No deal looms large

19th May 2019

May buried

Theresa May – politically dead and almost buried

There can be no doubt that any marriage of convenience brings with it grounds for divorce.  The coupling of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, in talks to find a Brexit deal, certainly had more the aspect of a shotgun wedding than a match made in heaven.  It is no surprise that we have now reached the point of irretrievable breakdown.

As Corbyn states in his letter to May, ending the talks,

“…there has been growing concern in both the shadow cabinet and parliamentary Labour Party about the government’s ability to deliver on any compromise agreement.”

With May making clear during the week that she would outline a timetable for her departure, following the European Union Withdrawal Bill going before Parliament in the first week in June, the talks had clearly run out of road.  As shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, observed recently, “negotiating with the Tories is like trying to enter a contract with a company that’s going into administration.”

With European elections looming on 23rd May, in which the Tories could trail in an embarrassing fourth or fifth place, and for which they have not even offered a manifesto, there can be little doubt that the momentum will be with the pro-Brexit tendency when it comes to electing a new leader.

Under these circumstances it is clear that any deal negotiated between May and Corbyn would effectively have been ripped up the moment a new Tory leader was installed.  As Corbyn states in his letter to May,

“As you have been setting out your decision to stand down and cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded. Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other members of the cabinet.”

It would certainly strengthen Corbyn’s position if members of his own party, notably Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, and Shadow Brexit Secretary, Kier Starmer, had the wit to hold the line with regard to Labour Party policy, rather than pursuing their own careerist agenda.  While the BBC and much of the media continue to caricature the Labour position as ‘confused’ Gary Younge, writing in the The Guardian (17th May 2019) put the Labour position succinctly stating,

“The policy itself is pretty straightforward.  It supports a second referendum if parliament rejects the prime minister’s deal and a general election doesn’t follow.  They just can’t get their story straight.”

There is little doubt that the Labour position is one of compromise. The fact remains however that the likes of Watson and Starmer are hell bent on distorting the story.  Their intention is to force Labour away from its policy position of delivering on the outcome of the 2016 referendum, to one of supporting a so called people’s vote, in the hope that this will result in a Remain outcome thus avoiding Brexit entirely.

Using Labour policy, of the second referendum as a last resort, to push a pro-Remain position is consistent with the overriding will of the UK political establishment, including most MPs, the City of London and the establishment media.  Watson and Starmer are clearly welcome bedfellows in this company.

The joker in the pack however remains the anti-EU ultra tendency within the Tory party and the anti-EU character of the party’s membership.  It is unlikely that a Tory leadership contest will go beyond the party conference in September, allowing that event to be a coronation for the new leader.  That will give the new leader, and new UK Prime Minister, less than two months to settle a deal or leave the EU with no deal on 31st October 2019.

Will a pro-Brexit Prime Minister, perhaps the Tory grass roots favourite, Boris Johnson, be concerned about a no deal exit?  They will certainly claim that their election by the 160,000 or so Tory Party members will give them a ‘mandate’ to deliver on whatever platform they put forward.  It will be hard for any of the Parliamentary Conservative Party to resist the position of its own grass roots.  Ironically, getting no-deal across the line just means sitting it out for two months, no messy votes in Parliament to deal with, no protracted negotiations.

One thing any Prime Minister fears, whatever their legislative failings and parliamentary struggles, is to go down in history as the shortest serving PM in history.  An ego as inflated as that of Boris Johnson certainly could not tolerate that, so any deal which gets him elected will almost certainly be predicated upon building a sufficient coalition to be able to see him through to 2022, the fixed parliamentary term period.

Theresa May has promised to pull out the stops and come up with a “bold offer” when the EU Withdrawal Bill gets to Parliament in June.  Unless by some miracle that is the case and the Bill passes, the race to watch over the summer will be the Tory leadership contest.  The shape of Brexit may well be determined by it.

 

 

 

 

Euro elections – panic and absurdity

12th May 2019

Euro elections – panic and absurdity

Nigel-Farage

Farage – absurd but ahead in the polls

 

Panic on the streets of London,

Panic on the streets of Birmingham,

I wonder to myself,

Could life ever be sane again?

