by Susanne Kemp

13902626_957554914353194_7538352379459058362_nToday, Palestinian resistance fighter and political prisoner Bilal Kayed enters his 56th day of hunger strike, shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed by the Israeli au
throities.  Bilal was imprisoned in December 2001, at the age of 19, and was due for release this year on June 13.  Instead, he was kept in prison through the me
chanism of administrative detention.  He is now one of 750 Palestinians held without charge or trial under this mechanism.

During his time in Israeli prisons he has been subjected to solitary confinement, disruptions and bans of family visits, and physical assaults, along with punitive prison transfers.  Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, is demanding that he, and the other 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails be released.  Bilal himself has pressed the issue by going on hunger strike.  Now the hunger strike has been joined by 80 other Palestinian prisoners, including Ahmad Sa’adat, the general-secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the organisation to which Bilal belongs.

At present there are daily protests in Palestine in support of Bilal and the new group of hunger strikers.  Around the world, progressive people are also mobilising in solidarity with Bilal and the other hunger strikers and to demand the end of administrative detention and the freeing of all the Palestinian prisoners.  From July 20-30 protests took place in cities in Germany, Sweden, the United States, Britain, Italy, Egypt, Greece, the Philippines, Ireland, Morocco, Belgium and elsewhere.  In Italy, the city council in Naples overwhelmingly passed a otion – there were just two abstentions – to make Bilal an honorary citizen of the city.

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Mural in West Belfast launched by Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association

The annual anti-internment march in Belfast, Ireland, which this year took place on Sunday (August 7) incorporated solidarity with Bilal and his fellow hunger strikers.  The march is organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association.  The Irish revolutionary movement éirígí has been organising solidarity events across the island.

More protests are currently taking place and/or planned in different parts of the world, including a big public meeting in Read the rest of this entry »

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by Susanne Kemp

In an earlier article on Redline on March 11, we reported on how the Fire Service was refusing to make the proper payments to firefighters who have been awarded the IFE  (Institution of Fire Engineers) qualification.  In fact, as we reported, last November the Fire Service stopped processing applications by firefighters for the qualification bonus associated with the IFE where the qualification was awarded on the basis of Recognised Prior Learning.

Since then the union, represented by its president (Derek Best) and its lawyer (Peter Cranney) have been in mediation talks with the Fire Service over the payments for firefighters who have achieved the IFE qualification.  In these talks, the Fire Service have adamantly continued to refuse to recognise prior learning, insisting that only firefighters who qualified by examination will receive the IFE payments.  In a job like firefighting, it seems perverse indeed to make this sort of distinction.  It’s not as if prior learning is some soft option compared to sitting an exam!

The employer is trying to make out that since there are already payments to firefighters with the SO (Station Officer) qualification and that to receive IFE payments as well would, in effect, be a kind of ‘double-dipping’.  Fire Service qualifications, they argued, cannot be cross-credited to receive additional payments.

But this is simply not the case.  To obtain the IFE qualification requires more than achieving the SO qualification.  Prior learning as a basis for the IFE requires a range of experience and competency beyond just the SO qualification.

Meanwhile, firefighters are also keeping an eye on new legislation introduced to parliament that will Read the rest of this entry »

by Paul Demarty

In these turbulent times, it is fortunate that American politics should provide such a rich seam of light comic relief.

The world hegemon’s presidential primary seasons have become notorious, especially on the Republican side, for their bountiful harvests of side-splitting lunacy. In 2012, things were already starting to veer out of control, as a succession of Tea Party wingnuts led the polls until they were found to be out of their depth, and discarded: they lined themselves up, and the media shot them down. In the end, the victor was the malignant, bloodless vulture capitalist, Mitt Romney, whose chief virtue was being exactly as despised at the end of the campaign as at the beginning, and no more.

That was supposed to be the result this time, with Jeb Bush as the beneficiary. The media took aim and fired – and hit Donald Trump, reckoning on neither his bulletproof ego nor the average red state primary voter’s exasperation with all major forces of the Grand Old Party – establishment and Tea Party alike.

Watching this little picaresque – a stranger-than-fiction yarn worthy of HL Mencken, Joseph Heller and JG Ballard – would have been enjoyable enough on its own, but there was additionally the more serious drama on the other side: the attempt of the social democratic senator, Bernie Sanders – ultimately unsuccessful, but hugely significant – to deny Hillary Clinton the presidential nomination she seems almost to view as her birthright.

The nomination saga has Read the rest of this entry »

by Michael Roberts

downloadIn a recent post, Paul Krugman took up the issue of whether movements in the stock market provide a good guide on how the capitalist economy is doing well.  The question arises because the US stock market prices have hit a new all-time high in the last couple of weeks with apparently slightly better economic news and with the conviction among investors (i.e. big banks, corporation, managed funds and hedge funds) that the US Federal Reserve was not going to raise its policy interest rate this year or even for the foreseeable future.

Krugman reckons that “stock prices generally have a lot less to do with the state of the economy or its future prospects than many people believe. As the economist Paul Samuelson put it, “Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.” Indeed, Krugman went further in saying that “in some ways the stock market’s gains reflect economic weaknesses, not strengths. And understanding how that works may help us make sense of the troubling state our economy is in.”

