 54 percent in 2005); and the number of people living on less than 50 cents a day nearly doubled in 2006 to over 1 million. The conditions for ending this economic terrorism? ‘Recognise’ Israel and renounce violent resistance to the occupation.

World Food Programme spokesperson Kirstie Campbell described Gazan life in the following terms:

“They long to work and provide for their families, to feed and clothe them, to send them to school and occasionally to share small family luxuries like a meal out.

“Instead, almost eighty percent of the population is now living hand-to-mouth. Many women have sold their dowries and almost every family suffers from debt and has absent or sick relatives linked to the conflict.

“Few elements of life as people knew it remain. Recreational activities for children are largely a thing of the past.” (‘Gaza ripped apart by violence and in need of help’, www.wfp.org, 17 May 2007)

Meanwhile, Israel’s unilateral Gaza ‘disengagement’ in 2005 has not resulted in an easing off of the violence of occupation. Israel continues to seize land, expand settlements, build the illegal separation wall, assassinate Palestinian leaders, and use indiscriminate violence against the Palestinian population.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign General Secretary Betty Hunter, writing in the Morning Star of 14 May 2007, noted: “In the past year, the Israeli army has fired thousands of rockets and shells into Gaza destroying vital infrastructure including water and electricity facilities and aid projects worth millions of dollars with severe humanitarian consequences. The army carries out nightly raids in Palestinian towns and cities. In the first week of May, there were 37 military incursions with three Palestinians killed, 13 wounded (including 7 children) and 64 arrests (figures from Palestinian Centre for Human Rights). On 8 May 2007 alone, in addition to seven military incursions across the West Bank, the army moved into East Jerusalem and besieged the building of al-Nojoum Association for Disabled Children, forcing the children and supervisors out and then demolished the building. Elsewhere on the same day a number of Israeli settlers set fire to over 40 acres of Palestinian agricultural land planted with olives and citrus belonging to Akkaba village.” (‘Besieged Palestinians need international grassroots support’)

Israel and the US, unhappy with the outcome of Palestinian democracy, are doing everything they can to make life so difficult for the Palestinian people that they admit defeat and abandon their support for Hamas (or, more specifically, for resistance to Israeli occupation). After only a few months, the US was pushing for repeat elections, in the hope that the Palestinians would have come to their senses.

However, the Palestinian population made it very clear that they would not accept early elections and that they would not be budging from their support for Hamas. Through 60 years of occupation, expulsion and resistance, the Palestinian people have learned how to cope in a crisis, and have developed sufficient savvy and resolve not to fall into the traps laid for them by Israel and its backers.

US/Israeli plot foiled by Mecca Agreement

Once it became clear that the Palestinian population would not be coerced by starvation alone into dropping its support for Hamas, Israel and the US turned their attentions to deepening the divisions between Hamas and Fatah, with a view to igniting a civil war, thereby rendering the entire Palestinian national liberation movement impotent.

The main technique employed in pursuit of this aim has been to supply the President’s (Abbas’s) office (as opposed to the Palestinian Authority as a whole) with money and arms, on the condition that these arms are used not to resist Israeli occupation but to crack down on militant groups. Thus Fatah starts to be seen as an arm of the Israeli state, and Hamas starts to resist them accordingly.

It’s fair to say that Israel and its imperialist backers have had some success with these tactics. The beginning of this year saw a considerable escalation of tension between Hamas and Fatah, in some cases leading to gun battles between the groups.

However, much to the irritation of the US and Israeli administrations, Abbas clearly realises that he cannot simply bypass Hamas – the Palestinian people are strongly tuned into what’s going on, and they will not stand for it. It is to Abbas’s credit that he finally went off-message, engaging in negotiations with Hamas leaders that led to the signing of the Mecca Agreement between Fatah and Hamas on 8 February 2007.

Under this agreement, the two parties agreed to an immediate cessation of hostilities and the formation of a government of national unity. News of this agreement was greeted with jubilation in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas leader Khaled Meeshal summed the agreement up as follows:

“The Mecca agreement has laid the foundations for a power-sharing process that will produce a functioning government capable of attending to our people’s needs. It will also pave the way for rebuilding the PLO to include all the factions and become the legitimate representative of all Palestinian people. The partnership born out of the Mecca meeting is possible because of the consensus among the Palestinians that their primary objective is to win their freedom, and that their struggle should be solely against occupation.”

