“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘SNP

Whisky, West Dunbartonshire Council And Fakes.

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In response to the symbolic boycott of Israeli products by West Dunbartonshire Council some people are organising a boycott of Scotch whisky.

It all seems to me a bit petty, given that West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t actually import any Israeli products. Certainly, they use technology which is derived from Israeli know-how, that includes but isn’t limited to Intel chips, Microsoft XP software and Kinect.

However, the Council and the posturing Councillors are hardly going to inconvenience themselves by really boycotting Israeli technology, lest it proves too troubling, like giving up using Google (their key search algorithm was developed by an Israeli).

As for the retaliatory boycott, well I am not sure it makes the required point, but Drink Business Review explains:

“FJMC Executive Director Rabbi Simon’s boycott urge followed after Israeli-Anglo blogger and pro-settlement activist, Jameel Rashid publicized on his website a letter to several distilleries located within West Dunbartonshire.

In his letter he stated, the global counter boycott of Scottish whiskey products, distilled in the West Durbanshire council region, is beginning, and requested officers to cease the purchase of any goods that made or grown in Israel.

The West Dunbartonshire Council, while it has not responded publically to calls endorsing a boycott of locally manufactured spirits, has defended the decision which sparked the protest.

The council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK, and are therefore not affected by this boycott. “

The intense interest in this issue has revealed an exceedingly unsavoury side to the instigator of the boycott, Councillor Jim Bollan.

Bollan seems perfectly comfortable contextualising the decapitation of a three-month old baby, as the JC reports:

“”Violence breeds violence. Have you any idea what may have motivated this man [Awad] to commit this crime? Could it have been because he may have seen Palestinian children slaughtered by the IDF?”

Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children were murdered in the West Bank settlement in March. The youngest victim, three month old Hadas, was decapitated.

Responding to another pro-Israel activist, Mr Bollan declared: “Hamas was elected and are freedom fighters alongside the Palestinians fighting an illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.”

Mickey Green of Scottish Friends of Israel said: “I’m not surprised he has sunk to this level. This is a man with pre-conceived ideas and a mental block to reason. He is functioning at a nasty, visceral level.

Judy reports that the fake Gay Girl in Damascus had form, as, er a “anti-Zionist” or something like that.

Marko at Greater Surbiton points out the Guardian’s complicity in this issue, The Guardian’s disgraceful treatment of Jelena Lecic.

Over at Though Cowards Flinch, Carl has a superb post on Chavez, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism. It is noticeable how the thread is almost monopolised by a particular “anti-Zionist”, who is keen to quibble and nitpick on these issues, but he can’t see any anti-racism. Well, not when it is aimed at Jews, that is.

Finally, Tim Marshall has a provocative post, The ‘Arab Spring’ And The Conspiracy Of Silence:

“Across the Middle East from the Arab leaders you can hear the sound…… of silence. A similar sound emanates from many Muslim ‘activists’.

Take the most glaring example – Bahrain. The allegation, backed by human rights groups, is that the Sunni ruled state opened fire with live rounds on peaceful protesters from the majority Shia population, killed large numbers of people, then followed up with a wave of arrests which resulted in widespread torture.

The response from Arab leaders? In the Gulf, the 6 nation Gulf Cooperation Council quickly sent troops to assist in the repression whilst most Western nations, aware of the US military fleet based in Bahrain did little to upset the old order. Elsewhere, the Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, Algerians et al – just kept quiet.

During the Egyptian upheaval the House Of Saud was quietly horrified at how quickly the Americans let the Generals get their way and remove Mubarak. In private they let Washington know their displeasure, but to have complained openly would have been to do what you don’t do in the Arab political world in public (and to a lesser extent in our own systems) which is to tell the truth.

Update 1: This is a thoughtful perspective on Tom MacMaster, the fake blogger, Understanding #amina.

A Thin Skinned SNP Councillor, The Middle East And Boycotts.

