Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

University and College Union cleared of harassment in landmark tribunal

By Dan Ashley | UCU | March 25, 2013

An Employment Tribunal has found in favour of UCU on all ten complaints of harassment brought by a UCU member who opposed the union’s policy on Palestine.

The claimant had been supported in his claim by leading lawyer Anthony Julius. In giving their reasoning the Tribunal stated that ‘the proceedings are dismissed in their totality’ and ‘we greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.’

The Tribunal also described themselves as troubled by the implications of the claim, stating that ‘underlying it we sense a worrying disregard for pluralism, tolerance and freedom of expression, principles which the courts and tribunals are, and must be, vigilant to protect’.

While witnesses for UCU were described in the tribunal’s decision as ‘careful and accurate’, some witnesses for the claimant were described as appearing to ‘misunderstand the nature of the proceedings and more disposed to score points or play to the gallery rather than providing straightforward answers to the clear questions put to them’.

John Mann MP and former MP Denis MacShane were collectively described as giving ‘glib evidence, while testimony of another key witness for the claimant was described as ‘extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing’.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said:

“I am delighted that the Tribunal has made such a clear and overwhelming judgement in UCU’s favour. There are many different views within UCU and wider society about Israel and Palestine and this decision upholds our and others’ right to freedom of expression and to continue to properly debate these and other difficult questions.” … Full statement

~~~

Citing the tribunal’s judgement:

“It seems to us that a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness and, even if it was, it could not be substituted for the pleaded characteristics, which are race and religion or belief.” (p. 37)

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on University and College Union cleared of harassment in landmark tribunal

Swedish Expert to Lead UN Chemical Weapons Probe in Syria

Al-Manar | March 27, 2013

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has chosen Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to lead a UN investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“He is an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky announced on Tuesday.

The fact-finding team was set up at the request of the Syrian government after insurgents in Syria were accused of using chemical weapons against civilians near the northern city of Aleppo where dozens of people have been killed and nearly 140 more injured.

It was not immediately clear who else would be on Sellstrom’s team. Russia said on Monday that Russian and Chinese experts should be part of the investigation, but Moscow’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday that Russia would “most likely not” be represented.

Sellstrom was a chief inspector for UNSCOM, the U.N. inspection team that investigated and dismantled Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programs in the 1990s, reports said.

Sellstrom also worked with UNMOVIC, the U.N. group that returned to Iraq in 2002 and found no solid evidence that Baghdad had revived its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion as Washington and London alleged at the time.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Comments Off on Swedish Expert to Lead UN Chemical Weapons Probe in Syria

Iran sanctions could force BP to shut down North Sea gas field

Press TV – March 27, 2013

The British oil giant, British Petroleum (BP), may be forced to close down the Bruce natural gas field in the UK North Sea ahead of schedule as a result of the sanctions imposed against Iran.

Dow Jones reported on Tuesday that without gas from the adjoining Rhum field, of which the National Iranian Oil Company is a joint owner, BP might have to close down the Bruce field.

The British oil company halted operations at Rhum field in November 2010 after the West imposed illegal sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

“The long-term future of the Bruce facilities is very closely tied to the ability to produce from Rhum. Given the uncertainties, we are considering what a decommissioning project would entail and how long it would take to execute,” a BP spokesman was quoted as saying.

Closing down the Bruce field would undermine the UK government’s attempts to strengthen its energy sector, which has been experiencing inflation due to “cold weather, and unexpected production and pipeline outages.”

Since the UN Security Council’s fourth round of sanctions against Iran in June 2010, the United States and its European allies have also separately imposed unilateral illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s energy sector.

At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed new illegal sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions came into force in early summer 2012.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions have been imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , | Comments Off on Iran sanctions could force BP to shut down North Sea gas field

Obama’s Peace Antics in Israel – Four More Years of This?

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | March 26, 2013

At the precise moment US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion Airport on March 20, persisting illusions quickly began to shatter. And as he walked on the red carpet, showered with accolades and warm embraces of top Israeli government and military officials, a new/old reality began to sink in: Obama was no different than his predecessors. He never had been.

On the day of Obama’s arrival, Israeli rights group B’Tselem, released a disturbing video. It was of Israeli soldiers carrying out a ‘mass arrest’ of nearly 30 Palestinian children on their way to school in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil (Hebron). The children plead and cried to no avail. Their terrified shrieks echoed throughout the Palestinian neighborhood as they tried to summon the help of passersby. “‘Amo’ – Uncle,” one begged, “for God sake don’t let them take me.” Nonetheless, several military vehicles were filled with crying children and their school bags. But what made the release of the video truly apt is the fact that it was released on the day president Obama was meeting Israeli children at a welcoming ceremony at the home of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

“Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere,” he said, referring to Israeli children, of course. “In another sense though their lives reflect the difficult reality that Israelis face every single day. They want to be safe, they want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools.”

Many Palestinians immediately pointed out the moral discrepancies in most of Obama’s statements throughout his stay in Israel. Still, his visit was ‘historic’ declared numerous headlines in the US and Israeli media.

However, aside from the fact that it was his first trip to Israel as a president, it was barely momentous. His unconditional support for Israel has been tedious and redundant, predictable even. Those who have followed his unswerving pro-Israel legacy – including his visit to Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, his talks before the Israeli lobby group AIPAC and many other examples – could barely discern a shift, except perhaps, in the total disinterest in political sensibility and balance.

He truly delivered in Israel. This was to the total satisfaction of the Israeli Prime Minister and his pro-settler government which was assembled shortly before Obama’s arrival. Obama spoke as if he were entirely oblivious to the political shift to the extreme right underway in Israel. Indeed, the new Israeli government is more right-wing than ever before. The extremist Jewish Home party has three important ministries, including Jerusalem and Housing and the ultra-nationalists of Yisraeli Beiteinu have been awarded the tourism ministry. It means that the next few years will be a settlement construction bonanza, ‘ethnic cleaning’ and greater Apartheid.

“It’s good to be back in The Land (Israel),” Obama said in Hebrew, at the Tel Aviv airport. “The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.”

It is believed that for four years, Obama has failed to live up to the nearly impossible expectations of Israel. Israel requires a president with good oratory skills – for example, to emphasize the ‘eternal’ bond between his country and Israel, as Obama did – who is able to sign big checks and ask few questions. Obama has of course done that and more. Aside from the 3.1 billion dollars in financial support, he has rerouted hundreds of millions of US funds to bankroll Israel’s air defense system, the Iron Dome, whose efficiency is questionable at best.

Obama’s past transgression, as far as Israel is concerned, is that he dared ask the right-wing government of Netanyahu to temporarily freeze settlement construction as a pre-condition to restart the stalled – if not dead – peace process. Of course, there is the widely reported matter of Obama’s lack of fondness of Netanyahu, his antics and renowned arrogance. But that matters little, since Israel’s illegal settlements continued to thrive during Obama’s first term in office.

Expectedly, Netanyahu was gloating. He has managed to assemble a government that will cater mostly to extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank and also masterfully managed to humble the US president, or at least quash his ambitions that the US is capable of operating independently in the Middle East, without Israeli consent or interests in mind.

Now that Jewish colonies are flourishing – with occupied East Jerusalem area EI being another major exploit – Netanyahu is once more aspiring for a war against Iran, one that would not be possible without US funding, support and likely direct involvement. “Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while standing near the mostly US-funded Iron Dome. “Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself, by itself against any threat.”

Obama did in fact spare a few, although, spurious thoughts for Palestinians. “Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes,” he said to an Israeli audience. “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.”

One would even applaud the seeming moral fortitude if it were not for the pesky matter that the US had voted against a Palestinian state at the United Nations last November and tried to intimidate those who did. And of course, much of the horror that Palestinian ‘eyes’ have seen throughout the years was funded and defended by US money and action. If Obama is trying to resurrect the myth that the US is a well-intentioned bystander or an ‘honest broker’ in some distant conflict, then he has utterly failed. His country is fully embroiled in the conflict, and directly so. Many Palestinian children would still be alive today if the US government had conditioned its massive support of Israel on ending the occupation and ceasing the brutality against Palestinians.

In a joint press conference in Ramallah, alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama even demanded Palestinians drop their condition (proposed by Obama himself) of a settlement freeze in order to return to the so-called peace talks. “That’s not to say settlements aren’t important, that’s to say if we resolve the (main) problems, then settlements will be resolved,” he said. “If to begin the conversation we have to get everything right from the outset … then we’re never going to get to the broader issue,” Obama added. The broader issue, according to the US president is “how do you structure a state of Palestine,” which again, Obama voted against last year, and passionately so.

Aside from resounding rhetoric about peace, Obama is finally towing the Israeli line exactly as Netanyahu and the lobby would expect of him, or of any other US president. He has little to offer Palestinians, or Arab nations, but much to expect from them. Arab states must seek normalized relations with Israel, and Palestinians must “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security,” he lectured in Jerusalem on the second day of his trip, reported CNN online. The obvious danger here lies in the fact that Israel oftentimes conflates ‘security’ and its ‘right to defend itself’ by mass arresting children on their way to school in Hebron, or by inflicting or supporting wars against other nations – Lebanon, Iraq and now Iran.

Obama will eventually get back to his Oval Office desk, ready to resume work as usual. This will include the signing of many papers concerning additional funds, loans, military technology transfers and much more for Israel. Palestinians meanwhile will carry on with their long fight for freedom, without his noted oratory skills.

Meanwhile, the families of the 30 children kidnapped by the Israeli army in Hebron will have many days ahead of them in Israeli military court. But that, of course, is a different matter, of no concern to Obama and his many quotable peace antics.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 4 Comments