Wednesday, 17 March 2010

New jewish media agency launched in London

JNews is an independent source of analysis, opinion, information and news on Israel and Palestine

JNews provides the British media and the public at large with up-to-date, accurate news, as well as features, commentary and analysis by leading experts, some of which is specially commissioned by JNews.

JNews draws its material from a wide variety of sources and lays special emphasis on Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental outlets/agencies.

JNews offers a unique database of prominent experts from the UK, Israel and Palestine who can participate in media and public discussion.

Our aims and values

JNews promotes understanding and stimulates critical debate about Israel and Palestine among British Jews and the broader public as a contribution to promoting peace with justice for all in the region.

JNews believes that disseminating a range of viewpoints broader than that offered by most Jewish and Israeli organizations will benefit Palestinians and Israelis.

JNews supports the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and believes the two are intertwined.

JNews believes in the application of the universal principles of social justice and human rights as the path to a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

List of Patrons

  • Prof Zygmunt Bauman
  • Sir Geoffrey Bindman
  • Prof Emeritus Leslie Baruch Brent
  • Prof Stan Cohen
  • Moris Farhi MBE
  • June Jacobs CBE
  • Prof Mary Kaldor
  • Helena Kennedy QC
  • Prof Francesca Klug OBE
  • Ursula Owen OBE
  • Rabbi Danny Rich
  • Prof Avi Shlaim
  • Marina Warner
  • Rabbi Alexandra Wright
  • Prof Emeritus John S Yudkin FRCP

List of Trustees

  • Lady Ellen Dahrendorf
  • Richard Kuper
  • Antony Lerman
  • Maurice Naftalin
  • Prof Lynne Segal

Sunday, 14 March 2010

UK 'ignoring' systemic evidence of torture among asylum seekers

Charities say reports of abuse being routinely ignored is a 'systemic and increasing problem'

Mark Townsend, home affairs editor
The Observer, Sunday 14 March 2010

Torture survivors seeking sanctuary in Britain are being wrongly held in government detention centres, despite independent medical evidence supporting claims of brutal violence against them in their home countries.

According to Home Office guidelines, in cases where there is evidence that a person seeking asylum has been tortured they should be detained only in "exceptional circumstances". But medical charities that carry out hundreds of independent assessments of torture survivors every year have accused the government of routinely ignoring their reports, with victims held in detention centres until their asylum claims are heard – and, in almost every case, rejected.

Sonya Sceats, a spokeswoman for one charity that carries out medical assessments for the government, told the Observer: "It's very clear there is a systemic and increasing problem here. The corollary of their dismissal of independent medical evidence is that the protection [asylum] claim is invariably rejected and this means a survivor of torture is at risk of being returned to further torture or at risk of detention."

The allegations come in the wake of strong criticism last week of the UK Border Agency, which was condemned for failing to investigate claims of mistreatment by failed asylum seekers in abuse allegations up to July 2008. Ministers now plan to review the use of force against asylum seekers by British security guards after a Border Agency report on abuse conceded that serious injuries were suffered by detainees who had been handcuffed or physically restrained.

The new allegations further highlight systematic mistreatment in Britain's asylum system. One 43-year-old torture victim from Zimbabwe, who is on hunger strike in Yarl's Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire, alleged she was detained despite independent verification of the abuse in her home country.

Her arms are scarred from repeated stabbings during an incident in Zimbabwe in which she was also beaten and raped. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been in Yarl's Wood for five months and alleges medical mistreatment and racist abuse by staff, claims that have been denied. She told the Observer: "The officers are racist and are not sympathetic. We have suffered and don't want to be tortured here, but inside here it is a form of torture but nobody can see us locked up."

Bibiche Lutete, 36, was beaten and repeatedly raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the UN has confirmed rape is used as a weapon of war. After seeking asylum in the UK, she said she had been further traumatised while being illegally held in a British detention centre. She also claimed to have suffered "medical abuse" and had anxiety attacks after witnessing a naked woman dragged from her room in Yarl's Wood by private security guards, claims robustly denied by the Home Office.

"Everybody was shocked," she said. "She had no clothes on and she was photographed. I still get flashbacks."

The Medical Foundation For the Care of Victims of Torture, the UK charity dedicated to the treatment of torture survivors, said it had lodged complaints with the Home Office over concerns that its assessments documenting evidence of abuse among asylum seekers were being increasingly dismissed by officials. The foundation cited figures from the last 18 months showing only seven people had been released from detention out of 250 cases where clinical evidence of abuse had been presented.