Panic by The Smiths should be the theme tune of the up and coming European elections, with panic characterising the positions of most of the major UK political parties, and some of the minor ones, in the face of the tsunami of support being garnered by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The Conservatives in particular appear to have surrendered any hope of mounting even a cursory campaign on the assumption that their right wing supporters will protest by voting with Farage, while the Remain loving Tory centre will simply not turn up to vote.

The media driven Farage machine appears to be hoovering up any hopes UKIP may have harboured of a revival on the back of the Brexit debacle.  UKIP without Farage was always a busted flush and now that the media darling has formed another vehicle for his vanity, his erstwhile cohorts are simply left coughing out Farage’s exhaust fumes.

On the Remain side there are the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, both cravenly pro-EU to the core, and the Tory in disguise Change UK, made up of Labour and Tory splitters and a variety of media personalities hoping to catch the Brussels gravy train.  While this liberal hotch potch share common ground in their love of the EU and hatred of Brexit, it does not extend to them being able to co-operate to generate a pro-Remain platform.

That leaves the Labour Party as the only consistently credible force capable of minimising the impact of Farage and providing some coherence and focus to the EU election debate.  The media, in particular the BBC, are set against the Labour position and will do their utmost to characterise the Labour leadership as not having a clear position.  However, as Jeremy Corbyn states in the introduction to Labour’s European election manifesto,

“Labour has put forward an alternative plan to seek a close and cooperative relationship with the European Union, including a new comprehensive customs union with a UK say, close single market alignment, guaranteed rights and standards, and the protection of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.”

It may be a position based on some compromise, given the make up of the Parliamentary Labour Party and some of the factional infighting Corbyn still has to contend with, but it is a position and one which has been consistently articulated.  It is also a position that is either too subtle or too complex for large sections of the media to be able to grasp as they seem to be largely incapable of reflecting it.

Labour’s position is further clarified in the manifesto introduction as follows,

“Labour will continue to oppose the Government’s bad deal or a disastrous no deal.  And if we can’t get agreement along the lines of our alternative plan, or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.”

Once again this appears to be too nuanced a position for either the media or the Remain supporting parties and factions to grasp.  Labour is not opposed to a public vote but it is clearly a last resort as it will, of itself, not solve the Brexit question.  It is therefore vital that all other means to find a negotiated solution are explored, in order to deliver on the outcome of the 2016 referendum result, consistent with Labour’s policy position to do so.

The political establishment in the UK has always been in the Remain camp and will continue to do all in their power to overturn the 2016 referendum outcome.  The EU’s status as a capitalist club par excellence for UK banks and corporations is not something they will give up on easily.  The Liberal, Green and Change UK agenda effectively falls within this camp, albeit dressed in a form of faux internationalism which fails to realise that the ‘free’ movement of people is simply a cover for the easy movement of cheap labour.

The incoherence of the Remain position, combined with the difficulty Labour faces in getting anything other than a distorted version of its message across, leaves the field open for Farage to keep plugging away with his single issue Brexit Party campaign.  Farage’s party will end up with the most UK seats in a parliament it is dedicated to dissolve.

The fact that these European elections are happening at all is an absurdity.  It is no more absurd however than seeing the EU as a vehicle for peace and progress.  The tragedy remains that the real reasons for needing to leave the EU have been buried.     A real socialist internationalism, as called for by Labour’s John McDonnell recently, which actually works in the interests of the peoples of Europe, not its banks and corporations, is what is needed.  No amount of voting for Farage and his ilk will achieve that.

 

 

 

 

Tories sink into the mire

4th May 2019

local elections

You would be hard pressed to believe, from press and media coverage, that local elections this week have been a meltdown for the Tory Party with Labour having largely held their position.  The BBC in particular have sought to characterise the elections as a ‘plague on both your houses’, portraying the results as a further indication of splits in both major parties over Brexit.

It is hard to deny that there is a grain of truth in the fact that Brexit has had an impact upon local election results, given its dominance in UK politics at present.  However, the reality of politically driven austerity, clearly the fault of the Tories, resulting in hugely damaging cuts in local jobs and services cannot be ruled out.

The actual figures for losses paint more mixed picture than the media would like to portray.  Across the country the Tories lost 1,334 local councillors.  Labour lost 82 councillors.  Across the country the Tories lost control of 44 local councils.  Labour lost control of 6 councils.  The Liberal Democrats did increase the numbers of councils they control by 10 while adding 703 to their tally of local councillors, mainly at the expense of the Tories in the South and South West.

