Posts Tagged ‘Appeals’

Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part One

March 11, 2018

Presented by the Conservative journo Peter Oborne, this is a very hard-hitting and extensive investigation into the malign influence and tactics of the Israel lobby. It covers not just the soft corruption of political lobbying – the various donations in money and paid trips to Israel given to Tory and Labour politicos, but also the co-ordinated smear campaign against anyone who dares to speak out in favour of the Israeli state’s victims. It’s a smear campaign that has seen very respected members of the Jewish community, including senior rabbis, and BBC journos like the late Orla Guerin, Jeremy Bowen and even Jonathan Dimbleby accused of anti-Semitism. The result has been that the Beeb was pressured not to put out an appeal for the victims of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and there was complaints about its coverage of those murdered by Israel’s allies in the Christian Fascists of the Lebanese Phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. And there has been constant pressure by these same bullying thugs on the Groaniad under its former editor, Alan Rusbridger. Who really does look like Harry Potter. Much of this pressure and screaming abuse seems to have come from America. The organisations are carefully structured, so that they keep the total number of donations secret, and their donors hide behind anonymity. When investigated they repeat the same, smooth words about just trying to keep the argument open by presenting Israel’s case, or mutter platitudes about supporting a two-state solution. All the while doing their level best to make sure that their voice is the only the British public hear, and rabidly pursuing business deals on stolen Palestinian land.

I’m afraid I may have misheard some of the names in the programme, and so misspelled them, but they should be roughly accurate.

The documentary begins with the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the horrendous carnage and destruction wrought, David Cameron in a speech made no mention of this, but instead praised the Israelis and his pledged his lasting support to them if he became Prime Minister. It was this that prompted Oborne to launch his own investigation into the Israel lobby. He makes the point that they have influence on both sides of Parliament, as shown by an exchange between a Conservative MP, who was a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, who asked a question about Israel’s continuing safety. This was answered by a Labour MP, who was a member of the Labour Friends of Israel. Oborne then interviews Michael Ancram, former Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2003-5, about the Israel Lobby’s influence. as well as Sir Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Iran from 2003-6. Dalton states clearly that the Israel Lobby does exist, and is important in defining the debate about Israel and the Palestinians. The Conservative Friends of Israel is highly influential, and boasts that it includes 80 per cent of all Tory MPs. Its chair, Richard Huntingdon, received £20,000 last year (2008) in donations, and gave £34,000 to the Conservatives. And the director of the No. 10 club, that exclusive Tory fundraising outfit in which, for a mere £50,000, you can meet David Cameron or have lunch with William Hague, is also included. The Tory Friends of Israel also arrange paid trips to Israel for MPs. So far there have been more of these than equivalent trips to America and Europe combined. Oborne states that in fairness, he has to say that he went on one of these, and there was no pressure to report favourably about Israel. But two MPs, who went on one of these trips, then received afterwards £25,000 in donations. This prompts Oborne to ask Ancram if this explains the soft line taken by the Tories about Israeli influence, and why the Tories don’t like to talk about it.

The documentary then moves on to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed, and $3.6 billion’s worth of damage inflicted. Michael Howard gave William Hague £25,000 in donations. Hague then made the mistake of making a speech criticising the Israeli response to Lebanese attacks as disproportionate. As a result, Lord Kalms, a CFI donor and head of the Dixons electronics chain, was outraged, and threatened to withhold further funding. Which he did, and Hague never received a penny more. The Israel lobby attacks even the mildest criticism of Israel. The director of the CFI, Stuart Pollak, had a meeting with David Cameron after the speech. Then, at his lunch with the CFI, Cameron didn’t mention the Lebanese invasion at all.

The programme then moves on to the organisation’s income, as revealed by the Parliamentary Accounts Register. For comparison, the pro-Arab lobby revealed that they had been given £43,000 in donations. How many had the CFI been given? No-one knows. They didn’t register any. They’re structured as a group of individuals, and are not incorporated, so they don’t have declare any under the rules. In 2008 the CFI gave the Tories £2 million, but this is not the whole story. One Tory MP said that after a chance meeting with Stuart Pollak, he received two donations from businessmen he had never met, and who did not live in his constituency. The CFI gave £30,000 to Cameron’s team. And in 2005 Cameron met Plocha Zabludowicz, who gave the future Tory PM £15,000 and a further £35,000 to Tory Central Office. The total figure for the donations given by the CFI is £10 million, more than the other lobbies.

