I finally learn something from PACBI

Leeds Student Union is having a nail-biting referendum on whether or not to adopt the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. I think it’s a good definition which leaves plenty of leeway for everybody’s favourite pursuit: ‘criticising’ Israel. However, some Israel critics find themselves at at a loss for how to operate under it and are loud in their lament. My feeling is that these people are antisemitic and in denial. But there’s no telling them.

PACBI is an Israel-boycotting organisation led by a choreographer called Omar Barghouti. Whenever I think of PACBI I think of Saen Sans’ Danse Macabre.


PACBI are urging Leeds students to reject the EUMC definition because PACBI depends on antisemitism to function.

What I learnt from them today is that Jews Against Zionism, their definitive source on what we should think about Zionism, have only got 150,000 members. What percentage is that of 14 million? One and a bit.

I also learn to carry on thinking that PACBI are scarey. They brush concerns about antisemitism aside in a classic example of David Hirsh’s Livingstone Manoevre – even to the extent of using the JAZs as their ventriloquist dummies:

Jews against Zionism, an organization which represents over 150,000 Jews world-wide, commented that “One of the well-known tactics of Zionists to silence their critics is to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Of course, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two separate things.”

It’s well known that antisemitism exists and is increasing throughout Europe. It is also these days, and on the political left, couched in the language of anti-Zionism. The anti-Zionist voices which are not also antisemitic voices are very weak at the moment and they don’t have any answers.

Other racisms are also increasing but the Jews remain an enduring scapegoat – most recently in Mumbai. The Jews targeted, sought out in their community centre and ultimately killed in Mumbai weren’t Israelis – they were plain old Jews.

PACBI comprises people so ignorant and hate-filled that they can’t seem to criticise Israel without getting into bed with Jew haters. This is quite easy to avoid. Just take a cool, unprejudiced look at the situation (there are 10 of these – simply insert the relevant number into the Web address).

For the Palestinians, an economy and a commitment to seizing political process bull by the horns. A return to negotiations and abandoning the murderous Hamas Charter. Israel can and must assist with the former, by facilitating free movement, by equitable distribution of resources like water, by sharing technological advances, by freezing and shrinking the settlements, and by withdrawing from the West Bank as soon as possible. The rest is down to the Palestinians. It’s their war too.

Sound copyright and bad intellectual property law

From the Sound Copyright Campaign:

“Dear Sound Copyright petitioner,

The flawed proposal to extend the term of copyright protection afforded to sound recordings, robbing consumers in the name of performers but for the benefit of the world’s four major record labels, is being fast-tracked through the democratic process. Earlier this month MEPs from the relevant European Parliament committees presented their draft reports (1) at a meeting of the legal affairs committee (JURI), the Committee which will make recommendations to the European Parliament on how to vote on the Directive early next year. They proposed a host of worrying new amendments which threaten to:

  • Weaken further already inadequate measures intended to allow orphan works, and commercially worthless but culturally significant recordings to pass into the public domain (Culture (CULT), Internal Market (IMCO) and the Industry, Technology and Research (ITRE) committees draft reports).
  • Allow record labels to deduct “costs” from a fund intended to benefit session musicians, further shrinking the pot of money made available to performers in favour of labels (IMCO committee draft report).
  • Dramatically widen the scope of the Directive to include audio-visual recording, even though no relevant impact assessment has been conducted into what effect this might have on consumers and follow-on innovators. (JURI and ITRE committee draft reports).

(1) http://www.openrightsgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/term-extension-committee-draft-reports.zip

At the JURI meeting, Dr Lionel Bently of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) Cambridge, dismissed the proposal stating that “record producers will gain the lion’s share of revenues on sales in the extended term”. He warned that the Directive would accrue serious social and economic costs, and concluded that MEPs should “oppose this measure in its totality.” (2)

(2) http://www.openrightsgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/prof-bently-juri-speech.pdf

Bently is not the only expert to oppose the Directive. In an open letter to MEPs, Europe’s leading intellectual property research centres unanimously condemned the proposal (3). The European Broadcast Union has also stated publicly that the proposal will make consumers foot the bill while stifling innovation (4).

(3) http://www.openrightsgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/term-open-letter-and-statement.zip
(4) http://www.openrightsgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/ebu-position-paper-extending-the-term-of-copyright-protection.doc

Earlier this month ORG met with MEPs in the European Parliament to express our serious concerns about the proposal. We warned that the European Commission’s own figures demonstrate that performers will benefit little from the extended term (5), while the world’s four major record labels will gain millions of Euros direct from consumer’s pockets. We argued that this damaged the respect necessary for a functioning IP system.

(5) http://www.openrightsgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/openrights-scotsman-oct-08.pdf

But our voice is not as powerful as yours. It’s vital that you contact your MEPs now (6) and tell them why term extension is bad news (7).

(6) http://www.soundcopyright.eu/system/files/MEP+lobbying+tips.pdf
(7) http://www.soundcopyright.eu/system/files/Briefing.pdf

With all the evidence pointing against this measure, you can call on your MEPs to put a stop to bad IP law and reject this proposal. You can also also tell the appropriate government department in your own EU country (8) (in the UK it is DCMS), as they will be meeting in the Council of Ministers to discuss term extension.

(8) http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/urls.jsp

With the European elections next year, Parliament is set to move quickly on this issue. It’s up to you to remind your representatives that their job is to look out for your interests, not to rush through bad law.

