Issue 878

News

A dozen activists gathered at Carousel shopping centre on May 2 as part of a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) action against cosmetics company Seacret. Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA) called the action in support of the international BDS campaign called for by Palestinian civil society. The aim is to place pressure on Israel to adhere to international law and to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. This pressure can be created by such actions as boycotting Israeli products.
Forty refugee rights activists travelled by bus from Perth to Curtin Detention Centre in the remote Kimberley region of WA over the Easter long weekend. Several others joined the convergence at nearby Derby. This was the latest convergence on a refugee detention centre organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN). Most refugee detention centres are located in remote locations to create a physical divide between refugees and the broader population. The convergence aimed to bridge this divide.
Aboriginal elders at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, have called for a weekend of protest in Tennant Creek on May 7 and 8 against the federal government’s plan to build a radioactive waste dump in the area. Traditional owners Dianne Stokes, Mark Chungaloo, Mark Lane and Bunny Naburula said on April 22: “We are the traditional owners of the Muckaty Land Trust, where the government is trying to put a radioactive waste dump.
The family of an Aboriginal man, Herbert Mitchell, who died after being taken to Townsville’s police watchhouse on April 18, is calling for answers from the current police investigation and coroner's report. Aboriginal activist and Townsville resident Gracelyn Smallwood said: “The Mitchell family is in a state of shock and mourning at the sudden and unexpected death of their family member. “The family has no clear information except that he was picked up by police for public drunkenness and within four hours he was on life support in hospital.”
The NATO attack on Libya was debated at a meeting sponsored by the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in Melbourne on April 20. Don Rothwell, a law professor at the Australian National University, argued that the intervention is consistent with the doctrine of "responsibility to protect". This doctrine, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, endorses outside intervention to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes carried out by their own government.
As part of a National Day of Action for refugee rights, about 250 protesters turned out to Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention centre on April 25 to show solidarity with refugees in detention and to oppose the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. The human rights activists gathered at the detention centre entrance. They were addressed by speakers from the Greens, Students for Palestine and two former detainees including Ali Bakhtiavandi from the Socialist Alliance, who had been held in Maribyrnong for 16 months in 2001 and 2002.
"Another Australia is Possible" was the main theme of the Socialist Alliance Queensland State Conference, held on Saturday April 16 in the Brisbane Activist Centre. A feature panel, “Fighting for Another Australia”, included presentations from Murri community leader Sam Watson, Sri Lankan human rights activist Dr Brian Senewiratne, socialist educationalist and writer Gary MacLennan, and Socialist Alliance national executive member Lisa Macdonald.
"No uranium mining," "No nuclear industry," and "No nuclear waste dump," were the themes of the annual Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, held in Brisbane on Palm Sunday, April 17. The rally and march attracted about 200 people.
The chief operating officer for Apex Energy NL, Chris Rogers, contacted Stop CSG Illawarra on April 5. He accused the group, which is campaigning against coal seam gas (CSG) projects in the region, of publishing two inaccuracies on its website: that drilling had already commenced and that CSG’s contribution to global warming is equally as bad, if not worse, than coal.
Long-time Perth activist, Communist Party of Australia leader, World War II veteran and retired waterside worker Vic Williams died on April 19, aged 96. Born on June 28, 1914, Vic joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1939 and was one of its leading members in Western Australia until it split over the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Three members of the Sydney-based refugee solidarity group the Cross Borders Collective occupied the rooftop of immigration minister Chris Bowen’s electoral office in Fairfield on April 29. Their protest was a stand of support for the refugees who have been protesting inside immigration detention centres across Australia, including the week-long rooftop protest by three detainees in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre. Police arrested the activists within a few hours and removed them from the roof.
A Green Left Weekly Culture of Resistance dinner, taking place in Sydney’s west on May 28, will pay homage to the people's power movements in the Arab world. Each succulent dish served will be from a country in revolt, and speakers at the frontline from Egypt, Palestine and from Jews Against the Occupation will address the event. Revolutionary Arabic band, Al-Salam (which means peace in Arabic) will perform on the night. Band member Samir Maarbani said: “Al-Salam is a group established during the Lebanese civil war in 1981 and has expanded into all kinds of musical arts.
"This is the battle for the end of the fossil fuel industry. This is the end game," Lock the Gate Alliance campaigner Drew Hutton told a forum, titled, Australia's Gas Rush: The race to save our farmland and the Great Artesian Basin, on April 14 in Brisbane. The forum, sponsored by Green Left Weekly, also heard from Ewan Saunders, climate campaigner and Socialist Alliance activist.
"I have recently had the opportunity to witness important developments in the Bolivarian Revolution," Nelson Davila, Venezuelan ambassador to Australia, just returned from a three-week visit to his homeland, told a forum sponsored by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) in Brisbane on April 20. "There have been big developments in agriculture, mainly aimed at maintaining and improving the ecosystem, through expansion of eco-socialist co-operatives," Davila told the forum.

