Selma Al Sawarka, or Um Ahmad, is an active woman, a mother of seven, and a grandmother of 35, who has never quit working. August 10, 2011 dawned like most days do for her; she went out to graze her family’s goats. She took her neighbor with her, 15 year old Keefa Al Bahabsa.
They went to the same land they usually go to. At 9:30 that morning they saw an Israeli tank and an Israeli jeep near the border. Not an uncommon sight. The tank and jeep left. About 30 minutes later, the jeep returned, three soldiers got out, and opened fire on Um Ahmed and Keefa. Um Ahmed was shot in the leg, Keefa fled to get help. The soldiers also shot ten of the family’s goats.
Um Ahmed is used to being shot at by the Israelis as her land is only 600 meters from the border. Usually, she says, the soldiers shoot around her, or into the air, trying to drive her from her land; she doesn’t know why today was different, why they shot directly at her, why they shot her in the leg. Her scarf also has bullet holes in it; only through the grace of God is she still here.
It took half an hour for Keefa to return with help, they loaded Um Ahmed onto a donkey cart, and went to the main road to meet a taxi to take her to the hospital. When I met Um Ahmed she was laying on a mat on the floor, recovering from being shot. A pale blue scarf covered her head. Bracelets adorned her wrists. Her daughter sat next to her. The room was simple, some mats on the floor, two chairs for the guests, a dresser, and small stand with a TV.
On the wall was a picture of her son Mustapha. He was killed by the Israeli’s on Dec, 15, 2004. Sometimes, the soldiers, or even the settlers themselves, would close the road near Netzarim settlement, the only way to go anywhere was to leave the road, and walk on the beach by the sea. Mustapha was shot and killed as he walked on the beach. The house we are in used to be Mustapha’s house. Beside the TV is another picture, another of her sons, this one has been in prison for the last ten years. He has eleven years left on his sentence. Um Ahmed, like all Gazan mothers, is not allowed to visit her son in prison, for four years this has been a blanket Israeli policy. Instead, she looks at this picture, she thinks about him in prison, while her leg heals.
Ramallah – “Israel besieges us, puts us in cantons — in cages — and the international community is feeding us in these cages. It’s anything but developmental and it’s helping Israel’s colonization, ethnic cleansing and dispossession,” Dr. Samia Botmeh said, as she sat in her office in the Center for Development Studies (CDS) at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Despite the massive amounts of development aid that have been poured into the West Bank, the productive capacity of the Palestinian economy — measured by examining the agricultural and manufacturing sectors — is half that of 1994, and accounts for no more than 12 percent of employment. While the World Bank and Palestinian Authority boast an 8 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP), real per capita income is still 8.4 percent lower than what it was in 1999, signifying that the GDP growth is not reflective of income growth for the average Palestinian.
Egypt provides an elucidative comparison. Two decades of serious neo-liberal reforms produced a GDP growth in Egypt that was similarly applauded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF): between 2006 and 2008, GDP grew 7 percent and there was a 4.6 percent spike in 2009 alone. However, as was made stunningly clear at the end of January, the country’s GDP growth had not trickled down to the majority of the people: unemployment had actually increased and 40 percent of the population lived on less than two dollars per day.
With former IMF representative Salam Fayyad at the helm since 2007, the PA has adopted the strategy of neo-liberal “good governance” as its framework for the state-building project. As post-colonial states have done in the past, the PA has sought to create an environment conducive for efficient and free-flowing markets by privatizing public services, emphasizing private property rights and reducing corruption. This agenda — state-building through neo-liberal policies — is most patently set forth in a PA program titled “Ending the Occupation, Establishing a State.”
As Mustaq H. Khan, an economics professor at London’s School of Oriental and Afrian Studies, pointed out in a lecture in Ramallah last winter, the injection of development aid into Palestine has deceptively flattered the PA’s good governance program, leading onlookers and promoters such as the IMF and World Bank to attribute the boost in GDP to a successful market economy (“Post-Oslo State-Building Strategies and their Limitation,” 1 December 2010 [PDF]).