Thanks again – we’ll keep you updated.

The Sound Copyright Campaign

Run by the Open Rights Group and EFF”

Short term thinking on the climate will kill somebody’s kids

Monbiot in The Guardian. Naturally, everybody wants $4.2 trillion but I reckon the climate should probably be a priority:

“A paper by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research shows that if we are to give ourselves a roughly even chance of preventing more than two degrees of warming, global emissions from energy must peak by 2015 and decline by between 6% and 8% per year from 2020 to 2040, leading to a complete decarbonisation of the global economy soon after 2050. Even this programme would work only if some optimistic assumptions about the response of the biosphere hold true. Delivering a high chance of preventing two degrees of warming would mean cutting global emissions by more than 8% a year.

Is this possible? Is this acceptable? The Tyndall paper points out that annual emission cuts greater than 1% have “been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”. When the Soviet Union collapsed, emissions fell by some 5% a year. But you can answer these questions only by considering the alternatives. The trajectory both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have proposed – an 80% cut by 2050 – means reducing emissions by an average of 2% a year. This programme, the figures in the Tyndall paper suggest, is likely to commit the world to at least four or five degrees of warming, which means the likely collapse of human civilisation across much of the planet. Is this acceptable?

The costs of a total energy replacement and conservation plan would be astronomical, the speed improbable. But the governments of the rich nations have already deployed a scheme like this for another purpose. A survey by the broadcasting network CNBC suggests that the US federal government has now spent $4.2 trillion in response to the financial crisis, more than the total spending on the second world war when adjusted for inflation. Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse?

This approach is challenged by the American thinker Sharon Astyk. In an interesting new essay, she points out that replacing the world’s energy infrastructure involves “an enormous front-load of fossil fuels”, which are required to manufacture wind turbines, electric cars, new grid connections, insulation and all the rest. This could push us past the climate tipping point. Instead, she proposes, we must ask people “to make short term, radical sacrifices”, cutting our energy consumption by 50%, with little technological assistance, in five years.

There are two problems: the first is that all previous attempts show that relying on voluntary abstinence does not work. The second is that a 10% annual cut in energy consumption while the infrastructure remains mostly unchanged means a 10% annual cut in total consumption: a deeper depression than the modern world has ever experienced. No political system – even an absolute monarchy – could survive an economic collapse on this scale.

She is right about the risks of a technological green new deal, but these are risks we have to take. Astyk’s proposals travel far into the realm of wishful thinking. Even the technological new deal I favour inhabits the distant margins of possibility.

Can we do it? Search me. Reviewing the new evidence, I have to admit that we might have left it too late. But there is another question I can answer more easily. Can we afford not to try? No, we can’t.”

The Republic of Iceland is a shipwreck

This is a must-listen.

Paul Henley, investigative journalist and broadcaster, says his goodbyes to an Icelandic interviewee:

“And I’ve just left him for the night, in the middle of a field, in a run-down junkbox on wheels with barely any heating, looking forward to the Icelandic winter. I expected my trip to Iceland to be depressing under the circumstances but… not, NOT quite that depressing – to be reduced to this by a national financial crisis out of your control. So I get into my taxi and go back to my warm hotel and speculate on the future of Iceland and look forward to many more stories along these lines. In this edition of Crossing Continents I’m going to try and tell the individual stories of people who’ve been hit by Iceland’s financial crisis.”

Iceland sounds like a wonderful place – some say because Christian missionaries never really made it there (too remote – hooray). So they lost a load of British investment – surely that’s what happens in a system where you expect money to accrue from just having money in the first place.  If the shit hits the fan here in some way I was planning to convince Matt to emigrate there.  But today Iceland is in shock.

“You are observing a nation in dire straits. The republic of Iceland is like a shipwreck. I think society is collapsing and the next year or two will be terrible.” (Former Foreign Minister).

“I’m ashamed to be an Icelander. how do you think my Christmas will be? My children and grandchildren – I won’t be able to give them anything.” (Man in the food queue).

“I had just normal ordinary loans – nothing I couldn’t handle … When the bank collapsed I had to sell everything and I lost everything … This is all that was left after they took my house [he lives in a camper van] It’s absolutely horrific. Threee months ago I came from a very nice house with nice new furniture and a nice new car outside – to this. This is the biggest let down of my life. Sixty years old and I come to this … When the bank collapsed I had to sell at a very low price and this was all I could afford to keep a roof over my head … You see the people lining up for food – this is the picture of Iceland today.” (A sculptor of repute, former homeowner.)

“Whereas their grandparents lived in fisherman’s huts with earth floors many of todays young Icelanders have come to expect gourmet food, high speed internet and under-floor heating. Officially this was the fifth richest country in the world – until last month. Imports, so necessary here have become almost unaffordable. 65 Icelandic kroner used to buy a dollar – now it’s 130. Thousands of people advised to take our mortgages in dollars yen or swiss francs suddenly found they owed twice as much. Shop prices are soaring. Companies are either slashing wages or laying people off at a rate of 5000 a month. The bubble has well and truly burst” (Paul Henley).

That was when I started to cry lightly over dinner preparations.

There are 1,300 families relying on the state for food handouts, and this number increases by – Jesus – 10% a week. Iceland’s only export seems to be horses. Bank debts twelve times bigger than its GDP.