A new unity government was inaugurated on 17 March. In his speech at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh defined the overall aim for the new administration as being to build a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967, saying. “The government will work with the international community to put an end to the occupation and recover the legitimate rights of our people.” Haniyeh further declared that “resistance in all its forms, including popular resistance to occupation, is a legitimate right”. (Quoted in ‘Palestinian unity cabinet approved’, Al Jazeera Online, 17 March 2007)

Needless to say, the formation of the unity government and the militant principles upon which it is founded have caused considerable consternation in the US State Department. Israeli daily Haaretz of 20 March 2007 reported:

“[US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice, who will visit the Palestinian territories and Israel in the coming days, said she wanted clarity from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over what he meant when he said the Palestinian people had a ‘right to resistance,’ a phrase in the new government’s platform that has rankled Israel and others.

“‘I am not going to try to interpret what the right of resistance means, but I’ll tell you it doesn’t sound very good to me when one talks about all forms of resistance,’ Rice said.

“‘So I would put the question to the Palestinian government and to its prime minister - do you mean the right of resistance by violence? And let’s get an answer.’” (‘Israeli officials welcome Quartet decision to maintain PA boycott’)

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, urged governments to continue the aid embargo and to boycott the unity government.

The cold response of the so-called international community to the setting up of the unity government exposes very clearly the intentions of the imperialists: to create maximum division in the ranks of the Palestinians.

The US administration all but ignored the new government, and is still boycotting it, although it has said that it will have individual dealings with certain non-Hamas members. Very shortly after the Mecca Agreement was signed, the US resumed its pressure on Abbas and the moderates within Fatah, and it is widely speculated that this pressure led to the appointment of Mohammed Dahlan, a Fatah figure in Gaza known to have good relations with Israel and the US and with a track record of ‘clamping down’ on Hamas, to lead the newly re-established Palestinian National Security Council, which is intended to oversee all security services in the Palestinian territories.

This appointment immediately provoked an angry response from Hamas. Haaretz reported:

“Hamas, in its first public rift with Fatah since forming a Palestinian unity government, accused Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday of illegally appointing one of the Islamist group’s long-time foes as his national security adviser.

“‘Hamas sees the step by President Mahmoud Abbas to appoint Mohammed Dahlan, a lawmaker, as his adviser for the national security as a violation of Palestinian law,’ Hamas said in a statement. ‘We urge President Abbas to go back to the law and to examine the decision accordingly.’” (‘Hamas slams Abbas’ decision to appoint Dahlan as security chief’, 20 March 2007)

‘Benchmark’ document

The policy of sowing divisions between Fatah and Hamas, by publicly treating certain Fatah moderates as its favourite sons and by attempting to suffocate Hamas, remains the principal strategy of the US.

In early May, the US released a plan entitled the ‘Benchmark Document’, which envisages delivering “a strong blow to Hamas by supplying the Palestinian people with their immediate economic needs through the presidency and Fatah”. (Cited in ‘Document details “US” plan to sink Hamas’ Asia Times Online, 16 May 2007)

BBC News Online of 8 May 2007 summarised the main points of the plan as follows:

1. Bus service linking Gaza and West Bank by 1 July 2007.

2. PA to develop plan to end rocket fire by 21 June 2007.

3. Israel to remove roadblocks in West Bank by early- to mid-June.

4. Palestinian security services under control of Abbas by 15 June 2007.

5. Israel and the Palestinians re-establish the coordination and liaison office.

In essence: if you stop rocket attacks on Israel and get Hamas under control, we’ll ask Israel to pull down some checkpoints. There is no mention of the expansion of Israeli settlements (which is continuing at an alarming rate), or the question of the apartheid wall currently being built by Israel.

Ironically, the first public denunciation of this pitifully weak plan came from Ehud Olmert, who stated that US was offering too many concessions from Israel and that these would be detrimental to Israel’s security!