The Labour right wing, always keen to take any opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, have fuelled the media narrative by agreeing that the results are a major blow for Labour and suggesting they illustrate the need for a so-called People’s Vote to break the Brexit deadlock.  Quite how such a conclusion can be extrapolated from the reality of the figures is hard to see but there are those in Labour, spearheaded by Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who refuse to let the facts get in the way of their version of the world.

The media have made little play of the fact that Labour candidate, Jamie Driscoll, won the North of Tyne Combined Authority Mayoral contest.  An openly Momentum backed candidate, Driscoll beat establishment candidate, Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council for the Labour nomination.  Attempts to subvert Driscoll’s campaign through so-called Independent, John McCabe, a smokescreen candidate for the Labour right wing, failed to dent Driscoll’s appeal.  Local entrepreneur, Charlie Hoult, in a desperate tilt at populism from the Tories made it through to the count of second votes but was soundly defeated by a 76,862 to 60,089 votes margin.

While the realities of the powers of the so-called Metro Mayors is limited, and Driscoll will have the intransigence of the local Labour establishment to contend with, his election nevertheless represents a positive signal that a Left wing programme can attract votes.

The usual suspects, in the form of Professor Sir John Curtice, have been wheeled out to predict that, based upon this week’s result a General Election would result in the two main parties gaining only 28% of the vote each and would lead to another hung Parliament.  However, a cold analysis of the figures does not take into account the dynamics of an election campaign and the real issues which parties will have to address on the doorstep.

There is no getting away from the fact that, even discounting the Brexit debacle, the Tories have a dismal record and with a clear programme based upon addressing the need of the many, not the few, Labour stands every chance of winning a General Election.

It is clear from the response to the local election results that Tory strategists know that they are on the ropes.  Calls for May’s resignation have intensified while her greeting at the Welsh Conservative Conference this week was far from warm.  The sacking of Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, days ahead of the local elections is see as a tactical blunder on May’s part and Williamson has clearly positioned himself in opposition on the backbenches, not being prepared to go quietly.

With Brexit discussions set to resume next week and European elections still scheduled for 23rd May, it is hard to see where else the Tories can turn but to hope that a new leader can help dig them out of the hole they find themselves in.   Labour on the other hand must stand firm and not be distracted by the splitting tactics of Change UK or the antics of Deputy Leader, Tom Watson.

The prospect of a General Election may yet be within grasp and in a General Election scenario a united Labour Party will undoubtedly win.

 

No red carpet for Trump

27th April 2019

Trump NRA(2)

Trump – promising the NRA he will oppose gun control

The right wing press are in a spin about Jeremy Corbyn calling out US President, Donald Trump, as a misogynist, racist, climate change denier and refusing to have anything to do with the state visit scheduled for the 3rd – 6th June.

The Daily Mail, not surprisingly, were almost gleeful in their denunciation of Corbyn stating,

“Jeremy Corbyn was accused of ‘staggering’ hypocrisy last night after snubbing the Queen’s invitation to a state banquet with Donald Trump.

Despite his record of meeting terrorists and extremists, the Labour leader yesterday said he would refuse to attend the dinner with Mr Trump at Buckingham Palace in June.”

The Daily Mail were incensed by a tweet from Corbyn which made his position categorically clear stating that,

“Theresa May should not be rolling out the red carpet for a state visit to honour a President who rips up vital international treaties, backs climate change denial and uses racist and misogynist rhetoric.”

What is not to agree with?  State visits from US Presidents are not the norm.  If anything, the honour accorded to Trump is only the third state visit by a US President in the 67-year reign of the present Queen, making it more the exception rather than the rule.

The bluster about Corbyn snubbing the Queen and the hot air from failed Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith that this demonstrates that Corbyn is “unfit to be Prime Minister” is just a smokescreen.  The idea that the Queen is above politics and that a state visit somehow exempts a visiting leader from the normal rules of politics is nonsense.

The monarch, as the UK Head of State, is the embodiment of the ruling class and symbol of everything that is outdated, undemocratic and anachronistic about the British state.  Corbyn should have no qualms about snubbing either the US President or the British monarch for perfectly sound political reasons.

It may be expected that liberal bastion, The Guardian, would take a different line but if senior correspondent Simon Jenkins is to be believed, that is not the case.  For Jenkins it is merely a matter of courtesy, stating,

“A US President has been invited to Britain on a state visit.  It is a state courtesy, between one democracy and another, on the occasion of a wartime anniversary.  No conceivable purpose is served by 200,000 people coming to London to shout insults at him.”