Analysis

Below is a letter from a 17 year old Afghani man, who has been held in a Darwin detention centre for more than a year. * * * The refugee has a question. Best regards to Australia, the country in which people, all human beings, are equal; and all people from different ethnics, cultures and languages have the same rights. Australia is one of the most civilised countries in the world. All people are literate. People work according to their expertness.
To every complex problem there is a simplistic response, which is usually wrong. For instance, to the challenge of generating all of Australia’s electricity from renewable energy, the deniers repeatedly utter the simplistic myth that renewable energy is intermittent and therefore cannot generate base-load (that is, 24-hour) power. However, detailed computer simulations, backed up with actual experience with wind power overseas, show that the scoffers are wrong.
The following statement was released by Lim Chee Wee, president of the Malaysian Bar Council, on May 9 in response to the "refugee swap" announced by the Australian and Malaysian governments. * * * The Malaysian Bar is opposed to the recently-announced arrangement agreed to between the Governments of Malaysia and Australia.
After running a Google news search on Marrickville+BDS on April 18, I spent a half hour looking at just under 30 articles published over the past seven days on Marrickville council’s position of support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. I looked at every result published by a major news website (news.com.au, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Age, ABC) and omitted articles that contained duplicate AAP copy.
The Greens Mayor of Marrickville Council Fiona Byrne gave the speech below at the Unions NSW May Day toast at the Cypress Community Club in Stanmore on April 28. * * * I acknowledge we meet tonight on the traditional land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and pay my respects to elders both past and present. Those who don’t read the Oz or Tele, or don’t listen to shock jock radio, I’m the controversial Greens Mayor of Marrickville.
Who were the actual criminals that sparked the refugees’ revolt in Villawood detention centre in late April? There is no crime in climbing on top of a building and holding a banner saying “We need help”, nor asking for a meeting with immigration officials after 15 months in detention, as two Kurdish Iranian refugees did on April 20, sparking protests that lasted for more than a week. It’s not a crime to resist injustice — the refugees who have taken it on themselves to revolt inside Australia’s mandatory detention system must be defended and supported for their stand.
Australian author and commentator Clive Hamilton gave the speech below to Australia’s Climate Action Summit, held in Melbourne on April 9. * * * The difficulty and importance of the global warming campaign is many times greater than every other environmental struggle. Controlling carbon pollution requires a wholesale industrial restructuring and defeat of the most powerful industry coalition ever assembled.
When climate change deniers took to the streets in March against the federal government’s proposed carbon price, some of this country’s most notorious shock jocks were leading the way. Chris Smith, talkback host on Sydney commercial radio show 2GB, was a major promoter of the March 23 rally outside Parliament House in Canberra. The rally was littered with signs featuring misogynist slogans and bizarre rebuttals of the existence of climate change. Everyone you’d expect at a conservative reunion was there, from opposition leader Tony Abbott to former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.
It’s wonderful that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are getting good publicity and support for their great efforts exposing the lies and deceptions of the US, Israel and others. But I also would like to draw some attention to the fate of two Israeli whistleblowers and political prisoners held in Israel, Mordechai Vanunu and Anat Kamm. In 1986, Vanunu took a courageous moral stand against nuclear weapons. Vanunu exposed Israel’s secret nuclear weapons arsenal to the world after becoming disillusioned with his work at Dimona Nuclear Research Centre in Israel.
