End silence on new apartheid
ALONG WITH five other members of my trade union, the rail workers' TSSA, I have just returned from a fact-finding visit to the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. We witnessed a frightening expansion of settlements and 'Jewish only' roads linking these settlements.
Publicly available military maps show that a matrix of controls over disconnected Palestinian bantustans is what is proposed. All trade into and out of the Gaza Strip is controlled by Israel, and industry is being suffocated to ensure that a future Palestine is not economically viable.
There are many examples of discrimination against Palestinians – a thousand demolition orders a year, roadblocks, and prevention of travel within or between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Water is diverted to the Israeli settlements so that Palestinians only get mains water once in two weeks or less.
In the Gaza Strip 6,000 Israeli settlers now have 42 percent of the land which is home to around 1.2 million Palestinians. Settler families received around £12,000 a year and rent-free housing for 40 years.
The beautiful new settlements look like oases in the West Bank, with an abundance of grass and mature palm trees. The grass and trees have been uprooted from fertile parts of the Gaza Strip. This is to clear security areas around the settlements there. Despite all this the many civil institutions we visited stated that the Palestinians demand peace and will never leave.
An end to Europe's silence on the apartheid and ethnic cleansing in modern Israel, and a reduction in the billions of US dollars provided to support the Israeli government are essential.
Andy Bain, London
Election shows the '68 spirit
ON THE same day that 350 students took part in an anti-war occupation of the London School of Economics recently, a campus-wide ballot elected Carlo Giuliani to be honorary student union president. Carlo was the protester killed by police in Genoa last year as he demonstrated against the G8 summit.
His death was a small brutality compared to the thousands starved by Third World debt, or the thousands threatened in Iraq, but he has come to symbolise for many a spirit of defiance to this capitalist system. LSE director Anthony Giddens is often described as 'Tony Blair's favourite intellectual', and free market apologetics are a house speciality.
Defiance to all that has started to show through, not only in Carlo's election but in the massive anti-war movement we have built this term. LSE students were famous in the 1960s for their radicalism, and there's a real feeling on campus that 1968 is starting to happen all over again.
James Meadway, London
Bending truth on drugs
MODAFINIL is the latest in a long line of 'wonder cure-all' drugs. The media last week featured stories of how the drug, which has been mainly used for medical conditions, boosted 'brain power'
I've been taking it for a couple of years to combat severe fatigue. It certainly does the wake up and do things stuff. But what hasn't been told is that it increases any feeling of pain you already have and makes you hurt very much itself after a short time.
The military origins of the drugs weren't stressed in the media. It was developed to keep battlefield soldiers awake for days on end. The fact that there is such a long line of these 'wonder drugs' featured in the media tells you that the makers of these things know a good way of wringing some more money out of us.
Colin Yates, East London
Eyebrows raised at work
I WORK in a community care advice centre in London. For the anti-war day of action on 31 October I got a few people together at work, and we agreed to walk out at lunchtime and have a quick meeting in the front of the building. We invited the local Redbridge Stop the War group down, and a local Labour MP opposed to the war addressed us.
There were only eight of us, but it's a start. It certainly raised a few eyebrows at work, as something like that had never happened before. One of the workers didn't work on Thursday, but she swapped her day just to come to the meeting.
From that meeting we have decided we are now the basis for a Stop the War group. We also discussed the firefighters' claim, and I took two workmates with me to a local fire station and collected lots of stickers and beer mats which now are on our desks!
If the firefighters do strike we are planning to adopt the local fire station, invite them to speak at work, and join them on picket lines and do collections.
Sam Strudwick, London
Give me justice
MY BROTHER is serving ten years in Perth, Australia, for a drugs offence. Our mother is terminally ill. She requires a lot of care, and it is difficult for me to cope as I study at university and have three children. There are no other relatives to help. I am also suffering from stress and depression.
The Foreign Office has refused to support a clemency bid for my brother. My brother is also HIV positive, a life threatening illness, and has been refused treatment in Australia due to his status as an 'illegal immigrant'. Despite this breaking international law and the Australian Justice Department's own rules, the Foreign Office has taken no action.
The Foreign Office has no problem supporting 'plane spotters', which was a misunderstanding at the end of the day. I cannot tell you how outraged I am. The Foreign Office should be demanding my brother is sent home.
Stephanie Parry, Yorkshire
Police were a disgrace
IN BRIGHTON the anti-war protest action of 31 October was brilliant. At least 500 people took part, many in fancy dress, beating drums or on bikes. We stopped the traffic by the Palace Pier for about two hours.
It was a peaceful protest, but the police waded into some of the protesters using batons and pepper spray. Tom Daly from Sussex Action for Peace had to go to casualty after the spray was directed right in his face.
Tom is considering making a formal complaint against the police. On the night about 35 protesters were arrested and held in cells until 1.30am, but very few have been charged. The police behaviour was a disgrace.
Cath Senker, Brighton
Act before someone dies
ME AND my family are prisoners in our own home in Eltham, south east London. We have contacted the police, but their response has been to do very little. One of our near neighbours, also from Somalia, was the victim of an arson attack by ignorant and violent people who shouted, 'Go back to Pakistan!' through the letterbox.
A few days later we had a swastika spray-painted on our front door. Then two white men racially abused my nine year old daughter as she was going to school. These were not silly teenagers – they were men in their 30s or 40s. I rang the police but they were not helpful. They said that somebody would get back to me in a few days time, and I am still waiting.
It is terrible to say it, but we all expect somebody to be killed in this area soon. And then there will be a great media questioning. Please, cannot action happen before somebody dies?
Somali man (who does not wish to be named for fear of reprisals)
UNIVERSITIES are trying to justify top-up fees by saying graduates earn more. The average is distorted by the millionaire businessmen who would make a fortune whether they had a degree or not. As a graduate working for the civil service on £11,500, I will never earn enough to pay back my student loan. Instead of forcing me into debt, the government should have just given me a grant paid for by taxing the highest earners.
Helen Rogers, Manchester
THE BBC television series True Spies has made for fascinating viewing, and it is a useful contribution to the debate about the necessity or otherwise for revolution. The programmes reveal how the British secret services always have, and still continue, to infiltrate and undermine so called 'subversives' in society.
By the term subversives they mean trade unionists, socialists and other campaigners. Far from being 'neutral' or 'impartial', the secret services are the enemy of anyone fighting for a more progressive, genuinely democratic system. They have to be swept away if the struggle for socialism is to be successful.
Dan Conquer, Manchester