Krugman makes three (good) points to explain why stock prices are of little guidance about the state of the US economy: “First, Read the rest of this entry »

imagesWhat is the History of Palestinian Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes have long been used in different geographical areas as means to protest and demand basic rights, including the right to vote, the right to be free from torture and the right to self-determination. The long history of Palestinian prisoners in mass and individual hunger strikes, reveals the lack of trust in any judicial process and the lack of fair trail guarantees they face under the military and civil court systems of the Israeli occupation. Palestinian prisoners and detainees have resorted to hunger strikes as early as 1968 as legitimate peaceful protest to Israeli detention policies and cruel detention conditions including the use of solitary confinement, denial of family visits, inadequate medical treatment and torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

SamidounBilalKhaled-600x270What are the Medical Risks of Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes have associated health risks that can cause physical damage to the prisoner or detainee, including severe loss of weight, weakness, tiredness, inability to sleep, hearing loss, blindness, strokes, kidney failure as well as other organ failure, cardiac arrest and heart attack. However, despite these medical risks, through hunger strikes, Palestinians have been able to obtain basic and fundamental rights and to improve their detention conditions through hunger strikes.

How do Israeli Authorities Deal with Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes are often met with violent and coercive repression by Israeli Prison Service and special units, as well as medical personnel to push detainees to end their hunger strikes. Following hunger strikes, Addameer has documented several cases of raids on prison cells, transfers of hunger strikers to isolation cells, threats of indefinite detention, banning family visitation, reduction of money spent in the canteen.

What Other Coercive Measures were Taken? In response to the use of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners and detainees, Israeli authorities practiced force-feeding during the 1980s. It was subsequently Read the rest of this entry »

Clark and her mate George Bush; she helped him invade Afghanistan

Clark and her mate George Bush; she helped him invade Afghanistan

by Phil Duncan

Helen Clark’s bid to become United Nations secretary-general has been backed by a veritable plague of sycophants in this country.  From National Party prime minister John Key to pop star Lorde, we hear ringing endorsements of ‘Helen’ and how wonderful it would be for this anti-working class daughter of privilege to become head of the UN (and the first female UN head to boot).

Finally, however, we have a break from the litany of mindless consensus about ‘Helen’.

Making nice with George Bush while using vicious repression against Maori rights activists was typical of Clark's prime ministership

Making nice with George Bush while using vicious repression against Maori rights activists was typical of Clark’s prime ministership

I’m not a supporter of the Maori Party, the party of the Maori elite and burgeoning brown bourgeoisie, but good on party leaders like Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox for not endorsing the wretched Clark. While Flavell said it was because of her record on indigenous rights, Fox was more specific. Fairfax reported, “She said Miss Clark didn’t want to sign up to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, was Prime Minister when the foreshore and seabed legislation was introduced, and had supported the Tuhoe raids.”

Genuine progressives took to the streets to defend civil liberties against the repression unleashed by Clark and her cronies

Genuine progressives took to the streets to defend civil liberties against the repression unleashed by Clark and her cronies

The raids and virtual armed occupation carried out in Tuhoe country, along with the raids on pakeha activists at the same time, were, for me, the most despicable. They showed how vicious Labour in power is, how easily suspended basic civil rights are when Labour wants to move against people it doesn’t like and/or that it sees (rightly or wrongly) as some kind of threat to the state. Clark was absolutely determined that the peace and Maori activists be stitched up and go to prison.  What a foul, foul individual!  An all-round nasty piece of works and the proven enemy of civil liberties.

And keep in mind the Tuhoe raids were against fairly harmless people like Tame Iti – so imagine what viciousness Labour would unleash when faced with some kind of serious anti-capitalist movement.

Clark must surely be one of the most  Read the rest of this entry »

The following appeared yesterday (July 31) on the site of  Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

bilalImprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat and a number of prominent leaders in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, including Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh, have joined the hunger strike in support of Bilal Kayed‘s strike for freedom as part of a group of ten new hunger strikers, as Kayed enters his 47th day without food.  As Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the PFLP – Kayed’s leftist party – announced his entry into the strike, he was reportedly transferred immediately to solitary confinement in Ramon prison, part of the ongoing repressive policies used by the Israel Prison Services against the hunger strikers.

In a statement released by the PFLP prisoners on 31 July, they said, “the General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa’adat, is launching a hunger strike from Sunday, 31 July. This is a strategic decision of a leader who is fighting this battle alongside his fellow strugglers. The commander does not leave his soldiers but joins in the battle, and emphasizes that his participation in the battle will continue until Comrade Bilal achieves his freedom.”

Sa’adat previously spent over three years in isolation; his solitary confinement and that of several Palestinian leaders provoked collective hunger strikes in 2011 and 2012, until the release of 19 leaders to general population was achieved in the mass Karameh hunger strike. In the past several years, the Israeli occupation has escalated the use of isolation and solitary confinement against Palestinian prisoners, with some prisoners, including Abdul Rahman Othman, imprisoned in solitary confinement for more than 2 years. Long-term solitary confinement is considered a form of torture for the extreme psychological pressure and damage it induces.

Kayed, who remains shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital, has experienced significant deterioration in his health. He suffers repeated periods of loss of consciousness, loss of vision, and has lost Read the rest of this entry »