I began writing this as a reply to a worker infected by the ideological disease that could be called today’s version of “the socialism of fools”. That was the name given by German socialists at the end of the 19th century to the irrational, bigoted and eventually genocidal idea that Jews were to blame for the plight of oppressed and exploited workers. Today’s “fools” in Australia blame asylum-seekers and refugees, especially those of Muslim faith or who come from the Middle East.
For many people, gambling merely fulfils a short-term desire to be entertained. Yet for an estimated 2.3% of Australian adults, it has become a compulsion; an uncontrollable addiction which largely affects their personal, social and financial life. Over the past decade, the gambling industry in Australia has expanded significantly. Currently, every state and territory within Australia has at least one casino operating within its jurisdiction, offering various gambling options, including poker and gaming machines, to anyone over the legal age of 18.
In the lead up to the March 26 New South Wales state election, a concerted anti-Greens campaign was unleashed by the major parties and the corporate media. Despite this, Greens candidate and mayor of Leichhardt Jamie Parker won the seat of Balmain. Green Left Weekly’s Kiraz Janicke spoke to Parker about the campaign and the Greens’ agenda in the next period. Congratulations on being the first ever lower house Greens MP elected to the NSW parliament. Could you comment on the significance of this victory?
Two years ago, a war without witness was executed by the state against the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka. In September 2008, after ordering all United Nations personnel, non-government organisations and media out of the Vanni region, the Sri Lankan government embarked on a vicious military campaign. While it informed the world it was fighting the Tamil Tiger rebels and was following a “zero civilian casualty” policy, photographs, video footage and phone conversations with our relatives in the war zone told us a different story.
The ALP took government on the back of the “Your Rights At Work” campaign. But Labor has failed to “rip up” the Howard government’s Work Choices laws. Australian Industry Group boss Heather Ridout told the 2011 HR Nichols Society conference: “There were many positive elements of the previous [Coalition] government’s workplace relations laws that have been retained by the Labor government.”
Last year, Marrickville council in Sydney passed a resolution in support of the non-violent struggle of the Palestinian people for their human rights. Since then The Australian and other media outlets have gone into a hysterical frenzy, accusing the councillors of being dangerous, naive, anti-Semitic extremists. Actually they are just ordinary community members; some of who are in the Australian Labor Party, some in the Greens and some who have no political affiliations.
After months of pressure from apologists for apartheid Israel, eight Marrickville councillors, including two Greens councillors, voted on April 19 to rescind the Council’s near unanimous December 2010 decision to support the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. However, an important national discussion about Australia’s responsibilities to help Palestinians win their rights has begun.
Below is an address to Marrickville Council meeting on BDS by Dr. Peter Slezak, associate professor in history and philosophy at the University of New South Wales, arguing against a motion on April 19 to rescind the council’s support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. *** Not long ago, moral opposition to the Vietnam War and opposition to our complicity in the crimes in East Timor received the same denunciation we witness now against Marrickville council.
“What changed in Palestine between December and April that made you change your mind?” yelled someone in the crowd, as the April 19 Marrickville Council meeting voted to overturn its previously stated support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel. Despite many others asking similar questions, none of the councillors that had voted in favour for the December 14 motion answered this simple question.
WikiLeaks released a new slew of secret US military documents on April 24 relating to the US off-shore detention facility Guantanamo Bay. The Guantanamo Files were released by WikiLeaks and its media partners as 779 documents that dealt specifically with detainees. The documents included classified assessments, interviews and internal memos written by the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Guantanamo marked “secret” and “noform” — no information to be shared with representatives of other countries.

