Tony Greenstein | 26 March 2023 | Post Views:

GMB 3 Pickets Acquitted in Brighton Magistrates Court

What is the Meaning of the Massive Opposition in Israel to Netanyahu’s Judicial Reform Plans?

John Ware Accuses Me of Being Disagreeable!

Those of you with long memories may recall that in the early hours of Tuesday 9 March I was arrested with 5 supporters of Palestine Action whilst driving a van to Elbit Systems Shenstone factory.

The trial, in Wolverhampton Crown Court, is due to start on Monday before Judge Chambers. I shall, of course, be pleading not guilty to the charge of intending to destroy or damage property, contrary to section 3 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. My intent was not  to cause criminal damage but to prevent war crimes being committed.

Elbit’s Hermes Drone

British justice places a premium, as it has always done, on the protection of property over people, even when that property’s sole reason for existence is to kill and maim the innocent.

The trial is scheduled to last between 2 and 3 weeks and I shall try to keep people informed as to its progress from time to time though my blog will not be appearing as regularly as before.

GMB 3 Pickets Acquitted of Obstructing the Highway

Yesterday the case against the “GMB three”, who were accused of wilful obstruction of the highway collapsed. Three GMB officers were arrested in May last year during an industrial dispute with waste management company Biffa in Wealden, East Sussex. They were found not guilty at Brighton Law Courts after the Crown put forward no evidence. Gary Palmer, one of those involved, was quoted as saying:

Picket of Brighton Magistrates Court

“This was always a political case about the rights of people during a cost-of-living crisis to win enough money to look after their families.

“Our members were taking part in lawful industrial action to win a decent pay rise.

“This was an attempt by the company and the police to restrict the right to protest,”

The 3 were arrested under the 1980 Highways Act on suspicion of “obstructing the highway” in the course of asking strike-breakers not to cross their picket line. Among the scabs was “a manager driving a vehicle who GMB and the strikers believe does not have the correct paperwork to drive the vehicle he was in.” But the Police weren’t concerned with such trifles as health and safety.

Picket of Brighton Magistrates Court

GMB senior organiser for Southern England Charles Harrity said,

“This is a serious health and safety risk for GMB members on the picket line he was crossing and the general public. The licence violation was reported to the police.”

A statement by Sussex Police read,

“Pickets or assemblies in trade disputes are not immune from criminal law and police have powers at their disposal to respond to any issues or breaches of the peace, including any offences of blocking the highway.

The Highways Act was introduced by the Thatcher government in 1980—one of its first major pieces of legislation aimed at suppressing the right to strike. It has been routinely used against pickets and protests. Under “Obstruction of highways and streets”, section 137 of the Act reads,

“Penalty for wilful obstruction (1) If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £50.

“(2) A constable may arrest without warrant any person whom he sees committing an offence against this section.”

The Informed Dissent website notes,

“‘Obstruction’ includes anything that prevents passing and re-passing along the highway. To be committing this offence, you don’t have to be blocking the whole width of the highway. This is because the offence is obstructing the highway itself (and not other users of the highway). The prosecution, therefore, do not have to prove that anyone was actually obstructed, but instead that you obstructed the highway itself.”

The police attack on the refuse workers’ pickets came after the police consulted with senior Tory Party politicians. In a statement following the police operation Wealden District Council said,

“following intervention by the Police today to enforce lawful access to and from the depot, which had until now been blocked by the picket line, Biffa have been able to operate two rubbish collection rounds in the southern half of the District today.”

Simon Hester, chair of Hastings and District trades union council, told Socialist Worker,

“A number of GMB full-time workers and I were blocking vans from leaving the depot. We knew Friday would be a stand-off because the council had recalled all the vans to the Amberstone depot on Thursday.

“Vehicles were in line waiting to leave the depot, and I was in front of the trucks. They sent officers to deal with pickets. When the chief inspector arrived, he said we would be arrested for blocking a highway. 

“He also made it clear that we needed to stop blocking vans because public pressure on the council to clear the streets of rubbish was starting to mount.”  See UK: Police attack refuse workers’ picket in Wealden, England, arresting union officials

Being attacked for being disagreeable by John Ware is like being accused of sexual harassment by a rapist

Readers of this blog will be shocked to hear that Islamaphobe-in-chief John Ware, has accused me of being ‘one of the most disagreeable individuals I’ve ever set eyes on.’ Leaving aside the minor point that he has never set eyes on me, you will understand why I have to consult m’learned friends about this attack on my good character and reputation.

Coming from the man who was quoted in the Guardian as having ‘a track record for displaying unfairness and twisting the truth’ this is a case of pots and kettles.

Ware’s 2005 programme “A Question of Leadership” was described by a senior ex-Panorama journalist as “the most disgusting Panorama that I have ever seen. The presenter was acting like a prosecuting attorney, not a journalist.” The Guardian’s Madeleine Bunting called the documentary “McCarthyite”.

