Issue 1016

News

With news that Israel has now escalated its bloody assault on Gaza, which has already killed at least 230 Palestinians, by starting a ground invasion, new protests are being planned in cities across Australia against Israel's slaughter. It comes after thousands of people joined people around the world outraged by Israel's killing by taking part in rallies last weekend. The details of the actions are below.
About 1000 people rallied in Melbourne on July 12 to protest against Israel's attack on Gaza. Samah Sabawi, a playwright, poet, political analyst and human rights advocate originally from Gaza, gave the speech below to the rally. In May, attempts were made by Zionists to prevent Sabawi speaking at a public forum on Israel and Palestine. ***
Pasi Sahlberg is an educator and past policy advisor in Finland, author of books on education and currently a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He spoke to a meeting of teachers and union activists in Melbourne on June 19. He agreed with what Australian teachers have argued for years: that great schools are well funded on a needs basis, are not publicly ranked for performance, have small classes, have teachers that are highly regarded and trusted and value all subject areas equally.
Women’s crisis shelters in New South Wales are in a state of upheaval. There are concerns that critical services are about to be shut down. In inner-Sydney there will be no women’s only, specialist refuges operating in the near future. The New South Wales government’s “Going Home Staying Home” reform plan will force at least in metropolitan Sydney 20 specialist women’s shelters to close so that more services in regional areas across the state can be opened.
The Refugee Action Coalition released this statement on July 8. *** Up to 10 mothers in the family camp have attempted suicide in the last two days on Christmas Island — some by hanging, some by drinking concoctions of liquids. Scores of police and Serco officers have been stationed inside the family camp — almost one to a room — to try to maintain calm and prevent more suicide attempts. One 25 year-old woman remains in the medical centre, with at least one deep cut requiring 16 stitches, after throwing herself from a container two days ago.
It is depressing but it is true. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is deliberately stoking racism and nationalism in a bid to reverse his collapse of public support, as shown by the polls. Why else would he have made a speech that revived the legal fiction of terra nullius that was officially killed by the High Court in its historic 1996 Mabo decision? Why else would he have chosen to declare, just before NAIDOC week that the British colonial invasion of this continent was a great act of “British foreign investment” that Australians today should be grateful for?
The “incommunicado detention without judicial scrutiny” of 153 Tamil asylum seekers has turned the world's eyes on Australia's refugee policy and brought many questions into the spotlight. The first question was raised by 53 international law scholars from 17 Australian universities, who released a statement after the government revealed it had handed over 41 passengers of an asylum boat to the Sri Lankan navy.
Australian man Jock Palfreeman was assaulted by a guard at Sofia’s Central Prison in Bulgaria on July 8. Palfreeman has been serving a 20-year in the prison since being found guilty of murder in 2007. Andrei Monov was killed during a street brawl in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. He was the only son of two well-connected people in the Sofia legal fraternity. Palfreeman says he went to the defence of a young Roma boy who was being attacked in the street by Monov and others. When Palfreeman intervened, he was also attacked and acted in self-defence.
Students of Sustainability (SOS) is an annual conference dedicated to environmental activism. About 400 students travelled to the Australian National University in Canberra for this year’s event over June 30 to July 5. The event was organised by the Australian Student Environmental Network (ASEN). The conference had guest speakers from environment and labour movements, international guests, and academics and activists from around Australia.
Victorian planning minister Matthew Guy approved stage one of the East West Link toll road on June 30, ignoring key recommendations from the planning panel to reduce impacts from the project. Guy said he had granted relevant approvals for the project on the condition that the Linking Melbourne Authority redesign parts of the project.