World

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes by republican prisoners in the H-Blocks of the British-run Long Kesh prison in Northern Ireland. These hunger strikes, in which ten men died demanding "political" status, were preceded by hunger strikes in the last part of 1980 that ended with the British authorities promising a compromise, only to then betray the prisoners.
On May 5, 1981, Bobby Sands, Honourable Member of the British Parliament for Fermanagh-South Tyrone in Ireland’s north, died. The 27-year-old republican prisoner died after 66 days on hunger strike in the H-blocks of the British-run concentration camp called Long Kesh prison. Nine other men died on hunger strike, as the British government of Margaret Thatcher refused to conceed their demand to be granted the status of “political prisoners”. More:
On the 30th anniversary of the May 5, 1981 death on hunger strike of Irish republican prisoner Bobby Sands MP, Green Left Weekly spoke to Sands close friend, former prisoner in the Long Kesh H-Blocks along with Sands and leading Belfast Sinn Fein activist Séanna Walsh about the man who has become a revolutionary icon around the world
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners n the British-run Long Kesh concentration camp — an event that shook the world. The British government of Margaret Thatcher let ten men starve themselves to death rather than negotiate with them over their demand to be recognised as political prisoners. The first prisoner to begin the hunger strike was 27-year old Bobby Sands. He died on May 5, 1981 after 66 days of starvation.
Despite appearing calm on the surface, tensions are escalating within Bahrain, which has been the scene of anti-government protests that began on February 14. There still remains a strong police presence within the country. Armoured tanks and vehicles man the streets and highways. Blockades are on major intersections, forces have set up camp temporarily within the city and are on a state of permanent standby for civil unrest.
A billionaire, mass murdering criminal is dead, but the symbiotic processes of empire and terrorism that breed inequality, war, occupation, torture and dispossession are alive and well. See also: How the CIA created Osama bin Laden Labour Party of Pakistan spokesperson: Killing Bin Laden wont't stop fundamentalist attacks Indian socialists: US imperialist wars continue unabated
I firmly believe the left and progressive forces have made a serious error in viewing and equating Libya with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Libya is not the same situation; there has been a popular people's uprising. Other Libya articles Libya: 'Humanitarian' war escalates Two wars in Libya Springtime for NATO in Libya
Europe’s biggest polluters have made billions out of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). But a new briefing by Carbon Trade Watch (CTW) says the scheme will ensure industry will not have to cut its emissions until at least 2017. The ETS sets a cap, or upper limit, on total emissions for 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 European countries. Each company receives permits to pollute, which can be traded with other companies.
A number of left groups in Venezuela and solidarity groups internationally have expressed concern over the April 23 decision by Venezuelan authorities to arrest well-known Colombian journalist and supporter of the Venezuelan revolution, Joaquin Perez Becerra. Perez Becerra was arrested when he tried to enter the country through Caracas Airport. He was deported two days later to neighbouring Colombia to face trial for supposed “terrorism” charges in Colombia.
The sixth congress of the Communist Party of Cuba ended on April 19. Not by accident, the date chosen for the meeting coincided with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the victory of Playa Giron [Bay of Pigs — at which the Cuban people defeated a US-sponsored invasion in 1961].
Since January, tens of thousands of United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) militants, together with activists from other left parties and social movements, have been debating the future of Venezuela’s revolution. Their sights are set on the crucial 2012 presidential elections. This years’ pro-revolution May Day march will be the platform to officially launch Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s re-election bid. The US-funded right-wing opposition is yet to decide its candidate, but the election will be critical to the future of a country undergoing a profound process of change.
Several weeks of conflict between the government of President Evo Morales and Bolivian trade unions has again thrown into sharp relief some of the serious challenges confront Bolivia’s process of change. For two weeks in April, the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) called mobilisations across various cities to protest the government’s proposed 10% pay rise for teachers, health workers, police and soldiers, and 20% rise in the minimum wage.
Sixty-two protesters had been killed by Syrian security forces on April 29, Al Jazeera reported that day. This was the second Friday in a row that Syrian authorities had used lethal forces against protesters — 100 protesters were killed in Deraa on April 22. The United States responded by imposing sanctions on three leading figures in the regime — including President Bashar al-Assad’s brother, but not the president — and the Syrian intelligence agency.
The US-led military operation in Libya has morphed from the initial imposition of a “no-fly zone” — ostensibly to prevent Muammar Gaddafi’s regime from carrying out a massacre — into an ongoing bombing campaign with no end in sight. And now there’s increasing talk of the use of ground forces until Gaddafi is overthrown and a new government, no doubt Western-approved, takes his place. Libya discussion Left wrong to oppose military intervention Two wars in Libya
A request by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, to visit alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, United States soldier Bradley Manning, was denied in April. At the time, Manning was being held in solitary confinement at Marine Corps Brig, Quantico in Virginia. Speaking through his lawyer, Manning accused the guards at Quantico of treating him differently to other prisoners and reported he had been forced to strip naked by guards every night. Mendez said US authorities had “not been receptive to a confidential meeting” with Manning.
In another important step towards winning Bolivia’s national sovereignty, the country’s Plurinational Assembly has announced the expulsion from Bolivia of USAID’s Environment and Economic Development (EED) program. USAID is funded by the US government and on its website says one of its aims is “furthering America’s foreign policy interests”. The agency has come under fire for its role in funding pro-US right-wing organisations in Bolivia and the region.
The release of secret US Department of Defense files on prisoners held by the US as part of the “war on terror” confirms, in the US government’s own words, the shoddy and unreliable nature of the “evidence” used to condemn prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay torture camp. The files released by WikiLeaks also show the mentality of the US government in its attempts to prosecute and gather information about “terrorists” to justify its wars of aggression. Apart from those known to be innocent by their US captors, many others were condemned on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, made the speech below at an April 20 session of the UN general assembly. * * * Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, once wrote: “How sad to think that nature speaks and mankind doesn’t listen.” We are here today to attempt to have a dialogue not just among states, but also with nature. Although we often forget it, human beings are a force in nature.

