“Hell, no, we won’t go”: Israeli refuseniks stand up to be counted

8th February, 2002

EU Common Agricultural Policy up for review

This year the European Commission will review the Agenda 2000 reform process of the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy). Although there have been several reforms of the CAP since its establishment in 1957, it continues to be based on the assumption that food scarcity exists in Europe. Article 33 (ex-Art. 39) of the EU Treaty still defines the CAP's first aim "to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour". This emphasis on the aim to increase productivity is also reflected in the budget of the CAP. Approximately 90 % is spent on direct payment and market measures and only 10 % in rural development or agro-environmental measures.

This encourages farmers to intensive forms of agriculture the negative effects of which are well known all over Europe. BSE and the dioxin scandal are the most obvious recent examples of misguided agriculture policy. Water pollution by nitrates and pesticides, air pollution by nitrogen and ammonia, water shortages due to groundwater extraction for huge mono-crop cultivation, soil erosion and salination, and the loss of biodiversity are other effects of intensive agriculture. In addition, the CAP is causing huge inequalities among farmers. Small farmers and farmers in less favourable areas are unable to make a living from farming and are squeezed out of business.

Recently, the EU has come under increased pressure from various sides to launch a further reform of the CAP towards more sustainable agriculture. Food quality has become a more and more important issue for European citizens. Each year 44 billion Euros of taxpayers' money is spent by the EU to support the farming industry. The CAP costs 100 times more than the EU's youth, culture and education budgets combined, 300 times more than the EU's environment budget and 2000 times more than the EU's consumer protection budget. With that in mind, at the very least good quality of food can be expected. The forthcoming enlargement of the EU is another strong argument for reform of the CAP, which in its present form would destroy many small-scale family farms in Central and Eastern Europe. But pressure is also coming from the opposite direction, with the World Trade Organisation seeking to end subsidies to agriculture.

The aim of agricultural policy in 21st century (as opposed to 1950s) Europe should be to ensure a broadly scoped, diverse development of sustainable ways of living and working in rural areas. Agriculture involves much more than producing food and other agrarian products. It also implies non-food functions such as the preservation of rural landscapes, for which farmers should also be rewarded.

Financial support for farmers should be moved away from price support measures towards financial support for environmental and rural development measures.

Thanks to Friends of the Earth Europe, and in particular  Manfred Mader, for this story. For more information, go to FoEE’s website

The Swedish Vånster (Left) Party has also produced a fine analysis of the CAP and what should replace it, available elsewhere on this website.

Grow GM crops, or else…

A draft law to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products thereof until more specific regulatory framework is in place, agreed by four Croatian ministries last summer, may have to be shelved following pressure from the United States. In a memo sent to Croatia’s environment ministry on November 28 and leaked to Friends of the Earth, the US Embassy threatens that "if such a ban is implemented, the US Government must consider its rights under WTO." The bullying tone which seems to be the only one left in America’s repertoire, the Embassy goes on to recommend “caution in implementing EU biotech directives, which require substantial infrastructure and institutional capacity to carry out".  The US is engaged in an ongoing campaign of pressure and threat aimed at forcing the dilution of proposed EU legislation on labelling and traceability, legislation which a number of member states have insisted is in place before they are prepared to lift their moratorium.

Despite the bullying, Croatian Environment Minister Bozo Kovacevic said on January 14th that Croatia will draft legislation to ban production and limit imports of food containing GMOs. Mr Kovacevic said that "The US government is lobbying for the interests of US companies, and that is their right. Our duty is to protect our interests and follow the legislation of the European Union". Although Croatia is not as yet an applicant for EU membership, it does the vast majority of its trade with the Union and for that reason alone would be constrained to meet EU standards in the production of, in this case, foodstuffs.

Commenting on the case, Friends of the Earth GMO expert Juan Lopez said that it “shows that the World Trade Organisation is the instrument that the US and biotech corporations are using to force countries around the world to accept GMOs. The US interference is outrageous since it imposes their trade priorities over the environment and health priorities of Croatia. Every country in the world should have the right to establish moratoria on the introduction of GMOs until adequate regulatory frameworks, effective monitoring and enforcement capabilities are in place to ensure sound biosafety regulation.

Go to Friends of the Earth Europe’s website for more information and updats.

