Issue 879

Australia

A Palestinian solidarity conference held in Sydney over May 14-15 brought together more than 200 people to discuss the campaign in Australia in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

The conference took place on the anniversary of al Nakba (“the catastrophe”) — as Palestinians call the day that marks their dispossession that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

See also:
Sydney community discusses the 'boycott Israel' campaign

The Iran Solidarity Network (ISN) and Australia-Asia Worker Links held a meeting on May 7 to commemorate Iranian Kurdish activist Farzad Kamangar, who was executed last year.

ISN member Afshin Nikouseresht told the meeting that Kamangar was a teacher, poet, author, human rights activist and unionist. He had campaigned around environmental issues, women's rights and poverty as well as union rights.

He was arrested in 2006 and executed in 2010, accused of being a member of an armed Kurdish group — an allegation he denied.

Campaign groups Western Downs Alliance and Six Degrees combined with a number of other activists and organisations to bring us the Rock the Gates Festival at Tara showgrounds from April 29 to May 4.

The festival was organised to elicit support for, educate and inform about the Lock the Gates campaign which is aimed stopping the corporate destruction of the land and groundwater caused by the search for and extraction of coal seam gas in and around Tara.

Australian born WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who began publishing thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables last year, received the Sydney Peace Foundation’s Gold Medal at a special ceremony at the Frontline Club in London on May 10.

The award, which differs from the foundation’s annual Sydney Peace Prize, is for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights" and has only been awarded on three previous occasions: to the Dalai Lama in 1998, Nelson Mandela in 2000 and Japanese lay Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda in 2009.

An audience of more than 600 people at a forum debate in Sydney on May 10 voted by a margin of 69% to 23%, that, "All drugs should be legalised."

The forum was sponsored by Intelligence2, a project of the St James Ethics Centre. It heard arguments for and against the proposal and questions and comments from the audience.

Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, and a founder of Australia's first needle exchange, argued: "As a starting point, we must recognise that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed. Legalisation is the only answer.

A group of 30 people held up construction of a second loader arm at Newcastle's third coal loader site on Kooragang Island on May 10, stopping a crane crew for about 90 minutes.

The protest coincided with what would have been Newcastle climate activist Pete Gray's 31st birthday. Gray sadly lost a two year long battle with cancer on April 30.

The Feminist Futures Conference is being organised for May 28-29 by the newly formed Melbourne Feminist Collective (MFC): a group of mainly young activists who were inspired by a similar conference they attended in Sydney last year.

James Muldoon from the MFC told Green Left Weekly: “We are a non-aligned loose knit group of feminists who are keen to build on the movement’s past successes by focusing on shared goals and strategies for the future.

“We are seeking to move beyond the old divisions by focusing on what unites us

Organisers of the 2011 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) have informed Melbourne visual artist Van Thanh Rudd that his artwork titled Pop Goes the System, which depicts global pop icon Justin Bieber supporting Palestinian human rights, will be banned from this year’s festival.

The Roman Catholic Church has sacked the bishop of Toowoomba after 18 years of service for his belief that women can be priests.

In his 2006 Advent pastoral letter to priests in his diocese, Bishop William Morris questioned the practice of sourcing Catholic priests from Africa, and suggested the shortage of Catholic priests in Australia would be better addressed by considering admitting married men and women to the priesthood.

Morris met with Pope Benedict in 2009 about his views. He is now taking “early retirement” at age 67. The usual retirement age for bishops is 75.

Australia’s first national rally of intersex, sex and/or gender diverse (ISGD) people saw 180 participants gather on the lawns of parliament house, Canberra, on May 11.

Two buses of ISGD people and allies travelled from Sydney. A bus arrived from Melbourne and 10 activists flew from Brisbane to attend the important action, undeterred by the cold, windy weather.

World

About 6000 people rallied in Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-occupied West Papua on May 2 demanding a referendum on independence. The demonstration also commemorated the illegal occupation of West Papua in 1963.

West Papua Media Alerts reported on May 2 that West Papua National Committee (KNPB) spokesperson Victor Yeimo said: “We want to show Indonesia and the international community that we are not just a handful of people who want independence. All people of West Papua want to be free.”

This article is reposted from http://gazatvnews.com . Protesters fired on by Israeli forces were commemorating al Nakba ("the catastrophe"), as Palestinians refer to the ethnic cleansing that accompanied the founding of Israel.

See also
Remembering al Nakba
VIDEO: Sydney community discusses Marrickville Council's 'boycott Israel' stance
Sydney conference discusses BDS, Palestine solidarity

Federal elections were held in Canada on May 2 after the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper lost a motion of no-confidence in parliament. In the elections, Harper's government was returned -- winning enough extra seats to move from being minority government to a majority one.