Jenkins argues that simply opposing policies or a particular politician does not win political arguments and that however much anger Trump generates that is “no reason for childish protests”.  Oozing condescension Jenkins argues that there is no room for direct action in the pantheon of methods in which messages can be delivered.  Trump may well shrug his shoulders if a quarter of a million people turn out to oppose his visit but there is no evidence to suggest that he is open to rational debate either.

Sometimes the loud, noisy, visibility of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets is the only way to get a message across, not only to President Trump but to the millions who will watch elements of the visit on TV and social media.  Is our only response really to concur with Jenkins that we extend Trump every courtesy?  In the concluding words of his article, Jenkins suggests that we bow down to the climate change denying racist saying,

“You are welcome, Mr. President.”

That is simply not good enough.  Trump does not and will not play by the rules, even the distorted rules that pass for political discourse in the United States.

There is no reason on Earth to welcome Donald Trump to the UK or anywhere else, President or not.  There is every reason to oppose the policies and practice of the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, especially when that leader embodies the very worst aspects of that society and would willingly impose those ‘values’ on others.

The debate will rumble on until Trump’s visit and beyond.  Taking a principled stand will be another stick used by the right wing media to beat Jeremy Corbyn.  However, Corbyn has given a clear lead on this issue and opposition to Trump’s visit must be vocal and it must be loud!

Cuba Stands Firm

 19th April 2019

The Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive U.S. escalation, and prevail

Cuban flag

In 1961 the United States attempted to reverse the revolution in Cuba by sending an invasion force to the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón).  The invasion was defeated and the Cuban revolution continues to flourish.  The following statement was released by the Cuban government to mark the 17th April anniversary of the Playa Girón invasion.

Revolutionary Government Declaration

Today, April 17, is the anniversary of the launching of the United States’ 1961 military invasion at Playa Girón. (Bay of Pigs) The Cuban people’s resolute response in defense of the Revolution and socialism, within only 72 hours, produced the first military defeat of imperialism in America. Strangely, the date was chosen by the current U.S. government to announce new aggressive measures against Cuba and to reinforce their implementation of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Revolutionary Government rejects, in the strongest terms possible, the decision to now allow action to be taken in U.S. courts against Cuban and foreign entities, and to aggravate impediments to entering the United States faced by leaders and families of companies that legitimately invest in Cuba, in properties that were nationalized. These are actions established in the Helms-Burton Act which was denounced long ago by the international community, and which the Cuban nation has repudiated since its promulgation and implementation in 1996, with the fundamental goal of imposing colonial tutelage on our country.

We repudiate, as well, the decision to reinstate limits on remittances that Cuban residents in the U.S. send to their families and friends, to further restrict travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba, and impose additional financial sanctions.

We strongly denounce references that attacks against U.S. diplomats have occurred in Cuba.  They attempt to justify their actions, as is customary, with lies and coercion.
Army General Raúl Castro stated this past April 10: “Cuba is blamed for all evils, using lies in the worst style of Hitler’s propaganda.”
The U.S. government resorts to slander, to cover up and justify the obvious failure of its sinister coup manoeuvre, designating in Washington an impostor “President” for Venezuela. They accuse Cuba of being responsible for the strength and determination shown by the Bolivarian Chavista government, the country’s people, and the civic-military union defending their nation’s sovereignty. They lie shamelessly, alleging that Cuba has thousands of military and security troops in Venezuela, wielding influence, and determining what happens in this sister country.
They have the cynicism to blame Cuba for the economic and social situation Venezuela is facing after years of brutal economic sanctions, conceived and implemented by the United States and their allies, precisely to economically asphyxiate the country and cause suffering within the population.  Washington goes so far as to pressure governments in other countries to attempt to persuade Cuba to withdraw this unlikely supposed military and security aid, and even to stop lending support and solidarity to Venezuela.
The current U.S. government is well-known, within the country itself and internationally, for its unscrupulous use of lies as a tool in domestic and foreign policy. This is an old habit among imperialism’s practices.
The images are still fresh of President George W. Bush, with the support of current National Security John Bolton, indecently lying about supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a lie that served as the pretext to invade this Middle Eastern country.  Recorded in history, as well, are the bombing of the Maine anchored in Havana, and the self-inflicted Gulf of Tonkin incident, episodes that served as pretexts to unleash brutal wars in Cuba and Vietnam.
We cannot forget that the United States used fake insignia painted on the planes that carried out bombings here as a prelude to the Playa Girón invasion, to hide the fact that they were U.S. aircraft.  It should be clear that the U.S. slanders are based on an absolute, deliberate lie. Their intelligence agencies have more than enough evidence, surely more than any other state, to know that Cuba has no troops in Venezuela, and does not participate in military or security operations, even though it is the sovereign right of independent countries to determine how they cooperate in the area of defense, which is not a U.S. prerogative to question.