When I started to cry I realised with passing interest that I was cured of the habit of thinking about affluent people that I somehow picked up when I was younger – the schadenfreude of seeing somebody get it when you are convinced they have it coming. Only a couple of years ago I remember railing against Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who wrote, in his book The Dignity of Difference, that (I paraphrase) a wealthy man is tortured by sudden poverty on a scale which a man who has always known poverty could stoically endure, and should be treated accordingly. Iceland illustrates this and I understand now what he meant. The scale of the dispossession has been absolutely devastating. Icelanders are reeling.

I still have a relatively puritanical streak – I disapprove of wealth or more surplus than is required for a rainy day. But material security according to our norms is something I think we can all claim. What we owe ourselves – all of ourselves from Bahrain to Mozambique – is to make sure that those norms are at a level we can all claim.

Get the Crossing Continents podcast.

Hot water bottles I have known and would like to meet

When I was 7 I was allowed a rabbit. Because my dad’s allergic to hairy creatures, she lived outside in a hutch that he made from an enormous salvaged sideboard. On winter nights my dad organised for us to cover the hutch in blankets and polythene, give her a bowl of hot milk (whoever heard of such a thing – but she was enthusiastic!!) and to cap it all, a Nescafe jar of hot water slipped into her straw. I love my dad. He was just making it up in his usual empathetic way. After all, everyone in our family had a hot milky drink and hot water bottle at bedtime. (I was also not allowed to touch my rabbit very much and she grew up combative. She used to snarl and lunge like General Woundwort and it was hard to get the hot water bottle in and out without lacerations to the hand  – I used to have to wear my dad’s gardening glove. But she was my favourite thing on earth until she died on my lap before her time.)

These days from October onwards my time at home is spent with a hot water bottle in a faux sheepskin jacket tucked into my waistband. But this tends to pop the buttons and interfere with mobility so what I’m after is a kind of specially moulded hot water bottle like a papoose which hangs over the region of my chilly heart and liver but also my kidneys. Anybody know of such a thing?

And last night – disaster! I’d taken two to bed and after handing one over to Matt, decided the other had too much air in it so I sat up and untwisted the top a fraction and squeezed gently. Then Matt justifiably began to gripe about cold air getting under the blanket so I tried to hurry, burnt myself on the steam, lurched and tipped a load of water into my lap! Out of bed I leapt clawing off my steaming pajama bottoms, called Matt every name under the sun and tried to pin the blame on him for making me err in haste. “What would you have said to me if I was doing that over the bed?” he asked appositely. I lied that I’d have merely told him to take his time and be careful. That shut him up. Then I settled myself sorrowfully on top of the now-cold wet patch in the bed which luckily aligned exactly with where the scalded part was.

As I write to you now it’s still rather sore.

PLO’s historic message to the Israeli people

See Gush Shalom. I’m not in a very good position to weigh up the terms of the peace agreement but if it’s acceptable to senior Kadima ‘realist doves’ like Shimon Peres, that means a lot. What I find significant is that the PLO are speaking to the Israeli people. This is beautiful.

Haaretz may have taken the wind out of its sails though:

THE DAY before yesterday, two documents appeared side by side in Haaretz: a giant advertisement from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the results of a public opinion poll.

The proximity was accidental, but to the point. The PLO ad sets out the details of the 2002 Saudi peace offer, decorated with the colorful flags of the 22 Arab and the 35 other Muslim countries which have endorsed the offer.

The public opinion poll predicts a landslide victory for Likud, which opposes every single word of the Saudi proposal.

THE PLO ad is a first of its kind. At long last, the PLO leaders have decided to address the Israeli people directly.

The ad discloses to the Israeli population the exact terms of the all-Arab peace offer: full recognition of the State of Israel by all Arab and Muslim countries, full normalization of relations – in return for Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of the Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The refugee problem would be solved by mutual agreement – meaning that Israel could veto any solution it considered unacceptable.

More at Gush Shalom. For some justifiable, sharp griping about the main political rival to Israeli peace-makers in the up-coming general elections from an Israeli voter (and I will play along with Snoopy the Goon by not oxygenating him with keyword publicity) see Simply Jews.

Not forgetting the Saudi hunger strikers

I’m re-reading Arthur Koestler‘s Scum of the Earth at the moment. It’s autobiographical reportage and reflections on his time as a political prisoner in France during World War 2. His accounts of the night terrors of his fellow detainees prompt this post.

“Each of us carried a weight in his memory to put in the Past scale of the balance and lift the Present scale. Yankel carried the weight of his two pogroms and the prison in Lublyana, where people were made to talk by introducing rubber tubes into their nostrils and pouring water through them; Mario carried the weight of his nine years of prison in Italy, including torture by electric shock during the preliminary investigation; Tamas, the Hungarian poet, had his three years of hard labour in Szeged – to quote only my three immediate neighbours in Hutment number 34 in Le Vernet. The fourth one, myself, had his hundred days under sentence of death in Seville.

