Monthly Archives: December 2014

Remember Palestine

This time of year when many people’s thoughts turn to the Holy Land and carols are sung, is an appropriate time to spend a little time reflecting on the situation of Palestinians in the Holy Land. The next time you hear the lovely carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, it is worth remembering that if Mary and Joseph were to undertake that journey today, they would have to pass through 31 Israeli checkpoints and miraculously find a way over a 30 foot high wall.

For there is little of joy or cheer for Palestinians at this, or any other time of the year, for that matter. Discrimination, humiliation and occupation are the norm for all Palestinians living in the Holy Land. The much talked about peace that Israelis go on about, never seems to apply to Palestinians. Hardly a day goes by without some Palestinians suffering violence, often leading to death, at the hands of the Israeli military or from illegal settlers. Yet nary a word of this appears in our media. Who cares about the death of yet another Palestinian?

Though Palestine is a relatively fare away place, we should never forget the West’s complicity in the sufferings of Palestinians. In the case of the UK this goes beyond complicity to actively promoting and facilitating the destruction of traditional Palestinian society. From the infamous Balfour Declaration, through the one sided rule over Palestine during the interwar years, to its continuing support for Israel, the UK has a lot to answer for. It almost beggars belief that our country could regard it as ethical to promise to give away the land of another people. Which of course is exactly what the Balfour Declaration did. Palestine was never the UK’s for us to give away to anyone.

We cannot undo the disastrous decisions taken by previous UK governments. We can however lend our support to the campaigns for Justice for Palestine. In particular we can support the BDS movement. This is the campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. The BDS campaign is based on a rights-based approach. The campaign urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

By not buying Israeli goods we can make a small but effective stand against the injustices inflicted on Palestinians. The BDS campaign is not anti Israel. It is against the unjust and illegal actions of the Israeli state. BDS is a campaign for Justice, and one which merits all our support. For more about the BDS movement visit their website here.

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Scottish Labour still don’t get it!

Congratulations to Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale, the new leadership duo for the good ship Scottish Labour. Though judging by their first pronouncements they still seem very much stuck in the past. For a party that continues to aver that constitutional change for Scotland is a waste of time and irrelevant to good government, it is rather odd that the duo’s first commitment is to change the constitution of the Labour party in Scotland.

By referring to this as Scottish Labour’s Clause 4 moment, Murphy, unintentionally I presume, merely reminds us that repetitions are more of the farcical nature than anything else. The actual proposals, though dressed up as five principles, amount to very little that is new and nothing that could remotely be called profound.

Scottish Labour will henceforth be a patriotic party, patriotic for Scotland that is, will put Scotland first and will have total control over policy making for all devolved matters. Wow, if this mean anything then it is an admission that previously Scottish Labour was not a party for patriotic Scots, that Scottish Labour did not put Scotland first and that Scottish Labour did not have full say over policy in devolved matters. Quite an admission and a recognition that Johann Lamont was right in her condemnation of London control.

Yet it seems that is not what either Murphy or Dugdale actually mean. Both were at pains to point out that these changes are just to appearances. It seems that the Scottish public were under the false impression that Labour in Scotland was just a branch office under the control of UK Labour. Silly us! How could anyone imagine or even suggest such a thing. Well, apart from Johann Lamont, who is now history.

But just to be sure that no-one can make this false accusation again, Murphy and Dugdale are to change the constitution. Put in all kinds of nice sounding words and emphasise just how Scottish, and patriotic Scottish, Labour is now. Or always was. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. When you have to put down in writing just how pro Scottish you are, bells should start ringing. People will only be convinced by deeds, not constitutional changes.

When it comes to deeds, for a political party this means, at least for opposition parties, coming up with policies that put Scotland first. And judging by their initial interviews, neither Murphy nor Dugdale have anything to say as to just what these different, tailored for Scotland policies might be.  Kezia Dugdale in particular seemed unable to come up with anything other than education, when asked by a radio Scotland reporter. Now education has always been separate in Scotland, so if this is an example of the brand new Scotland first that Labour are promising it is unlikely to amount to much. It was also noticeable that Dugdale in that interview was so much happier attacking the SNP than outlining anything positive from Labour.