There is still a stark contrast between the perceived improvement in the Palestinian economy and the actual standard of living for the majority of Palestinians. Development aid — which comprises roughly 40 percent of Palestine’s GDP — has been complicit in obscuring economic reality and in some cases truncating Palestine’s struggle for national liberation.
In June 2011, Birzeit University held a conference at which activists and academics spoke with donors and a representative from the PA on the failures of development, as well as the troubling role development aid plays in Palestine’s national movement.
“The framework of development is extremely unrealistic and problematic,” Dr. Samia Botmeh told The Electronic Intifada. The framework under scrutiny at Birzeit was the United Nations Development Programme’s Conflict-Related Development Analysis (CDA), which seeks to maximize the impact of development aid in conflict zones.
Botmeh added that the current international framework for assessing development aid in the West Bank treats the Israeli-occupied region either as a conflict zone or a post-colonial zone. “This is completely unrealistic because we are not in a conflict, we are in a colonization process,” she said.
The conference took place after the university’s Center for Development Studies concluded a project commissioned by the UNDP that examined how development funds could be better allocated in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip amid Israel’s continued occupation.
Because the CDA framework attempts to implement “development” projects while avoiding any political position, the study found that it implicitly assumes both parties have a reason to compromise. This fundamentally flawed approach refuses to acknowledge — and therefore address — the stark power imbalance that allows Israel to remain intransigent.
Realizing that reallocating funds would not address the fundamental hindrances to achieving economic self-determination through development in Palestine, the center articulated what development should look like in the context of an active colonization process. “Development should be about more than helping people survive; it should be about ending colonization,” Botmeh explained.
The Center for Development Studies’ critique shows how development fails to achieve much of anything tangible for Palestinians, and — even more ominously — serves to fortify Israel’s occupation and further annexation of land.
Development confined to “state-building”
After the implementation of policies dictated by the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, international aid to Palestine took a turn toward development. Previously, aid to Palestine was earmarked for “humanitarian” purposes such as UN operations and charity. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority as a transitional government, development aid was ostensibly intended to promote an independent economy that would facilitate a smooth transition to a Palestinian state.
After 18 years of an ostensible peace process — of which the agency of the Palestinian national liberation struggle has been confined to a “state-building” project by the PA and Israel — Palestinians’ standards of living have decreased, while inequality has increased.
Botmeh believes that the underlying assumption of this development aid is that it is being funneled into a post-colonial state and that Israel has an intention to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These assumptions, blatantly oblivious to any political reality, have allowed development aid to reinforce Israel’s colonization through the continued degradation of Palestine’s territorial contiguity and the ongoing depopulation of Area C — more than 60 percent of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that is under full Israeli military control.
Under the Oslo accords, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were carved up into areas A, B and C, the last of which is administered and controlled by the Israeli government and its military. Israel has declared three-quarters of the land as “closed military zones” or nature reserves, and therefore “off-limits” to Palestinians. Approximately 40,000 Palestinians live in Area C.
The 1999 deadline for the termination of the West Bank’s geographic stratification into Areas A, B and C has long passed. Far from assisting in the formation of a viable state, development aid has served to entrench the partitioning of the land.
Peter Lundberg, a representative of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, confirms these faults in the current development paradigm in Palestine. Speaking from the perspective of an international donor, Lundberg excoriated the complicity of development aid in fragmenting Palestinians by only working in Area A due to Israeli restrictions in Area C.
“Donors and the PA have been too focused on state-building, which is important, but they are going to lose critical parts of the land,” Lundberg said. “Development should help Palestinians stay on their land; too many have left [their land in] Area C.”
Because implementing projects in Israeli-controlled Area C are logistically burdensome and in many cases impossible, donors are inclined to contribute to projects in Area A.