Abbas took a position of guarded support for the plan: “We think that there are important steps in this plan to stabilise security and end the suffering of our people … We ask Israel to respond favourably.” (BBC News Online, 8 May 2007)

However, the document has been widely criticised by many Palestinian politicians, and Hamas has stated a clear policy of opposition. Haaretz of 5 May 2007 reported: “Meshal told a rally in Syria on Friday that the Palestinians should not agree to halt rocket fire in exchange for an easing of travel restrictions. ‘I swear it’s a farce ... the equation has now become: dismantling the checkpoints, in exchange for [giving up] resistance … This has become the Palestinian cause.’”

Nonetheless, the US is insistently pushing its plan. On 23 May, Reuters reported that the Bush administration was likely to ask Congress for $27m in unspent funds to strengthen Abbas’s security forces. In written testimony submitted to a congressional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said: “We will likely seek your approval for the use of available FY2006 carry-over funds ... to further support President Abbas as he works to enforce law and order … The recent violence in Gaza, and the resulting Palestinian and Israeli casualties, has highlighted the importance of this program.”

Abbas and the Fatah leaders around him are being pulled in two very different directions. On the one hand, Hamas and the Palestinian population are pulling them towards unity, collective resistance and a joint diplomacy strategy; on the other hand, the US is luring them with arms, authority and development money. As long as they continue to accept the pitiful offers being put on the table by the US, and inasmuch as they perform their assigned task of ‘cracking down’ on the militant Palestinian resistance, they are serving to divide the Palestinian movement. Indeed, despite the Mecca Agreement, over 50 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Hamas and Fatah in the early part of May.

The Palestinian people are very clear that they will not be drawn into civil war, and Hamas has been very careful not to act rashly in response to provocation. Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’s deputy politburo head, said in a statement to the press that civil war “is absolutely rejected by all Palestinian parties”. (Cited in ‘Factions ratchet up Gaza violence’, Financial Times, 16 May 2007)

With the Mecca Agreement, the Palestinian people have once more expressed their unshakable determination to achieve their goals of a Palestinian state and recognition of the right to return of refugees, and they will not be thrown off course by imperialist meddling and Israeli efforts to split their movement and dissolve it into civil war. If Abbas and the Fatah leadership are not to be sidelined, they must honour the Mecca Agreement and continue making steps towards lasting unity within the Palestinian camp.

Then if the US, EU and Israel still refuse to end sanctions, to recognise the unity government and to resume meaningful negotiations with the Palestinian government, they can expect nothing other than a return to large-scale military resistance from the Palestinians – the recent increase in rocket attacks into Israel, and the ending of Hamas’s five-month ceasefire in response to Israeli escalation in Gaza, provide adequate proof of this.

The struggle continues.



Postscript: Hamas officials detained, 30+ Palestinians killed in raids

In the early hours of 24 May 2007, over 30 senior officials from Hamas were taken prisoner by Israel. Those taken, mainly in Nablus, include Palestinian education minister Nasser al-Shaer, three lawmakers and three mayors. Israel’s only public reason for this outrageous behaviour was that the officials allegedly supported the firing of rockets into Israel. An extraordinary justification! The Palestinians are a people under occupation and have every right under international law to defend themselves against that occupation. The huge majority of members in the Israeli Knesset support the genocidal behaviour of the Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces toward the Palestinian population – would the Israeli government support a move by Palestinians to detain these parliamentarians?

On the same night, more than 30 Palestinians, at least 11 of them civilians, died in Israeli missile strikes. Again, the ostensible purpose of these missile strikes was to discourage rocket attacks on Israel.

The reader will note that the total human damage caused by Hamas’s recent rocket attacks has been one death and around 20 wounded. This does not compare with the dozens of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in recent weeks. Yes, the Palestinian rocket attacks cause havoc in parts of Israel – evacuations and general panic. But this does not compare with the physical and psychological torture that characterises the illegal Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank – the suffocation of the entire Palestinian people.

The rocket attacks are a perfectly justifiable and inventive measure of self-defence by the Palestinians. The only way Israel can stop these attacks and help to create peace and stability in the region is by sitting at the negotiating table with the elected Palestinian leadership and accepting the creation of a Palestinian state constituting the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (with the settlements removed, the apartheid wall pulled down and with the right of return for Palestinian refugees expelled from Israel at gunpoint).

