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Only one group in Britain is acting on the danger to the country’s food security

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Nationally and internationally eminent researchers and commentators are focusing on the damage done to damage the environment and human health by agriculture (example).

This, in a country whose manufacturing industry was the first to pollute its air, water and soil and whose armaments industry continues the process (see a recent study of pollution caused by war activity, during development and testing of hardware, weapon systems and procedures, war operations and subsequent reconstruction).

A country which could and should provide its own staple food is becoming increasingly dependent on imports because their family farmers have been grossly underpaid for many years by middlemen and large retailers. According to the NFU (2015), the number of dairy farmers in England and Wales has halved since 2002 – cause and effect.

As family farmers leave in droves each year we must assume that the country’s environment and human health will improve by leaps and bounds. Not so, their land will be bought by those largescale investors who have reaped the benefit of EU subsidies for so many years.

William Taylor and other leaders of Northern Ireland’s farming organisations have been actively lobbying politicians from all parties and none. Their August press release ended:

Farming families traditionally were charity givers, now 25%+ are living below the poverty line, therefore, denoting complete current Government policy failure. FFA therefore call on the Westminster Government to implement legislation on farm gate prices which would return farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked forthwith across the staples throughout the UK to force fairness into the food chain for farmers immediately. 

There is now proof from University College Dublin that in the farming industry every new job on a farm would create 4 down the line and whilst farming is not viewed by Westminster as the biggest UK industry in money terms (partly the fault of the food corporates) it is the largest UK industry by tonnage handled, 60%+ of all commercial road vehicles haul food or food related products to give but one example. 

If legislation on farm gate prices is not forthcoming from Westminster, such as that being sought at Stormont when it re-sits to sort the UK’s farm gate price crisis, then it will confirm what we all suspect, the large food retailers are out of control with their influence in ‘Democratic’ Westminster, the limited powers of the supermarket Ombudsman’s Office a case in point!

 

 

 

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Media 94: Steve Beauchampé chides the BBC over its coverage of Labour’s anti-semitism row

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In a recent Birmingham Press article, Beauchampé opens:

“Five friends have told me recently that they have either stopped – or severely curtailed – how much BBC news and current affairs output they digest.

“All were once avid consumers of such content, none could be described as being on the extremes of political thinking, none would claim that the Corporation is guilty of ‘fake’ news, and none have turned instead to social media or become keyboard warriors or internet trolls to get their views across. They are, in their different ways, frustrated at the BBC’s failure to adequately reflect their own political beliefs and the lack of balanced debate on issues that matter to them. And they are irritated at some of the Corporation’s presentational tropes and the cheapening of the discourse that often accompanies it”.

He continues:

“I never felt this way about our national broadcaster. They have always been my ‘Go To’ media outlet for gaining an understanding and appreciation of world affairs. I’ve used – and contributed to – numerous alternative sources but none to the extent that I have with the BBC. Sure the Corporation wasn’t faultless, it wasn’t always as impartial and independent as I would have wished and it sometimes employed journalists whose reporting and approach to interviewing greatly annoyed me.

“But things have changed, and one issue above all has lead me to question my primary allegiance to the BBC’s news and current affairs output. It is the coverage of the Labour Party and anti-semitism”.

“I have never been a Labour Party member and have no intention of becoming one. But I voted Labour for the first time in thirty years at the 2017 General Election because the social democratic policies they offered resonated with me in a way that the centrist stance of New Labour never did. However, I do not regard Jeremy Corbyn as some Messianic figure (although he is a hugely important part of early 21st century UK political history) and there is no guarantee that I will vote Labour at any future election. But I cannot recall a senior politician so vilified as Jeremy Corbyn, nor one so slandered, slurred and libelled, so smeared, so wilfully misconstrued and lied about, so despised, so… so hated.

“It has been thus since his unexpected rise to prominence in mid-2015, but when it comes to the issue of anti-Semitism then the BBC’s reporting of both Corbyn and the Labour Party has taken things off the scale. The Corporation has been a crucial and extremely willing player in the debate yet in almost every measurable way they have shown immense bias and a failure to investigate and hold to account Corbyn’s critics.

