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Issue No. 131 12 April 2002  

Cry Freedom
If there's a common thread running through this week's issue, it's the continuing crisis faced by workers around the globe confronting the practical reality of Free Trade.


Interview: Cross Wires
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief Chris Warren surveys the fluid state of the Australian media.

International: Two Tribes
As the Middle East burns, Andrew Casey shines a light into one of the world's darkest corners.

Activists: Beneath the Veil
A young Afghani woman has travelled to Australia to put a human face on the suffering of her people - and her gender.

Unions: Terror Australis
When push comes to shove, it appears the Howard Government is more scared of the Maritime Union than Osama Bin Laden, Jim Marr reports.

History: A Labor Footnote To The Royal Funeral
Stephen Holt reports that an intriguing Australian connection has been overlooked amidst the supposedly blanket media coverage of the end of the Bowes Lyon era.

Economics: Private Affluence, Public Rip-Off
New Labour's enthusiasm for business is matched only by its lack of business sense, as the private finance fiasco shows.

Review: The Great Hall of the People
In an extract from the latest issue of Labor Essays, the ARM's Richard Fidler looks at the symbolism behind the Republican debate.

Poetry: Waiting for the Living Wage
The Living Wage Case was heard this week. The workers� voices in this poem have been adapted from the evidence presented by low wage earners to the living wage case.

Satire: Israel Recruits NAB To Close West Bank
Israeli security forces have successfully enlisted the expert help of the National Australia Bank to close down the West Bank.


 Baby Company Punts Netball Mum

 Dairy Workers Win Global Breakthrough

 Treasury Modelling Backs ACTU Claim

 Bank Nabs Huge Sales Targets

 Come Clean � Insurance Giants Challenged

 May Day Jam and Toast

 Job Security Win For Cabin Crew

 Workers Gear-up For Pollution Fight

 Shuffling The Deck On The Yarra

 New Push On Workplace Crime

 Super Child Care Win

 Doubts Over Ettalong Wharf Funding

 The Sane Monk Stands Down

 Fabians Debate Refugees

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Unions and the Web � Where to Now?
Peter Lewis argues the time has come to revisit how trade unions interact with workers and how the Web could be the catalyst for such a change.

The Locker Room
Free To Where?
Parents with kiddies who play a bit of sport will have noticed the escalating costs associated with their kids being involved in sport.

Week in Review
The Joys of the Chop
Workers come and workers go, right? Well, it�s the way of the world but while some get stiffed, others are stuffed with obscene amounts �

 Labor and Unions - What About the Workers?
 A Voice for the Shareholders
 Noses in the Trough
 Bugger Off
 Memo: Carmen Lawrence
 Police: Make the Boss a Woman
 Baby Faced Brogden
 Workers Online - Aoteroa
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Two Tribes

As the Middle East burns, Andrew Casey shines a light into one of the world's darkest corners.

The languages spoken by Palestinians and by Israelis - Arabic and Hebrew - show they are one family - brother, sister and cousin.

A Palestinian in the streets of old AlQuds al Shareef would greet you with the words Salaam Aleikhem and his friend would reply Aleikhem Salaam.

An Israeli walking in the streets of old Jerusalem would issue the greeting Shalom Aleichem and his friend would reply Aleichem Shalom.

And, unfortunately, like siblings everywhere who fight over the same object, Palestinians when they fight for Al Quds al Shareef, and Israelis when they fight for Jerusalem, are fighting for the same thing, the same city - and oh what a dirty fight it is


Very little about the peace movement in Israel gets reported in the Australian mainstream media.

Last weekend more than 15,000 Israelis marched through Tel Aviv demanding Sharon withdraw from the territories.

While in the past these peace marches have attracted more than 100,000 people the size of this march, at this time, was still extraordinary.

Emotions are high in Israel at the moment and it is a brave act to openly defy not only the government, who had declared war on Palestinians, but also tell close neighbours you're not on side with your own country's soldiers during a period of high tension and crisis.

As well many of these peace activists were defying their own fears about being out and about in public places, in huge crowds, which had become the targets of mindless young terrorist fanatics.

Moshe Dayan's daughter backs peace groups

Yael Dayan, an Israeli Labour MP , the daughter of Israel's late general-politician Moshe Dayan, and a member of the dovish wing of her party, spoke at the rally.

