Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2134

Activists in Derry have transformed a mural from the Irish civil rights struggle in solidarity with Gaza. The mural at the entrance to the Bogside formerly read “You Are Now Entering Free Derry”

Activists in Derry have transformed a mural from the Irish civil rights struggle in solidarity with Gaza. The mural at the entrance to the Bogside formerly read “You Are Now Entering Free Derry”

Rage against Israel’s terror attacks on Gaza

The news reports from Gaza have reminded me that while politicians posture, it is the civilian people who suffer.

One report showed a young man cradling the dead body of his 12 year old younger brother surrounded by family members united in grief.

The boy and his friend had been playing on the roof of a safe house when they had been singled out and fired at by Israeli troops. The bloodstains could still clearly be seen splattered across the floor and walls of the home.

We are told that Israel’s targets are tunnels, weapons storage facilities and Hamas fighter bases – in reality the targets are schools, hospitals and mosques.

Israeli troops have launched a horrendous ground offensive deep inside Palestinian territory. The fact that Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestinian people is of little significance to Israeli authorities.

The Western media has not been allowed inside Gaza, but pictures and reports are being smuggled out by amateur journalists. These atrocities must be known to the world.

Nothing can justify the systematic slaughter of a captive and unarmed civilian population. The slaughter follows months of blockade, which has prevented essential supplies of food, fuel and medicines from reaching the people in Gaza.

For humanitarian reasons we need to mobilise to campaign for an immediate end to the military assault on Gaza, an end to Israel’s violation of international law and an end to the siege and blockade of Gaza.

Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield 

Five years ago, the George Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction to try to dupe us into supporting an illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq.

Israel has trotted out a hardly more credible excuse – the Hamas rockets – as justification for its own murderous “shock and awe” in Gaza. But this is a long-planned campaign perniciously aimed at ousting a Hamas “regime” that came to power via a popular, democratic vote.

Yes Hamas rockets exist, but they’re little more than slingshots against Israel’s incredible military might – and they’re used out of desperation by Palestinians who’ve never been accorded the democratic space within which to gain redress of their eminently just grievances.

Abu Tareq, Morocco

Israel’s barbaric onslaught against the people of Gaza is the collective punishment of an entire people.

People should have absolutely no doubt that despite the moral, political and military support that Israel receives from the US and Britain that what is being done is illegal under international law.

Israel’s actions are deliberate. After the bombings of Gaza’s university – home to 15,000 students – an Israeli government spokesperson described it as a moral blow.

Israel has bombed prisons, police stations, hospitals and schools. It is a terrorist state that is completely out of control.

Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition

‘Sex work’ is far from liberating

John McEwan is wrong to suggest lapdancing is a sexually liberating job for women (» Letters, 10 January).

The women’s movement was built on the idea of choice – the concept that women should be able to choose their employment and lifestyle.

However our choices are severely limited when we are presented with a list of options that capitalism sells to us.

Economic factors, limited options and low self-worth due to media portrayals of what a woman should be have resulted in some women turning to selling their bodies as objects of sexual desire in lapdancing clubs.

At three minutes of dancing for ten quid, some women may see this as exploitation of men and empowerment of women – but at what point does becoming a commodity become empowering?

Is it when you are forced to parade yourself around a club in ridiculous, barely there “outfits” while men stare at you, touch you and make obscene comments about you?

Is it when you have to gyrate “sexily” over a man’s lap for the length of a song only to be given a pitiful amount of money for essentially what the industry dictates is the value of your self worth?

Or is it when, at the end of the night, the club takes a portion of your wage for you having the “privilege” of selling your body in their venue and you leave with a measly amount of money which is your only solace?

I am not a prude and I don’t believe that women’s sexuality should be silenced in any way.

But the lap dancing industry was not created by women as a vessel for sexual liberation.

It was created by elites who wanted to sell sex in a soft manner and, in doing so, exploit a workforce to turn a nice profit.

If John doesn’t agree then I strongly urge him to speak to a woman who lap dances for a living and ask her if this is what she aspired to do when she was a little girl.

Emma Davies, Manchester

Council inspections are just a sick farce

There has been much publicity about the flawed Ofsted inspection into Haringey council’s social services department.

I know from experience that such Ofsted inspections are a sick farce. They are an exercise in the paperwork world that public sector workers are expected to inhabit and believe in.

In my council, Ofsted gave three months notice of their arrival and notified which files they’d be looking at – of course they don’t meet clients, only files.