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I was going to forward a good letter on West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott of all Israeli products to the Council and Councillor Jonathan McColl, but alas they are blocking communications on Twitter.

They seem naive and thoughtless, to imagine that their actions would not receive a response, but worse than that they haven’t really adjusted their positions. Instead they have become truculent and defensive, which is a pity for the Scottish National Party, as it makes them look small-minded and parochial.

This letter from Pete Tobias‎ to Councillor Jonathan McColl of the SNP is well worth a read:

” June 1st 2011

Dear Councillor McColl,

I have just watched your video blog on YouTube and would like to apologise for the abuse that you and your fellow council members have received from members of the public who are responding inappropriately to your council’s decision to impose a (somewhat selective) ban on goods produced in Israel. I shall refrain from commenting on your interesting views how items such as mobile phones purchased in stores Glasgow owe nothing to Israeli technology, or how you seek to avoid any accident that might require you to receive medical treatment pioneered in the country you and your council seem to have singled out as the sole perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities.

Please allow me to be slightly more constructive and make some suggestions as to how you might restore the image of your council as a legitimate and sensible authority rather than appearing to be anti-semitic by focusing exclusively on the State of Israel for your ‘symbolic’ gesture.

Why not propose a motion at your next Council meeting condemning the violent and oppressive treatment of the Syrian people by their own government? And in case you think what is currently happening is an isolated incident, check this out: . Worth a symbolic protest of some sort, don’t you think?

Or how about the Democratic Republic of Congo? Darfur? Burma? Tibet? Sadly, the list of places in which human rights abuses are perpetrated by one group of people against another is a long and painful one.

As a rabbi, I have consistently found myself being vilified by my own community for comments that I have made criticising Israel’s actions. We are, after all, a people who are taught to think of ourselves as ‘poor we us’, as you so rightly observe, and how dare one of the Jewish people’s own leaders dare to add his voice to those who demand no less than Israel’s destruction? But when I do so, I try to balance my arguments (eg , – and I also recognise that there are other regimes in the world worthy of criticism.

That last point, I am afraid, is where your claim that West Dunbartonshire Council’s venture into international relations represents a genuine concern with human rights smacks of the anti-semitism that you seek to deny. Your council’s actions are unbalanced, are directed towards one individual country’s failings, but do not even try to take into account the numerous other human rights’ abuses that exist in our troubled world.

Councillor McColl, if you are genuinely concerned about human rights, and you genuinely want to demonstrate that West Dunbartonshire Council is similarly dedicated to such issues, might I suggest that you seek out one or two other causes to champion in your Council Chambers, some different human rights’ violations over which to make a ‘symbolic’ gesture? Otherwise, I am afraid, your protests that you are not behaving in an anti-semitic manner founder on the knee-jerk reaction your Council has made to one situation while ignoring numerous others.

I look forward very much to hearing that West Dunbartonshire Council has passed a resolution condemning the actions of the Syrian government, the Libyan government, the Egyptian government, the Burmese government, or any other cause of your choice. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, then I am afraid you are guilty as charged, and your position in singling out Israel is indefensible.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Pete Tobias”[My emphasis.]

Questions for West Dunbartonshire Council.

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One of my readers, Penny, has some excellent questions for West Dunbartonshire Council:

“I haven’t time or space right now to pick up on every issue so I’ll just mention two statements that I found troubling and which I’ll post separately. I trust the councillor –should he read the posts – will see them as constructive criticism from one who has done the job herself.

In my opinion the following statement is very unfortunate:

“West Dunbartonshire Council remains committed to our boycott of Israeli goods and our resolve has only been strengthened by the torrent of vile abuse threats of violence against our families that has come from people who claim to be peace loving people.”

So, what has actually been said here?

There is no mention of Israel having exacerbated the situation that existed in 2009. Yet the council’s resolve has been strengthened. Why? According to Cllr McColl this is because the councillors have experienced a very negative reaction from some members of the public.