Those making this accusation have more than 250,000 soldiers and 800 military bases abroad, some of them in our hemisphere.  This government also knows, as Cuba has repeatedly stated publicly, that the more than 20,000 Cuban collaborators, more than 60% women, are undertaking in this South American country the same work currently being done by another 11,000 professionals from our country in 83 nations; contributing to the provision of social basic services, fundamentally in healthcare, which has been recognized by the international community.

It should also be absolutely clear that our firm solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is Cuba’s right as a sovereign state, and also a duty that is part of our tradition and among the irrevocable principles of the Cuban Revolution’s foreign policy.  No threat of reprisal against Cuba, no ultimatum or pressure on the part of the current U.S. government will dissuade the Cuban nation’s internationalist vocation, despite the devastating human and economic damage caused by the genocidal blockade to our people.

It is worth remembering that thuggish threats and ultimatums have been used in the past, when Cuba’s internationalists supported liberation movements in Africa, while the United States supported the opprobrious apartheid regime. Cuba was expected to renounce its solidarity commitments with the peoples of Africa in exchange for a promise of forgiveness, as if the Revolution needed to be pardoned by imperialism.

At that time, Cuba rejected the pressure, as we reject it today, with the greatest disdain.
Army General Raúl Castro recalled this past April 10, “Over 60 years, facing aggression and threats, Cubans have shown the iron will to resist and overcome the most difficult circumstances. Despite its immense power, imperialism does not possess the capacity to break the dignity of a united people, proud of its history and of the freedom conquered with so much sacrifice.”

The Cuban government calls on all members of the international community and U.S. citizens to put an end this irrational escalation and the hostile, aggressive policy of the Donald Trump government. Member states of the United Nations rightly demand, year after year almost unanimously, an end to this economic war. The peoples and governments of our region must ensure that the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace prevail, for the benefit of all.

The President of the Councils of State and Ministers Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez declared this past April 13, “Cuba continues to have confidence in its strengths, its dignity, and also in the strength and dignity of other sovereign, independent nations. But Cuba also continues to believe in the people of the United States, the homeland of Lincoln, who are ashamed of those who act beyond the boundaries of universal law, in the name of the entire nation.”

Once again, Cuba repudiates the lies and the threats, and reiterates that its sovereignty, independence, and commitment to the cause of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, are not negotiable.

Two days before the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the victory at Playa Girón, a historic site within our national territory, where mercenary forces backed by imperialism bit the dust of defeat, the Cuban Revolution reiterates its resolute determination to confront the aggressive escalation of the United States, and prevail.
Havana, April 17, 2019.

A Brexit breather…?

13th April 2019

GettyImages-1136148292Donald Tusk, Theresa May and Angela Merkel indulge in Brexit banter

If there is anything that is close to rivalling the ineptitude of the British government it is the indecisiveness of the European Union.  Faced this week with the opportunity to end it all, by pressing the Brexit button on 12th April, or offering a lengthy extension which would kick the Brexit can a long way down the road, the EU did neither.  Instead UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, had her plea of a short extension till the 30th June returned to her in a Hallowe’en mask, with an offer of an extension till 31st October.

The absurdity of this position has been rehearsed throughout the media this week.  It has however afforded the BBC in particular the opportunity to resurrect airtime for one of its darlings, Nigel Farage, trumpeting the launch of his latest vanity project, the Brexit Party.