Victory to the Intifada!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed. Hope you find this relevant to your tax discussions with our friend in the anorak. Have a great weekend- may the only balistics be herbalistic!!! om

KELVIN HOPKINS sets out the progressive case for more taxation, more borrowing and a clampdown on tax evasion.

THERE is a myth that countries must compete to attract foreign investment by cutting tax rates for companies and by offering other tax-based incentives. There is no evidence for this claim.

In fact, strong public investment in education and skills training and in transport infrastructure is more important.

The 2005 OECD Economic Survey of the UK recommended that the government should "raise the general skill level of the workforce" and "improve transport infrastructure ... an unreliable rail system, which may be holding back productivity."

This analysis was echoed by the European Competitiveness Index, which found that those regions ranked bottom "lacked the economic and industrial infrastructure that is a feature of Europe's most competitive regions" and that the most successful region had "unique levels of public-sector investment."

Tax competition does not improve productivity, but simply increases the returns to capital by enabling companies to free-ride on public services. Business benefits greatly from public services, enjoying a healthy, educated and productive workforce with the financial means to buy the products of business.

Public finance for public investment is very much cheaper than alternative private investment, such as the extremely expensive PFI schemes.

Recent academic analysis by Manchester University suggests that PFI schemes committed so far will cost the taxpayer £93bn more than the equivalent public investment. Moreover, there is no rational case for holding down public investment and seeking to replace it with private finance. Britain is alone in its obsession with private finance and opposition to government borrowing for investment.

If the British government simply functioned at Sweden's level of debt (see table below right), this would provide another £110bn for public investment. There would be no difficulty borrowing to these levels, as the money markets are always happy to lend to government at low rates of interest because such lending is secure and risk-free.

Very successful economies such as Sweden not only have much higher levels of taxation funding much higher levels of public expenditure but also maintain much higher levels of public borrowing. There is absolutely no logic in Britain insisting on expensive private investment instead of cheap public borrowing, any more than there is for holding down public expenditure and taxation as a proportion of GDP.

But the debate about public expenditure cannot be divorced from the equally important debate about how the money is raised. Over the last 10 years, there has been an excessive and widening disparity in incomes between the rich and poor. By adhering to Thatcherite tax policy, the Blair administration is the only post-war Labour government that has overseen an increase in inequality.

Even with various reforms, the poverty rate for working adults remains at 19 per cent. A clear majority of the population believes that the government has a responsibility to reduce inequality.

It is generally assumed that our present tax system is progressive - in that it takes a higher proportion of the incomes of the rich than the poor.

This is only true, however, of direct taxes on income and wealth, primarily income tax. Indirect taxes such as VAT or taxes on alcohol and tobacco fall more heavily on the poor. In 2003-4, indirect taxes took 28 per cent of the income of the poorest fifth of households, but only 11 per cent of the top fifth. This more than offset the fact that the poorest fifth paid 10 per cent of their incomes in direct tax, as compared with 25 per cent for the top fifth. Over the income scale as a whole, the tax system is at best proportional rather than progressive.

Another highly regressive tax is council tax, which the Left Economics Advisory Panel of radical and Labour economists advocates should be abolished and replaced with a land value tax (LVT).

The poorest 10 per cent of the population currently lose 9.1 per cent of their income to council tax, whereas the wealthiest 10 per cent lose only 1.5 per cent. LVT would replace council tax and national non-domestic rates at a rate of approximately 1 per cent of capital value, with the revenue going to local authorities. Owner and tenant-occupied homes will be entitled to a home allowance, setting a threshold before LVT is charged.

To pay for necessary public spending increases, additional revenues beyond increased taxes on the rich will be required. There are a number of potential sources of this additional revenue and a good first step would be to close the enormous "tax gap" between tax actually paid and that which should be paid.

A concerted attack on tax evasion and avoidance is essential. Together, these contribute to the tax gap, which has been estimated at between £97bn and £150bn a year.

Even a modest dent in these vast sums would bring considerable benefits to Treasury funds.

