Israel's protests need to break with Zionism
Israelis are taking a lesson in democracy from the “Arab spring”. Since 14 July there have been demonstrations taking place in Israel over housing. The housing crisis has been caused by developers and contractors holding back on building work to drive up rents and prices.
These same developers have become rich from building settlements in the West Bank.
The protesters set up tents in trendy areas of Jerusalem to highlight the disparity between the opulent accommodation of the rich and the lot of workers. There have been mass gatherings of over 100,000 people, and strikes.
This is the first major eruption of class conflict in the history of the state of Israel.
Historically, Israeli workers have been co-opted by Zionist chauvinism. Through the Histradut, the racist trade union federation, most workers were incorporated into a coalition between unions, capital and the state.
After the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the remainder of historic Palestine, Israelis built colonies in the occupied territories.
Israeli workers could improve their situation by taking resources from Palestinians rather than fighting their bosses.
For most of Israel’s history, the oppression of the Palestinians frustrated the emergence of class consciousness among Israeli workers.
But the shift toward neoliberalism during the 1980s meant privatisation and cuts to public spending and the welfare state. This has made a small number of Israelis stupendously wealthy.
Yet poverty has also grown—with a fifth of Israeli families living below the poverty line. This has sharpened class antagonisms.
Until recently Israeli workers responded by moving to the right. Netanyahu’s government seeks to build more houses in the occupied West Bank. Israel spends 15 percent of its housing budget on West Bank settlements, which house only 4 percent of Israelis. So far, the protests have not made that connection.
Partly for this reason, these protests differ from other recent movements in the Middle East. An important component of those revolts is the rejection of imperialism.
But the Israeli working class has long been thoroughly bound up with imperialism. There is no sign of the protests beginning to change that.
Indeed, the process of change in the Middle East cannot centre on uprisings in a Zionist state. It is significant that these protests have followed from a weakening of Israel’s regional position as a result of the Arab revolts.
The radicalisation of the latter is the best way to ensure genuine change in the region.
Israel is potentially at a turning point. Either workers break with Zionism and build solidarity with Palestinians, or the Israeli state will continue to solve class antagonisms by making Palestinians pay the price.
Richard Seymour, North London
The slow death of children's services
During last year’s general election campaign, New Labour’s dogmatic commitment to the market stopped it shouting about one way it had helped working class people.
Children’s centres, set up by Labour’s Sure Start programme, provide family support, play facilities and nurseries for families with young children.
Because all sorts of services are under one roof, accessing them is easy.
For instance, imagine you are a young mother and want to attend a group to support you through post-natal depression.
There’s no stigma attached to turning up at the centre where your child goes to playgroup to access that support.
Children’s centre services are for everyone, not just for people on benefits. Again, that means there is no stigma associated with using them.
But free support for people who can’t afford nannies is an anathema to the Tories.
They know they can’t close the popular Sure Start programme outright, so their approach is death by a thousand cuts instead.
They have “un-ring fenced” the money for Sure Start, and cut it—passing the buck to councils and children’s centre managers.
Here in Birmingham the Early Intervention Grant—government money that funds Sure Start—has been cut by £9million.
Children’s centres have had to manage cuts of up to 15.9 percent of their budgets.
Managers are trying to share resources. But this has meant the loss of a whole room at our centre, halving the numbers able to attend playgroups.
And our centre used to have one qualified teacher working part time—now it shares a teacher with a number of other centres. This teacher is at our centre for two nursery sessions a week.
Nurseries at some other children’s centres in Birmingham are to close completely.
Parents at our centre have begun to petition against these cuts. We plan to contact other groups and nurseries facing closure to organise a lobby of the council meeting.
Helen Salmon, Birmingham
Back the MOX workers and help save planet
I have long campaigned against nuclear power.
It is dangerous, expensive and leaves a legacy of highly toxic waste that will threaten people’s health for hundreds of years.
It also has the potential for future environmental and human disasters.
But socialists, trade unionists and environmentalists must stand with the 600 workers at the MOX nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield who face job losses.
