Socialist Worker

Terror under Israeli troops

Issue No. 1804

HERE IN Palestine the only things that are moving freely are tanks. Even ambulances can be held up at Israeli army checkpoints for hours while the patients they carry suffer in the sun. I am writing this in Nablus, a city which has been under curfew for four days now.

I came here to keep a longstanding hospital appointment, and the only way I could enter the city was by ambulance. A journey of some 50 kilometres from my home near Jenin took over four hours. But I'm lucky. I'm not Palestinian, and my need was not an emergency. If you are Palestinian you must have permission to travel anywhere outside your place of residence. These new pass laws have been in force for two weeks, and are part of the new era of occupation.

Every city, town and village is either fully occupied or surrounded by tanks and thousands of Israeli soldiers. Mass arrests are taking place everywhere.

Yesterday we were awakened by the sound of heavy machine-gun fire as Israeli troops moved into Aeen refugee camp near Nablus. They took over the mosque and, using the loudspeaker, ordered every man over 13 and under 60 to come out, mocking them with verses of the Koran. They were handcuffed and are now held in a prison camp some five kilometres away.

Women at An Najah University were stripped before being arrested and taken for interrogation. Houses in the Balata Camp have been blown up, leaving families with nothing. The first time I visited Nablus was back in October, when I was treated to the type of hospitality that anyone who has had the pleasure to visit this country will recognise.

My friend Rany took me riding on his horse. When this incursion started four days ago they shot Rany's horse. This morning they again entered Jenin, this time playing loud recordings of machine-gun fire.

While the world watches and diplomats come and go, the Palestinian people suffer the terror of the state of Israel.
DREW McEWAN, Palestine

Ignorance about AIDS is fault of the government

SEXUALLY transmitted infections are rising sharply. They include HIV, which has seen the highest rates of new infection recorded in this country. Yet awareness surrounding HIV and other infections seems to be at an all-time low.

The Durex Report 2001 showed the number of people having unprotected sex with a new partner had more than doubled from 6 percent in 1994 to 13 percent. Sixteen to 20 year olds are the greatest risk takers, with 30 percent admitting they had unprotected sex within the last 12 months. Information around sexually transmitted infections is minimal. People only find out about them when something goes wrong.

HIV money is no longer ringfenced. It can now be spent in other areas of the NHS budget. This isn't surprising-the government's Sexual Health Strategy offers very little new money, and much of the extra work is expected to be picked up by increasingly pressurised GPs. We have had no major campaign on TV or any other media funded by this government.

The Tory government ran a very bad campaign around HIV in the 1980s. But it could be argued that a bad campaign is better than no campaign at all. The best safer sex work in the 1980s came from those who were first affected by the disease. They got the message across effectively enough to stop the disease reaching epidemic proportions. Rising rates of HIV infection today show this message needs to be reinforced. This is not the time to be cutting budgets or keeping quiet. Are Labour capable of opening real discussion around sex and sexuality? We haven't seen any evidence so far.

Cash barrier to treatment

I AM one of around 2,660 patients in England and Wales with chronic myeloid leukaemia. About 700 new cases a year are diagnosed. The first few years of the illness normally make up the 'chronic phase', when the patient remains reasonably fit.

There is no cure apart from successful bone marrow transplants, which are not usually a realistic option. Therefore improving treatments are mostly aimed at extending the chronic phase. I have been in the chronic phase for over eight years.

A new 'smart' drug called Glivec has been used in trials since 1998. Specialists are very excited about its prospects. But it is too early to be certain about how well Glivec compares with other treatments. I have been treated successfully so far with interferon alpha. But it is a great hope for me that if that eventually fails there is another very promising treatment in reserve.

The trouble is that Glivec is supplied by the pharmaceutical giant Novartis. It is pitching the price at an average of around £19,000 a year per patient. The government's National Institute for Clinical Excellence admits available evidence suggests that Glivec is the best treatment for some patients. But it is about to decide it is not 'cost effective' and therefore should not be routinely available to NHS patients.

So for the likes of me what hope technology may offer, New Labour and the drug multinationals may take away.
ROGER KEELY, Huddersfield

What is British?