According to Lundberg’s statistics, there has been an exodus of Palestinians from Area C mostly due to the impossible living conditions Israel has created and the predatory nature of surrounding settlements. Israel does not allow communities to be connected to sources of water or electricity and refuses nearly every request for a building permit, thus leading to the destruction of water-collecting devices, schools and homes. In contrast, settlements sitting next to these Palestinian villages are afforded free-running water, electricity, roads and expanding infrastructure.
In 1967 there were approximately 200,000 Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, which is designated Area C, except for the Palestinian city of Jericho. Today, there are only 56,000, 40,000 of whom live in Jericho (in Area A), according to statistics from the international aid agency Save the Children.
The devastating picture that these statistics reveal is that donors have been complicit in aiding Israel’s process of cantonizing the West Bank into the 18 percent that comprises Area A. By doing so they have helped to surrender the majority of the West Bank’s land and agriculture — which could form the basis of a genuine self-sustainable Palestinian economy and state — to Israel’s control.
Neo-liberalism undermining Palestinian rights for self-determination
Raja Khalidi, a senior economist with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), has written that the development enterprise — representing $1.5 billion a year — is taking place inside territories that have been tagged by the World Bank, European Union, IMF and United States as a site for expanding a neo-liberal project (see “Neoliberalism as Liberation: The Statehood Program and the Remaking of the Palestinian National Movement,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 2, Winter 2011).
In the PA’s neo-liberal paradigm — as enshrined in the “Palestinian Reform and Development Plan” of 2008-10 and “Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” — economic growth is promised as a consolation for occupation rather than a strategy to resist it.
Speaking at the conference, Khalidi remarked on the absurdity of such an agenda in the context of an occupation that ultimately determines Palestine’s economy. “For the last three years, the PA has been routing out internal obstacles to state-building, while the PA has no structure to tackle external obstacles,” he said.
Moreover, without sovereignty, genuine economic growth is out of reach. Khalidi explained that the PA is not only unable to counteract Israel’s aggressive policies of colonization but it also does not have the ability to exercise control over Palestine’s macro-economic policies — such as its own currency and control over interest or exchange rates.
Development aid has long been faulted for its inadvertent assistance in sustaining the occupation by reducing its humanitarian impact and thus making it more palatable. However, Omar Barghouti, a leading figure of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, revealed the disingenuous nature of international development aid.
“Development exudes complicity in colonialism; it’s intentional and it’s complicit — ignorance is not an excuse,” he said at the conference.
Barghouti proffered several examples of countries throwing some money at the cause of development in Palestine while concurrently supporting projects or companies that actively undermine Palestinian sovereignty.
Veolia, a French transportation corporation that according to Barghouti is mostly owned by the state, is currently building Jerusalem’s new light rail system. The Jerusalem light rail connects West Jerusalem to illegal settlement blocs in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite targeted pressure on Veolia to withdraw from the light rail project — part of a global BDS campaign that has cost the company up to $10 billion, according to Barghouti — the company and by extension France have held onto their contract with Israel.
Restoring class struggle to the national liberation struggle
Adam Hanieh, a lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, situates development aid in the longer arc of Israel’s colonization of the land through systematic fragmentation of the Palestinian people and nation. In his lecture at Birzeit, Hanieh restored the importance of class struggle to the goal of national liberation and exposed development aid as working against Palestinian unity undivided by wealth or class, against the occupation.
“Sixty-three years of colonization have seen the division, fragmentation and fracturing of the Palestinian people. Development must confront this fragmentation, not aid it,” Hanieh explained to the audience.
Illustrating how neo-liberalism has encouraged the notion that the solutions to problems are individual in nature rather than collective, Hanieh stressed that much of the “development” one sees arising in the West Bank benefits Israeli business. For example, consumption in Ramallah’s flourishing restaurant and café culture is mostly funded by this development aid — and in turn sustains the importation of Israeli products. Poignantly, this new consumer class — enabled by development aid — creates one more isolated stratum of Palestinian society.
All this continues against the backdrop of the regional popular uprisings against, among other things, neo-liberal policies. These uprisings showcase an exemplary shaking off of dictators and the present world order and the inspiring potential of class struggle.