Kelvin Hopkins is Labour MP for Luton North and a member of LEAP. Download the LEAP Alternative Budget at www.l-r-c.org.uk
How growth can be achieved by expanding public spending:

Country: Public spending as % GDP - % GDP growth 2006

Sweden: 57.1 - 3.5
Denmark: 53.8 - 2.7
Finland: 50.6 - 3.3
UK: 45.4 - 2.4

Source: OECD
Government debt 2006

Country: Government gross financial liabilities as % of nominal GDP

Sweden: 60.9
Finland: 54.9
UK: 51.2
Germany: 71.4
France: 77.5
Italy: 126.8
Japan: 160.5

ed iglehart said...

YO JP!

Thanks for all the stuff! It's welcome. I'll probably do a new blog post so's any more you send doesn't get lost!

Victory to the Intifada!
Yours Aye
ed

Anonymous said...

Israel will free 250 prisoners
(Sunday 08 July 2007)

THE Israeli cabinet approved the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners on Sunday, in a gesture of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle against his Hamas rivals.

However, Israeli officials said that the government had not yet finalised the list of prisoners to be freed or the timing of the release.

Palestinian officials deplored the failure of Israel to co-ordinate the release with them.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to the prisoner release at a June 25 summit with Mr Abbas as part of Israel's policy of bolstering the Palestinian president and his Fatah movement following Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip last month.

But implementation has been delayed by wrangling with security officials over who should be freed.

"We want to use every means that can strengthen the moderates within the Palestinian Authority, to encourage them to take the path that we believe can create conditions for the start of meaningful discussions," Mr Olmert said at the opening of the meeting.

Israel is holding roughly 10,000 Palestinian prisoners.

The prisoner release would be the first since February 2005, when Israel freed 500 in a similar action aimed at supporting Mr Abbas following his election as Palestinian president.

Mr Olmert said that none of the prisoners had "blood on their hands," adding that the release had been cleared with ministers and security officials.

Cabinet ministers approved the release by a vote of 18 to six, government spokesman David Baker said.

Top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said: "We have not been consulted on this release," adding that Israel had rejected calls to convene a joint committee of prisoners.

The Palestinians have urged Israel to release some of the most prominent prisoners, including top Fatah official Marwan Barghouti,who is serving life sentences for involvement in five murders.

Israel has rejected calls for Mr Barghouti's release, although Mr Olmert has said that the prisoners will come from Mr Abbas's Fatah movement.

Palestinian Information Minister Riad Maliki said that he expected the 250 prisoners to be former military men from pro-Fatah security forces.

"If it was in our hands to chose, we would have chosen a group that more fairly represented the body of Palestinian prisoners, from all political groups," Mr Maliki said.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that a release of Fatah prisoners showed that Mr Abbas was collaborating with Israel.

"He should have refused any release unless it includes all Palestinian prisoners," he said.

Hamas has been demanding the release of hundreds of prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier who was captured more than a year ago.

Anonymous said...

Arab League mission to visit Israel for peace talks
(Sunday 08 July 2007)

THE foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan are expected to lead an Arab League mission to Israel this week for talks on a pan-Arab peace initiative, which will be the first visit to Israel by an official delegation from the 22-country organisation, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

An Israeli official said on Sunday that Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit were expected in Jerusalem "within a few days" for talks on the Arab peace proposal and how to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.

Israeli press reports said that the Arab ministers would arrive on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

The Arab plan proposes full Arab recognition of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from lands it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

It was originally launched in Saudi Arabia in 2002 and revived at an Arab League summit in Riyadh in March this year.

Israel has welcomed the peace plan in principle, but it rejects proposals such as a right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Anonymous said...

URI AVNERY

EHUD OLMERT is the opposite of King Midas. Everything that the king touched turned into gold, according to Greek legend. Everything that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert touches turns into lead. And that is no legend.

Now, he is touching Mahmoud Abbas. He lauds him to high heaven. He promises to "strengthen" him.

If I might offer some advice to Abbas, I would call out to him: "Run! Run for your precious life! One touch of Olmert's hand will seal your fate!"

Can Abbas be saved? I don't know. Some of my Palestinian friends are in despair.

They grew up in Fatah and Fatah is their home. They are secularists. They are nationalists. They definitely do not want a Islamic regime in their homeland.

But, in the present conflict, their heart is with Hamas. Their mind is split. And that is not surprising.

They hear the words of President Bush, of Olmert and of the whole babbling choir of Israeli politicians and pundits. And they draw the inescapable conclusion - the US and the Israelis are working hard to turn Abbas into an agent of the occupation and the Fatah movement into a militia of the occupier.