Most of us had our periodical nightmares, dreams of falling once more into the hands of our persecutors, regularly recurring repetitions of the rubber tubes, the electric shocks, the death patio in Seville. Those amongst us who had no personal experience of torture replaced it by the fear of it. They had more acute, obsessive fear of the O.V.R.A and the Gestapo than those who had actually passed through their hands.” (p94)

He says of his Italian former-Communist friend Mario, whom he left in the appalling conditions of forced labour at Le Vernet shortly before the French turned it over to the Gestapo:

“I could never argue against that particular quiet smile of Mario’s; it made me feel futile and childish although he was younger than I. I knew it had taken nine years of imprisonment to form that smile – three years fermenting in solitary confinement and a further six years to become ripe and mellow while he shared twelve square yards of space with comrades. He had been nineteen when the cell door closed behind him – and twenty-eight when it opened again two years ago. This kind of experience either crushes a man or produces something very rare and perfect – Mario belonged to the latter category.” (p99)

See The Hub on the recent Saudi hunger strike to raise awareness of the Saudi human rights activists who have been detained without trial, several in solitary confinement for months. They went on 48 hour hunger strike earlier this month. Below is background and what has happened in the past week:

First a quick digression to say that the Hub – the media channel of human rights org WITNESS – is an impressive site as long as you keep in mind that mapping more human rights abuses for the US than the Democratic Republic of Congo doesn’t mean that the DRC is a better place to live, rights-wise. Imbalance and disproportionality dogs all participatory projects – in this case it’s probably explained by the fact that many human rights activists are from democracies and they – quite rightly – want to keep their own house in order. It kind of goes with the territory that the more restrictive the authorities in a country, the harder it may be to bear witness to human rights abuses. Taking that on board the untarnished records of Algeria and Iran don’t look quite so good. So basically don’t use the Google map mashup to judge concentration of abuse – it won’t tell you that.

So it’s important not to offer blind support to just anybody who is touted as a human rights activist. Some people and organisations adopt the human rights mantle to sow repression and hate. For example, we have the Islamic Human Rights Commission whose values are exemplified by the following (David T):

“What astonishes me is that the IHRC is regarded as a serious organisation, whose views on muslim issues should be listened to. It should certainly not be regarded as a Human Rights body. This is, after all, the group which shortlisted – as Islamophobe of the Year 2006

“King Mohammed VI of Morocco For his ’so called reforms’ aimed at removing Islam from the the Moroccan people.”.

The reforms in question were the prohibition of polygamy, and the legislation which made it easier for women to divorce their husbands. This the the IHRC’s definition of “Islamophobia”. This is the IHRC’s notion of “Human Rights”.

But shrugging and ignoring threatened human rights activists because we don’t have full reliable information about them risks depriving the people who need it most of international solidarity. The fundamental question should always be not who are they, but what do they want. And to look to trusted sources like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, and cross reference those with participatory sites such as The Hub (which has a conspicuous disclaimer acknowledging they can’t vouch for the veracity of the reports the host, but which has the potential to reach the parts that official NGOs can’t). End of digression.

The Saudi detainees on behalf of whom the hunger strike was observed are all political prisoners – academics, lawyers, writers, jailed for their opinions. Amnesty summarises how nine of them came to be arrested:

“The men are prisoners of conscience detained for their advocacy of peaceful political change and the protection and promotion of human rights, and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

All of those named above, except for Dr Matrouk al-Faleh, were arrested in the cities of Jeddah and Madinah on 03 February 2007 and are held in Dhahban prison in western Saudi Arabia.

These eight men were targeted because they had issued a petition calling for political reform and discussed the idea of establishing a human rights organization and challenging the impunity enjoyed by the Ministry of Interior’s arresting authorities. The Ministry of Interior, on the other hand, issued a statement claiming the detainees had been arrested because they were collecting money to supportterrorism.

Dr Matrouk al-Faleh was arrested in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, on 19 May 2008. He is held without charge in al-Ha’ir prison for political detainees in Riyadh. He has not been permitted access to a lawyer since his arrest and on occasions has been refused family visits. He is also reported to be denied access to medical attention.”

Human Rights Watch background – overlapping but going by the names, slightly different – I’m not sure how many campaigns are going on:

“In March 2004, Saudi authorities arrested al-Lahim, Ali al-Dumaini, Matrook al-Faleh, Abdullah al-Hamid, and eight other activists for having signed and circulated petitions calling for reform. Al-Lahim, who was released without charge, became the lead defense lawyer for the trial against al-Dumaini, al-Hamid, and al-Faleh, which started in August 2004. In November 2004, the authorities rearrested al-Lahim after he stated on Al Jazeera satellite television that he believed his clients to be innocent. A court in May 2005 sentenced al-Dumaini, al-Hamid, and al-Faleh to nine, seven, and six years in prison, respectively(http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/16/saudia10955.htm). Al-Lahim remained in solitary confinement in al-Ha’ir political prison until King Abdullah pardoned and released all four just days after acceding to the throne in August 2005. The other activists arrested in March 2004 also remain banned from foreign travel.

Al-Lahim quickly returned to human rights legal advocacy, defending two teachers in court against charges of blasphemy introduced by their colleagues and students who disapproved of their modern, unorthodox teaching methods. King Abdullah pardoned both teachers.

Al-Lahim was the first lawyer to bring a criminal case against Saudi Arabia’s religious police in a court of law. In 2005, he represented a woman, Umm Faisal, in a case against the religious police for wrongful deprivation of liberty. A court ruled that the religious police are “not to be held accountable.”

Religious policemen had stopped Faisal’s car, forced her driver out, and drove Faisal and her daughter at high speed through Riyadh before crashing the car, taking away the women’s mobile phones, locking them inside the car, and fleeing on foot. Al-Lahim is now representing Faisal in her lawsuit against the religious police for damages in that case in a civil court.