If development aid programmes set freedom — rather than the introduction of a neo-liberal state — as their principal objective for Palestinians, then they may begin to counter the 63-year process of confiscation and colonization. Otherwise, they will be offering that process a helping hand.
Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank. She can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.
GAZA CITY — Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager near the central Gaza Strip city of Deir Al-Balah late Tuesday, medical officials reported.
Medics said the Palestinian, who was not identified, suffered “more than 10″ gunshots to the head and upper body after soldiers east of the Al-Masdar area opened fire.
Gaza health ministry official Adham Abu Salmiya told Ma’an that an ambulance crew transferred the teenager’s body to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma’an that “IDF forces opened fire at a suspect approaching the security fence. The forces identified a hit,” the official said.
The teenager had approached the border east of the refugee camp of Maghazi in central Gaza, Agence France-Presse quoted Palestinian witnesses as saying.
Earlier, Abu Salmiya said Israeli airstrikes killed one man and injured seven others in the central and southern Gaza Strip, in what the army called retaliation for a rocket attack hours before.
Not the Left
Last March, a coalition of Western powers and Arab autocracies banded together to sponsor what was billed as a short little military operation to “protect Libyan civilians”.
On March 17, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1973 which gave that particular “coalition of the willing” the green light to start their little war by securing control of Libyan air space, which was subsequently used to bomb whatever NATO chose to bomb. The coalition leaders clearly expected the grateful citizens to take advantage of this vigorous “protection” to overthrow Moammer Gaddafi who allegedly wanted to “kill his own people”. Based on the assumption that Libya was neatly divided between “the people” on one side and the “evil dictator” on the other, this overthrow was expected to occur within days. In Western eyes, Gaddafi was a worse dictator than Tunisia’s Ben Ali or Egypt’s Mubarak, who fell without NATO intervention, so Gaddafi should have fallen that much faster.
Five months later, all the assumptions on which the war was based have proved to be more or less false. Human rights organizations have failed to find evidence of the “crimes against humanity” allegedly ordered by Gaddafi against “his own people”. The recognition of the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people” by Western governments has gone from premature to grotesque. NATO has entered and exacerbated a civil war that looks like a stalemate.
But however groundless and absurd the war turns out to be, on it goes. And what can stop it?
This summer’s best reading was Adam Hochschild’s excellent new book on World War I, To End All Wars. There are many lessons for our times in that story, but perhaps the most pertinent is the fact that once a war starts, it is very hard to end it.
The men who started World War I also expected it to be short. But even when millions were bogged down in the killing machine, and the hopelessness of the whole endeavor should have been crystal clear, it slogged on for four miserable years. The war itself generates hatred and vengefulness. Once a Great Power starts a war, it “must” win, whatever the cost – to itself but especially to others.
So far, the cost of the war against Libya to the NATO aggressors is merely financial, offset by the hope of booty from the “liberated” country to pay the cost of having bombed it. It is only the Libyan people who are losing their lives and their infrastructure. So what can stop the slaughter?
In World War I, there existed a courageous anti-war movement that braved the chauvinist hysteria of the war period to argue for peace. They risked physical attack and imprisonment.
Hochschild’s account of the struggle for peace of brave women and men in Britain should be an inspiration – but for whom? The risks of opposing this war are minimal in comparison to 1914-1918. But so far active opposition is scarcely noticeable.
This is particularly true of France, the country whose President Nicolas Sarkozy took the lead in starting this war.
Evidence is accumulating of deaths of Libyan civilians, including children, caused by NATO bombing.
The bombing is targeting civilian infrastructure, to deprive the majority of the population living in territory loyal to Gaddafi of basic necessities, food and water, supposedly to inspire the people to overthrow Gaddafi. The war to “protect civilians” has clearly turned into a war to terrorize and torment them, so that the NATO-backed TNC can take power.
This little war in Libya is exposing NATO as both criminal and incompetent.