Then there’s the incident of the UN vote over a motion censuring both Hamas and Israel for the carnage in Gaza. The CFI rang Hague up to condemn the resolution and demand that he criticise it. Which he duly did.

But the Israel Lobby only became really powerful in Britain under Maggie’s favourite Labour pet, Tony Blair. Jon Mandelsohn, a prominent pro-Israel lobbyist, stated that ‘Zionism is pervasive in New Labour’ and ‘It is axiomatic that Blair will come to Labour Friends of Israel meetings’. There are more Labour MPs in Labour Friends of Israel than their opponents across the benches in the Tory Friends of Israel. The documentary describes how Blair met the rock entrepreneur, Lord Levy, at the Israeli embassy, who then raised £15 million for the Labour party before the row over ‘cash for questions’. When Blair became PM in 1997, he gave Levy a life peerage. Levy, however, was unpaid and never a formal servant of the British state, so that the deals he made as Blair’s special envoy to the Middle East between Israel and the Arab nations could be kept secret. The programme interviews Prof. Avi Shlaim of Oxford University’s Middle East department, who states that he considers Levy has damaged Britain’s reputation in the Middle East.

The documentary then moves back to CFI lobbyists at the Tory party conference. Their purpose there is to make sure Cameron’s policies are in line with Israel’s This means that Michael Kaminski, the Polish leader, who heads a small, far right nationalist party, is lionised by the Tories, despite his record of making anti-Semitic remarks and his refusal to apologise for the suffering of Jewish Poles during the Second World War. Stuart Pollak was most keen not to have Cameron’s speech to the CFI at the Tory conference covered. He is shown waving the camera crew away. The CFI totally support Kaminski. They also plead that they’re totally transparent through the distinction between their donations as a group, and those of individual businesspeople.

Continued in Part Two.

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Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part Three

March 11, 2018

Honest Reporting claims to have 175,000 subscribers, and organises letter writing campaigns against the Beeb. The BBC Trust censured Jeremy Bowen for comments he made about the history of the conflict. His piece was withdrawn. But Bowen had published an article the week before in the Jewish Chronicle, using the same phrases that Honest Reporting found so objectionable, and which was still up at that rag’s website. CAMERA and the other parts of the Israel lobby complained, forcing the Beeb to investigate Bowen. This had a chilling effect on the other staff in the newsroom, who felt that they too were under attack. Jonathan Dimbleby thought the BBC had caved in under pressure from them. Which meant that he too came under investigation for anti-Semitism for making the above comments. The BBC Trust went to Oxford to interview Avi Shlaim about Bowen. Shlaim said that he couldn’t fault Bowen’s comments, concludes that some people in the Jewish community are too quick to criticise reporting. As for Honest Reporting, their office is not in Britain but Jerusalem. Their managing Director Simon Flosker is British, but worked for BICOM and the Israeli Army Press Office. Flosker declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement claiming that the BBC and the Guardian were biased against Israel, more so than other countries such as America.

And then there is the noxious incident, where these scum stopped the BBC raising an appeal for the victims of the Gaza invasion. The BBC has a long history of raising appeals for the victims of disasters. During Israel’s invasion 1,000 civilians in Gaza were killed. There was a move for the BBC to broadcast an appeal, but this was turned down by the Beeb’s Director-General, Mark Thompson. Ben Bradshaw, the Labour Minister for Media, was outraged. He stated that the Israel lobby was showing all the qualities of a bully. A BBC spokeswoman then explains to Oborne that the issue was too much trouble, and that it would cause people to lose confidence in the Corporation’s impartiality. She claims that the corporation took the advice of an independent committee. But Niam Alam, who was a member of the Committee, resigned over it. He said that the Committee never met to discuss the issue, and was never consulted. The appeal was eventually broadcast on Channel 4, where there were absolutely no complaints about its impartiality. Oborne’s documentary includes the appeal to show that it is, indeed, apolitical and impartial. The other members of the Committee refused to speak in public. When he tried to get them, and other charities and aid agencies, to talk about general humanitarian issues, they too declined. They included Oxfam, Christian Aid, Catholic Aid, and Cathod.