New Zealand’s Unite union has made great progress in recent years in organising previously unorganised sectors of workers ― often young workers in fast food, hospitality and retail. Through organising workers, Unite has forced fast food giants, such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut, to eradicate “youth wages”, which pay young workers less for the same work.

In the first four days after Osama bin Laden’s assassination by US forces, the mass reaction in Pakistan is very mixed.

In Punjab there is a general sympathy towards bin Laden, but not many are expressing it openly. In Sindh, the responses differ in different cities. For example, in Karachi there is more active commiseration for bin Laden and condemnation of the US attack.

Surprisingly, not much happened in Khaiber Pakhtoonkhawa, where bin Laden was killed. Similarly, Baluchistan responded meekly against the killings.

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities and towns throughout Syria on May 13, despite a week of intensified repression by the Baath Party regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

On May 11, tanks shelled the city of Homs, one of the centres of protest, and mass arrests took place throughout the country.

The statement below was released by the Socialist Alliance in Australia on May 14.

See also: Venezuela: Dodgy dossier’s terror links claims questioned

* * *
The Socialist Alliance calls on the Colombian government to immediately release independent media activist Joaquin Perez Becerra, who is now facing charges of “terrorism”.

Voting across Britain on May 5 resulted in a rejection of changes to the electoral system, but election results in Scotland may herald the end of Britain as we know it.
 
The referendum on introducing an “Alternative Vote” voting system (much like the preferential voting system in Australia) to replace the current “First Past The Post” system was decisively defeated. With a turnout of only 42%, 67.87% voted against the change.
 

No sooner had the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released its dossier The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raul Reyes on May 10, that the international media was once again claiming more proof that Venezuelan government links to terrorism had been uncovered.

Almost none mention that the entire basis of the document were files that Interpol and US and Colombian officials have admitted are dubious at best.

“I don’t have any blood on my hands,” Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera wrote in February.

“I haven’t victimized anyone. And I’ve devoted most of my life serving a just and noble cause and struggling to help make this world a better and more just one.”

For 30 years, Lopez Rivera has been imprisoned in the United States for his activities in support of freedom and independence for Puerto Rico, which is still claimed by the US.

Bolivian President Evo Morales proposed enshrining the Rights of Mother Earth in international law to the United Nations General Assembly on April 23.

The proposal follows the Law on the Rights of Mother Earth that was enacted in Bolivia in January.

The “short” law enacted is a set of principles. A more detailed version is expected later this year.

The law commits the government to steadily integrate renewable energy sources in order to achieve national energy independence.

Despite years of anti-labour laws, government attacks on unions, workplace restructuring and labour “flexibility”, the huge turnout for 2011 May Day celebrations shows that South Korean organised labour is still a force to be reckoned with.

On May 1, huge numbers of workers took to the streets for May Day protests across Seoul. Police estimated the crowd at more than 58,000 — making it the largest 2011 May Day rally in Asia.

The main demands of the rally were for better workplace security and an end to the casualisation of labour.

The pretext for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, now the longest war in US history, was the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But the vast majority of Afghans being carpet bombed, eviscerated by Predator drones and shot dead in night raids don’t even know what the 9/11 attacks were.

A public opinion poll in Kandahar and Helmand provinces — the focus of the troop surge and the scene of the great majority of bloodshed in the country — found that only 8% of young men know about the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States that killed about 3000 people, will not be mourned by many people around the world. But his killers used Bin Laden’s crimes to justify wars on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq that have killed many thousands more. These wars are continuing. The May 3 US Socialist Worker article abridged below says bin Laden’s death should not be used to justify further killings in the name of the “war on terror”.

* * *

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, triggering a months-long disaster that would end only after at least 4.9 million barrels of oil, and at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants, had been injected into the Gulf of Mexico.

One year on, the environmental destruction, while huge, is still only in the beginning stages. Experts warn that it will take decades to see the full consequences.

Analysis

Her long red nails jabbed and waved in the air like a conductor dramatically tracing an absurdist symphony of propaganda, cajoling, and threats.

May 14 marked 63 years of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The Palestinian Arabs know it as al Nakba, which translates as “day of the catastrophe”.

In preparation for Israel’s independence from Britain, the Haganah — a Zionist paramilitary, or, as it would be described by the FBI today, terrorist organisation — set about its two objectives.

The refugee deal struck between the Australian and Malaysian governments will put vulnerable, desperate refugees in great danger.

Under the agreement, the Gillard Labor government will deport to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat. Malaysia has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention.

