Why there cannot be a Zionist loyalty oath
Posted: 02 Nov 2010

The following statement was released on 31 October by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:

On October 10, 2010, the Israeli government proposed a bill obligating non-Jewish naturalized citizens to swear loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic state.” The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) deplores this attempt to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state – a state whose existence is premised on the removal of the indigenous people of Palestine.
In response to this bill, members of the Zionist “Left” in Israel issued a “declaration of independence from fascism.” Announced at a rally in Tel Aviv, the Middle East’s most ethnically cleansed city (indigenous population: four percent), the declaration asserts that the proposed law “violates [Israel’s] basic commitment to the principles of equality, civil liberty and sincere aspiration for peace — principles upon which the State of Israel was founded.”
The Zionist “Left” is distancing itself from this policy, but the proposed oath is entirely consistent with Israel’s racist foundations and continued ethnic cleansing – all of which the Zionist “Left” has played a central role in perpetrating and whitewashing.
In the 1930s, as the Zionist state was forming, the Histadrut and other Labor Zionist institutions campaigned to dispossess Arab peasants and workers, while helping crush the resulting 1936 Arab rebellion.
In 1947-1948, under the leadership of David Ben Gurion, Labor Zionism – the dominant force in the Zionist “Left” – also directed the Nakba (catastrophe), which established the “Jewish state” by terrorizing and expelling at least eighty percent of the indigenous Palestinian population.
In the following decades, “Left” Zionism imposed domestic apartheid, made apartheid South Africa Israel’s closest ally, and led or supported every Israeli war of domination — most recently in Lebanon and Gaza. Under Labor governments, Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank exploded in number.*
Today, “Left” Zionists, no less than their right-wing counterparts, view Palestinians as a “demographic threat” to Jewish supremacy. Like the “Right,” they insist that Palestinians ratify their own unequal status by recognizing 1948 Palestine (“Israel”) as a “Jewish state.” Ironically, this Zionist racism, violence and apartheid serve to deliver a segregation of Jews that parallels traditional European anti-Semitism.
The problem, then, is not alleged betrayal of Israeli “principles” at the hands of right-wing “extremists,” but Zionism itself — both “Left” and “Right.” For Israeli Jews who reject Israel’s racist foundations, we stand with you.
We ask others not only to join us in opposing the loyalty oath, but to reject the Zionist principles upon which it rests. Concretely, that means supporting Palestinian demands for an end to military occupation, implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land, and equal rights for all throughout Palestine.

Will the meaningful American Left please stand up and act now?
Posted: 02 Nov 2010

Chris Hedges on the “phantom left” in the US and its seeming inability to rally serious support for more than empty slogans:

The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for “moderation.” And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power—masked, ruthless and unexamined—happily devour the state.
The loss of a radical left in American politics has been catastrophic. The left once harbored militant anarchist and communist labor unions, an independent, alternative press, social movements and politicians not tethered to corporate benefactors. But its disappearance, the result of long witch hunts for communists, post-industrialization and the silencing of those who did not sign on for the utopian vision of globalization, means that there is no counterforce to halt our slide into corporate neofeudalism. This harsh reality, however, is not palatable. So the corporations that control mass communications conjure up the phantom of a left. They blame the phantom for our debacle. And they get us to speak in absurdities.
The phantom left took a central role on the mall this weekend in Washington. It had performed admirably for Glenn Beck, who used it in his own rally as a lightning rod to instill anger and fear. And the phantom left proved equally useful for the comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who spoke to the crowd wearing red-white-and-blue costumes. The two comics evoked the phantom left, as the liberal class always does, in defense of moderation, which might better be described as apathy. If the right wing is crazy and if the left wing is crazy, the argument goes, then we moderates will be reasonable. We will be nice. Exxon and Goldman Sachs, along with predatory banks and the arms industry, may be ripping the guts out of the country, our rights—including habeas corpus—may have been revoked, but don’t get mad. Don’t be shrill. Don’t be like the crazies on the left.
“Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own?” Stewart asked. “We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here [in Washington] or on cable TV.”
The rally delivered a political message devoid of reality or content. The corruption of electoral politics by corporate funds and lobbyists, the naive belief that we can somehow vote ourselves back to democracy, was ignored for emotional catharsis. The right hates. The liberals laugh. And the country is taken hostage.

No transparency in Serco dealings with contractors
Posted: 02 Nov 2010

My following article, with Paul Farrell, appears today in Crikey:

As we reported yesterday, private company Serco contracts out some of its security personnel to MSS Security, a company owned by an Indian security company with links to Lehmann Brothers. By outsourcing to other companies, it’s possible for Serco to distance itself from criticism and in turn, the Government can blame Serco for mismanagement and fine them accordingly (that provision is written into the contract).
Equally, that provision means that Serco isn’t necessarily compelled to report all perceived infractions due to its avoidance of financial penalties.
Alongside the PR games, there are potential legal benefits for Serco by outsourcing these services further. When Crikey visited Villawood recently, MSS Security guards were patrolling the visitors’ area.  The guards were clearly identified as MSS staff, not Serco officers, wearing an MSS uniform and ID card. One guard also said he only worked occasionally at Villawood and worked at several different places in NSW with MSS.
This degree of flexibility in employment, as well as the identification as MSS guards rather than Serco staff, may mean that the relationship between Serco and MSS staff could be deemed as that of an independent contractor rather than employees.
This is an important legal distinction. If the MSS staff were indeed held by a court to be contractors in this instance, it limits Serco’s vicarious liability for its actions if MSS staff were involved in conduct that resulted in tortuous legal action.
Of course, it’s impossible to be certain about the exact nature of the agreement with Serco and MSS and what’s required of subcontractors under the detention centres contract because documents relating to it are deemed commercial in confidence.
It also raises issues about the training of security staff. In July an MSS Security guard was caught in bed with an asylum seeker in a Darwin residential complex.
At the time, a Serco Asia spokesperson said that MSS security guards had to have a minimum of Certificate II in Security Operations.
But a Certificate II is the bare minimum entry-level requirement for unarmed guards and crowd controllers.
These are by no means local issues and the accountability of private companies running prisons and detention centres is a global concern. Recently an Angolan man, who was being deported home from the UK, died on a plane at Heathrow Airport and security company G4S guards have been accused over his death.
Now another related incident has come to light, with G4S being accused of mistreating a Colombian man as he was being deported from the UK.
As a result of these recent controversies, G4S lost its deportation contract with the British government last week but the company is being embraced elsewhere by the Tory-led administration, renting out custody cells to police forces that “will cut costs by centralising facilities”.
G4S formerly held the Australian detention centre contract before Serco took over in 2009.
Serco itself has also been criticised over its treatment of prisoners in the UK in a recent report into the Yarl’s Wood Prison and excessive violence in other privatised institutions in the UK.
The detention business is a multibillion dollar industry and Serco and G4S have proven in the UK, under Labour and the current Tory-led Coalition, that privatising detention is a profitable enterprise.
There is no evidence of this trend reversing; if anything, under David Cameron’s radical cost-cutting exercise, outsourcing will only increase, with the private sector relied upon to fill the gaps with a dwindling public service.
The Gillard government’s recent announcement of an expansion of current detention centres around the country and opening of new ones means now more than ever Serco’s role, and the role of outsourcing, must be questioned as tax-payer money is being spent with no transparency.
*Paul Farrell is a Sydney-based freelance journalist. Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author.

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