ACCORDING TO a recent article in the Telegraph, the monarchy, the military and the Church of England mould my identity of Britishness. What balderdash. This is a very narrow definition, and it excludes many other factors.

Indeed, some people might want to deny the term Britishness, and the nationalism it implies, and declare themselves world citizens. However the term is used, it is carefully moulded to virtually exclude the role played by working people, and it provides little space for people of different ethnic origins.

Being British is as much about accepting the struggles, traditions, ideas, values and inventiveness of the working class. What the Telegraph article was really saying is that the elites will define what they want you to be.
EDWARD DAVIES, Stourbridge

Ivan the terrible

I WAS a delegate to the recent conference of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, and part of around 180 who walked out after New Labour minister Ivan Lewis attacked us for striking. We gave him the contempt he and his New Labour cronies deserve.

We also got lots of signatures at the conference for the petition in defence of Mark Serwotka, and delegates also passed an emergency resolution supporting him. Natfhe has backed the anti-capitalist movement for several years. This year the conference agreed to support the European Social Forum, and to send a delegation of rank and file members to it.

This year's conference was one of the most left wing for years, and illustrates how the unions are moving towards a much more hostile position towards New Labour.

University challenge

COMPULSORY redundancies threatened at Newcastle University are a national rather than a local issue. Vice-chancellors at other universities see Newcastle as a test case of how restructuring should occur. They are contacting our management to ask if Newcastle can lay on courses for senior managers everywhere on how to restructure quickly and with the minimum of fuss.

If Newcastle University gets away with compulsory redundancies over the summer this will be a green light to other universities to do the same. University workers need to build big and representative action committees to fight compulsory redundancies everywhere. The government and the university managements are vulnerable over redundancies. College workers and students should support our lobbies. The AUT and Natfhe unions must take national action.

The most effective thing at the present time would be to withhold exam marks until the threat of compulsory redundancies is withdrawn everywhere.

Postal points

I HAVE recently started buying Socialist Worker and find the industrial news and reports page particularly interesting. But why do you quote unnamed sources? If other papers quoted, say, 'a source close to the prime minister', you would quite rightly condemn that as spin doctoring.
C STOLL, Birmingham

HAZEL CROFT ('Would Socialism Be A Dictatorship?') was spot on when she wrote that these days socialists don't use the phrase 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. It conjures up an image of repression that isn't helpful to winning arguments for workers' control and democracy. The article made me wonder whether there are other terms we use that don't resonate with how people see themselves these days-such as 'workers' state' or even just 'workers'. Workers have always struggled to be more than just workers-that is, people whose lives are organised around imposed work. We strive to claim our lives back from the dictates of the bosses and the state. Socialism is a classless society where people no longer have to be 'workers'. I wonder if we'd win even more arguments if we rethought some of the words we use. Any suggestions?
ANDY WATSON, Edinburgh

I HAVE an answer to the cannabis 'problem'. Cannabis can grow in your garden, or at least in your greenhouse or under plastic. We should allow it to grow freely. Cannabis displays should be a regular part of garden shows, even the one at Chelsea. Prizes should be awarded.

Sale of cannabis would be unnecessary, except for some highly specialised tastes. Result-no crime, no gangsters, no tax, no monopoly, an abundance shared. However daft this idea seems, it is less daft than the 'war on drugs'.

DAVID EAST'S analysis of the brewing industry (Socialist Worker, 1 June) is fine as far as it goes, but doesn't say what socialists should do about it. We can't take sides between the global brewers and the pub companies that dominate British pubs. We can, however, protest about the decision of New Labour to scrap the Beer Orders. These allowed pubs to provide a choice of drinks.

That annoyed the brewers and so, in line with its policy of being friendly to fat cats, the government has decided they've got to go. When it comes to brewers like Brakspears, socialists have got something to say as well. Brakspears are not floating the idea of closure because they are bankrupt. They are eyeing up the bigger profits they might make if they did something other than brewing.

What is needed is a campaign by brewery workers (many are in the TGWU union) and customers to stop closures like this. Fortunately there is an organisation, not socialist by a long way, but proven to be effective, which already does this. It's called the Campaign for Real Ale.
KEITH FLETT, North London

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Sat 15 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1804
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