Analysis

Letters to the editor Jock Palfreeman has a heart as big as Phar Lap. After seven years in a Sofia prison in the dysfunctional Bulgarian state on a trumped-up charge of murder, you might reasonably expect that he would be somewhat depressed and introspective. All avenues of appeal have been exhausted and in a recent interview he said that he was resigned to serving the full 20-year sentence that he so unjustly received. The most recent reports are that he was again assaulted by prison guards last week.
The Interim Report of the federal government’s long-awaited and much-feared welfare review, A New System For Better Employment And Social Outcomes, was released on June 29. Former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McLure, who also chaired the 2000 welfare review for the John Howard government, is chair of the review.
More than 45,000 people rallied against the federal budget in cities around the country on July 6, with sizeable crowds in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The “Bust the Budget” Sydney rally was organised by Unions NSW. Union flags were prominent in the crowd, which reached more than 10,000, making it one of the bigger union mobilisations in recent times.
The Australian government says there is no need for people to flee Sri Lanka because it is a democratic country. It also claims that, following the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, Sri Lanka is a “society at peace”. But the end of the war does not mean the country is at peace. It just means that the violence is now one-sided. The Sri Lankan army still commits acts of violence against the Tamil people, but the Tamils can no longer fight back.
If there is one thing Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not stand for, it is attempts by the powerful to bully the weak. Reports recently emerged that 10 mothers jailed indefinitely in the Christmas Island detention centre had attempted to take their own lives. With sick children, the women apparently believed the children might have greater chance of better treatment if they were unaccompanied.
I must admit I didn’t really want to. I was tired and the footy was on TV at the same time. I had already been at church in the morning — surely I had fulfilled my obligations? But somehow this day was different. I knew I had to go and march. I had to stand up for the things I believe in, the things that I see this government seeking to take away from those who need it most. Mostly I had to march because my memories compelled me.
The Nordic Model is touted as a way to abolish the sex industry without harming or criminalising sex workers. Under the Nordic Model, at least in theory, providing sexual services in exchange for money is not criminalised, but paying for sexual services or living off the earnings of another’s sex work are criminal acts.
A recent death on the Melbourne waterfront on May 20 was the latest fatality in the stevedoring industry in Australia, and the latest safety issue on a workplace controlled by Toll Holdings. Statistically, waterside workers are more likely to be killed on the job than any other Australian worker.
A front page article in the Australian on July 11 reported claims that “asylum-seekers are coached and encouraged to attempt self-harm by refugee advocates who then use the incidents as political capital”. The allegations were made by former director of offshore processing Greg Lake, who said when he worked at what is now the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, “some refugee advocates were clearly urging asylum-seekers to self-harm as a form of protest so they could put out a press release about it”.
Not a week, nor even a day, goes by without a new outrage from the Tony Abbott government. One recent outrage was when Abbott declared that Australia was “unsettled” before the British invasion — taking us back to the days of terra nullius. This stand, alongside plans to quarantine how young people spend welfare payments while earmarking billions of dollars for unneeded (and technically dubious) fighter jets, indicates the character of the Abbott government.

World

“David Cameron’s government is responsible for the most aggressive attack for over a century on our public services, our standard of living and on the future for jobs and a decent life for young people,” said the Radical Independence Campaign, which is pushing for a “yes” vote in Scotland's September 18 referendum on independence. “The millionaire cabinet are ruining the chances of a generation. By slashing services and privatising health and education they are driving our young people to despair.”