" By reoccupying we will not prevent ( the establishment of ) a Palestinian state, which is the only solution. Our camp is not ashamed and is coming out. Arik Sharon and Bibi Netanyahu do not have any monopoly - not over the peace, not over our bereavement, and not over the army. The dead are just as much our dead, as those of the right," Yael Dayan told the demonstrators.

Another peace action, a few days earlier, by several thousand Israelis marching in support of Palestinians who were under siege in Ramallah got almost no reporting in the media.

Israeli border police turned on their own at the Kalandia checkpoint. They tear gassed and baton charged Israeli peace activists who were trying to take truck loads of medicine and food to the Ramallah government hospital.

Later in the week one of the most important Israeli daily newspapers, Ha'aretz, reported that a major cultural taboo was about to be broken with a group of war widows joining the anti-war movement.

War Widows Peace Group

For the first time in the history of anti-war protests in Israel, a group of war widows is calling for an end to the bloodshed.

The group was started by a woman whose paratrooper husband fell in the Yom Kippur War at the age of 30. The group's first public move will be the publication of an advertisement under the banner "No More."

"It's not easy for us to use our private grief as leverage, but at these times our voice must be heard. As those who have lost, we must try and prevent further loss," says a letter to be published together with the advertisement.

During Israel's war in Lebanon, mothers spoke out for the first time against the war, as parents.

The war in Lebanon was when the current Israeli PM, Arik Sharon, had his name plastered across the world's media in big type. Lebanon became known as Sharon's War and he was, quite rightly, blamed for the horrors committed at the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camp.

Military Refuseniks

The war in Lebanon also triggered off a conscientious objectors' movement among military reservists, who argued that proud Israelis should be prepared to fight to defend the country - but not go to war in Lebanon.

The son of a very prominent Melbourne Jewish family was one of the first so called 'military refusniks' jailed as a conscientious objector - this family in the 30s, 40s, 50s and, I believe, well into the early 60s, had been active in the Communist Party of Australia.

A military reserverist in a tank battalion he drove his tank to the border between Israel and Lebanon, then jumped out saying his conscience would not allow him to go further - while he argued with Israeli military police he either slowed down, or held up, for hours, a huge military column waiting to pass by and move on into Lebanon to take part in Sharon's War.

There is little or no reporting of the fact that at this moment the number of Israel Defence Force reservist 'refusniks' has surged to more than 400 officers and soldiers who have all signed a letter of refusal to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

By Wednesday this week 36 officers and soldiers identified with the group are serving time in military prisons for refusing to serve in the territories. Among the people in prison are paratroopers, navy personnel, army infantry, engineers and military intelligence.

Another 30 are facing jail sentences after receiving letters ordering them to report as military reservists and telling their defence force commanders they would not comply with these orders.

Last week a group of 'refusniks' demonstrated for the first time outside Sharon's residence in Jerusalem carrying Israeli flags to stress their ties with Zionism and voicing their anger at the unnecessary killings of both their comrades in ' the war to defend the peace of the settlements'.

You can learn more about two of these military refusnik groups by clicking here on their English language websites Yesh Gvul. or Courage to Refuse.

In the USA a Jewish peace group, Tikkun, created a huge controversy within the US Jewish community by taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times, after Sharon invaded Ramallah, and announcing that they backed the military 'refusnik' movement. The ad was signed by several high profile members of the American Jewish community.

(As an aside: the key author of this ad was Rabbi Michael Lerner the founder of Tikkun Olam. Rabbi Lerner is the son-in-law of our very own Phillip Adams - the newspaper columnist and radio star. No Adams is not Jewish but a daughter has converted.)

Five Jews Ten Opinions

At a recent debate at the NSW Labor Council, on the current war between Israel and Palestine, I warned that just as during the Cold War it was wrong to talk of one Communist monolith - we now know there were real differences between different CPs - so it is wrong to see Israel in monolithic terms.

There are different Zionisms. There always has been. There is the Zionism of the Left and the Right; the Zionism of the ultra-religious and the secular. There is the Zionism of Sephardi Jews from the mainly Muslim countries, and the Zionism of the Ashkenazi Jews, mainly from Europe.

During the Labor Council debate I commented on the old joke about Trotskyists - find five Trotskyists and you'll find six opinions on what it means to be a Trotskyist.

The same joke is an old saw among Jews. Find five Jews and you'll have ten views about what it means to be a Jew, or what it means to be a Zionist, or what it means to be a peace activist in Israel.