Ware is also on record, in the Jewish Chronicle (where else?) as saying that Islamaphobia is rational and the fault of Muslims themselves.

‘Yet there are several differences between antisemitism and (authentic) Islamophobia. The former is entirely irrational, the latter reactive.

It is surely Muslim radicals who have brought it [Islamaphobia] on their fellow Muslims — by their promotion of Islam as a political ideology, and by invoking Islamophobia to close down criticism of this ideology, pouring fat on the fire of those predisposed to blind bigotry in the first place.

Islamophobia — however it is defined — will abate when terrorism carried out in God’s name ceases.

All you have to do is substitute ‘Jew’ for ‘Muslim’ and John Ware would be the first to protest. Given the extent of Israeli terrorism the possibilities are endless. Clearly anti-Semitism is rational.

It is no surprise that Panorama has employed Ware so frequently, all in the name of that famous ‘balance’ between the right and far-right.

What is the Meaning of Israel’s Jewish Protests?

It is important to understand the nature of the massive Israeli demonstrations against the judicial reforms that Netanyahu is proposing. As Gideon Levy wrote in Ha’aretz:

To most Israelis, real democracy is tantamount to “the destruction of Israel.” They’re right. True democracy will bring an end to the Jewish supremacism they call Zionism, and an end to the state they call Jewish and democratic. Therefore the threat of democracy is the existential threat, against which all Jewish Israelis unite: Should democracy be instituted for all the state’s residents, it will bring an end to the pretend democracy.

Therefore, the leaders of the protest make sure to steer clear of any true contact with democracy, lest the entire thing collapse like a house of cards. It is not due to racism or hatred of Arabs that they don’t want Palestinian flags or protesters – they are good people, after all – but only due to the understanding that raising the question of apartheid will render their struggle ludicrous.

That is why most Israeli Palestinians have avoided the demonstrations which are about Jewish democracy only. Both Netanyahu and his opponents agree on the place of Israeli Arabs and they also agree with the repression that Palestinians face.

One of the most vociferous opponents of the ‘judical coup’ is former Defence Minister and Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who promised to bomb Gaza ‘back to the stone ages’. It was Gantz who outlawed 6 Palestinian Human Rights organisations and it was under Gantz that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated.

In the eyes of these Jewish demonstrators the Supreme Court represents all that is good about Israel. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

Around a hundred activists from the civil society movement Darkenu argued that the High Court of Justice protected IDF soldiers from international lawfare campaigns.

The High Court is the flak jacket of IDF soldiers, it is protection for our sons and daughters that serve in the army, from attempts to petition against IDF soldiers at the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” warned Darkenu CEO and former Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria. “The Override clause and Levin’s moves to weaken the justice system would hurt IDF soldiers, and hurting our soldiers is a red line.

The military fears that the war crimes that the Israeli army perpetrates would be open to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court at the Hague if the judicial reforms go through.

The demonstrations in Israel reach into the innermost parts of the secret state. Thousands of reserve soldiers, some from the elite forces, have said they would refuse to serve.

Ex-Generals, heads of Shin Bet and a raft of Judges have condemned the override clause that would enable 61 votes in the Knesset to overturn any decision of the Supreme Court. Coupled with proposals that would allow the government to choose who sits on the court this has provoked panic at the heart of the Israeli establishment.

Israeli Palestinians however have been conspicuous by their absence from the protests. Why? Because the Supreme Court has an unparalleled record of approving legal discrimination against Arabs. Not one piece of anti-Arab legislation has been disallowed.

Even the Jewish Nation State Law of 2018 which officially made Israel an Apartheid State was approved by a vote of 10-1, the sole dissent coming from the sole Arab member of the court.

Eg the Central District Court reduced the time spent on Administrative Detention for two settler suspects in the Huwara pogrom from 4 to less than 2 months and from 4 to 3 months. Administrative Detention is almost never used against Jews. It is a form of internment without trial and Palestinians are routinely given 6 months detention renewable every 6 months. In the case of these settlers they were given less than 6 months in the first place. The Supreme Court has an unparalleled record for  approving Administrative Detention for Arabs.

Little wonder that the settlers’ legal representatives from Honenu said that ‘it was precedent-setting for the court to significantly shorten an administrative detention order’ They are right. Court reduces detention without charges for 2 held over assault on Huwara

Khalil Awawdeh – Hunger Striker – Imprisoned Without Trial – Supreme Court Refused to Release Him

Yet in the case of Khalil Awawdeh, who had been on hunger strike for 170 days and was at death’s door the Supreme Court refused to intervene. As a matter of course they refused to challenge the assertions of Israel’s Shin Bet secret police. As Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former negotiator said

“The Supreme Court rubber stamps everything that the Israeli security services put forward. It is only in very rare circumstances that we actually see that they are pushing back against what the security services are saying.”