“Since early spring – if not longer – the BBC has given the issue copious coverage, likely dwarfed only by that allocated to Brexit. Phrases such as: ‘It’s a problem that just won’t go away’ and: ‘Why can’t Labour seem to get over this?’ are endlessly and lazily repeated to the backdrop of a lack of understanding of the issue from those asking the questions, or insightful analysis from those answering them.

“Repeatedly the tenure and tone of BBC interviews, the terminology of its reportage, have been heavily slanted against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, with air time skewed towards the same coterie of MPs and Jewish community leaders the who consistently rail against the Labour leader and his allies. Corbyn’s opponents habitually receive sympathetic interviews, presenters offering them up free hits devoid of the level of intense scrutiny that those who support the NEC/Corbyn stance are always subjected to.

“Corbyn’s critics are simply never challenged over their refusal to acknowledge the party leadership’s attempts at rapprochement or why their language towards Corbyn is always confrontational. Factual inaccuracies pass unchallenged – or are even introduced by interviewers – and quotes taken out of context and myths are allowed to become cemented as truths. Whilst it is hard to disagree that Corbyn’s handling of the issue has left much to be desired, you don’t have to be a Jeremy Corbyn supporter to be alarmed at this lack of objectivity.

“This is especially important when most UK national newspapers and their online versions are so virulently anti-Labour (and particularly anti-Corbyn) and have long since exempted themselves from much that resembles the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in their coverage of the story. Yet the BBC slavishly reports both the headlines and editorial stances of these papers, using the ‘expertise’ of their journalists and political commentators on news and current affairs programmes, helping to skew the narrative and fuel the story, arguably beyond the level which it merits.

“Not that anyone should dispute that racism towards the Jewish community has been an issue for the Labour Party, or that it did not increase substantially in the wake of Corbyn’s election as leader. With a membership numbering around 550,000, including many who share Corbyn’s lifelong support for the Palestinian cause, we should not be surprised that some have proved incapable of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of Israel and unacceptable attacks on Jewish communities.

“But the true extent and nature of the problem is harder to judge. When pro-Corbyn Labour activists are given air time (or if one reads their online message boards) there is an overwhelming view that the media grossly exaggerate the scale of the issue, that a range of extensive and effective steps have been taken by the party hierarchy, that self-policing and calling out of racist comments by members are further impacting on the matter. Meanwhile, the numbers facing disciplinary action is comfortably under 300, which maybe helps put the size of the problem into perspective.

“Some (perhaps many) of these cases might prove to involve appalling, indefensible behaviour. But those that have been highlighted, the ones that meet with such untrammelled outrage by Corbyn’s critics both inside and out-with the Labour Party, seem largely to fall somewhere between the use of clumsy language or behaviour (usually hastily retracted and apologised for), or historical actions in support of the Palestinian cause which suddenly now engender seemingly tenuous claims of being anti-semitic.

“The BBC has let us down badly with its coverage of the issue, and it continues to do so even on the day that I write this”.

It is hard to ascertain a true understanding of what is going on, and whether Jeremy Corbyn’s most trenchant critics are motivated by anything other than genuine concern about racism against the Jewish community, when the BBC has failed to delve below the surface or ask basic questions. The Corporation has been keen to treat the issue with great significance. Sadly, it has consistently failed to imbue its coverage with the unerring impartiality and quality of journalism that such a profile deserves and its charter demands.

And if they can’t do that, then who can any of us turn to when all we want is an even-handed and balanced account of such a major news story?

 

 

 

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Austerity 9: Government cuts lead to 40% cut in BCC’s home care/enablement budget

As Birmingham City council managers spend £12million on consultants to tell them how to merge the service with NHS services in 2019/20, they propose to save a mere £2million at the expense of care workers’ working conditions.

Social care, home care, community care, is needed by the young disabled, post-operative patients, and frail elders. Dave Prentis (Unison) reported earlier this year that after seven years of austerity the social care workforce in Birmingham has fallen from 7,000 to just 2,000.