The Fukushima disaster in Japan has undermined the market for the fuel made there and the company says the jobs are not viable.
A campaign of action by these workers and their trade union can save these jobs. This will make the union movement stronger.
In turn, it will make it much easier to fight for the alternative climate jobs that we need to save the planet. A defeat for these workers makes it harder to fight for sane green energy policies.
We need skilled technical workers who can be redeployed and retrained to work in a massively expanded renewable energy industry, to deal with climate change.
Throwing workers on the scrapheap only benefits the bosses. A victory that saves these jobs makes us all stronger.
Martin Empson, Treasurer, Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union group (personal capacity)
Broken your nose? Just keep working
I work for Positive Futures in Lisburn, County Antrim, supporting people with learning disabilities.
Workers here are in the midst of a struggle.
Our managers are refusing to recognise our union, Unite, even though lots of us have joined.
I’ve worked here for three and a half years and there’s never been a union. Lots of us joined Unite last year.
We have no tea breaks or lunch breaks—we have to eat while working, with clients.
But I’ve been assaulted more than 50 times in the past year and a half. You need to have time out.
One of my colleagues had a broken nose.
Management pressured him to keep working.
They can change rotas with just days’ notice and we have to accept it.
I informed management that I was the Unite shop steward.
They suspended me three days later for actions that I’ve carried out regularly while working here.
Unite has started legal proceedings for recognition. And workers are discussing action to fight my suspension.
The struggle continues!
Aidan Hanna, Lisburn, Northern Ireland
Sell a kidney to study in UK
Dundee University’s UCU union executive has condemned the idea that students should sell a kidney to pay for a university education.
The idea was raised by Sue Rabbitt Roff from Dundee University.
It shows the obscenity of letting the market rip through education.
No doubt if the proposal went ahead, private medical companies wouldn’t approach students in Oxford or Cambridge.
They would look for the poorest students desperate to avoid a lifetime of debt.
Perhaps Sue might practice what she preaches by donating hers. While on the operating table perhaps a brain transplant could be thrown in too?
Carlo Morelli, Dundee University
Let’s protest at gas firms
E.on is the latest energy company to put its prices up.
The price rise has put 140,000 more homes into fuel poverty.
Shouldn’t we be protesting outside energy firms’ offices?
Megan Richards, Liverpool
Don’t Sweep it under carpet
The puppet Sooty has attacked Paul Daniels with a pizza and hospitalised him.
Daniels apparently had head injuries and a black eye.
That’s a lot worse than what Rupert Murdoch ended up with after Johnny Marbles put a plate of custard foam in his face.
So why has Marbles got a six-week sentence while Sooty is still roaming the streets?
Is it because the rich and famous Sweep their misdeameanours under the carpet?
Nicola Grescoe, Liverpool
Hypocrisy over EDL marches
There is rightly great concern about the English Defence League (EDL) march in Tower Hamlets on 3 September.
But the racist thugs will also be marching in Telford on 13 August.
Their purpose is to mark the start of the football season—and also allegedly to protest against the actions of Muslims involved in a local sexual abuse trial.
Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik was a great admirer of the EDL.
If sections of the left were being embraced by a mass murderer I have a feeling the march wouldn’t be allowed to proceed.
But apparently it’s fine for the EDL.
Stewart Perkins, Market Drayton
Unions: fight Ed’s attack
Are Ed Miliband’s holiday reading choices a joke?
One book he chose to take with him is called Leadership on the Line.
Maybe he’s worried about the prospect of opposition from the unions to his plans to change democracy in the Labour Party and carve them out.
Let’s hope the unions live up to any fears he might have.
Angela Potter, Nottingham
End press lies on renewables
Some interesting research has shown how British newspapers are biased against renewable energy.
The Public Interest Research Centre looked at four newspapers in July 2009.
It found that more than half the articles that were mainly about renewables were negative.
I think this shows that it’s important to complain about biased articles.
We need to try and cut down this bias.
D Whyte, Norfolk
By any means necessary!
We have as much contempt for the government as they have of our trade unions and public services.
The only thing to do is fight back—and do whatever it takes!
Joyce Giblin, by email