The deportations will be automatic. Men, women, children — the government has promised it will make no exceptions. They will be deemed unworthy of protection, regardless of their circumstances.

See also:

In the past few decades, Christian and Muslim theologies have been misinterpreted and used tactically against Middle Eastern dictatorships with no success.

For instance, former US president George W Bush justified the “war on terror” as a fight against an “axis of evil” and called for a new Crusade to liberate the people of the Middle East.

This use of Christian theological concepts to justify the war in the Middle East requires a lot of spin.

Laura’s* mother was in Dara’a in southern Syria when the military attacked youths who had graffitied anti-government slogans in mid March. Only when she had arrived back in Sydney did she tell her family about what she’d seen of the attacks on unarmed protesters, which sparked the wave of anti-government protests across Syria.

The mining and banking companies creaming billions in super profits from the mining boom — the biggest mining boom in Australia’s history — have done very well from the federal budget that was delivered by the Gillard Labor government on May 10.

The big mining companies will continue to pay the lowest ever share in tax and royalties while they make their biggest ever profits.

In a joint statement with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on May 7, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced an agreement had been reached to swap 800 future “irregular maritime arrivals” from Australia with 4000 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognised refugees from Malaysia over the next four years.

Although the details of the plan are yet to be fully revealed, a number of myths about this so-called solution have already arisen in the media. Here are the facts.

Newcastle climate, forest and anti-war activist Pete Gray passed away on April 30 after a battle with cancer that lasted more than two years. Pete was a week and a half short of his 31st birthday.

Pete was a founding and active member of the nationally and internationally renowned activist group Rising Tide Newcastle, whose bold direct-action approach to climate activism has earned the acclaim of many supporters.

One hundred activists of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) attended the Pushing the Boundaries climate change conference over April 28-29.

The two days of talks, vibrant debate and action-based workshops set a progressive agenda for ongoing union environmental activism and marked the NTEU as the left pole of the global warming debate in the union movement.

NTEU national president Jeannie Rea opened the conference by drawing attention to the special place of the NTEU in the debate about global warming.

After 12 hours on the road, travelling 800 kilometres from Newcastle through Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree and Goondiwindi, just after sundown, our big blue bus pulled into Tara showground for four days of workshops and direct action as part of the Rock the Gate festival against coal seam gas mining.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott wrote to PM Julia Gillard in March calling for a bipartisan approach to Aboriginal issues and a “second intervention” in the Northern Territory. He flew to Alice Springs in late April to further these calls.

June will mark four years since former PM John Howard launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response — or NT intervention.

Left Flank, May 3 — Marrickville Council may have backed off supporting the Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign but by highlighting the plight of the Palestinians, the Council’s initiative in this area, and the pro-BDS stance of the NSW Greens, has ensured that this will only be the beginning of the debate, not least of all within the Greens themselves.

Refugees held inside Darwin’s Northern Immigration Detention Centre told members of the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network on May 3 of two recent suicide attempts by inmates.

The network has also received two letters from detainees. One of these letters, from a Rohingyan man held in detention for 18 months, is reprinted verbatim below.

Resistance!

Our goal, as socialists, is to raise women (and for that matter, all of humanity) to a level where they are regarded as true human beings.

By that I mean, people whose ideas, opinions and desires are worthy of consideration, rather than machines which exist to provide sexual pleasure, offspring, and free/cheap labour in the form of caregiving/housework.

Young women face much pressure in our society, in the form of media and pornography, which tell them how they must behave, look and relate to men.

Culture

Treasure Islands
By Nicholas Shaxson
Random House, 2011
329 pages
www.treasureislands.org

Every once in a while a book comes along that changes a mass audience's view of the world.

Naomi Klein’s 2000 book No Logo, which deconstructed consumer culture, was one. Treasure Islands, a revealing expose of tax havens written by financial journalist Nicholas Shaxson, is equally groundbreaking.

Fighting Fund

For many Australians, Fairfax Media is a benign alternative to Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. Well-meaning people buy Fairfax newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age because they believe they present a fairer picture of the news. But just how fair is Fairfax?

We kid you not

“Factories making sought-after Apple iPads and iPhones in China are forcing staff to sign pledges not to commit suicide, an investigation has revealed.

“At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in China have killed themselves in the last 16 months as a result of horrendous working conditions.

“Many more are believed to have either survived attempts or been stopped before trying at the Apple supplier's plants in Chengdu or Shenzen.

“Appalling conditions: An investigation by two NGOs has found new workers at Foxconn factories in China are made to sign a ‘no suicide’ pledge ...