The Beeb’s decision not to broadcast the appeal is unusual, and breaks with the Corporation’s long tradition of making such broadcasts. In 1982 the Corporation broadcast an appeal for the victims of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, during which Palestinian men were butchered in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by the Christian Phalange, who were Israel’s allies during the invasion. Oborne states that the BBC is in danger of losing its reputation for impartiality around the world. The Israel Lobby has good access to politicos, and their loyalty is not to Britain, but to a mixture of interests, which may include Britain, but also the interests of another country. Oborne states that in making the documentary they have found nothing like a conspiracy, but a lack of transparency and the influence of the Israel lobby continues to be felt.

Of course, Oborne was accused of anti-Semitism for this piece, which he was successfully able to defend himself against. Looking at his denial of finding a conspiracy, you can see how he is attempting to fend off one of the accusations that has been levelled at Mike. He was accused of promoting Nazi-style conspiracy theories because he called the meeting between Shai Masot and the Tory Israel Lobby about arranging, who they wanted in the cabinet a conspiracy. This is what it is. It had nothing to do with stupid theories about international bankers financing communism to destroy the White race. it was a real conspiracy, just as there have always been real conspiracies of secretive groups meeting to pursue distinct political goals. Like the various CIA and British Secret Service intelligence operations run against Communism during the Cold War, and the various other lobbying groups now infesting parliament.

The picture that emerges of the Israel lobby is that it is a collection of very wealthy, very well-funded groups determined to suppress even mild criticism of Israel through ruthless bullying and intimidation. And it seems clear to me that Mike, and the others libelled as anti-Semites by the Sunday Times, the Mail, Express, Scum and Jerusalem Post, were the subjects of an organised campaign by the Tory Friends of Israel, possibly with the collusion of the Israeli embassy.

It also raises profound questions about Mike’s suspension from the Labour party. He was given no formal charges, and the identity of his accuser was never disclosed. How convenient. So who were they? Jonathan Mendelsohn, perhaps? One of the other high-ranking Blairites, scared that Mike was giving their former beloved leader a dam’ good, and very well deserved bashing? And behind them is their another pro-Israel donor, someone like Lord Levy, who will get into a ‘fearful bate’, as Molesworth would sa, and take his money elsewhere if the Labour party didn’t dance to his tune.

These groups are vicious, nasty, bullies, who libel and smear with impunity. It’s high time they were stopped in their tracks. Too many decent people, including self-respecting Jews, have been smeared as anti-Semites by these scoundrels. But from the comments of one of the Israel lobby’s leaders, Schanzer, it appears that they may be overreaching themselves. The claims of anti-Semitism have been overused. They’re not having the same effect. Well, soon I hope these accusations in this context will have no effect at all. And the time can’t come soon enough when that will happen, and when those who make those smears will have to face justice for their lies.

Here’s the video:

There’s a full transcript of it at Open Democracy Net.

Vox Political: Court Fees for Asylum Seekers to Rise by 500%

April 25, 2016

Mike at Vox Political last Friday covered a story in that day’s Guardian, which reported that the court fees for asylum seekers were going to rise by 500 per cent. This was to cover a gap in the Ministry of Justice’s budget of £37 million a year. He concluded that this showed how businesses run by rich fools like themselves operated. When they ran out of cash, they immediately turn to trying to squeeze it out of people, who don’t have any.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/04/22/asylum-and-immigration-court-fees-set-to-rise-by-more-than-500-per-cent/

This is too true on so many levels, the most basic and obvious being the way the Tories have shifted the tax burden from the rich onto the poor. Quite apart from the introduction of fees for services that ought to be free, and their – mercifully abortive – plan to charge the disabled for appealing against benefit decisions.

My guess is that the Tory architects of this scheme were hoping that this would be an extra deterrent to asylum seekers wishing to enter the country, regardless of the economic reason behind the decision to raise fees. This does indeed show the Tories’ priorities – attacking and impoverishing the very poorest, and most vulnerable. In this case, people, who have made an extremely hazardous journey across continents, and who may face serious persecution, torture and death in their countries of origin.

Vox Political: Tories Wanted to Charge Claimants for Appealing against DWP Decisions

April 21, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also posted up a very interesting piece on an abortive Tory plan to force the disabled to pay for the privilege of lodging an appeal against a decision on their benefit by the DWP, according to the Mirror. The plan was laid out in a secret Conservative document, Appeals Strategy – Post Election Planning 2015. Apparently, the Conservatives were getting upset over the number of sanctions decisions that were being successfully appealed against and overturned.

