Emma Clancy

As the October 24 hearing approaches for the Perth-Mandurah railway tunnel construction workers — who are being prosecuted by the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) for taking “unlawful” industrial action in February 2006 against the sacking of the health and safety union representative — new research has exposed “critically high” levels of injury in the construction industry.
Twenty-five years ago this September — after its 1982 invasion of Lebanon had achieved its military objectives by forcing an evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to Tunisia — Israel unleashed the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia on the defenceless civilians of Beirut refugee camps Sabra and Shatila. Under the Israeli occupation of West Beirut, the Phalangists, armed by and in liaison with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), carried out a three-day spree of killing and rape, massacring an estimated 3000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.
Operation Banner, a 38-year British military operation in the north of Ireland, formally came to a close on July 31. The operation began in 1969, when British troops were deployed in the six counties that make up the sectarian state of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which was unable to maintain “public order” in the face of the explosion of the civil rights movement. The RUC had also been thoroughly discredited among the Catholic and nationalist communities for its role in facilitating sectarian pogroms against them.
The campaign to isolate Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has taken meaningful steps forward in the past few months, with major trade unions in Britain, Ireland, South Africa and Canada declaring their support for an international boycott.
Four years after an inquiry established collusion between British intelligence, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the loyalist paramilitary killers of leading Belfast civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane, the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ruled on June 25 that there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges against any police officers or British military intelligence personnel.
In a June 19 joint press conference in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, US President George Bush said: “It’s interesting that extremists attack democracies around the Middle East, whether it be the Iraq democracy, the Lebanese democracy, or a potential Palestinian democracy.” He was referring specifically to the popularly elected Hamas-led government of the Palestinian people taking action in Gaza to prevent a bloody coup by their defeated rivals, Fatah, which since the January 2006 elections has been armed, funded and trained by Israel and the US.
June 5 marks the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, during which Israel attacked and defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, seizing the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the West Bank from Jordan.
The Fianna Fail party of current Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern won a resounding victory in the May 24 elections with 41% of the vote. FF, which has held power for 10 years, fell five seats short of an outright majority. Ahern will likely form a centre-right coalition with the right-wing Progressive Democrats (PD) and independents, although there are also reports of contact with the Greens about forming a coalition. There is a June 14 deadline for the formation of the incoming government.
The arrest of two prominent Republican activists has strained the new power-sharing government in Stormont (the Northern Ireland Assembly), established between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party of Ian Paisley in May. In January, as a step towards a coalition with the DUP, SF agreed to recognise the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI); SF members took up positions on the Policing Board for the first time on May 31.
Organising is underway for demonstrations during the APEC summit, which PM John Howard is hosting in Sydney on September 8-9 and which US President George Bush and other “world leaders” will be attending. The Stop Bush collective is organising a convergence for September 8, aiming to draw people onto the streets to protest against the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. The protest will also call for urgent action to stop environmental destruction and for the defence of workers’ rights.

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