What a very bizarre way to approach policy!

Has the Councillor considered how this might be interpreted by residents in Dunbarton? Because what this position seems to be saying is that a) if the council votes on a contentious issue and that vote causes public protest, outrage and threats and b) this public reaction then results in councillors becoming hurt or otherwise emotionally distressed then c) those councillors will not only stick with their original decision but will strengthen their resolve to do so! This isn’t professional and it isn’t very democratic either.

A councillor is most unlikely to complete his/her term without some form of public disapproval. I certainly didn’t! But if a decision creates such outrage – and I daresay distress – then shouldn’t the councillors first course of action be to listen to the people, undertake a proper and professional review of the issue and do all that is necessary to maintain the good name of their council rather than viewing it only through a prism of self-defence and acting on that alone?

Reading the motion and listening to the video has not convinced me that there has been an honest and in-depth appraisal of the situation with further research undertaken. One would have thought that before strengthening resolve some consideration might have been given to Judge Goldstone’s retraction – which weakens the original case.

Given that this issue has been discussed on several blogs in the UK and has reached American sites, I would have thought that the best way forward would be to convene a meeting between the council and an organisation able to represent the Israeli perspectives. At least that way some academic information might surface and the council could be seen to be doing its best to understand both the issues and the outrage.

Furthermore, if councillors are receiving abuse/threats then such a move would go a long way to stopping that. Which is an awful lot better than going on the attack, sending out warnings and mentioning the police straight away. These types of actions are not the best way to shape the public’s view of a council and although the police take threats seriously, personally, I think it might be better to instigate other measures first in order to support police resources.” [My emphasis.]

Update: Florence and Precious Mhango.

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Anne McLaughlin has sent out this update:


Yes they were released this afternoon and put on a train to Glasgow. It seems that their judicial review has been granted but it’s not clear yet if the Home Secretary intervened and dropped the objections or if the high court decided to throw those objections out.

Either way, I met two very happy people off the train just 45 minutes ago. Precious must be so confused by all of this but she was smiling and thrilled to be home, as was Florence who had been so scared earlier today.

I will update you when I know the details and then I’ll be looking at how we help them from here and also some of the broader issues this campaign has highlighted.

For now though I just want to say thank you very very much to every one of you for your support for Florence and Precious. As I’ve said before your support has made a huge difference and enabled them to cope with this awful situation.

But more than that, I have no doubt whatsoever that without your ongoing commitment to helping them, they would have been deported long ago.

I cannot say how much we appreciate each and every one of you.”

Written by modernityblog

18/12/2009 at 02:38

A Letter From Anne McLaughlin For Alan Johnson, Home Secretary.

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Anne McLaughlin has taken up the terrible case of Florence and Precious Mhango, but can’t seem to get thru to Alan Johnson, the British Home Secretary, still I hope one of his lackeys will see this:

Dear Mr Johnson

Florence and Precious (Tionge) Mhango

I am sure you will be aware of the above named mother and daughter who are constituents of mine in my capacity as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow.

I am writing to appeal to you to use your discretion to help them after the latest development in their battle to stay in the UK where they have lived for six and a half of the daughter’s ten years.

I am seriously and genuinely concerned for their welfare on two counts. As there is a ten year old child involved in this I would hope that you would give my request equally serious and genuine consideration.

My first concern is the effect that continuing detention in Yarls Wood is having on them.

And my second, overriding concern, is the danger they will face if they are deported to Malawi as the Home Office seems determined to do.

What I am asking you to do, if you agree, will impact on both of those situations.

In a nutshell I am asking you to intervene to STOP the objections and application (for the case to be expedited) lodged by the Home Office lawyers with the High Court. As I understand it the application for the case to be expedited is due to be heard on Monday by a High Court judge. If granted, I would argue strongly that they are being denied the opportunity for justice.