Mike’s article is at:

The Conservatives secretly planned to CHARGE disabled people to appeal benefits decisions

Mike also asks the very pertinent question of what else they’re trying to sneak in behind our back.

The existence of this secret plan really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Tories have been troubled by the fact that over half of all sanctions cases have been overturned on appeal, and have been doing everything they can to put a stop to this. Someone clearly decided that this was a step too far, though I can’t imagine it was Ian Duncan Smith, despite his crocodile tears about the plight of the unemployed in front of Ian Hislop. This was the head of the DWP, who laughed and joked with Cameron when some truly heart-wrenching tales of abuse at the hands of his department were read out in parliament. He is, however, very vain, making up all sorts of stupid and spurious stories about his intellectual achievements and military career. He also got rather annoyed that he was getting all the blame for the sanctions system, instead of New Labour, who introduced it. Aw, diddums!

This is a truly wicked government, that not only seeks to take money and resources away from the very poorest in society, it also seeks to charge them for the right to challenge their injustices. It’s high time they were forced out of office.

This Fortnight’s Private Eye on the Tories’ Attack on the Freedom of Information Act

March 23, 2016

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye (18th-31st March 2016) has a piece on the government’s latest attempt to water down the Freedom of Information Act. Apparently, the review has rejected the suggestion that charges should be levied on requests, but it is expected to include a series of exemptions for certain types of information. This includes correspondence on government policies, depending on a test of whether it is ‘in the public interest’. It also aims to prevent the release of information that would ‘prejudice the conduct of public affairs’. The Tories’ review also proposes to drop appeals to a first tier tribunal. It is suggested that appeals should only be referred to an upper tribunal in cases involving a point of law.

The Eye makes it clear that these reforms are being suggested because the government is losing a high proportion of appeals. 31 per cent of the cases in which public authorities have refused to release material under the ‘conduct of public affairs’ exemption have been overturned, and partially overturned in a further 24 per cent of cases. As for the ‘policy’ exemption, the Eye notes that the government has been successful in keeping the information secret in less than half of all cases under the last Information Commissioner. Under the present Commissioner, Christopher Graham, the number of cases that have been overturned on this particular exemption reached 83 per cent last year (2015).

So no wonder the Tories, Whitehall and New Labour control freaks like Jack Straw are keen to vitiate the Act so that further information can’t possibly get out.

@refuted: Independent Tribunals Have Been Destroyed by DWP Mandatory Reconsideration

March 10, 2015

@Refuted have posted this piece, Benefit Sanctions briefing: DWP’s Mandatory Reconsiderations have “effectively destroyed” independent Tribunals, reporting the effects of the DWP’s introduction of the above mandatory reconsideration on the number of cases now being appealed against according to the Benefit Sanctions Briefing of 18th February 2015. The complete report is available to download at the site. The piece by @refuted summarises the report, highlighting the most important facts to emerge from it. These include

The independent element in the system offered by Tribunals has been effectively destroyed, completely in the case of ESA and almost completely for JSA, where only 0.14% of sanction decisions are now being taken to a Tribunal. MR has had no overall impact on the proportion of JSA sanctions overturned, which remains at about 13%. But the proportion of ESA sanctions overturned has fallen from about 35% to about 20%. The most disturbing possibility is that ESA claimants’ medical conditions are rendering them unable to cope effectively with the phone calls made to them by DWP officials at home during the MR process.” [emphasis added]

The piece is at http://refuted.org.uk/2015/03/04/tribunalsdestroyed/. Go and read it.

This is another instance where the government has introduced reforms with the deliberate intention of making it even more difficult for the victims of government policy to appeal against it. Like cuts to legal aid, and the 600 per cent increase in tribunal fees in order to prevent people suing for medical negligence, amongst other cases, as reported on Sunday by Tom Pride.

This is a government that cares nothing for the poor, or for justice, and only about securing the power and prosperity of the wealthy.

Vox Political on the DWP Forcing Claimants to Pay to Appeal

February 22, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on Iain Duncan Smith’s latest ruse to deny the poor and disabled the benefits to which they are entitled. The Guardian has received information leaked from the DWP that RTU intends to make claimants pay for appealing against wrong decisions. The Groaniad notes that only 0;7 per cent of benefits are wrongly awarded. However, 58 per cent of the DWP decisions appealed against by claimants are overturned.