In 2007, al-Lahim also represented the family of Salman al-Huraisi in appealing a court’s acquittal of two religious policemen who faced charges of beating al-Huraisi to death in May 2007. The appeal is pending.

Al-Lahim came to prominence in Saudi Arabia and the wider region when he represented the “Girl of Qatif” in her appeal of a sentence to 90 lashes for having in 2006 illegally “mingled” with an unrelated man in a car, before a gang of seven men set upon her and the man and raped them both. After al-Lahim spoke out about the injustice of punishing the victim (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/28/saudia17433.htm), the appeals court increased her sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and confiscated his law license (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/16/saudia17363.htm).

Al-Lahim stood firmly in support of the woman while senior clerics, judges, and the Ministry of Justice besmirched the young woman’s reputation and others called him a “traitor to the country.” In December 2007, King Abdullah set aside the sentences of the woman and man. “

The prisoners, as listed on the Facebook site:

  1. Professor Matrook H. Al-Faleh, political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, detained by security forces in May 19, 2008.
  2. Attorney Suliman Ibrahim Al-Reshoudi, former judge and human-right advocate, detained in February 2, 2007.
  3. Attorney Dr. Mousa Mohammed Al-Qarni, former university professor and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  4. Professor Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Shomairy, former professor of education and human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  5. Dr. Abdulaziz Suliman Al-Khereiji, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  6. Saifaldeen Faisal Al-Sherif, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  7. Fahd Alskaree Al-Qurashi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  8. Abdulrahman Bin Sadiq, Human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  9. Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Hashemi, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  10. Ali Khosifan Al-Qarni, human-right activist, detained in February 2, 2007.
  11. Mansour Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist, detained in December 12, 2007.

Their defence teams who observed the hunger strike:

  1. Ayman Mohammad Al-Rashed, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966505288354
  2. Saud Ahmed Al-Degaither, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966559201964
  3. Professor Abdulkareem Yousef Al-Khadher, College of Islamic Jurisprudence, Qassim University.
    mobil# +966503331113
  4. Dr. Abdulrahman Hamed Al-Hamed, professor of Islamic economics.
    mobile# +966503774446
  5. Abdullah Mohammad Al-Zahrani, human-right activist.
  6. Abdulmohsin Ali Al-Ayashi, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966553644636
  7. Fahd Abdulaziz Al-Oraini, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966502566678 email: fahadalorani@gmail.com
  8. Fowzan Mohsin Al-Harbi, Human-right activist.
    mobile# +966501916774 email: fowzanm@gmail.com
  9. Dr. Mohammad Fahd Al-Qahtani, college professor and TV show host.
    mobile# +966555464345 email: moh.alqahtani@gmail.com
  10. Mohana Mohammed Al-Faleh, human-right activist.
    mobile# +966505388205
  11. Nasser Salim Al-Otha, human-right activist.
  12. Hashim Abdullah Al-Refai, writer and activist.
  13. Waleed Sami Abu Alkhair, writer and activist.
    mobile# +966567761788 email: abualkair@gmail.com

Others are listed too, 65 in total. These people are unbelievable courageous to stick their necks out in that authoritarian regime.  They could all end up in prison and worse. It is a very rare act of protest and it mustn’t go to waste. This is why it is important that the Saudi government understands that if they do they will not be forgotten. Amnesty (scroll to the bottom of the following link) lists the addresses of the relevant officials to appeal to by post or fax.

What did they strike for? Most immediately, the rights due their clients according to Saudi’s own Criminal Procedure Law and Arrest and Detention Law, specifically habeas corpus (an instrument to safeguard individual rights against detainment without trial by their state; an independent court decides whether a custodian has the right to hold the detainee; pivotal, in James Somersett’s case, to abolishing slavery in Britain), access to legal representation, periods in solitary confinement to be restricted to 60 days, visits, and a fair trial. More on Saudi law and these detainees from Emudeer on the participatory site Now Public (I wish he’d link to the odd source). Indirectly they were hunger striking for the right to continue their work on constitutional reform – the right for Saudis to gather and express themselves freely.

What happened further to the strike?

Nothing on Amnesty since 11th. Nothing on the Facebook site Recent News since Oct 25 – the Wall is alive but there’s no news.

The last thing I found was The Hub reporting blowback from the action:

From the Saudi organisers on 20th:

“As in example of the latest witch hunts against human right activists is the cancellation of Dr.Mohammad Fahad Al-Qahtani’s TV talk show (Economic Issues) in Al-Eqtisadiah Business Channel (a Pan-Arab satellite channel) in response to the interviews he had with the international media outlets during the hunger strike. The episodes of blocking blogs that belong to human right activists continue, the authority’s latest casualty is Mr. Esam Mudeer’s Blog which has been blocked because of his involvements in publicizing, publishing, following and participating in the hunger strike. Unfortunately, these suppressive steps become the inevitable fates for those Saudi activists who intend to uplift and call for human rights.

The activists’ responses to the government’s suppressive campaigns have been very remarkable. The crackdown on venues for expressions has drawn activists closer to one another, and attracts new waves of sympathizers who will eventually join the human right activities. In particular, young followers are fascinated by the culture of human rights and justice due to the fact that it is built around virtues of peace and civic means, their supports to that culture are clear examples of the solidarity and dedication they showed to such a noble cause.”

Why are things so quiet?

