Jews must not be bullied into backing Israeli state
After returning from a protest against the outrageous Israeli attacks on the ships carrying supplies to Gaza, I went on Facebook to post my feelings.
All I could think of writing was “Occupation is a crime, Israel out of Palestine”.
Soon afterwards, a couple of my Jewish and Israeli contacts let it be known that I was “letting the side down”.
My Israeli friends say that because I’m Jewish, I have to back the state of Israel no matter what it does. One even typed out the lyrics to the Israeli national anthem – which portrays our supposed hope to be a free nation in “Zion and Jerusalem”.
These lyrics were written in 1878, near the time that the early Zionists were going to Palestine.
It is true that at that time many Jews wanted to be able to make a pilgrimage to Palestine – for similar reasons that devout Muslims would want to journey to Mecca.
Others fled pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe looking for a place to settle where they could be free of persecution. But that’s not the same as wanting to ethnically cleanse the Arabs who already lived there.
The State of Israel has distorted such sentiments to support its illegal and oppressive policies.
But there is a different Jewish value called “tikun olam” – a desire to fix the world.
And so, in this spirit, I call on other Jewish people not to remain silent about the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. We should not be expected to “save face” for the Israeli state.
Michal Nahman, Bristol
What was my union, the CWU, thinking when it allowed the Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) to have a stall at our union conference this month?
We have a good policy of supporting Palestinian rights, and we are affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition, which have a track record of fighting for Palestinian rights and standing up to Israeli aggression.
TUFI on the other hand is little more than a mouthpiece for the Israeli government. It has constantly campaigned against boycotts of Israeli goods. This week it was happy to send round an attack on the Gaza flotilla on behalf of Israeli “unions”.
The statement read, “The conduct of the flotilla’s organisers and their methods of action utterly contradict the cooperation and the responsibility to achieve the goal we all aspire to attain – effective humanitarian assistance for the residents of Gaza.”
Other British trade unions, including Unison, have recently told TUFI that it cannot have a stall at their conferences. I think the CWU should do the same.
Simon Midgley, Area Delivery Rep, Bradford & District CWU
Democracy is dead in Doncaster
The Tory government is set to take over the running of Doncaster after the Audit Commission ruled it the “worst performing council in Britain”.
This verdict came after the deaths of a number of children in council care.
The government says the council is “dysfunctional”, and it is suggested that this is because of inter-party bickering.
However, the real cause of Doncaster’s woes is the mayoral system forced on us by the previous New Labour government.
This was supposed to “fast‑track change” – a euphemism for by-passing local democracy.
An example of this is the way secondary education in the city has been deregulated, with the majority of schools now being either academies or trust schools.
The final nail in the coffin for our democratic system is now being hammered home.
Despite Labour winning back the majority of council seats in the recent elections, we are to be run by Tory‑appointed “commissioners” and a hard right English Democrat mayor – even though his party was trounced in the polls.
Together they will have the power to “appoint, discipline and dismiss officers”.
Sadly we cannot look to Labour to help.
All three Labour MPs and the leader of the Labour group on the council are supporting the government take-over.
They all think Doncaster will be easy meat for further cut‑backs and privatisation.
So it falls on socialists and the local government unions to draw the line in the sand and say “No cuts in Doncaster – tax the rich”.
John Westmoreland, Doncaster
Arise Lord Paisley! After decades of denying Catholics in Northern Ireland basic democratic rights, the arch bigot is to be elevated to the House of Lords.
Who voted for that?
‘Meow meow’ laws are barking up wrong tree
In May this year, following the tragic deaths of teenagers Louis Wainwright and Nicholas Smith, the drug Mephodrone (“meow meow”) quickly went from a “legal high” to a class B drug.
However, recent toxicology reports show that the teenagers hadn’t taken the drug at all.
After hysterical cries from the press and the Middle England party poopers, who worried that young folk were having too much fun legally and cheaply, the government thought it sensible to crack down.
This case illustrates two things well. First, how drug illiterate the press are. This wouldn’t concern me, except that they seem to be the ones making rash decisions on our behalf.
Second, the way that New Labour was only too happy to lap up the rubbish coming from the media and turn it into law.