Birmingham City Council has 280 staff working for the ‘enablement service’ which helps vulnerable and elderly people regain their independence at home after a spell in hospital.

They are in dispute with council over new working patterns and are threatened with redundancy unless they conform.

They wanted undertakings that there would be:

  • no compulsory redundancies,
  • a joint management and union working party to develop the service
  • and the withdrawal of a rota proposal that involves triple split shifts, leaving workers effectively on duty from 7am – 10pm, because the two hourly gaps between shift – after travelling – would rarely allow them any useful time at home

Full timers will given a choice of taking reduced hours, taking redundancy or moving to another job within the city council.

Labour council cabinet member for health and social care, Paulette Hamilton, said the service is currently very inefficient – a management responsibility:

  • staff spend 40% of their time away from patients,
  • and only 20% of clients are independent after receiving the service.

But unions, workers and others fear that the measures proposed will be inhumane and unworkable.

Though the government is responsible for these and so many other cuts to the lowest paid, Birmingham City Council managers appear to be squandering £12 on ‘advice’ from highly paid consultants, whilst saving a mere £2m by imposing poorer conditions on those who do the actual work.


The latest march and strike rally to defend the Homecare service will be held next Saturday 15th September 12 noon in Victoria Square, Birmingham. http://www.birminghamunison.co.uk/news.aspx/New-home-care-strike-and-protest

 

 

 

 

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Reinsurers: heed industry thinktank as droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires escalate

 

After a year of disasters (documented in detail here), the reinsurance industry travelled to Monte Carlo for its annual get together  (8-14 September).

Hurricane Irma was accompanied last year by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, along with earthquakes in Mexico and wildfires in California. In all, there was $136bn of insured losses from natural and man-made catastrophes in 2017 according to Swiss Re, the third highest on record.

A report, “Climate Change and the Insurance Industry: Taking Action as Risk Managers and Investors”, was written by Maryam Golnaraghi, Director, Extreme Events and Climate Risk research programme for The Geneva Association, which is described as the industry’s leading thinktank.

It notes that following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, there has been a burst of initiatives and activities across a wide range of stakeholders to support the transition to a low-carbon economy (mitigation side).

Latest developments include:

  • growing but highly fragmented and in some cases conflicting climate policy and regulatory frameworks at national to local levels and across regions;
  • innovation in clean and green technologies, with some gaining market share;
  • rising interest in green financing, with efforts to reduce barriers to green investment on the part of shareholders, asset managers, standard-setting bodies and rating agencies, and growing demand for low-carbon commodities.

As well as building financial resilience to extreme events and other physical risks by providing risk information, improving distribution channels and payout mechanisms, Ms Golnaraghi reports that the insurance industry is supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy through its underwriting business, investment strategies and active reduction of its carbon footprint.

 

There is no reference to this support in the FTs report of the insurance industry’s response to escalating disasters, summarised as:

  • ‘a wave of merger and acquisition activity’ as insurers and reinsurers reconsider their business models,
  • some are ‘bulking up’,
  • others have decided to get out.

Reinsurance companies should call for immediate greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, as climate change continues to progress and extreme weather is becoming more frequent and dangerous and heed the Environmental Defense Fund warning that if these are not ramped up, last year’s unprecedented disasters may soon become the norm.

 

 

 

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Facing Jacob Rees Mogg: will progressive parties put aside tribal loyalties in North East Somerset?

Phil Hammond, physician and broadcaster is known for his humorous commentary on the NHS. He first came into the public spotlight writing a column for The Independent newspaper, where he took a strong pro-patient rights line.

He qualified as a doctor in 1987, working as a GP before retraining as an associate specialist in Chronic fatigue syndrome. He has also worked as a lecturer in Medical Communication at the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol

NHAP has announced that Dr Hammond will be standing as a parliamentary candidate for the National Health Action Party at the next general election. Dr Hammond will be running against Conservative MP, and Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg in the seat of North East Somerset.