It is also exposing the organized left in NATO countries as totally useless.There has perhaps never been a war easier to oppose. But the organized left in Europe is not opposing it.
Three months ago, when the media hype about Libya was launched by the Qatari television Al Jazeera, the organized left did not hesitate to take a stand. A couple of dozen leftist French and North African organizations signed a call for a “solidarity march with the Libyan people” in Paris on March 26. In a display of total confusion, these organizations simultaneously called for “recognition of the National Transition Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people” on the one hand and “protection of foreign residents and migrants” who, in reality, needed to be protected from the very rebels represented by that Council. While implicitly supporting the military operations in support of the NTC, the groups also called for “vigilance” concerning “the duplicity of Western governments and the Arab League” and possible “escalation” of those operations.
The organizations signing this appeal included Libyan, Syrian, Tunisian, Moroccan and Algerian exile opposition groups as well as the French Greens, the Anti-Capitalist Party, the French Communist Party, the Left Party, the anti-racist movement MRAP and ATTAC, a widely based popular education movement critical of financial globalization. These groups together represent virtually the entire organized French political spectrum to the left of the Socialist Party – which for its part supported the war without even calling for “vigilance”.
As civilian casualties of NATO bombing mount, there is no sign of the promised “vigilance concerning escalation of the war” deviating from the UN Security Council Resolution.
The activists who in March insisted that “we must do something” to stop a hypothetical massacre are doing nothing today to stop a massacre that is not hypothetical but real and visible, and carried out by those who “did something”.
The basic fallacy of the “we must do something” leftist crowd lies in the meaning of “we”. If they meant “we” literally, then the only thing they could do was to set up some sort of international brigades to fight alongside the rebels. But of course, despite the claims that “we” must do “everything” to support the rebels, no serious thought was ever given to such a possibility.
So their “we” in practice means the Western powers, NATO and above all the United States, the only one with the “unique capabilities” to wage such a war.
The “we must do something” crowd usually mixes two kind of demands: one which they can realistically expect to be carried out by those Western powers – support the rebels, recognize the TNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people – and the other which they cannot realistically expect the Great Powers to follow and which they themselves are totally incapable of accomplishing: limit the bombing to military targets and to the protection of civilians, and stay scrupulously within the framework of UN resolutions.
Those two sorts of demands contradict each other. In a civil war, no side is primarily concerned about the niceties of UN resolutions or the protection of civilians. Each side wants to win, period, and the desire for revenge often leads to atrocities. If one “supports” the rebels, in practice one is giving a blank check to their side to do whatever they judge to be necessary to win.
But one also gives a blank check to the Western allies and NATO, who may be less bloodthirsty than the rebels but who have far greater means of destruction at their disposal. And they are big bureaucracies that act as survival machines. They need to win. Otherwise they have a “credibility” problem (as do the politicians who supported the war), which could lead to a loss of funding and resources. Once the war has started, there is simply no force in the West, lacking a resolute antiwar movement, that can oblige NATO to limit itself to what is allowed by a UN resolution. So, the second set of leftist demands fall on deaf ears. They serve merely to prove to the pro-war left itself that its intentions are pure.
By supporting the rebels, the pro-intervention left has effectively killed the antiwar movement. Indeed, it makes no sense to support rebels in a civil war who desperately want to be helped by outside interventions and at the same time oppose such interventions. The pro-intervention right is far more coherent.
What both the pro-intervention left and right share is the conviction that “we” (meaning the civilized democratic West) have the right and the ability to impose our will on other countries. Certain French movements whose stock in trade is to denounce racism and colonialism have failed to remember that all colonial conquests were carried out against satraps, Indian princes and African kings who were denounced as autocrats (which they were) or to notice that there is something odd about French organizations deciding who are the “legitimate representatives” of the Libyan people.