As mentioned above Amnesty gives addresses of Saudi officials. I have a hunch they’re not so amenable to grass roots action so I will be contacting my MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

British National Party manifesto – the worst bits

[Update 24th Nov. Friends tell me below that I haven’t amply demonstrated my loathing for BNP policies. Sadly I don’t have time to formulate the kind of understanding but firmly negative approach I usually reserve for the Socialist Worker Party, so I have to just be direct: to be clear, I think that you’d have to be pretty far gone to touch this bunch of supremacists with even a maxi-length bargepole. Yes, they’re evolved Nazis trying to build a mass movement by ditching the swastikas. Don’t fall for their apartheid guff about equal but separate. It wouldn’t even work for ‘native Brits’ – we’d be living like Picts within twenty years.]

Well, the most obvious worst bits anyway, from the most recent BNP 2005 Manifesto, soon to be superceded – will be interesting to compare.

Immigration (will be the end of us):

“Britain’s very existence today is threatened by immigration.”

“15% of the UK’s male prison population is black, despite black people accounting for only 2% of the total population. Victim-reported figures concerning the race of criminals give the lie to the leftist argument that this is due to discriminatory prosecution. It is an inescapable statistical fact that immigration into Britain increases the crime rate.”

Multiculturalism (democracy is genetic!):

“…when we speak of ‘British democracy’ we do so in an ethnic as well as a civic sense. We do not accept the absurd superstition – propagated for different though sometimes overlapping reasons by capitalists, liberals, Marxists and theologians – of human equality. … we believe that it is far more likely than not that the historically established tendency (and we do not claim that it is any more than that) of the peoples of Western Europe in general – and of these islands in particular – to create and sustain social and political structures in which individual freedom, equality before the law, private property and popular participation in decision-making, is to some extent at least genetically pre-determined. … If this is the case, then the idea that it is possible to allow large numbers of people from very different ethnic groups and cultures to settle here, on the assumption that it is just something about our bracing sea air that tends to make us natural born democrats, is fatally flawed.”

There is clearly a deeply ingrained human need to ‘belong’ and to identify with people with whom one shares special things in common; we all have a need to feel ‘at home’. …  The human need to belong is best met at a ‘tribal’ level”

Multi-racialism (we are apes):

“Scientists studying various primates have now discovered that murderous ‘wars’ against different groups of the same species are as frequent among our non-human relatives as they are among us. The tendency to conceive of our relationships with other human populations in terms of ‘in-groups’ and ‘outgroups’, is older than humanity itself. ‘Racism’, in other words, is not a consequence of ‘false consciousness’, economics, imperialism or the work of evil agitators, it is part of human nature.

The last idealistic egalitarian attempt to ignore and override human nature, Marxist economic determinism, led to disaster and human misery on an almost unimaginable scale. The lessons of history, and the growing tensions in the multi-ethnic society that the left-liberal elite have imposed on us in recent decades, all point to the likelihood that the closely-related egalitarian ‘multi-racial experiment’ will end in the same way. Our determination to avoid such a human tragedy is what drives us to risk imprisonment and persecution, and it is what allows us to say with confidence and sincerity that we are not ‘racists’, but realists.”

Crime (beat them, kill them, punish their families):

“We support the re-introduction of corporal punishment for petty criminals and vandals, and the restoration of capital punishment for paedophiles, terrorists and murderers as an option for judges in cases where their guilt is proven beyond dispute, as by DNA evidence or being caught red-handed.”

“We believe that there is a strong argument for making entire families financially responsible for the cost of crimes committed by one of their members. This was the ancient Anglo-Saxon system, and would apply a huge amount of pressure on young tearaways in particular to mend their ways.”

Education (apartheid):

“Prior to our forming a government, we will fight tooth and nail against the looming catastrophe of forced integration within secondary schools.”

“We will re-introduce assemblies based on traditional Christian values and worship.”

“Schools in England will be encouraged to celebrate May Day and other ancient festivals, whilst the other folk nations of the British Isles will be encouraged to resurrect their ancestral folk traditions. We will introduce the requirement that all children will be taught English as their first language in Britain , but also learn about their local ancestral language as well. This will apply to Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Scots Gallic, Doric or Lallans in Great Britain , and Ulster Lallans and Gaelic in Northern Ireland. English children will also be given an appreciation of the language of the Anglo-Saxon folk and to appreciate the beauty of Anglo-Saxon culture, such as its poetry, art and the meaning of citizenship. Those from foreign ethnic backgrounds resident in Britain will be given the choice of either having their children educated in Faith or Folk schools that will teach them the traditions and heritage of their ancestral cultures, or of attending classes in schools that educate them about their ancestral heritage. We believe that all children suffer when deprived of their right to an ancestral identity and contact with their cultural roots. We will encourage black and ethnic minority schools and religious schools.”

Britain first:

“Since we are not egalitarian socialists, it is not our intention to run around expropriating existing businesses, but …”

The entire transport policy is useless.


“Halal and Kosher slaughter, will be banned, following the lead against animal cruelty given by Switzerland.”

Environment – first and foremost a problem of immigration doncha know!

“We will end immigration to the UK and reduce our land’s population burden by creating firm but voluntary incentives for immigrants and their descendants to return home.”

“We are a “green” party but we are a “hard green” party [on this note see Airforce Amazons].