As things stand, the Mhangos have (with the help of hundreds of members of the public) secured the services of a private advocate, Paul Chen QC. It was his intervention and successful application for a judicial review which resulted in them being taken off the flight to Malawi 51 minutes before it was due to take off on Monday 23rd November 2009.

Paul Chen has fresh evidence and new arguments but it takes time to develop those arguments fully and to gather in more detailed evidence. If the Home Office lawyers were being fair to this vulnerable family, they would have accepted the judicial review and allowed it to happen in the fullness of time – time that would allow that evidence and those arguments to be developed.

I believe it was incredibly unfair of the Home Office lawyers to raise objections to the review and to request the High Court to expedite it.

Mr Johnson, you are a powerful politician, you have it within your gift to help this family. All I am asking is that they are given a fair amount of time to gather in more detailed evidence. If you intervene to drop the application, I assume the next step would be that they would be released and allowed to come home to Glasgow to spend Christmas with their friends and neighbours who love and care for them.

That would at least allow this ten year old girl to be released from detention – I will save my wider arguments about detention of children for another day but you must be aware of the evidence about the damage this does to a child’s mental and physicial well being. If you require any information of how it’s affected this particular child I am more than happy to speak to you. Or speak to Precious herself – you will find that since the first detention in August, she now speaks in whispers but with some gentle encouragement she will eventually be able to tell you about the trauma she has suffered. If you allow the judicial review to happen in the natural course of time and release them back to Glasgow, you will make a huge difference to this little girl and her mother.

Secondly, if you intervene and drop the application, you will give their advocate and their supporters time to gather together the evidence required to give them the best possible chance of justice. Because this case has attracted some publicity, I am now receiving information from people in the UK and Malawi which backs up their arguments but you will understand that gathering in the detail takes time. That is all we are asking for – time.

I suspect an issue for the Home Office lawyers is that if they allow it to run its natural course, by the time the judicial review is heard they may well have hit the significant seven year mark. Can you tell me if this was a factor? If it was, do you think that is fair?

As you can imagine, being a Glasgow MSP, I am contacted by great numbers of asylum seekers. Although I am happy to work with them as constituents, I have never mounted a public campaign for any of them. This is a first for me and it is because I am so extremely concerned about this ten year old child and her mother, that I have taken these steps. I understand the arguments around deportation of asylum seekers are many, varied and complex.

However, please allow me to explain to you the single most significant reason (amongst the many others) why I believe we cannot allow this particular deportation to happen. Please bear in mind, this is not necessarily what the legal arguments will be, it is simply why I believe you should personally intervene and stop the objections.

Precious’ father’s family in Malawi have on several occasions approached Precious’ aunt and grandmother making it clear that they will claim Precious on return and that she will be living with them. They will not allow Precious to see her mother. I am no expert on the legal system in Malawi but the advice I have been given by those who are, is that the legal system will support the father’s family and there is every reason to believe that they could lose each other forever.

Now, regardless of all of the other fears, all of the other evidence and all of the other arguments, I do not believe that someone who came into politics to help vulnerable people and to make the world a better place, would knowingly turn their back on a ten year old child who has a very high chance of losing her mother (not to mention being thrown into a completely different way of life) as a result of their inaction.

So, now that you DO know about it, please do something. I assume because there is an ongoing judicial review, you are unable to use your discretion to grant them leave to remain. If I am wrong about that, I will write to you again to explain in more detail why I believe you should do so. Please advise me.

My understanding however is that the one thing you can do, as Home Secretary, is intervene to drop the objections and the application for the case to be expedited. It’s a simple request and I don’t believe it is asking too much for their advocate to have time to gather the evidence and develop the arguments. We are well aware that this will be their very last opportunity to successfully argue for leave to remain in the UK. Please, at least give them every chance to make those final arguments.

I understand the judge will hear the application for the case to be expedited on Monday. We are running out of time. Please act urgently.

Yours sincerely

Anne McLaughlin MSP”

Written by modernityblog

05/12/2009 at 15:47