Despite the efforts of a few isolated individuals, there is no popular movement in Europe capable of stopping or even slowing the NATO onslaught. The only hope may be the collapse of the rebels, or opposition in the United States, or a decision by ruling oligarchies to cut the expenses. But meanwhile, the European left has missed its opportunity to come back to life by opposing one of the most blatantly inexcusable wars in history. Europe itself will suffer from this moral bankruptcy.
Jean Bricmont is author of Humanitarian Imperialism. He can be reached at Jean.Bricmont@uclouvain.be
Diana Johnstone is author of Fools’ Crusade. She can be reached at email@example.com
The United States and South Korea are carrying out a joint military exercise within the East Asian country’s territories despite opposition from neighboring North Korea.
The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) annual military drill, launched on Tuesday, is reportedly aimed at strengthening the defense capabilities of the alliance against any possible attack by North Korea, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Combined Forces Command (CFC) has said in a statement that the UFG will try to enhance the US-South Korea’s joint ability “by exercising senior leaders’ decision-making capabilities and by training commanders and staffs from both nations in planning, command and control operations, intelligence, logistics, and personnel procedures.”
“It is challenging and realistic training focused on preparing, preventing and prevailing against the full range of current and future external threats to the Republic of Korea and the region,” claimed the commander of CFC, General James D. Thurman.
The military exercise provoked severe criticism from the North, as the state had earlier appealed for cancellation of the drill.
Pyongyang cited the move as “extremely provocative,” calling it a preparation for an “all-out war” against the North and the “largest-ever nuclear war exercise”.
“The Korean peninsula is faced with the worst crisis ever. An all-out war can be triggered by any accidents,” North Korean media reported on Tuesday.
“The US war-mongers are planning to carry out a realistic war drill to remove our nuclear facilities with a mobile unit led by the US 20th Support Command which was sent to Iraq to find and disable weapons of mass destruction,” they added.
The North had previously called on the two states to cancel the drill, describing the move as a blow to new efforts to restart six-nations talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Pyongyang usually views such exercises as a rehearsal for invasion, and launches its own counter-maneuvers.
Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula since November 2010, when an exchange of artillery fire left four South Koreans dead on a border island.
The North accuses US President Barack Obama of plotting with regional allies to topple the country’s government, insisting that its nuclear program is a deterrent to US forces in the region.
Following the recent disturbances in England in inner city areas of high unemployment and poverty it is expected that the final count of those arrested for riot and looting could reach as high as 4000. Reasons suggested by the press for the scale of the unrest include recreational violence, criminal opportunism, social irresponsibility, gang culture, greed, and cuts in public services, including the closure of youth clubs. But the prime factor that caused the mayhem to spread must come down to local tensions with the police, and their fatal shooting of Mark Duggan, a black man travelling in a minicab.
Similarly, in the early 1980′s young black men in Brixton were victimised by the widespread use of the “sus” law, which enabled police officers to stop and search members of the public even if they had no hard evidence that a crime had been committed. And the shooting of a black woman, Cherry Groce, in her own home by police investigating a robbery in September 1985 was the trigger for a simmering resentment to explode.
I was living in a squat in Brixton at the time. We were just getting ready for supper when news came on the television about the shooting. Apparently, in a search of her flat for her son who was wanted on a suspected firearms offence, Mrs. Groce had been shot dead in bed by a policeman. (We learned later that she wasn’t killed but had been paralyzed from the waist down from the shot.) The news said a group of protesters had gathered at the local police station chanting anti-police slogans and demanding disciplinary action against the officers involved. I said we should get down there and join them. While my squatmates hummed and hawed I decided not to waste any time and set off for Brixton Police Station. As I approached the center I met people coming from it warning me to go back as the protest outside the police station had turned into a battle which was spreading through the streets, but I decided to continue. I saw people coming out of smashed shop windows with goods, people running, throwing stones at lines of charging police, a few cars and buildings burning, lighting the night with orange flames. Police cars and vans rushed around wailing.