The seat voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union. However, the constituency feels strongly that its concerns are being ignored by Mr Rees-Mogg. The NHA believes that Dr Phil Hammond has a strong chance to win the seat if other progressive parties put aside their tribal loyalties and create a Progressive Alliance.

Dr Hammond has, however, made it clear that if a stronger candidate for such an alliance comes forward, he will of course step down.

Dr Phil Hammond’s reasons for standing for the NHA may be read here.

 

 

 

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Populus poll: public sensibly ignoring anti-Corbyn headlines

Brexit, Boris and Trump head the Populus poll which asked which news story, political or otherwise, the public have paid most attention to during the course of that week.

Will Clothier, a senior research executive at Populus, reports in The Times that no more than 5% mentioned the antisemitism story at any point in the past month. In fact, it has never been mentioned by more than 5% since hitting the headlines months ago. He comments (ruefully?):

“ . . . right now this simply is not a big story for most people”

Brexit was outdone though in the second week of the month by one of its architects: the former foreign secretary. His comments about the burka made him the most memorable story of the week for 27% of people.

In August, with Trump’s former campaign manager and his personal lawyer both implicated in financial crimes, the president became the British public’s top story of the week for the second time this year on 20%.

The public may well have seen through the barrage of baseless allegation and innuendo in reports permeating mainstream media. Is their ‘hidden agenda’ now so obvious to the 95% – and even counterproductive?

 

 

 

 

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Agents who portray Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable: Plastic Hippo

Via the Brummie, Political Concern has discovered the Plastic Hippo’s list of agents who wish the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn to be seen as unelectable:

  • the five right-wing billionaires who own the printed press,
  • the small group of anonymous Tory strategists running the country,
  • the state broadcaster flirting dangerously close to charter compliance
  • and about 170 Labour MPs worried about future employment

plastic-hippoHippo presents evidence from two separate academic reports which have concluded that UK news outlets are blatantly biased against Jeremy Corbyn. A study by the London School of Economics found that three quarters of newspapers either ignore or distort Corbyn`s views and comments and act as an aggressive “attack dog” rather than a critical “watchdog”.

A second study by Birkbeck University and the Media Reform Coalition found “clear and consistent bias” against Corbyn in both broadcast and online news feeds with his opponents being allowed double the coverage than his supporters.

corbyn-eu-socialist-leaders

 Welcomed by socialist leaders in Brussels

The study described a “strong tendency” within the BBC for its reporters to use pejorative language to describe Corbyn and his chums with words such as hostile, hard core, left-wing, radical, revolutionary and Marxist.

Hippo adds: “With my very own ears I heard a senior BBC radio correspondent describe the Labour leadership election as “a battle between Marxists and moderates”. And the strange conclusion is:

“After a year of astonishing negativity, utterly preposterous smears, brutal personal attacks, nasty digs, front bench resignations and a vote of no confidence from Labour MPs who accuse unelectable Corbyn of disloyalty and fracturing the party, the bloke was re-elected as party leader increasing his share of the vote to 61.6 %.

“Unelectable? maybe not if the electorate actually has a full rather than half a brain”.

Read the Plastic Hippo’s article here: http://www.thebrummie.net/strong-message-here/

 

 

 

 

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Media 93: MSM downplays Britain’s role in the latest Yemeni killing & the BBC omits UN experts’ charge

Today, the BBC reports that UN Group of Regional and International Eminent Experts on Yemen will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council next month. It says that the experts believe war crimes may have been committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen.

Yemeni government forces, the Saudi-led coalition backing them, and the rebel Houthi movement have made little effort to minimise civilian casualties and there have been attacks on residential areas in which thousands have died. The warring parties are also accused of arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and recruiting children.

But the BBC failed to mention that the Group of Experts’ report notes that coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties. The airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.

Yemenis dig graves for children in the wake of the latest air strike

Lest we forget, the remote-sounding Saudi-led coalition is supported by UK arms sales (including cluster bombs manufactured in the UK) and technical assistance.  British military personnel are complicit – deployed in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, giving access to lists of targets.