Preparations are now underway for European elections on 23rd May, which the UK will contest unless, by some miracle, Parliament agrees a Brexit deal before then.  If the UK were to fail to take part in the elections Britain would automatically leave without a deal, effectively being kicked out of the EU on 1st June.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the UK was expected to “continue its sincere cooperation” while it is still a member state.  While Theresa May agreed the UK would continue to abide by its obligations, a tweet by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP on 7th April suggested that,

“If we are stuck in we must use the remaining powers we have to be difficult. Sincere co-operation so far seems to be a one way street.”

Needless to say, this caused much furore in Brussels in spite of Rees-Mogg’s relatively minor status in the scheme of things.  The implications of Rees-Mogg’s comment was taken to be an indication of how a more hawkish successor to Theresa May could engage with Europe, should the Prime Minister be forced to fall upon her sword.

Of more concern across Europe is the prospect of the election on 23rd May returning a highly Euro-sceptic bloc of MEPs from across the Member states.  With right wing governments in Poland and Hungary, the idiosyncratic nationalist Five Star Movement running the show in Italy, the fascist Vox party gaining seats in Spain and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front) poised to capitalise upon discontent in France, the EU project could look distinctly wobbly by the 24th May, whatever the state of play with Brexit.

The discontent in the UK could also provide oxygen for both UKIP and Farage’s Brexit Party.  A low turnout may play to their advantage.  Whatever the promises made by a British Prime Minister they are unlikely to play nicely if elected to an assembly they are dedicated to abolish.  Quite what sort of political platform any of the major parties will stand on, to elect MEPs for what may be a five month period, will also be interesting to see.

Negotiations between the Tory government and the Labour Party appear unlikely to be fruitful given the intransigence of the Government.  In spite of this the BBC, in the form of chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, continue to characterise the negotiations as ones in which the Labour Party needs to give ground.  Perhaps Kuenssberg’s much trumpeted break from Twitter will help clear her political head.  Not something to rely on though.

Either way, most MPs are close to the end of their Parliamentary tether and are simply glad to be allowed a recess over Easter, before re-entering the Brexit fray on 23rd April.  Depending on progress once Parliament returns a General Election is still an option, as the only real prospect of renewing both a failed Parliament and a failed government.

Weighing against this is the fact that the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory is the only thread keeping the Tory Party together.  However, even that thread could snap once the Brexit bartering resumes.  A people’s government negotiating a people’s Brexit may yet be a possibility.

Netanyahu set to tighten grip

5th April 2019

NetanyahuPartners in Crime – Trump endorses Netanyahu re-election

With Israeli elections scheduled for 9th April incumbent Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, looks set to be returned to office in some form of coalition with ultra right nationalists, who are demanding the annexation of the occupied territories and the expulsion of all Arabs.

For a Prime Minister who, in his ten years in office, has stuck resolutely to positions including no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the status of Jerusalem and no acceptance of any Palestinian pre-conditions in negotiations, acceding to the demands of the ultra right would not be a great departure.

The Golan Heights, which is part of Syria, was occupied by Israel in 1967, has always been contested by the Syrian government and recognised as Syrian by the international community.  However, just two weeks ago the United States government formally recognised Israel’s ‘right’ to the Golan Heights.  The move follows the recognition by the US last year of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, in spite of its contested international status, and the promise to relocate the US Embassy there.

Over the past year Palestinians locked in the blockaded Gaza strip have been protesting against the Israeli occupation on a weekly basis.  Over that period alone Israeli soldiers have killed 194 people, including 40 children.  Nearly 29,000 people have been wounded of which 7,000 were shot with live ammunition.

The UN commission investigating Israeli claims that the protests are a cover for attacks upon the border fence, itself illegal, has not found this to be the case.  On the contrary, the UN said that the demonstrations were almost entirely civilian and the use of lethal force by the Israelis was neither necessary nor proportionate.  Israeli snipers have shot dead civilians hundreds of metres from the border fence.

The US has in effect been supporting Israeli action against the Palestinians.  Trump has made no secret of his support for Netanyahu and the feeling is mutual on the part of the Israeli leader.  The European Union on the other hand has done nothing to support the justified cause of the Palestinians.  As things stand there is little prospect of a peace settlement and Netanyahu’s re-election will only push that further from reach.

In the meantime the weekly protests by a blockaded people, armed with sticks and stones, will continue against one of the world’s most powerfully armed military regimes.  In any other part of the world such an army firing on unarmed civilians would be arraigned for war crimes.  It seems that, under US cover, the Israeli government not only has immunity but will continue to act with impunity.