Every word now emanating from Washington and Jerusalem confirms this suspicion. Every word widens the gap between the Palestinian street and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The new "emergency government" in Ramallah is headed by a person who received 2 per cent of the vote at the last election in 2005, when the list of Abbas himself was soundly beaten by Hamas, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank, too.

No "easing the restrictions" and no "economic steps" will help. Not the return of the Palestinian tax money that was embezzled by the Israeli government. Not the flow of European and US aid. As early as 80 years ago, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the most extreme zionist, made fun of the zionist leaders who tried to buy off the Palestinian people by offering economic inducements. A people cannot be bought.

If Abbas can be saved at all, it is in one way only - by the immediate start of rapid and practical negotiations for achieving a peace settlement, with the declared aim of setting up a Palestinian state in all the occupied territories, with east Jerusalem as its capital. Nothing less.

But that is exactly what the government of Israel is not prepared to do. Not Olmert. Not Tzipi Livni. Not Ehud Barak.

If they had been ready to do this,, they or their predecessors would have done so long ago. Barak could have arranged it with Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Ariel Sharon could have agreed it with Abbas, after Abbas was elected president with a huge majority.

Olmert could have settled it with Abbas after Sharon left the scene. He could have done it with the unity government that was set up under Saudi auspices.

They didn't. Not because they were fools and not because they were weak. They did not do it simply because their aim was the exact opposite - annexation of a large part of the West Bank and the enlargement of the settlements. That's why they did everything to weaken Abbas, who was designated by the US as the "partner for peace." In the eyes of Sharon and his successors, Abbas was more dangerous than Hamas, which was defined by the US as a "terrorist organisation."

It is impossible to understand the latest developments without going back to the "separation plan" in Gaza.

Last week, some sensational disclosures were published in Israel. They confirm the suspicions that we had from the start - that the "separation" was nothing but a ploy, part of a programme with a hidden agenda.

Sharon had a master plan with three main elements - a) turning the Gaza Strip into a separate and isolated entity led by Hamas, b) turning the West Bank into an archipelago of isolated cantons led by Fatah and c) leaving both territories under the domination of the Israeli military.

This would explain Sharon's insistence on a "unilateral" withdrawal. On the face of it, it seems illogical. Why not speak in advance with the Palestinian Authority? Why not ensure the orderly transfer of power to Abbas? Why not transfer to the authority all the settlements intact, with their buildings and greenhouses? Why not open wide all the border crossings? Indeed, why not enable the Palestinians to open the Gaza airport and build the Gaza sea port?

If the aim had been to achieve a peace settlement, all this would have happened. But, since the complete opposite was done, it can be assumed that Sharon wanted things to work out roughly as they did - the collapse of the authority in Gaza, the takeover of the strip by Hamas, the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

To this end, Sharon cut Gaza off from any land, sea and air contact with the world, kept the border passages closed almost continuously and turned Gaza into the largest prison in the world.

The supply of food, medicines, water and electricity is completely dependent on the goodwill of Israel, as is the operation of the border crossing to Egypt - with the help of a European monitoring unit controlled by the Israeli army - all imports and exports, and even the registration of inhabitants.

It must be made clear that this is not a new policy. The cutting off of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank has been a military and political objective of Israeli governments for many years.

Article IV of the 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles states unequivocally: "The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved during the interim period." Without this, Arafat would not have accepted the agreement.

Later on, Shimon Peres invented the slogan "Gaza first." The Palestinians adamantly refused. In the end, the Israeli government gave in and, in 1994, it signed the "agreement concerning the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area."

In the same agreement, Israel undertook to open a "safe passage" between Gaza and the West Bank. And not only one, but four, which were marked on a map appended to the agreement. Immediately afterwards, road signs with the Arab inscription "to Gaza" were set up along West Bank roads.

But, during the 13 years that have passed since then, the passage has not been opened even for one day. When Ehud Barak settled his frame in the prime minister's chair, he fantasised about building the world's longest bridge, at about 25 miles in total, between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Like many of Barak's brilliant ideas, this one died before birth and the passage remained hermetically closed.