Unite the Union, the largest union in Britain and Europe, has unanimously passed a motion supporting the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro and re-affirming its support for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. The motion was presented during Unite’s June 30 to July 4 policy conference in Liverpool. Commenting on moves towards US sanctions on Venezuela in recent weeks, the mover of the motion said: “One can only conclude that some in the US share the Venezuelan opposition’s aim to oust the Maduro government”.
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) said it was disgusted at the mentality of the Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who decided to forcefully evict soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpar that have been feeding the poor and homeless for years. The minister insisted that soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur had just days to relocate out of the city centre if they did not want to be fined by City Hall. He was also quoted as saying:“The image of my city is very bad. If I don’t do this sort of thing, society won’t be disciplined.”
Israel briefly deployed troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time in its current offensive on July 13, as it ignored international calls for peace. Naval commandos were sent in to destroy what Israel claimed was a rocket-launching site. Bout 4000 people later fled from the northern part of the besieged Palestinian enclave after Israel dropped leaflets telling them to evacuate to avoid a “short and temporary” campaign.
From the moment three Israeli teens were reported missing last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military-intelligence apparatus suppressed the flow of information to the general public. Through a toxic blend of propaganda, subterfuge and incitement, they inflamed a precarious situation, manipulating Israelis into supporting their agenda until they made an utterly avoidable nightmare inevitable.
If you are wondering why the opposition to the military junta that seized power in May has gone quiet and wondering if the democracy side has lost, it is important to look a bit deeper into Thai society and the state of the movement. After the spectacular anti-coup protests in late May, the junta have systematically arrested and detained key activists, forcing them to promise not to engage in politics.
Scotland will vote on independence from Britain September 18. Despite a strong campaign by establishment figures for a “no” vote, polls showing growing support for independence, although still not a majority. Below, Colin Fox explains why Scottish independence will be a blow to austerity and a win for working people. Fox is the nation spokesperson for Scottish Socialist Party and a former member of Scottish parliament, and sits on the Yes Scotland advisory board.
There has been a huge rise in refugees from Central America seeking asylum in the US, many of them unaccompanied children. So far this year, the Border Patrol says more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border with Mexico. This is double the number for all of last year and five times that of 2009. Those grabbed by authorities have been subjected to widespread and systematic brutal treatment, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups said. Widespread abuse
Workers in more than 50 cities across England, Wales and Scotland joined Britain's largest trade union mobilisation since the mass strike over pensions in 2011. More than 2 million public sector workers took part in marches in their local cities, while others maintained pickets of public sector buildings and local authorities. The main issue driving the mass strike was the meagre 1% pay rise offered by the Conservative-Liberal-Democrat coalition government. This amount to a wage cut the soaring living costs workers have been experiencing in the past several years are factored in.
The world is focused on Israel's offensive against Palestinians in Gaza, with escalating air strikes and a massing of infantry units along the border for a threatened invasion in the wake of the discovery of the bodies of three teenage settlers. But Israel's use of violence and terror against Palestinians continues in the West Bank and Israel itself.
As images of children huddled in masses on immigrant detention centre floors along the US-Mexico border make headlines worldwide, the US government is responding with more of the same failed policies that have generated economic and social devastation in Central America spurring migration in the first place. More than 52,000 children have been apprehended at the US border since October 2last year, most of them from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and many of them unaccompanied. At least 60,000 minors are expected to cross into the country this year.
New red-green electoral alliances, a turn to ecosocialism and a deepening of the US International Socialist Organization's rethink on feminism were key features of its well-attended Socialism 2014 conference in Chicago. The gap between rich and poor in the US is large and growing. It has sparked a popular campaign for a minimum wage of US$15 an hour for low-paid workers, and in defence of jobs of teachers and other social service providers.
The number of victims of Israel’s merciless bombing of Gaza reached 90 fatalities as of July 10, with several members of individual families among the dead. One such family is that of 75-year-old Muhammad Hamad of the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. Six members of his family were killed when Israel bombed the home of his 30-year-old son Abd al-Hafez Hamad, a commander with the armed group Islamic Jihad, on July 8.
Days of Israeli bombings had killed more than 100 people in the Gaza Strip by July 11, ElectronicIntifada.net said that day. The dead included many children. It comes after large-scale raids and many arrests in the occupied West Bank. In response to this drastic escalation in “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) national committee issued the statement below.
The official results of the July 9 Indonesian presidential elections are not expected till at least July 22, but many unofficial “quick count” surveys and exit polls have proclaimed a winner. Most of these unofficial polls have declared that former Jakarta governor Joko Widodo (popularly known as Jokowi) has defeated his sole challenger — sacked Suharto dictatorship general Prabowo Subianto — by a margin of up to 4%.

Culture

Brazil's Dance With the Devil Dave Zirin Haymarket Books, 2014 200 pages, US$16 With World Cup fever sweeping the world, mainstream media outlets faced a problem: how to relate to the fierce political battle taking place on the streets of Brazil over the future of their society. The media has been flooded with idealised caricatures of Brazilian society, complete with pristine white-sand beaches, a hypersexual citizenry and a rich, happy tapestry of cultural diversity.

Les Miserables Now playing in Melbourne www.lesmis.com.au Les Miserables tells two stories: one of personal love, the other of revolutionary passion. It is no surprise that most Western adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel have, when deciding what to cut and what to leave in, favoured the clasped hands of romance over the clenched fist of insurrection. The story we all know -- the one that is left after adaptation pares away everything else -- is that of Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who redeems himself through acts of charity.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

How 'green' is the Green new Deal? An increasingly popular answer to the ecological crisis facing humanity is the “Green New Deal”, which aims to create “green jobs” to jump start the economy. But, Dan Fitz argues the GND might not provide long term employment and could cause major environmental harm. Mariela Castro on LGBTI rights in Cuba