Britain and the world (Muslims not welcome):

“The BNP is widely known as the only British political party warning of the danger posed to our democracy, traditions and freedoms by the creeping Islamification and dhimmitude of Britain.

This does not, however, mean that we are against Islam per se. As far as we are concerned it is simply another foreign mindset whose adherents are welcome to do whatever it instructs them to do – in their own countries.

We are utterly opposed to attempts by American imperialists, the Zionist lobby, the neo-con movement and the US’s British puppets in the Labour and Tory parties to drag us into a ‘Clash of Civilisations’ with the Islamic world.

We insist on our right to resist and reverse the Islamification of Britain, and to oppose the ‘Eurabia’ project of the French and Italian liberal elites. But we also uphold the right of the people of the Islamic world to resist the attempts by the political elite to democratise or Westernise the Middle East.”

“We will link foreign aid with our voluntary resettlement policy, whereby those nations taking significant numbers of people back to their homelands will need cash to help absorb those returning. The billions of pounds saved every year by this policy will also be reallocated to vital services in Britain.”

“All Homeward Bound settlers would be allowed to take with them all the legally acquired proceeds of their time in Britain, including the full profits from any investment in property here.”

What’s wrong with this? See Hope Not Hate. See also Harry’s Place. Harry’s Place bloggers realise that two major reasons this country is such a good place to live are its liberties and rights. They intrepidly worry away at the problem of rights being abused to repress liberties and liberties being exploited in harmful ways. In doing so they address many of the preoccupations of BNP sympathisers – multi-culturalism, double standards, and the place of religion in civil society.

Gaunt sacked, Gaunt on the BNP, Gaunt’s readers on the BNP

Jon Gaunt, opinionated columnist, broadcaster and bigot, has been sacked from Talksport after calling Redbridge councillor Michael Stark a Nazi.

Stark went on Jon Gaunt’s Talksport phone-in the other week to defend Redbridge Council’s decision to ban smokers from becoming foster parents. Gaunt called him a Nazi. This followed a piece in The Sun in which he referred to Social Services as the “SS” and attempted to rally his readers against the “health and safety Nazis”. Gaunt did apologise – apparently “Health nazi” is what Gaunt meant to call Stark, he pleaded unconvincingly – he has simply omitted the “health” bit because he had “lost his rag”.

Despite opposition from Stark – the object of the insult – Talksport first suspended Gaunt citing “a number of complaints” pending an investigation and, having conducted said investigation, opted for the tin tack.

Why might this have been?

The thing about the Nazis is not that they prioritised health and safety over a loving family but that they systematically attempt to liquidate entire groups of people based on their identity. Attempting to convince us that Redbridge Social Services are awful by telling us they are Nazis, as well as being a huge exaggeration and a nasty insult, has the side effect of making Nazis seem like Captain Mainwaring.

Not only do such comparisons demonstrate trivial thinking, in the mass media they are, as Michael Stark commented, “dangerous” because in making light of a genocidal political party they erode our collective memory of genocide, and with it our ability to respond to future or ongoing genocide.

Gaunt’s Nazi analogy was a disturbing mainstreaming of genocide trivialisation. But if it were a sacking offence to term somebody a Nazi who isn’t anything like a Nazi, surely somebody should have axed Tony Greenstein from one of his scores of positions by now. People talk about “green fascism” and “health fascism” quite openly. I’ve been called such things even though I don’t peddle my values.

OK, there was the fact – and I reckon this is what probably did for Gaunt – that it happened on 7th, two days before Remembrance Sunday. Whom were British soldiers conscripted to fight in World War 2 with a loss of over a quarter of a million lives? Anti-smokers in Redbridge Social Services? No, Gaunty you utter moron.

Two points to get this into perspective.

Gaunt’s crass outburst is nothing compared to Suzanne Weiss’ efforts to make her readers view ‘Zionists’ (assume this to mean anybody who thinks Israel should exist – and Jews, because they care more) as analogous to Nazi killers. Gaunt threw the worst epithet he could think of at Redbridge Council officers in opposition to what Stark reasonably described as prioritising the welfare of young children before the needs of foster carers. Weiss, on the other hand, constructs an elaborate analogy to advance her political project of undermining Israel’s existence. When applied to Israeli Jews, most of whom are descended from refugees, the Nazi analogy serves,  by appealing to historical logic, to instate the once-persecuted as persecuters. In cancelling out a sense that Jews were the object of a genocide, this serves to distort Zionism and negate its rationale.

The second point is that in today’s Sun Gaunt tries quite seriously to put political distance between himself and the BNP:

“I know how they feel. After I had a go at the master race supremo Nick Griffin (what a perfect specimen he is) on Newsnight my address was publicised and I was accused of being a, wait for it . . . a Commie and a Trot!”


“… the BNP are subtly trying to position their party as non-racist and the only ones in touch with the mood of the country.

But they don’t represent me and they shouldn’t represent you. I appeared on the Titchmarsh show with deputy leader Simon Darby, Dumber to Griffin’s Dumb, and he even managed to elicit a couple of rounds of applause from the crowd by playing on their fears.

All of a sudden he and the party appear to be cuddly and in touch. But scratch just slightly beneath their ill-fitting suits and the bovver-boots politics are still clearly on show.

As we face recession they are trying — like all fascists — to blame all our woes on anyone who doesn’t look like them.”

And then, irrelevantly, because he kept getting sidetracked about how unpleasant-looking the BNP are:

“But who would want to look like Griffin or Darby?