The Israeli government has undertaken again and again to fulfil this commitment and recently gave Condoleezza Rice personally a specific and detailed pledge. Nothing happened.

Why? Why did Israel's government take the risk of a manifest, clear-cut, unambiguous and continuous violation of such an important obligation? Why did it go so far as to spit in the eye of a good friend like Condoleezza?

There is only one possible answer - the cutting off of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank is a major strategic aim of the Israeli government and the army, an important step in the historic effort to break the Palestinian resistance to occupation and annexation.

Last week, it seemed that this aim had been achieved.

The official operation to "strengthen" Abbas is a part of this design. In Israel, some feel that their dreams are coming true - the West Bank separated from the Gaza Strip, divided into several enclaves cut off from each other and from the world, much like the bantustans in South Africa in bygone times.

Ramallah as the capital of Palestine, designed to make the Palestinians forget about Jerusalem.

Abbas receiving arms and reinforcements in order to destroy Hamas in the West Bank.

The Israeli army dominating the areas between the towns and operating at will in the towns, too. The settlements growing without hindrance, the Jordan valley completely cut off from the rest of the West Bank, the wall continuing to extend and gobble up more Palestinian land and the government's promise to dismantle the settlement "outposts" remaining a long-forgotten joke.

President Bush is satisfied with "the spread of democracy" in the Palestinian areas and the US military subsidy to Israel is growing from year to year.

From the point of view of Olmert, that is an ideal situation. But will it hold?

The answer is an unqualified "No."

Like all the actions of Bush and Olmert, as well as of their predecessors, it is based on contempt for the Palestinians. This contempt has proven itself many times as a recipe for disaster.

Israeli media outlets, which have turned themselves into propaganda organs for Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan, are already gleefully describing how the hungry inhabitants of Gaza will look with green envy at the well-fed, flourishing inhabitants of the West Bank. They are going to rebel against the Hamas leadership so that a quisling in the service of Israel can be installed there. The people in the West Bank, growing fat on European and US aid money, will be happy to be rid of Gaza and its troubles.

That is pure fantasy. It is much more probable that the anger of the Gaza people will turn against the Israeli prison wardens who are starving them. And the people of the West Bank will not forsake their compatriots languishing in Gaza.

No Palestinian will agree to the separation of Gaza from the West Bank. A party that agreed to that would be shunned by the Palestinian public and a leadership that accepted such a situation would be eliminated.

Israeli policy is torn between two conflicting desires - on the one side, to prevent the events in the Gaza Strip repeating themselves in the West Bank, where a Hamas takeover would be immensely more dangerous and, on the other side, to prevent Abbas from succeeding to such an extent that the US would oblige Olmert to negotiate seriously with him. As usual, the government is holding the stick by its two ends.

At present, all Olmert's actions are endangering Abbas. His embrace is a bear's embrace and his kiss is the kiss of death.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, peace activist and former Knesset member. He is one of the founders of Gush Shalom, a broad-based Israeli peace group.

Anonymous said...

Hamas hits back after Abbas links it to al-Qaida
(Tuesday 10 July 2007)

PALESTINIAN Islamist movement Hamas denied on Tuesday that it had allowed al-Qaida to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, after President Mahmoud Abbas made the allegation in an Italian television interview.

On Monday, Mr Abbas charged that, "thanks to the support of Hamas, al-Qaida is entering Gaza," but he offered no evidence for his allegation.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Mr Abbas of trying to whip up animosity against Hamas, which vanquished the president's forces in Gaza last month and defeated his Fatah party in 2006 parliamentary elections.

"Hamas has no link to al-Qaida," Mr Abu Zuhri said. Mr Abbas, who leads Fatah, "is trying to mislead international opinion to win support for his demand to deploy international forces in Gaza."

Mr Abbas met Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi on Tuesday and renewed a request for the deployment of an international force in Gaza.

Mr Prodi said that the time was not ripe for such a deployment. Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil said: "We would consider it an occupation force."

ajit8 said...

Hi Ed I,
I hope all is well with you today. I have a comment left on my blog and I thought I would draw attention of the address to you. I'm sure you will find it interesting, if not damn stimulating. Have a good frog, bro.

ajit8 xx

http://worldub.blogspot.com/

ajit8 said...

The last 3 emails have been returned.