Campaign for Khaled Mudallal
The Israeli Supreme Court last week turned down a petition put forward by Israeli human rights organisations in defence of Palestinian student Khaled Mudallal.
Khaled is supposed to be entering the third year of a business and management degree at the University of Bradford. Instead the Israeli siege has trapped him in Gaza.
The blockade of Gaza has been tightened since Fatah’s coup in the West Bank isolated the democratically elected Hamas government there. With the sabre-rattling from the Israeli right and threats of invasion, the situation in Gaza is only getting worse.
Khaled’s plight is symbolic of the brutality of an occupation that denies Palestinians even the basic rights of free movement and education.
In Britain, students in Bradford and members of the campaign group Action Palestine have set up a campaign to try and pressure our government and Israeli education institutions to protect Khaled’s right to complete his education.
The Trapped in Gaza campaign has launched a petition to Gordon Brown. It has started a campaign of letter writing to the Israeli embassy and our own ministry of education. Already, Palestinian activists have had a victory in the student movement by forcing the National Union of Students to campaign for Khaled.
Assed Baig, a Respect activist in the NUS Black Students’ campaign, said that the passing of motions at Bradford and Staffordshire universities show “that students in this country are aware of the situation, care about it and believe that if this is a students’ issue in Palestine or anywhere in the world then it’s a students’ issue here”.
We would urge everyone to sign the petition to the prime minister and send letters of complaint to the Israeli embassy in London. The petition, model letters and motions, as well as background to Khaled’s case and the campaign can be found at the campaign website.
Andy Cunningham, University of Manchester campaigns officer
When betrayal is for the best
John Newsinger (» Letters, 6 October) rightly attacks the public school educated New Labour toffs who have no understanding of the lives of the ordinary people they claim to represent.
But there is also a proud tradition within our movement of public school educated members of the upper classes who have chosen to be traitors to their class and fight on our side. Three examples are the poet Shelley, Tony Benn and Paul Foot.
Another, whose experience is relevant to your coverage of events in Burma, was a young man born in India because his family were serving the empire in the Indian civil service.
Educated at Eton, he joined the Burma police at the age of 19 in 1922. His experience of the brutality and injustice of British rule so revolted him that he became a staunch anti-imperialist.
His name was Eric Blair, and it was these experiences, described in his novel Burmese Days, that began his transformation into the socialist writer George Orwell. Whatever class you are born into, what matters is what side you are on.
Sarah Cox, North West London
Status of silence
Why haven’t we heard anything from the trade union leaders about the swingeing council workers’ pay cuts in Glasgow and Birmingham, two of Britain’s biggest cities?
The unions promised their members before they voted for the single status agreement that “many will gain but nobody should lose”.
However, the silence continues to be deafening when it comes to condemnation of the life-altering pay cuts and the associated stress-related illnesses many of their members are suffering because of the agreement’s implementation.
The damage to members’ morale and goodwill, revealed in surveys by the employers and professional bodies, similarily doesn’t get a mention from the unions.
The unions seem to have adopted an “equal pay at ANY cost” policy.
This involves the sacrifice of members’ pay.
John Fricker, by email
I refuse to conform
I read the article about the government’s Acceptable Behaviour Contracts for school students and felt nauseous (» A ‘sinister’ measure to criminalise our students, 22 September).
I cannot conform to this government’s ludicrous and cynically insane draconian measure to control people’s lives.
The more resolute I become, the more I stand firm against this government’s policies.
This means that I, and others like me, will be portrayed as anti-social.
Can’t the National Union of Students organise a protest against the misuse of data collected in schools?
I wish there was a god, because then I could exclaim, “God help the younger generation.”
My cheque in support of the Socialist Worker appeal is in the post.
Honor Donnelly, Manchester
Continuing struggle for the right to protest
The attempt to ban the Stop the War march this week has a long lineage in terms of the attitude of the British state to protests and demonstrations.
Parliament may claim to be the mother of democracies but, as far as working people and the left go, that democracy has been hard fought for, hard won, and required a struggle to maintain.
When the Chartists wanted to march to parliament from Kennington Common on 10 April 1848 – to present a petition on the vote – the march was banned.