See this week's feature on GMO's

US Greens’ misguided call

The Green Party of the United States Coordinating Committee has issued a “Call for Global Green Solidarity in Opposition to the War”. In the statement, US Greens reaffirm their “determined opposition to the continuing military strikes against the people of Afghanistan, who have already suffered the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, ostensibly in pursuit of a few or one. These actions have been conducted based on hidden evidence, perpetrating gross violations of civil and human rights in nations around the globe, in the very name of protecting those rights.”

Unfortunately, the call to German Greens for “dialogue and cooperation in developing an anti-war solidarity” would be laughable if the subject weren’t so tragic. The German Green party majority is enthusiastically behind the war, as it was previous US military adventures in Yugoslavia. Dialogue with them if you wish, friends, but first we suggest you check just how far this ugly little child of the 1970s protest movements has progressed.

The statement continues, moreover, with the following bizarre assertion: “As a partner of the European Federation of Green Parties (EFGP) we support the efforts of most European Greens in opposing American and European military actions in Afghanistan.  We have confidence that all member parties of the EFGP can fully unite in opposing individual military deployments in their respective countries.”

In fact, though Spectre has little information about the numerically insignificant Green parties outside the European Union, we have extensive experience of those which are represented in the European Parliament.  Only the Irish, Swedes and English opposed the war.  Last time round (Yugoslavia) the Dutch-speaking Belgian Greens, Agalev, also voiced its opposition. This leaves the French-speaking Belgians (Ecolo), the Dutch Groen Links (Green Left – actually, it’s barely green and not left at all), the unspeakable German Greens (one of whose Members of the European Parliament, Ilka Schröder, defected in disgust to the European United Left last summer), and the French.

Green warmongers are hard to stomach. Presumably they insist that the food packages dropped along with the bombs contain no GMOs. The Green Party USA’s honourable and courageous stand against the war should lead it to issue an unequivocal condemnation of these charlatans.

The Green Party USA full statement on the war, "Seeking Justice for Acts of Terrorism" can be found at this website

Seven Arrested in British Nuclear Weapon Protest

Seven anti-Trident activists were arrested last Monday at the Devonport naval dockyard in Plymouth, England during a protest against the refitting of nuclear weapon submarine HMS Vanguard there.

The seven, Angie Zelter, Erica Wilson, Margaret Jones, Jill Wood, Liz Wilson, Richard Holt and Sue Brackenbury, sat down in the roadway and blocked the dockyard's Drake Gate. They were removed and charged with obstructing the highway, but released later in the evening.

HMS Vanguard was the first of the four British Trident submarines to be commissioned and has left its usual berth at Faslane in Scotland to undergo the refit, which is to include the removal and replacement of the fuel rods which power its nuclear reactor.

The arrests come just a week before three days of direct action, from 11th to 13th February, by Trident Ploughshares and CND at the Faslane base on the Clyde, 30 miles from Glasgow. Hundreds of activists, from all over the UK and from Ireland, Belgium and Sweden are expected to take part, supported by members of the Scottish Parliament, including John McAllion (Labour), Lloyd Quinan (Scottish National Party) and Tommy Sheridan (Scottish Socialist Party).

Go to this website for more on Trident Ploughshares, or follow the link from our Action page for details of next week’s events.

Greenwash + 10, again…

Friends of the Earth is the latest group to cast doubt on whether the Earth Summit, commonly known as Rio+10 because it is supposed to assess progress made towards realising the global environmental goals set at Rio de Janeiro a decade ago, will achieve anything. Last week we reported on CorpWatch’s view that no significant progress was possible until corporate domination of vital decision-making institutions was confronted. Now, Friends of the Earth International has declared prospects for the summit “gloomy”, blaming the “lurch of governments towards more of the policies that threaten the future of the planet”. This direction, says FoEI, “must be challenged at this year’s Johannesburg Earth Summit.” The group called on governments to reform unjust trade policies and establish binding rules of corporate accountability and liability. They also want the industrialised countries to “acknowledge and act on (their) ecological debt to the South”, establish the principle that international environmental agreements override trade rules and devise a treaty on food and farming seaparate to the World Trade Organisation.

Daniel Mittler co-ordinator of FoEI’s work on the Summit said: “It is ironic that while governments are talking up their responsibilities on sustainable development, they are pushing forward with the policies that are causing the problems. The World Economic Forum and WTO are promoting an agenda that will further inequality and environmental degradation. In the 200 days that remain before the Earth Summit governments must grasp the opportunity to take action that this time delivers sustainability.”