The Saudi-led coalition struck last Wednesday and Thursday. Following the attacks on Wednesday, four families in northwestern Yemen, who had decided to leave their homes to avoid such danger, were in a vehicle when airstrikes hit again.

Though Britain’s mainstream media fully reported the killings of 9th August, a search finds no reference to those on the 24th.

CNN did full justice to this atrocity, recalling also that earlier this month, a Saudi-led airstrike hit a school bus carrying scores of boys in Yemen. The attack killed 51 people, including 40 children, according to the Health Ministry. CNN has established that the bomb used in that attack was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defence contractors.

CNN adds: “There have been growing calls in the US Congress for Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, to do more to prevent civilian deaths in Yemen, where three years of conflict have taken a terrible toll”.

The latest news: yesterday, Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent, reports that the Pentagon has issued a warning to Saudi Arabia that it is prepared to reduce military and intelligence support for its campaign against rebels in neighbouring Yemen if the Saudis don’t demonstrate they are attempting to limit civilian deaths in airstrikes – adding “It is not clear if President Donald Trump, who views the Saudis as an essential ally, would agree to a reduction of support”.

 

But, like the proverbial three monkeys, the failing British government hears, sees and speaks no evil.

 

 

 

 

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Conservative commentator: ‘Cosying up to big donors’ is not a ‘good look’: many a true word spoken in jest

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In the Times today, Tim Montgomerie,  co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice and creator of the Conservative Home website warns: “Tories must beware cosying up to big donors . . . the dependence of the party on chief executive chequebooks is bad politics and makes it vulnerable to populist entryism”

He cites the persistence of Jeremy Corbyn’s support despite the media onslaught, commenting that voters who are desperate for a new economic settlement seem (bewilderingly) willing to forgive or at least overlook (alleged) weaknesses that would have been electorally fatal until recently.

He points out the surge in revenue from Labour’s half a million or so members, which means that the party is getting almost as much money from individuals as it receives from the unions and continues: “The Tories enjoy no such diverse spread of funding”.

While “Corbyn’s coffers” were filled with £16 million of funds from individual supporters, the 124,000 Tory members contributed less than £1 million to their party’s treasury. Over £7 million came from ‘high-net-worth donors’ and big gifts came from dining clubs, at which rich individuals are able to sit down with Mrs May and other cabinet ministers. Montgomerie continues:

“Chasing high rollers has at times led the party to become entangled with former associates of Vladimir Putin. That is not a good look”.

Mrs May’s successor and the nation’s prime minister will be chosen by party members but Montgomerie sees the danger of ‘entryism’. Arron Banks, the businessman who financed Nigel Farage’s Brexit campaign has launched a drive to recruit 50,000 Ukip-inclined supporters to join the Tories.

The support for capitalism is not what it was and deservedly so

Montgomerie advocates building a broad and diverse membership which understands that things are different from the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher reaped great political rewards from being close to the nation’s wealth-creators:

  • The banks have paid an estimated £71 billion in fines, legal fees and compensation since the 2008 crash.
  • Inflated house prices owe much to the power of a few major builders to restrict the supply of new homes.
  • The service of some privatised railway companies is poor.
  • The pay awards enjoyed by many leading chief executives are unjustifiable.

He adds that the Tory mission today should be the protection of the “little guy” from any concentration of power, whether in commerce, media or the state

He comments “There are some signs that the government gets this”; the apprenticeship levy for example, which is attempting to address “the decades-long failure of British industry to invest in the skills of their workforces”.

Montgomerie concludes that British politics is not corrupt but distorted

By accepting funding and spending so much time with donors from the City and with property developers, the Tories are in danger of being held back from building an agenda that is less southern and more focused on consumer empowerment than producer privilege.

He and his ilk are incapable of understanding the persistence of Jeremy Corbyn’s support despite the media onslaught. Those voters who are ‘desperate for a new economic settlement’ also recognise the character of the man, whose policies are based on justice, not perceived electoral advantage.