The Border Agency denied it dismissed the evidence of independent medical experts. Hugh Ind, the agency's director for protection, said: "We consider all evidence submitted in support of asylum claims very carefully, including claims of torture. Where an individual sets out a credible case that they are in need of protection, we normally grant asylum."

An Observer investigation has also found that the number of "assaults" against refugees in detention centres remains high. The charity Medical Justice Network has documented at least 15 recent cases where a detainee claims they were assaulted, while allegations by asylum seekers of inadequate healthcare are running at eight a month.

A number involve torture survivors, including one from the DRC who ended up in hospital last March after sustaining severe handcuff injuries during an attempted deportation from the UK by private security guards. His complaint to the Border Agency tells how six guards restrained him on a plane and that "one turned round trying to strangle me by my throat while the other was banging my head on the seat in front".

The government is trying to clear a backlog of 200,000 asylum cases, though the border agency admits it can process fewer than half its target applications a month. Three Russians refugees leapt to their death from the 15th floor of a block of flats in Glasgow last Sunday, prompting further concern over the treatment of asylum seekers. Yesterday hundreds of people joined a rally in the city and called for an end to the "enforced removal of refugee families".

Thursday, 11 March 2010

There is a new Left in town!

I guess some of you read it already, or just heard it in the demonstration, but I thought that if you didn't, you would find it interesting, it's the speech the young Israeli activist, Sarah Benninga gave, in the big weekend demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah (Translated from Hebrew by Didi Remez) -
There is a new Left in town!
There is a new Left and it is a Left that is not satisfied with peace talks. It is a Left that fights!
There is a new Left that knows there are things you must fight against even when they are identified with the State and even when they enjoy the protection of the law!
There is a new Left that knows that this fight will not be won on paper but on the ground, in the hills, in the vineyards and in the olive groves.
There is a new Left that is not afraid of the settlers, even when they descend on it from the hilltops, blindfolded and armed.
This Left does not surrender to the police’s political repression, and does not care what they write about it in Maariv newspaper. There is a new Left in town!
This Left does not want to be loved, does not fantasize about town squares and does not bask in the memory of the 400,000. This Left is a partnership between Palestinians, who understand the occupation will not be defeated by missiles and bombs, and Israelis, who understand that the Palestinian struggle is their struggle.
The new Left joins hands with Palestinians in a cloud of tear gas at Bil’in and gets beaten up together with them by settlers at the South Hebron Mountain.
This Left stands by refugees and labor migrants in Tel Aviv and fights against the Wisconsin Plan.
The new Left is us — all of us!
Everyone who came here tonight. Everyone who dared cross the imaginary line between West and East Jerusalem, despite the threats and intimidation.
We are all the new Left that is emerging in Israel and Palestine.
We are not fighting for a peace agreement. We are fighting for justice. But we believe that injustice is the main obstacle to peace.
There will be no peace until the Ghawi and Hanoun and al-Kurd families return to their homes. Because peace does not grow on a soil of discrimination, oppression and theft.
There is a new Left in town and that Left stands with the people of Sheikh Jarrah tonight and will continue standing with them until justice defeats fanaticism.
But there is also a new Right in town.
A Right awash with fanaticism and racism that seduces the masses with nationalist rhetoric.
The new Right does not care about the welfare and well-being of human beings. The new Right only cares about ethnic, tribal, Liebermanistic loyalty.
For the new Right charity begins at home only for Jews. And what makes a person a Jew is the fact that they are not an Arab.
The new Right has nothing to offer except for endless war.
The new Right is the empty wagon that went off the rails: religious and secular Jews who have nothing but hatred of the other: the Arabs the refugee, the leftist.
That new Right manufactures the deluded settlers, because of whom we are demonstrating tonight.
Those settlers hate Jerusalem. They do not love the Jewish people and they do not love mankind. They love only themselves.
Among the settlers there are many with whom we should speak. But the settlers of Sheikh Jarrah, who sing canticles to Baruch Goldstein — they must be defeated.
The new Right created Nir Barkat. A technocrat who does not understand Jerusalem and does not care about Jerusalem. A mayor who uses administrative terror against the residents of East Jerusalem and neglects the residents of West Jerusalem, while reciting endless clichés.
If Jerusalem is a powder keg, the match that might light it, is called Nir Barkat.
But we are not afraid of Barkat, nor are we afraid of the settlers, nor are we afraid of Lieberman.
We will keep coming to Sheikh Jarrah and to every place where justice is trampled by the forces of occupation and oppression.
Look around you. We are not as few as we thought! And we will win!