This means pressure to make sure all the right bits of paper are filled in and in the right place to make those files look good. Meanwhile the real world, and real clients, can go whistle.

If Egon Ronay gave a restaurant three months notice of his arrival and told them which dish he would order, how much credence would be given to his “inspections” of eating places?

There is less honesty in Thatcher/Blair/Brown’s Britain about how vulnerable clients are being treated than in the assessment of a plate of food.

We should organise as social workers to refuse to cooperate with the farce of Ofsted.

We should let the holes in the service be “discovered” – and demand better staffing and a change of priorities so we can meet our clients’ needs, not the “needs” of governments and employers to cover up their crimes.

A social worker, by email

MPs don’t care about asbestos

I agree that the treatment of asbestos-related pleural plaques sufferers is an absolute disgrace (»  Pleural plaques delay condemned , 20 December).

Maybe we are being hyper-critical of a government schooled by Tony “freebie” Blair in the art of creaming off as much as possible in salary increases, expenses, free holidays and numerous flights abroad, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

After all, how can ministers be expected to give any thought to the trials and tribulations of the common working man when they themselves have never been in the position of having to work for a living?

Being an MP today is merely a stepping stone and means to establish outside connections for their “after parliament” life – as ably displayed by Tony Blair.

Many pleural plaques sufferers are being afflicted with mesothelioma – at which time their life span is so short that any compensation given will be of no benefit to the sufferer, only the dependants.

I wonder what would happen if asbestos was discovered in parliament and the honourable members contracted pleural plaques?

Lawrence Baxter, Whitehaven, Cumbria

Save vital neonatal unit

A campaign has been launched against bed reductions at Dewsbury neonatal unit.

Four of the unit’s 14 cots have been removed due to staff shortages.

It means babies needing intensive care are being transferred 20 miles to Pontefract.

It is ridiculous to expect parents to travel so far to see their own children. It is important to the community to keep the neonatal unit.

The protest group has launched itself on the networking website Facebook and already has more than 1,250 members.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Questions on union leaders

In a very useful short survey of the current state of the public sector unions, Simon Basketter says that it is “a natural tendency of the union leaders... to continually seek compromises with the bosses” (» Where now for the public sector pay fight?, 20 December).

He then goes on to say that “they are afraid of taking on a Labour government”.

Could you explain exactly what the union leaders are afraid of? Also, are they equally afraid of a Tory government?

Tommy Ewing, Liverpool

My tribute to Brian Pearce

Can I thank Ian Birchall for his profile of historian and activist »  Brian Pearce .

I had a personal reason to be sorry to hear the news of Brian’s death – when I was a boy, he lived in our flat and was a kind of resident uncle to me and my brother.

My father, Harold, had met Pearce in the University College London Communist group and was bowled over by his scholarship and analytic mind.

In fact, my father was still mentioning Pearce in the last weeks of his (my father’s) life last year.

They each had gone their separate ways in the late 1950s but I bumped into Brian several times on marches.

I still have one of my favourite children’s books – Til Eulenspiegel – a collection of subversive German folk stories about a peasant jester who plays tricks on local burghers and aristocrats.

It’s a present for me dated 7 May 1949 (my third birthday), signed Brian Pearce.

Michael Rosen, East London

Che’s Cuban tensions

Dayan Jayatilleka asks for evidence of tension between Che Guevara and Fidel Castro (» Letters, 10 January).

There is no record of the final conversations between the two men.

But there were clear tensions – as biographer Jon Lee Anderson spells out – over the direction of Cuba’s development.

Che was increasingly critical of the Russian model of industrial development. At a conference in Algiers in 1965 he also attacked Russia as “accomplices in imperialism”.

The Cuba-Soviet sugar deal Fidel signed in 1964 ensured Cuba’s dependence on Russia and on sugar exports – both of which Che was opposed to.

It is surely no coincidence that Che left Cuba shortly after this for his disastrous missions in Congo and Bolivia.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

Probation role contradictory

Charles Hanson claims that probation officers are a key element of state oppression and that Socialist Worker should not support their fight against privatisation (» Letters, 10 January).

As a criminal justice social worker I believe probation officers have a contradictory role. They act as agents of social control but also provide resources, support and guidance to offenders and their families.

Successful industrial action will encourage other groups to fight.

John Connon, Aberdeen

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Article information

Tue 13 Jan 2009, 18:37 GMT
Issue No. 2134
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