Despite being pressed on policy differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, Dugdale came up with nothing. Instead she praised the unity of Labour across the UK. Again and again she banged on that only Labour could save Scotland from the Tories and that voting SNP was very bad. Not a very inspiring start. Especially as voting Labour in 2010 still led to a Tory led government!

There is also the small matter of restricting Scottish Labour’s policy remit to devolved matters only.  Who decides how Scottish Labour MPs will vote on Trident for example? Or on immigration policy for instance? It seems that Scottish Labour MPs will just be lobby fodder for UK Labour as per usual. Nothing it seems is going to change in this respect.

Finally the nagging question of why now? We have had a Scottish Parliament for 15 years now. And Murphy and Dugdale have only just realised that there might be a problem with the Labour party? We have got the message intones Kezia Dugdale. Just a small matter of 15 years too late. Assuming that the new, New Labour party, Scottish branch, has really changed.

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Yes and No are not over

Gerry Hassan has an interesting article for the Scottish Left Project entitled Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes? In it he lists and comments on some of the myths of the indyref which he claims are still held on to by some and which need dispelling. It is an interesting piece, but not very illuminating, which you can read in full here. The Wilderness of Peace blog has done an excellent job of refuting Hassan’s many points, and you can read this riposte here.

I want to pick up on one of Gerry Hassan’s so-called myths which needs dispelling. According to Mr Hassan, Yes and No are over. They are not the future. There is no future in them. They belong to the past – and died on September 18th. The Yes/No binary has to be lost to allow the emergent new voices, spaces and movements which came forth in the referendum to grow, be set free, and find a place to flourish which is not dependent or related to the independence referendum.

Now, strictly speaking this is not really a myth. There is a Yes/No binary, it is just that Mr Hassan wants us all to leave it behind and let it die. Now this is exactly what Unionists have been calling for ever since the referendum. So it is a bit surprising to read Gerry Hassan endorsing this Unionist call. Particularly as he gives no convincing reason as to why this should happen. The various emergent new voices which came forth during the referendum all seem to be doing a very fine job of growing and finding places to flourish. It is a pity that Mr Hassan did not seem to think fit to ask any of these new voices for their opinion on the relevance of the Yes/No divide. As far as I can make out, they all seem to be quite explicit on which side of the divide they lie.

For,contrary to Mr Hassan the Yes/No binary is still relevant. More so than ever I would argue. Though the Unionists won the referendum it was never made clear just what kind of UK we were asked to endorse. This is not just about the infamous Vow, which came very late in the day. Throughout the campaign, Unionists of all sorts made it crystal clear that a No vote was not a vote for no change. It was just that their assorted promises were extremely vague.

We still do not know what kind of Union will emerge post referendum. In this respect the Smith Commission has done Unionists no favours at all. Their proposals are underwhelming for most Scots, while the mere mention of additional powers for Scotland seems to arouse some rather unedifying responses from most English MPs. Not to mention that the Smith proposals say nothing about Wales or Northern Ireland.

The point that Mr Hassan seems to have missed is that for the time being the Yes/No divide is as much about genuine constitutional change for the whole of the UK. Can the UK transform itself into a federal or near federal state? One that gives proper recognition to all the component nations that make up the UK. One that at long, long last begins to transfer power, both political and economic, away from London to the rest of the UK.

Those in the No camp are still, judging by their contributions to the Smith Commission unwilling to even contemplate such a transformation of the UK. So Yes and No remains an accurate and useful dividing line. While most of us on the Yes side will continue to put forward the case for independence, in the meantime we are more than willing to join forces with others across the UK in arguing for genuine constitutional change. The UK state in its current form needs to be broken up and reconstituted. You are either in favour of this transformation or not – Yes or No?

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