The last word is given to Andrew Scattergood (FBU) who sees more clearly than Montomerie: “Jeremy Corbyn has, since first elected as leader, established himself as by far Labour’s best leader, perhaps since Keir Hardie, representing the aims and values of the vast majority of the party membership”.

 

 

 

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One of the ‘hidden hands’ behind the intensifying attacks on Jeremy Corbyn – ‘the big obstacle’?

 

Award-winning journalist Jonathan Cook asks if Israel is the hidden hand The Jerusalem Post highlights the words of Jonathan Hoffman, a pro-Israel activist from London and critic of Corbyn, to JTA, “The wagons are circling around him in ever tighter circles” – and days later its editorial commands “Oust Corbyn”.

Eitay Mack is a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer whose work includes defending the rights of Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists. He also focusses on Israel’s export of arms to repressive regimes – left, seen requiring access to records documenting Israel’s arms sales to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide

On August 19th, on behalf of 18 Israeli citizens, Mack filed a freedom of information request to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, in order “to verify that these play no part in the de-legitimization waged in recent years on the UK Labour Party and Mr. Corbyn.” In his letter, sent to both ministries, Mack states that “in the past two years, it has been revealed that the two ministries carry out activities against critics of the State of Israel in the UK,” citing specifically Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “public confrontations” with Corbyn.

He has asked for the release of non-classified information, documents, records and correspondence by the two ministries with NGOs, groups, individuals and journalists in the UK, as they regard the Labour Party and Corbyn.

In Mondoweiss, Yumna Patel asks Mack: ”What was your motivation for filing this request for information?

Mack: “What is happening to Corbyn is what we see happening daily to BDS activists around the world. They are being harassed and silenced by the Israeli government and its representatives and supporters, claiming that their activities are anti-Semitic. One of the results of one of my freedom for information requests that I filed in the last year is that we managed to get admission from the Israeli Ministry of Justice that they had been paying thousands of shekels to international law firms to criminalize BDS activists in Europe.

“So now in the case of Jeremy Corbyn, he has a lot of support. But this same tactic of delegitimization by claiming anti-Semitism has happened to activists that are not the head of political parties and that don’t have that economic and political support”.

Read the whole letter here.

 

On August 24th, Jonathan Cook notes assistance for the Israeli ministries’ onslaught in an information packed article

A report was written last year by two pro-Israel lobby groups, the New York based Anti-Defamation League and Tel Aviv’s Reut Institute, in collaboration with Israeli government “experts” and endorsed by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. It warned that solidarity with Palestinians had “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe”. The damage could be curtailed, according to the report, by “driving a wedge” between what it termed “harsh critics” and “soft critics” of Israel. It proposed “professionalising” the existing network of pro-Israel lobby groups and improving “information-gathering” to target Palestinian solidarity activists – or what it called a “delegitimisation network”. Such work needed to be done “covertly” and “uncompromisingly,” the authors stated.

Their aim is to marginalise ‘harsh critics’ to a point where their criticism is considered socially inappropriate and with – the aid of Britain’s mainstream media and New Labour MPs – it has been quite successful with impressionable readers.

 

Patel continues: “Why is Israel so invested in the case of Jeremy Corbyn?”

Eitay Mack: “This is the head of a very important political party in a very important country. He is pro-Palestine and pro-human rights, and the Netanyahu government sees Corbyn as a big obstacle in implementing its policy around the world. In the past few years, Israel has felt very good with the climate of anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiments in Western Europe.

 

Cook: “. . . the first European leader to prioritise the cause of justice”

“The main obstacle at the moment for the Israeli government to continue further with its goal of taking the Palestinian issue off the table, is Jeremy Corbyn. Since Jeremy Corbyn managed to achieve the leadership role of a mainstream party in the UK, this could happen in other places, and Israel is scared of that”. And Cook (left) adds: “If Corbyn eventually becomes prime minister, he would be the first European leader to prioritise the cause of justice for Palestinians over Israel’s continuing occupation”.

 

 

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