Culture

Februrary 14 was "The Day of Rage" against Bahrain's monarchy and dictatorship. As the government shut down radio broadcasters and stopped journalists from reporting on the situation, underground hip-hop artist Elreda wrote a song in dedication to the victims and the continuing protest that was not being broadcast to the western world. Elreda says he was motivated by Bahrainian citizens overseas to stand up for what they believe in in his song "February 14th". The song starts: "Blood splashes Bahrain Labyaka ya Hussein up rise strength February 14th."
East West 101 Created & produced by Steve Knapman & Kris Wyld Directed by Peter Andrikidis Starring Don Hany, Susie Porter & Matt Nable Wednesdays, 8.30pm, SBSONE www.sbs.com.au/shows/eastwest101 The makers of critically acclaimed Australian crime series East West 101 say the third season, now airing Wednesday nights on SBS, is about the devastation wars in the Middle East have on Muslim and non-Muslim people in Australia. It is a bold aim untouched by any other Australian network.
In April 1915, in the midst of a stalled military campaign on the Western Front, Britain and its allies attacked Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to gain control of the Dardanelles Straits and take German-allied Turkey out of World War I. This impressively researched volume, which relies extensively on unpublished first-hand accounts from soldiers of all sides of the conflict, is a detailed account of this “doomed” and “pointless” campaign.
In the World of Light Tiki Taane Touring Qld, NSW & Vic: May 19-28 www.tikidub.com Interview by Mat Ward Chart-topping New Zealand musician Tiki Taane became an unlikely poster boy for free speech on April 9 when he was escorted from his own gig in handcuffs. His arrest was for singing NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” during a routine police check of the concert in the seaside town of Tauranga. He was charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.

Letters

Middle East Rebellions and Royal Weddings While I think the world certainly needs good news stories, I am astounded at the focus of media attention on the wedding of one couple in England when there are truly amazing and historic scenes happening in our world that are real good news stories. From Libya and Tunisia in North Africa to Syria, Yemen and Bahrain in the Middle East earth shattering events are taking place, that are not only powerfully transforming the region politically, but also are having a profound social and cultural impact there and elsewhere.

Resistance!

The "Take the power back" conference of the socialist youth organisation Resistance was held at the Redfern Community Centre in Sydney on May 7-9. Below are videos of sections of talks given by some of the speakers.

Matthew Cassel, former editor of Electronic Intifada, speaks on activist media and the Arab Spring.