Revenge was had in May 1867 when home secretary Spencer Walpole banned a march for the vote and mobilised the army. The numbers involved were too great, the protest went ahead and Walpole had to resign. The 1867 Reform Act was the result.
The government tried the same tactics with the early labour and Marxist movement. Rights to protest, meet and sell papers were routinely denied, and contested.
In Hastings before 1914 socialists addressed meetings on the beach from a boat offshore, outside of the local council’s control, to get around bans.
Marches in central London have continued to attract bans – protests against Britain’s occupation of Northern Ireland after 1969 were banned for many years from Trafalgar Square. But, over time, it is the protesters who manage to assert their democratic right to assemble.
Keith Flett, Convenor, London Socialist Historians Group
School helped me understand system
During the recent banking crisis we were treated to speculation about what “the market” will or won’t do – as if it were a force of nature which we can only obey.
That is why I found the recent London dayschool on political economy, organised by the International Socialism journal, to be a refreshing experience.
Over 150 trade unionists, students, academics and others discussed the importance of Marxist theory in understanding capitalism today.
One of the things that came across strongest was the extent of the problems which the system currently faces.
There has been an overall downward trend in global investment by capitalists in the last few decades as profits are squeezed by ever more intensive competition.
The share of wages as a proportion of national income has also been in decline in the European Union, Japan and the US for the last 25 years.
These broader trends help to put into context the demands that groups like the postal workers must accept attacks on their pay and conditions in the name of “market discipline”.
Jonathan Maunder, South London
Mark a radical occupation
february 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the Thames Polytechnic occupation in protest at the then Labour government’s announcement of racist quotas for overseas students.
The college was occupied for three weeks as Woolwich became the centre of radical student politics in Britain. To many it was a defining moment of their student life.
If you took part and are interested in a modest reunion and a celebration with a 1978 theme, perhaps near the old Woolwich Arsenal campus, please email me.
Philip Windeatt, South East London
A very useful NHS article
The article » Why the market is a mortal threat to the NHS (1 September) is very thoughtful.
I have put it up on the website » www.ucl.ac.uk/dementia on the hot topics page.
Margot Lindsay, by email
Revolutionary legacy lives on
It was good to read Yuri Prasad’s excellent article on Indian resistance fighter Bhagat Singh (» The spark of revolt in India, 29 September).
Shocked by the Amritsar Massacre in which British troops killed over 1,000 unarmed Indians, Bhagat Singh led one of the first revolutionary socialist movements against the British occupation of India.
However, the article failed to mention the extraordinary Aamir Khan film Rang De Basanti which tells the Singh story in parallel with a tale of government corruption in modern India.
It recently won the Bollywood oscar for best movie and is described by one reviewer as having “sparked the conscience of the nation”.
The legacy of Bhagat Singh lives on.
Andrew Stephenson, Newhaven
Sign for fresh fruit for poor
This country’s poorest pensioners have to go without food just to heat their homes in winter.
Many pensioners that I come into contact with tell me they often go without food just so they can make ends meet.
This government should bow its head in disgrace.
Pensioners deserve to be able to buy decent fresh food. We must try and do more for our pensioners.
That’s why my carers group set up this online e-petition on the Number 10 Downing Street website » petitions.pm.gov.uk/freshfruitveg
It demands that the government provide an allowance for all pensioners to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
Good nutrition for the elderly is essential. Please sign the petition. Thanks for your support.
Tony Rhodes, by email
US troops hit by loans
US military personnel are the social and economic victims of the system that they defend.
The annual interest rate on private sector loans to US troops has been capped by US government decree at 36 percent.
This has been hailed as a great advance by some of the US military press.
It appears that some military families regret no longer having access to some of the “payday loans” – initially short term loans that were often “rolled-over” into longer loans costing over 400 percent annually.
A study by professors from California State and Florida universities has shown that in almost every state military towns had among the highest rates of “payday lending”.
Military consumers were targeted for these high cost loans, which were in fact also low risk, as the US military heavily penalises the non-repayment of debt.
Is any comment needed?
Nicholas Baykov, Marseille, France