This isn’t about saving fairness. This is simply about making government savings by taking away the people’s ability to challenge wrongful decisions by the government.

Mike’s article is How can the unemployed PAY for appeals against refusal of benefit? It’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/22/how-can-the-unemployed-pay-for-appeals-against-refusal-of-benefit/ and begins

It’s the latest election-losing plan from the Conservative Party.

Leaked documents from the Department for Work and Pensions have revealed plans to charge benefit claimants whose claims have been stopped, if they want to appeal against the decision to an independent judge.

These are people who – by definition – have no money.

How are they supposed to pay?

The answer is, of course, they’re not. This is a plan to push people off of benefit altogether. They’re not expected to find the money to pay for an appeal; they are expected to go away. Then the DWP can enjoy the JSA benefit saving and shortly after – when the claimant loses his or her home, due to failure to keep up rent/mortgage payments, the DWP can enjoy the Housing Benefit saving as well.

What vile pervert could devise a plan that corrupts the benefit system in such a way?

The answer is, of course, the same one who has been corrupting it since he took over in 2010 – Iain Duncan Smith.

Of course, all this is going on just when we’re supposed to be celebrating 800 years of Magna Carta. Which contains the stipulation that the monarch should not sell, delay or deny justice.

And that is exactly what this proposed new piece of legislation does.

It’s highly ironic that the Beeb are calling their season of films on democracy, shown as part of the celebration, the ‘Taking Liberties’ season.

From 2012: Private Eye on Atos and Serco as their Successors

April 9, 2014

Private Eye in their issue for the 4th – 17th May 2012 ran this article reporting further examples of Atos’ cruelty towards claimants, and expressing fears that Serco were about to step into their shoes.

Health Assessments

Occupational Hazard

Disability campaigners are alarmed to hear that security giant Serco may also be moving into the health and disability assessment market, currently dominated by Atos, the French outsourcing giant.

Serco is aiming to link up with occupational therapists to “explore” how they might do assessments usually carried out by doctors or nurses; and recently hosted a seminar at the College of Occupational Therapists. The worry is that Serco could prove even more adept than Atos at doing the government’s dirty work by slashing benefits for some of the most vulnerable people.

Although some occupational therapists hesitate to join forces with Serco, the college itself sees the move as a chance to bolster the industry. Its primary objective in dealing with commercial organisations was “to ensure that there is perceived and discernible benefit to the profession and/or better health and wellbeing service for the public”.

Meanwhile, at Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions, it’s business as usual. Last week a coroner said a decision to declare a mentally ill man fit for work may have influenced his subsequent decision to commit suicide.

Martin Rust, 36, who had attempted suicide previously, had been diagnosed with treatment-resistant schizophrenia in 1998, but was living independently with mental health service support.

He died in November last year after his mother said the pressure of finding work when he felt he couldn’t cope had been extremely worrying for him. Recording that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness, coroner William Armstrong said the DWP’s decision “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect” on Mr Rust.

There was good news, though, for Jenny, the 59-year-old former teacher, who was forced to give up work when she developed the debilitating illness fibromyalgia (Eye 1300). Her benefits were stopped last year, forcing her to raise funds by selling some of her furniture, following an Atos assessment which she claimed was “cursory at best”. A tribunal panel has now said the Atos examiner’s report was full of anomalies and is instead relying on the detailed assessment and medical history for her own GP.

Doctors are the latest to raise concerns over the tests and the fact that nearly 40 percent of assessment decisions are overturned on appeal. As well as the amount of time GPs are spending on reports for appeals, there are also concerns at the length of time people are having to live, often without benefits, waiting for an appeal – nearly 25 weeks on average.

This cast some doubt on whether Atos’ statement that they are withdrawing from administering the work capability assessments will mean any improvement, if Serco takes over them. As for Atos, this report gives another victim of the company’s cruelty and incompetence. Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and many other bloggers have reported doctors’ criticisms of the damage the stress of the assessments has on their patients’ mental health. This article shows they are also concerned about the sheer time their patients were left without benefits while waiting for an appeal.

As for the Tribunal rejecting Atos’ reports and relying instead on information from ‘Jenny’s’ doctor, this is very much how it should be. Jaypot has stated that if a doctor declares that someone is unfit for work, then that should be sufficient as far as further assessment is required. the Work Capability Assessment itself is seriously flawed, and in my view, a completely spurious piece of pseudoscience rather than anything resembling good medical practice.