Not everyone was out on a riot. Many like myself had just come to see what was going on. (I had my right arm set in a plastercast anyway from an earlier accident.) Halfway up Railton Road, the notorious ‘Front Line’ a barricade of bins and boxes was being erected by rioters. I found a large pile of old discarded newspapers and added them to the defence in solidarity, then went to visit two young women friends, Helena and Rachel, who lived in a flat nearby. We had a chat and a drink and I persuaded them to come out and see what was going on. There was a good view of Railton Road across a tarmacked park from the end of their street. A crowd of mainly black residents had congregated there and were watching the scene. The barricades across the road were now burning and molotov cocktails were being hurled at the charging shield and baton wielding army of crash-helmeted police force. The mood of the onlookers was excited and friendly and they laughed and cheered when I shouted across the tarmac at the police, telling them to get out of Brixton and leave us alone. A few voices joined me.
Helena suggested we go back into the flat and listen to the police radio she had hacked into and learn what was happening. Apparently Brixton was out of control and people were being arrested all over the place.
When we went back out a bit later the barricades were smouldering and the riot police were having a breather, seated with their shields in front of them on the benches on the other side of the park. The onlookers were still crowded together watching. When one of them saw me they said “Ah, here’s Rambo again! (In reference to the small black cyclist’s helmet I was wearing.) Give them some more jaw, Rambo!”
So I made my voice reach the resting cops across the square.
“Do your mothers know you’re out? Isn’t it time you were home in bed? Get out of Brixton! You’re not wanted here!”
Suddenly the gang of police stood up and started drumming their batons against their shields. At the same time one of the crowd shouted a warning.
“There’s a police van coming up the street! Run for it everyone!”
The onlookers began to scarper in every direction, and at that moment the line of bobbies began to charge towards us. I began to run but suddenly stopped and began to walk instead. Why should I flee? I hadn’t done anything wrong.
One of the charging policemen reached me and grabbed my arm.
“Let’s hear you shouting now, Rambo!” he said, and another cop grabbed my helmet and chucked it away. I was bundled into the back of the police van which had now arrived and was driven back into the heart of Brixton, stopping and picking up other young men, black and white, along the way, who had been arrested. The van was soon full and we were driven to a police station where we were made to line up outside while they dealt with detainees ahead of us. An officer handed out leaflets.
“Read and inwardly digest,” he said. I took one and shoved it into my mouth, biting and chewing. It didn’t taste very nice so I didn’t pursue the joke. Inside mug shots were being taken of all those arrested. One guy’s nose was pouring with blood as his picture was taken. Then it was time for fingerprints. I refused to have mine done. When asked why not, I said it was my right, and a senior officer confirmed this, but he said it might make matters difficult for me later. Then I was put into a small cell with about ten other guys and we were there for the rest of the night, most of us seated on the floor. At one point two policemen came and removed one black guy and made him take his trousers and underpants down outside the cell before putting him back in again.
In the morning my cellmates began to be released one by one, collecting summons for their court appearances on various charges connected with the riots of the previous night. Finally there was just me in the cell, and when, by lunchtime, I demanded to know why I was being kept, I was told that if I gave my fingerprints I would be released. What else could I do? I gave them and got my summons to appear in court a couple of days later.
Before that, the next morning at about seven the front door of our squat was battered down by police officers saying they were looking for goods looted in the riots. We were confined to our rooms while they searched. I objected when they started going through my letters and private documents, saying that none of them had been stolen, but there was nothing I could do. After combing the flat they took away one of my squatmates, Frank, to question at the station because he had a suspiciously large amount of rolling tobacco, but he hadn’t stolen it and no charges were brought.,
Meanwhile I got Helena and Rachel to come along to my court hearing, and a neighbour of theirs who had been in the crowd that night to act as witnesses to the fact that I had done nothing wrong. A lawyer was provided. After I talked to him he said that considering my list of previous arrests there was a possibility I might be facing time in prison. I was a little worried at first, but when the judge heard the circumstances presented as police evidence against me he quashed the charge.