As +972 Magazine recounted:

On Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh announced that he was ending his hunger strike, which had lasted over 170 days, after the Shin Bet agreed not to renew his detention beyond October 2. Until then, he will remain at Shamir Medical Center in central Israel, where he is currently hospitalized, in order to recover….

In recent days, photos of an emaciated Awawdeh on the brink of death flooded social media, energizing the global campaign to release the prisoner. If the Shin Bet’s policy of extending the detention and agreeing to release the hunger-striking detainee as his life hangs in the balance were not grotesque enough, it is worth remembering that only on Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected another urgent petition for Awawdeh’s release.

So on Tuesday the Supreme Court were satisfied by Shin Bet’s evidence that Awawdeh was a dangerous terrorist and the day after Shin Bet itself agreed to end the Administrative Detention making a fool of the Supreme Court. This speaks volumes about the racism of the Court.

But if the Supreme Court is racist towards Palestinians it is liberal towards Jews and that is what has earned it the ire of the Jewish Supremacist Religious Zionism and the Orthodox Jewish parties. It has repeatedly recognised non-Orthodox conversions for the purpose of being a Jew entitled to the law of return.

It has always made clear that its version of ‘who is a Jew’ is an all encompassing one, rejecting the narrow racial purity definitions of the Israeli right. It does indeed have a liberal attitude to gay Israelis and others. But when it gets an Arab in its sight it is as racist as Ben Gvir.

So what is likely to happen? In the short-term we should not be surprised if the judicial reform plans do not go ahead, at least unreformed.

‘Israeli Defence Minister Yova Gallant has reportedly threatened to resign his post recently over concerns for the brewing crisis in the military and fears that it could be beset by mass desertions and refusals to serve’.

The Jerusalem Post asked ‘Could senior Likud MKs force compromise on judicial reform? – analysis’. It reported that possible defectors include MKs Danny Danon, Yuli Edelstein as well as MK David Bitan and Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet. The Coalition’s majority of 64-56 could easily disappear as it would only take four Likud MKs to vote against or abstain to prevent the passage of the legislation.

If this were to happen then it is almost certain that the ruling coalition would break up and Religious Zionism would defect, thus causing fresh elections. So in the short term the judicial reforms could be nixed.

But in the longer term the beneficiary is likely to be Religious Zionism which already has 14 seats. Israeli Jewish society is undergoing profound changes. Until 1977 the Israeli Labor Party, which has just 4 seats in the Knesset today, formed the government in partnership with the National Religious Party.

The effect of the 1967 war and the conquest of the West Bank was to cause the NRP, which no longer exists today, to move to the right as the settler movement began, with ILP encouragement, colonising the West Bank. What was a handful of settlers in 1967 is 700,000 today.

Today Israeli politics are driven by the Jewish settlers with their messianic dreams of a Third Temple, the Return of the Messiah and eternal salvation. ‘Left’ Zionism is dead. How did this happen?  I would argue that it was inherent in Zionism itself.

Labor Zionism created the Israeli state. Most of their leaders were atheists who based their claim to Palestine on the god they denied! In order to provide their movement with legitimacy, at a time when most Orthodox Jews saw Zionism as a secular heresy, they formed a faustian pact with the minority of Orthodox Jews led by Rabbi Abraham Kook who supported Zionism. Why? Because without their backing there could be no definition of a Jew that would be accepted by religious Jews. The NRP were given control over personal affairs – birth, death and marriage. They defined who was a Jew (although the definition was different for the purposes of the Law of Return).

As Jewish nationalism and religious Zionism became intertwined, both feeding off each other, so Israel has moved further and further to the settler right. Today much of the army has been taken over. Recently we saw the active  complicity of the army in the Huwara pogrom.

The settler lobby will continue to grow, politically and numerically, until it exerts a stranglehold over Israeli politics. It knows what it wants unlike secular Israeli Jews. Although the racism of secular Jews is not fundamentally different from that of religious Zionists they do not want Israel to become a halachic state, a state ruled by Jewish law.

There is a very real prospect of Israel having the attributes of a theocratic state based on the principles of racial purity and with an open dictatorship and apartheid. The rabbis, corrupt as they are, will then rely on their own interpretation of the bible to rule. Already segregated classes in universities are accepted. The present coalition is proposing to prevent chametz, forbidden food at Passover, entering hospitals.

The old wars between the two Jewish states of Judah and Israel is more than likely to be repeated. What has held Israeli Jewish society together over the past 75 years has been a common antagonism towards the Palestinians. Today religious Zionists see no need to compromise with their secular opponents. That is what we are seeing played out today.

So although it is more than possible that the judicial reforms will be watered down in the long-terms they and more will be introduced.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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