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (the Johannesburg Earth Summit) will take place in August.  For further information go to www.rio-plus-10.org

Fifty-two Israeli reserve soldiers announced last week that they would no longer fight in the illegally occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In an advertisement in Israeli newspapers, the soldiers, who included both officers and enlisted men, said the presence of the Israeli Defence Force in the occupied territories was not necessary to ensure Israel’s security, but were all about control and collective punishment.

"We declare that we will not continue to fight a war for peace in the settlements," read the statement, which was carried as paid-for advertising by several Israeli newspapers. "We will not continue to fight on the other side of the Green Line with an intent to control, expel, starve and degrade an entire people."

Israeli males are liable to do three years of compulsory military service, followed by reserve duty for about a month every year, until the age of 40. Almost all of the signatories of the petition are combat veterans.

To register your support for the soldiers’ courageous action, go to http://www.seruv.org/

If you want to leave a message in English, go to this website 

In the week that followed the original declaration, another 50 reservists signed up, attracting huge media attention and sparking a national debate. IDF top brass have accused the soldiers of inciting rebellion., whilst Ariel Sharon was quoted as saying that "It will be the beginning of the end of democracy if soldiers don't carry out the decisions of the elected government."

The two original instigators of the petition have been suspended from their paratrooper batallion.

Since the renewal of the intifada in September 2000, more than 400 soldiers have refused service in the Israeli-occupied territories. According to a resisters’ group, Yesh Gvul, no action has been taken against most of them. Around forty have been summoned to disciplinary hearings and jailed for up to 28 days.

Last minuute news: "Sharon suspends reservists as revolt in the ranks grows" Go to this website to read about the Israeli government reaction to these events.


Euro-MPs plan solidarity visit to Arab Knesset member’s trial

Italian Communist Euro-MP Luisa Morgantini is organising a visit by fellow MEPs to the trial of Arab Knesset member Azmi Bisharath. The trial is to be held in Nazareth on February 27.  Dr Bishara, who has had his parliamentary immunity removed and has been forced to stand trial for statements judged inflammatory, addressed a hearing at the European parliament in Strasbourg last month.

Inviting MEPs who attended the hearing, on Israeli “democracy”, Ms Morgantini said that the delegation would “have the opportunity  to be present at the opening session of the trial, to meet with Israeli and Palestinian organisations and political personalities, and visit several areas to get a first hand impression of the latest events.”

Arafat’s vision

“The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a historic resolution calling for the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of historical Palestine

with the understanding that we would be allowed to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our commitment to that two-state solution remains unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains unreciprocated.”

So wrote Yasir Arafat in “The Palestinian Vision of Peace”, his historic article in last Saturday’s New York Times.  To read the rest, go to this website

Honduras defies neighbourhood bully and re-establishes relations with Cuba

Honduras has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after four decades of slavishly towing the US line. The central American republic is the latest of several countries in and beyond the Americas which have restored ties with Cuba in recent years. Honduras re-established an interests section in Havana last November. Cuban-Honduran relations have been thawing rapidly since 1998, when Cuba sent doctors and other medical personnel to help save lives in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. 150 Cuban doctors stayed on, and have worked in Honduras ever since as part of the country’s commitment to solidarity with its neighbours. In addition, five hundred young Hondurans from poor families are in Cuba to train to be doctors. Cuba is committed to helping in this way whenever it can. With the possible exception of Canada, it is the only country in the hemisphere where access to medical care does not depend on wealth, and where the only qualification to begin training as a doctor is apparent aptitude and ability.

Quote of the week

GM Food tests inadequate: Existing tests designed to ensure that novel foods are safe for human consumption before more foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are approved, according to the UK Royal Academy. Novel foods are currently regulated by an EU directive of 1998 and the tests will, as things stand, be unaffected when new rules specifically relating to GMOs enter into force throughout the Union later in the year.  French scientists have also called for more stringent tests.

Working time: Despite the European Union’s 1998 Working Time Directive, which was supposed to limit the working week to 48 hours in all but the most exceptional circumstances, nearly four million people in the UK are working more than 48 hours a week. 4% of men work more than 60 hours a week, 10% more than 55 hours , and 25% more than 48. A total of 350,000 more people are working a 48-hour week compared with a decade ago.

UK job losses: According to the GMB, one of Britain’s biggest unions, 112,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in the UK during 2001.

Osama Bin Laden received from millions of dollars in kickbacks from the German construction firm Philip Holzmann in the 1980s while the Riyadh King Fahd Stadium was being built, according to the German weekly news magazine Stern.  There is no suggestion that any Holzmann personnel knew where the money was going. In Saudi Arabia it is normal to give huge sums of money to terrorists in return for favours – but only the ones who run the country, of course. The German federal crime office (BKA) is currently investigating.