I was charged with ‘Incitement to Racial Hatred’. The story that the arresting officer told in the dock was extraordinary. He said that the accused (me) had been in the company of a gang of black youths. When I had appeared on the scene where the police were resting I had pointed to them and announced: “There they are! Kill the devils!” And my little gang had proceeded to throw bricks and stones at them.
“Just a minute,” said the judge. “This man is white. Him telling black people to kill white people cannot be classed as ‘Incitement to Racial Hatred’. It only works if you are inciting hatred of another race, not your own. This is a waste of time. Case dismissed.”
And so to my relief I was free. Free? Well, at least not in prison.
In 1987 Inspector Douglas Lovelock, the officer who shot Cherry Groce was acquitted of all charges, including malicious wounding, and was reinstated. Mrs Groce received compensation but remained paralyzed for the rest of her life. She died in May 2011.
Meanwhile, the identity of the policeman who shot Mark Duggan remains unclear.
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at his website – http://yabanji.tripod.com/
British police have played a significant role in triggering civil disobedience in the UK through their unprofessional and brutal way of dealing with innocent civilians.
Mark Duggan, recently killed in a police shooting in the London suburb of Tottenham and whose death sparked a wave of street protests across Britain, Ian Tomlinson, an English newspaper vendor who was killed during G20 summit protests in London, Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot seven times in the head after the London bombings of July 7, 2005, and David Emmanuel , a British reggae singer who was killed during a police raid on his home, all are the names included in a long list of people killed at the hands of British police forces.
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), a police watchdog that deals with complaints against police has been established to investigate police’s crimes.
The IPCC’s job is to make sure that complaints against the police in England and Wales are dealt with effectively, it claims.
The body claims to be setting standards for the way the police handle complaints against themselves and, when something has gone wrong, it helps the police learn lessons and improve the way it works.
But they neither have learnt lessons nor have they tried to improve their performance, the example of which are:
1- Mark Duggan, whose family said it has no trust in the IPCC. The police shooting victim’s friends and family said that they don’t feel the police watchdog is sufficiently independent. The police watchdog has admitted it may have wrongly led journalists to believe that Mark Duggan fired at officers before he was killed. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has confirmed that it may have “inadvertently” given reporters misleading information in the early stages of the investigation. It was initially reported that Duggan, 29, shot at police. But ballistic tests later found that a bullet which lodged itself in one officer’s radio was police issue. An inquest into Duggan’s death heard the father-of-four died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
2- Ian Tomlinson was an English newspaper vendor who collapsed and died in the City of London after he was confronted with the police while on his way home from work during the 2009 G20 summit protests. A first postmortem examination indicated he had suffered a heart attack and had died of natural causes. A video footage later showed that a baton wielding police had struck him on the leg from behind and the pushed him on the ground. The video showed no provocation on Tomlinson’s part. He also was not a protester, and at the time he was struck was walking along with his hands in his pockets. The victim walked away after the incident, but collapsed and died moments later.
3- Jean Charles de Menezes was killed in the aftermath of the London bombings of July 7, 2005. He was a Brazilian man shot in the head seven times at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground by the Metropolitan Police. Police misidentified the victim as one of the fugitives involved in the previous day’s failed bombing attempts. The IPCC launched two probes into the incident, none of which brought disciplinary charges against police officers involved.
4- David Victor Emmanuel, known as Smiley Culture, was killed on March 15, 2011 during a police raid on his home. The 48-year-old was a British reggae singer and deejay known for his fast chat style. Police claimed that the victim died of a self-inflicted wound, while officers were searching his house in Warlingham, Surrey. But a post-mortem examination revealed that he had died from a single stab wound to his heart. His death triggered peaceful protests, but it was little reported.
The IPCC was faced with a crisis in February 2008 after more than one hundred lawyers who had specialized in handling police complaint resigned from its advisory body.
They lashed out at IPCC for its indifference towards complaints, favoritism towards police and rejecting complaints, which were strongly documented. Meanwhile, there have happened more than 400 deaths at the hands of police officers in the past ten years alone but no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for just one single death so far.