In Israel today, as well as in the USA, you can find maybe a dozen different peace groups with names like Peace Now ( the largest, most venerable and mainstream) Ta'ayush, Gush Shalom, Yesh Gvul, Women in Black, Tikkun Olam, Physicians for Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jews for a Just Peace, Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel .....and on and on and on .

Ha aretz, the daily Israeli paper, recently started a newspaper report on another Israeli peace group, called La'tzet Gdolim, with the words : ' yet another withdrawal movement starts'.

Often the real differences between these groups are just nuances, as minute and boring as the differences between those Trotskyist groups who can carry on ad nauseum about some minor historical mistake made by their opponents two, or more, decades ago. Ho hum.

But unlike the Trotskyist fractions only a few of these peace groups are the telephone booth sized organisations that are the lot of Trotskyists.

Differences Between Peace Groups

In the not too distance past these peace groups have been able to muster hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets calling for Shalom with their Palestinian sisters and brothers in the territories.

The key difference between the Jewish peace groups is often how they relate to the Oslo Peace Accords - with some groups seeing Oslo as the platform upon which peace can be built, while others argue that Oslo was unfair on the Palestinians so good Israeli peace activists should promote a re-negotiation of Oslo.

Often the other major point of difference between these peace groups is how they react to the issue of the Palestinian right-of-return to their former homes and villages in Israel proper.

But all of the peace groups believe that:

- at a minimum, Israel should withdraw behind the so-called Green Line to allow the state of Palestine to develop as a next door neighbour;

- the immediate shutting down of the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories - which divide one Palestinian town from another forcing the creation of Palestinian cantons ( or to use a more pejorative word, bantustans) ; and

- Israel and Palestine should share Al Quds alShareef/Jerusalem.

The fact that Australian progressive groups, and the Left generally, are blind to this dynamic spectrum of peace groups in Israel and the Jewish diaspora - and the possibilities they have for promoting reconciliation - is due to the demonising of all things Israel, and the hero-worshiping of the Palestinian cause.

While George Dubya might believe in promoting fairy tales based on the good guys wearing white Stetsons, and the bad guys wearing black Stetsons, I would hope that the Left in Australia is a bit more mature.

The reality is that in this war, on both sides, there are people who wear white Stetsons, and people who wear black Stetsons. No one side can claim the angelic mantle.

Jews and the Left - Some Forgotten History

Israel was once actively supported by all progressives - especially because of the socialist models it had established in the kibbutzim.

( An analysis of the socialist failure of the kibbutzim would take a long, and separate essay, so I will not go into that.)

The trade union movement of Israel was also much lauded by Western European social democrats who idealised, and wanted to copy, the dominance of the economy that the Histradut, the Israeli General Federation of Labour, maintained.

Our own Bob Hawke was one of many trade union leaders who travelled to the social democratic mecca of Israel to see what he could mimic and copy for Australia.

The politics of pre-State Israel, and the early years of post-independence Israel, were dominated by two major Left parties Labour, and to its Left, Mapam - while there were a number of smaller Left groupings.

Mapam was part of the Comintern until the early 50s; and the Soviet Union was the first state to recognise Israel and voted to back the creation of Israel at the UN.

The Israeli Right, represented by the political predecessors of Sharon, people like Begin and Shamir, had only a small political base, largely because the majority of Zionists rejected the terrorist tactics employed by the Zionist Right through the Irgun and the Stern Gang

When Israel was declared an independent state In New York the labour movement, and the US Communist Party, organised a demonstration of more than 10,000. As they marched in celebration they sang Solidarity Forever.

Perversion of Stalinism

It was the perversion of Stalinism that saw much of the Left's support for Israel switched, with the Stalinists choosing to back what were - and still are - often reactionary, corrupt, Arab nationalist dictatorships which don't tolerate working class organisations such as trade unions.

The switch away from Israel came as Stalin started tracking down Communist 'traitors' who might have been associated with Trotsky.

Stalin let rip throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the old hatred of anti-semitism - with cartoon drawings of Trotsky, which were based on classic anti-semitic figures.

The infamous show trails throughout Eastern Europe of old loyal communists were a travesty, most of the leading Communists dragged before the sham courts, inevitably were Jews who had been prominent in the communist movements of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany and Romania.

It was in this environment that the important Left Israeli party, Mapam either left, or was pushed out of, the Comintern ( depending on who you believe).

This began a collapse of the Left in Israel, and the collapse of the support of the world socialist and labour movements for the people of Israel.