Enron: “At last count, 11 Congressional committees were up and running, investigating the collapse of Enron and the role of the auditors. A study released last week by the Center for Responsive Politics found that of the 248 Senators and House members serving on those 11 committees, 212 have received campaign contributions from Enron or its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen.” Read more about what money can buy you in the Land of the Free in “Unaccountable Accounting” the latest from corporate crime-watchers Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman at this website

Philippines: Militant Filipino group the KMP has responded with alarm to the statement released by two US politicians planning to make the country the next Afghanistan and called for the immediate pull-out of about 600 US military troops in Mindanao. US Senator Sam Brownback said this week that, “it appears the Philippines is going to be the second, the next target, after Afghanistan.” For his part, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that, “What’s taking place in the Philippines is that this is a global problem that we are addressing…not just in Afghanistan.” The small-farmer based organisation also urged the Filipino people to fight US intervention in the country, whose aim was to make war on any and all organised resistance under the guise of fighting against global terrorism and crushing the local bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

Green Left Weekly, Australia's socialist newspaper, provides news, information, opinion and debate from an environmental and left perspective. This week, the Howard government and immigration minister Philip Ruddock face a serious political crisis over their handling of the hunger strike by Afghan refugees at the Woomera detention centre. Green Left Weekly explains why there is growing support for the refugees' freedom protest. Go to http://www.greenleft.org.au

Iran has a militant working class which is engaged in almost constant industrial struggle. Strikes differ from those in most of the rest of the world insofar as they tend to be in pursuit of unpaid wages, rather than pay rises or better conditions. In Iran, collecting your pay is less than automatic. You will read hardly a word about this in the mainstream press, so go to this website to read the latest round up of industrial actions and related news.  This time its textile workers and teachers who risk the wrath of the bloodthirsty lunatics that run the place.

Resources on September 11

It is now clear that, whatever happened on September 11, it did not in any way resemble the strange and wonderful story concocted by the Bush junta to cover up, with the help of its media lapdogs, what really went on and what is really going on now. To read about growing calls for a proper Congressional enquiry into the S11 events, you can go to this website. Out there on the Internet, there are, of course, crazy people with crazy conspiracy theories. The difficulty is sorting these from the sane people with sane conspiracy theories.  Either way, we have yet to read anything quite so unbelievable as the Official Version.

This week’s recommended website

The transnational corporations observatory, a Paris-based outfit which tracks corporate crime, job losses, and the behaviour of Trans National Corporations in general, now operates in English. An excellent source of statistical and other information, it can be found here

Talking point:

This week we begin a new Spectre feature, “Talking point”. Our aim is to encourage debate amongst readers, so any comments you have would be welcome. You can also send in your own suggestions for  Talking Points

Our first Talking Point? Even hardened anti-EUers such as ourselves recognise that if the Union did not exist, we would have to invent some way of co-operating on environmental problems, which rarely recognise national boundaries. Chernobyl demonstrated how a nuclear accident thousands of miles away can cause literally untold damage. So our first Talking Point is this:

Would common EU safety standards make nuclear power less dangerous?

While many products are being standardised and regulated within the EU, the safety  of nuclear power plants remains solely within the  jurisdiction of Member States.Although some non-nuclear EU countries and several NGOs have been considering calling for common nuclear safety standards, there is general recognition that harmonising nuclear safety could result in the development of standards according to the lowest common denominator.

The EU has currently no responsibility for nuclear safety. The European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) Treaty is intended only to ensure adequate supply of uranium to member states, radiation protection and safeguards against theft of nuclear materials.

At the Laeken Summit in December, non-nuclear Austria tabled a proposal calling for common nuclear safety standards, but the only result was a vague and pious declaration. Nuclear-power users France, UK and Sweden were strongly against the Austrian initiative. Moreover, not all anti-nuclear activists would welcome common standards, even if fears that these would be set at the lowest possible level proved groundless, as these could give a boost to further construction and encourage the illusion that safe nuclear energy is attainable. WEN-RA, the private club of nuclear regulators in Europe, has already presented a proposal for minimal safety standards in EU candidate countries, but this was rejected at Nice.

Go to Friends of the Earth Europe’s website for more information and updates. If you have a comment on this Talking Point, or wouldlike to suggest another, send an email to us.