The party will only ever become a real threat to our democracy if politicians remain detached from reality and are afraid of discussing the real politics of living in 21st Century Britain.”

And then a rallying cry:

“Banning them will only drive them underground. Instead let us know exactly who belongs to and believes in the BNP.

Let’s defeat them by debate and by our mainstream parties dealing with the issues that really matter to us all.”

I found this quite inspiring, very interesting and also difficult to figure out in the light of the recent Trade Union campaign which I’m very confused about. It’s a campaign to reinstate a section of the Employment Bill allowing Unions to summarily expel BNP members as entryists anathema to Union values with whom there’s no point having a debate. UCU activist and libertarian Mike Holmes regards this as fascist zealotry on the part of the anti-fascist left. I’m now so disorientated I worry I may end up, seduced by its clarity, toppling into the clutches of the BNP myself.

What are “those issues that really matter to us all”? What is Gaunty’s final word?

“That’s immigration, law and order and the rights of the decent, hard-working majority coming first over the feral, the feckless and the long-term useless”

A bid for the BNP’s constituency. In the language of the BNP. The bungee cord contracts.

So, what did his readers think of that? Not too much activity on the discussion board but there is a strong (though not overwhelming) sense of insult and abused hospitality.

Country as private members club:

“i AGREE with Nick Griffin! i’m neither a member of the BNP or racist. enough is enough! immigrants are coming over screwing the benefits system, automatically receiving maximum points in council housing. and they have never paid a penny into the country! if we emigrate to Australian for example: you need £2k in the bank, accomodation sorted before you land (there government is ensuring there is no loungers)…Enough is Enough!! the BNP is totally about putting British People first. i can’t see the problem with that ‘if’ your British!!!”

Joblessness as the fault of a high population rather than an economic downturn:

“just think of 1 thing they say there will be 3,000,000 jobless ppl in the country soon would there be so many if we didnt let so many ppl in to this country!!! lets be honest”

Immigrants as useless mouths; groundless belief that “native Brits” will happily do manual jobs for minimum wage:

“… its always the same line that we need some migrants . Why apart from a few specialist skills do we need large numbers from outside the EU. We are one of the most densly populated places on the planet far more so then most of Europe, China , India or Africa. All these millions of migrants Labour has imported are only then adding to our energy and food imports and our huge trade deficit.”

British National Party as quintessentially British; Britain as a place immigrants should feel reverent, rather than practical, about:

“I have considered voting for the BNP in the past. Not because I approve of their policies! In fact I don’t really know what most of them are. Merely because I am tired of the constant influx of immigrants and asylum seekers(economic migrants in disguise)

The very nature of Britain has already changed to the point where it’s hard to discern what being British really means anymore.

If people wan’t to come here and experience the British way of life then great. If they wan’t to come here because they can make a few extra pounds and turn a corner of Britain into a mini version of their own country – please don’t bother.”

Ill informed:

“IF the bnp only accept WHITES then they are racist!”

BNP as renewed and untarnished:

“I am not a member at the moment but after looking at their website and reading various other material, I will be soon. I agree with all of their policies and believe a vote for the BNP is the only way for our country to get back on its feet again and move forward. All the other politcal parties have failed us and we owe it to both past and future generations of our country to get things right. It is obvious that BNP members are not jackbooted skinheads from the 1970’s as shown by the left wing press, but normal decent hard working British people, just like you and me”


“I,and a lot of my confused FRIENDS,will vote for the BNP,as the PC brigade have nade us sick and tired,of the mainstream parties.they just argue amongst themselves collecting BIG salaries,and producing nothing for the hardworking populatian.”

“Jon, you’re right in saying it could be a mistake voting for the BNP, but they are legalised, surely if they are offensive they wouldn’t even be where they are now. You have a point that the ‘fascist’ resurgence as it were, IS a lot down to our mainstream politicians failing our own people (That being the essential word). but then that’s why people are voting BNP. It may be misguided, but something’s gotta break.”

Conspiracy theory debunking:

“A few years ago a leaflet came through the letterbox during the local elections and while most of the points on the front were valid as soon as you took a look inside it was the same of BNP. Stating that the government were secretly building an underground city the size of Birmingham to house the Immigrants. Sure they were! This Government couldn’t keep anything secret. They basically prey on peoples fears simple as that. Not a political party but a party of spreading fear.”

Miss Whiplash was good, I thought, until she proposed UKIP as an alternative. Scrumbow acknowledged racism against white people, noted the absence of exchange between different communities, and equated the BNP with Bin Laden. And yet he’s no New Labour fan. So where’s he got to go?

For me the key post:

“I am not a supporter of the BNP and personally think they are racist scum, but I do understand why they get the support that they do. I am rapidly starting to feel like, as a white, single male in my 20’s I have no rights in this country.

I have been turned down for jobs, only to find out that a less qualified person got the job, simply because they are an ethnic and the company has to keep to a certain percentage. I have been racially abused by non-whites, only to be told when I complained that it isn’t racist because they are black and I am white. I have a fairly good job, but what with looking after my disabled father and the current economic climate, I struggle financially, yet I can get no help off the government, whereas I have asian friends in a better position than me who get certain benefits with ease.

There are many more examples I could give you, but it would take too long.

I ask you, is any of this right?”

It’s this sense of slight and the capriciousness of the authorities which will do for us in the end.