This switch of support - along with a number of other 'mistakes' made by the Israeli Left - opened the opportunities for the hitherto spurned Israeli Right to grown in prominence and, eventually, come into government.

The opening to the Right has seen a gradual rightwards drift of the whole Israeli body politic and the Left hegemony disappear.

Along with this we have seen the collapse of the socialist dream which informed the kibbutz movement; the collapse of the Histradut's domination of the Israeli economy and the creep to the right of large sections of the Israeli Labour Party.

However there are still a number of important parties to the Left of the Labour Party, including the influential Meretz, which essentially inherited the mantle of the former Mapam.

Same man influences early Marxism and early Zionists

It is either forgotten, or ignored, by many people on the Left that both the early Marxists and the Zionists looked to one man for large parts of their founding ideologies.

Moses Hess was a German-Jewish thinker who is not as well known as he should be.

Both Engels and Marx, sometimes grudgingly, acknowledged that they owed a lot to Moses Hess' ideas. Hess was one of the founders of the radical newspaper Rheinische Zeitung that later gave the young Marx a job as a journalist.

Hess - like many other socialists - fell out with Marx and Engels. In the Communist Manifesto Hess is mentioned - but attacked - by Marx and Engels.

Moses Hess went on to write a major philosophical dissertation Rome and Jerusalem, which put forward a proposal for the creation of a Jewish socialist state.

Rome and Jerusalem is recognised by Zionists as the great precursor to Herzl's own Zionist treatises Der Judenstaat and Altneuland.

The Bund, the Bolsheviks and Trotsky

At the founding congresses of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party the biggest single delegation of workers came from the Jewish socialist trade union organisation The Bund.

Tsarist Russia was essentially a feudal society - in the very few industrial centres the proletarians were overwhelmingly Jews, so the best organised socialist and trade union movements were those of the Jews.

The Bund were early advocates of what we would now call multiculturalism.

Inside the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Congresses they promoted a confederalist socialist movement, which recognised the rights of the different minorities in Tsarist Russia, and they advocated that in a socialist society these groups should be able to establish independent self-governing political entities.

That ran contrary to the authoritarian centralising Bolsheviks, so the Bund tended to ally themselves with the Mensheviks and quickly fell out with both Lenin and Trotsky.

Trotsky in a famous put-down of the Bund, at one of these founding party Congresses, stood up on the platform pointed at the huge Jewish delegation and accused the Bundists of being merely Zionists who refused to leave Russia 'cause they were afraid of getting sea-sick on the way to Palestine.

Trotsky's relationship with both Bundists and Zionists flip-flopped throughout his life - at one moment he opposed them and at another time he said he understood the root cause of their ideology and supported them.

Passover Massacre

Passover is the one Jewish tradition that almost every single Jew holds on to fast - whether they are religious or secular, from the political Right or the political Left, whether they are lukewarm about their heritage or full-on Jews.

Passover is the central story for Jews. It is our story from our dreaming time.

This festival is normally commemorated in the home, around the dining room table, where we retell the story of an uprising by slaves who downed tools on the Egyptian construction sites, where they were forced to build Pharoah's pyramids.

Their union organiser - a bloke called Moses - came back from negotiations with the Big Boss with a proposal for the first ever enterprise agreement - or as some would know them The Commandments.

The first proposal for an enterprise agreement was voted down by the construction workers.

Moses, the union organiser, went back up the mountain and came back with a better agreement, which had 613 clauses.

Some of these clauses were ground-breaking - such as limiting working hours and giving all workers at least one day off a week.

Jews have been commanded from time immemorial to retell this story every year - and to imagine themselves as the slaves throwing off their shackles.

We are told by our sages that until all people are free, until all slaves have thrown off their shackles, none of us are ever free.

At my Passover table - as at thousands of others - we discussed the situation of our Palestinian sisters and brothers and we agreed that until they had won their struggle for self-determination we cannot say that we are all truly free.

So when a young fanatic walked into a hotel dining room and blew himself up slaughtering families sitting around a dining room table re-telling the story the whole of the Jewish community, in Israel and abroad, reeled back in shock and horror.

It was a heavyweight's punch, which winded everybody - including those in the peace camp who believe we must come to a historic compromise with the Palestinian community.

Reeling from this event the peace community in Israel - and abroad - have slowly regrouped and stood up once more for what they believed ---- even though it has been very hard.