I believe that substance use has to be measured in its social context. Most young people who use recreational drugs know their potential – both positive and negative – and manage them well.
So let’s get a sense of proportion about this. Seasonal flu kills 36,000 people a year. Some 50 people die a week in Britian in car related accidents. Mephodrone has only been linked to 34 deaths.
The banning of meow meow clearly wasn’t about danger. It was about controlling who buys what products, and who was creaming off the profit.
Siobhan Schwartzberg, East London
When socialists have to take sides
Pat from Richmond asks why the forerunners of the SWP didn’t take sides over the Korean War but supported the national liberation struggle in Vietnam (» Letters, 5 June).
The two wars were very different. In 1954 Vietnam had been partitioned.
Vietnamese Communists were pressured by Russia and China to accept division of the country, though the US acknowledged that the Communists would have won control of the whole country in a free election.
The war in South Vietnam began as a struggle over land by peasants who’d been cheated by inadequate land reform.
North Vietnam was initially reluctant to get involved until the US began bombing the North in 1965.
The Russians gave some military aid to North Vietnam, but were reluctant to get too involved.
As a founder member of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign I well remember how British Communists were fiercely opposed to the slogan “Victory to the National Liberation Front”.
As for the Chinese, in 1972 they welcomed in US president Nixon while the bombs were still falling on Vietnam.
Ian Birchall, North London
We must back Red Shirts
Joel Ormsby makes a classic error in his letter on the Thai Red Shirts by trying to limit socialists’ support for struggles to “perfect workers’ movements” (» Letters, 29 May).
I’m reminded of George Orwell’s commentary on the Spanish Civil War.
He wrote: “I have no particular love for the idealised ‘worker’... but when I see an actual flesh and blood worker in conflict with a policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I’m on.”
I have taught Thai civil servants, all of who were Yellow Shirts.
Their contempt for the Red Shirts was pure class snobbery.
I have no qualms about backing the Red Shirts, and indeed I raised a glass to their burning of a shopping mall in Bangkok.
John Fanning, York
Labour’s left me hopeless
I read John McDonnell’s speech and the interview with Diane Abbott (» Where next for the Labour Party?, 29 May).
And, while I wish them the best of luck in the Labour leadership contest, I can’t help feeling that the party’s left is rudderless.
This should not surprise us.
The right wing – like Ramsay MacDonald in the 1930s and the SDP in the 1980s – are prepared to split.
The left, however, always gives in to calls for “party unity”.
Back in the 1930s Labour leftwingers set up a group called the Socialist League.
After initial success, the leadership asked the League to dissolve itself in the interests of “unity” – and it did.
Sadly, I see John McDonnell keeping left wing activists in the party while the leadership uses them as foot soldiers.
Geoff Kerr-Morgan, Middlesbrough
When bravery is brutality
Israel continues to act no differently to Somali pirates by hijacking ships. It is worth asking what has the state of Israel become?
What kind of country hands out bravery medals to its commandos for killing nine peace activists?
If Iran had done this, the West would be screaming for the seizure of Iranian assets.
Mark Holt, Merseyside
Why Cable is not so ‘cuddly’
It’s worth remembering that government minister and Lib Dem “economic genius” Vince Cable was a director of Shell oil at the time of the execution of Ken Saro‑Wiwa.
Shell, who were drilling for oil in Nigeria, were only too happy to have the pesky human rights activist out of
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire
We need real alternatives
Sadie Robinson’s response to the John Kay’s attack on the SWP in the Financial Times raises some interesting issues (» Why revolution?, 5 June).
Kay accused the party of having poorly defined objectives.
It may be the case that socialists do need to present more detailed proposals if we are to convince people.
And it may be the case, as Sadie suggested, that lasting socialist reforms cannot succeed short of revolutionary change.
This would imply that detailed left policies are a waste of time.
It would also lay socialists open to the charge of campaigning for a manifesto they don’t really believe in.
J O’Brien, Liverpool
Ward should not go Greene
Moya Greene has been asked to take over as head of Royal Mail.
For some reason postal workers union leaders Dave Ward thinks she is okay.
She’s not. She is an arch privatiser with a terrible track record in her native Canada.
Postal worker, by email