Red Haifa

A few days after the Passover Massacre another young terrorist blew herself up in a restaurant in the industrial and port city of Haifa - killing and maiming workers and restaurant goers.

The indiscriminate nature of this form of 'warfare' - which killed 16 and injured 30 - was shown by the fact that among the people badly injured in the restaurant was the Palestinian manager and his largely Palestinian workforce.

Haifa is the most secular integrated city in all of Israel. The University of Haifa has the largest Israeli-Arab/Palestinian student population in all of the country.

An industrial city, with a large port, it revels in its moniker of Red Haifa. The 'Red' nickname comes from the strong trade union presence.

There are almost mythic tales of the militant, Greek speaking, Jewish port workers, sailors and fishermen.

These workers originated, mainly, from the Greek port of Thessaloniki where there was a large Jewish labour force in the port, working as sailors, fishermen and stevedores. They emigrated across the Mediterranean mainly in the last decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century.

At the University of Haifa the history department is dominated by the so-called New Historians who argue that the edifice of Zionist myth-making must be pulled down.

Israelis, these radical historians argue, must accept that the Palestinian story of the atrocities that happened during the War of Independence are not mere propaganda - but have validity and truth.

The Palestinians call the War of Independence the Great Tragedy and Israelis must involve themselves in a reconciliation process, say sorry and apologise for the atrocities.

It was largely because of the work of the New Historians of Haifa University that all Israeli high school history books were revised under the last Labour government to include lessons and stories about the tragedy that befell the Palestinians at that time.

OK that is the history lesson the question is what is to be done now.

In my view both sides are suffering from a massive failure of leadership.

Sharon Hates the Oslo Accords

Sharon has always hated the idea of making peace with the Palestinians. He has no vision of living at peace with his Arab neighbours. He is quick to use language that is racist and demonising of Palestinians and Arabs.

When about 18 months ago he arrogantly 'invaded' the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem he helped trigger off the latest Intifada.

Sharon - surrounded by police and army - turned his visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque into a parade and circus; a political stunt to show he was a strong man; to show that he would not allow any part of Jerusalem to be a no-go area for Israelis.

It was a provocation - and Sharon knew it - and it worked.

Sharon was happy to see the second Intifada explode throughout the territories and inside Israel. In the last Israeli election he used it as a basis to scare voters back into his camp, away from Labour's Barak who was desperately trying to negotiate a final settlement with Arafat based on the Oslo Accords.

Sharon hates the Oslo Accords and in this invasion of the territories he hopes to destroy finally, and completely, the Oslo Accords by eliminating the Palestinian Authority.

Arafat is no Nelson Mandela or Xanana Gusmao

Arafat has also been a failure, especially as a leader of a nascent nation based on the Palestinian Authority..

It, unfortunately for all of us, is neither Nelson Mandela or Xanana Gusmao.

Since returning from exile nearly a decade ago he has surrounded himself with a corrupt elite, who have feathered their own nests with some of the billions of dollars in foreign aid meant to go to ordinary Palestinians as a result of the Oslo Accords.

Arafat and this elite group - scared of their own people - have created an authoritarian regime, which brooks little opposition, and only allows limited debate about the building of a democratic Palestinian State.

Before this invasion Arafat was fast losing support among Palestinians angry at the open corruption of his cronies.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have in large part grown in influence as a reaction to this open corruption.

The corruption eventually weakened Arafat and his ability to negotiate as an equal with the then Israeli Labour PM, Barak.

I believe that history will record that probably his greatest failure in leadership occurred a little over two years ago when the negotiations with Barak resulted in Arafat winning more than 90 per cent of his demands - including the sharing of Jerusalem.

But by this time the corruption had so weakened him that he did not have the strength to sell this historic compromise to his own people. He turned his back on Barak saying that only if he got 100 per cent of his demands would he sell it to his own people.

Now I have been around the labour movement enough to know that rarely do we win 100 per cent of all of our demands - and the sign of a good union leader is a person with the maturity and ability to go back to the membership and sell a deal.

The deal was not all one way. Just as it would have been hard for Arafat to sell it to all Palestinians it was going to be hard for Barak to sell it to all Israelis. But Barak committed himself to the compromise. Arafat couldn't.

Arafat didn't have the guts - and preferred to see his people plunge into the second Intifada.

The second Intifada helped to bring down the Barak Labour government and install Sharon as Prime Minister.

And here, unfortunately, we are today!!!!


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