Archive for January, 2009

British students get off arses to sit on them for Gaza

January 30, 2009

A wave of student occupations – much underreported it seems to me in the media – has been occurring across the UK in solidarity with Gaza. These occupations are being coordinated by the Stop the War Coalition. A website giving details from all the occupations can be found here, and it looks like each individual occupation as got its own blog, linked at the general site. Among the institutions that have seen occupations (many of them shortlived) are Essex, Nottingham, Manchester Metropolitan, Susssex, Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College London, Queen Mary London, the London School of Economics, Warwick, Birmingham, Bradford, and Sheffield Hallam.

The demands raised by the students vary from the unrealistic – e.g. King’s College London revoking Shimon Peres’ honorary doctorate, and taking up general positions on the Israel/Palestine situation – to the more practical – calls for the establishment of scholarships for Palestinian students, given the harassment and degradation of university facilities in Palestine, which seems to have been agreed by Sussex. Although the numbers involved appear to be relatively small in each place, the occupations and accompanying meetings have certainly served to raise consciousness of the situation in Gaza, and should be applauded.

Surprising that nothing similar has been happening this side of the water, I’m sure though we can expect something soon. Hardly the rebirth of serious student politics, but a good sign all in all.

UPDATE: CNN has a story reporting that the NUS, in a very lily-livered move, has called for an end to the occupations.


Eames-Bradley Report

January 29, 2009

I’ve posted on the Eames-Bradley Report, and the reaction to it, over at Cedarlounge should anyone be interested.

BBC, Sky, the Commercial Channels and Charity

January 26, 2009


I haven’t written on the situation in Gaza, partly because there is a lot of good stuff out there already, and partly because it would take a lot more time than I have had to do it properly, and the suffering of the people there deserves more than ill-written ramblings. Having said that, I think that the recent furore over the Disasters Emergency Committee (a coordinating body of leading UK charities) is worth considering for what it tells us about the media, and the way it covers controversial political issues. The first thing I would like to do is register my disgust at the decision of the BBC, and now Sky, in refusing to air the appeal. I am pleasantly surprised that it is the commercial channels – already suffering from falling advertising – who are most vulnerable to any potential boycott or other consequences that are going to air it, starting tonight about 6.25 on ITV1.

Why then are Sky and the BBC refusing to show it? The answer given is that they feel it might be seen as a violation of impartiality. Not only is this nonsense in itself (these charities are mostly UK-based and Christian as well as the Red Cross and it is clear aid will be available to both sides of the border if needed) but I think that anyone who has watched either channel covering, to give some examples, the former Yugoslavia, or Zimbabwe can only find the notion that these channels do not take sides laughable (regardless of whether or not we think they have taken the correct side).

It is quite clear that the BBC will happily deliver far from impartial reports on situations on countries that stand outside the mainstream consensus of the western world, but will not risk rocking the boat on the situation in Palestine/Israel. Given the political leanings of Newscorp, I am less surprised at Sky’s decision, given for example that this might be used against Fox in the States by right-wing rivals. We already know that the western media has been censoring the reality of the suffering in Gaza – Channel 4’s Unseen Gaza being a recent exception. The question is why is Palestine/Israel being treated in this way by the BBC?

Clearly there is an issue of fear of the pro-Israeli lobby on this specific issue, but more broadly the BBC has been far from impartial. For example, when the second intifada broke out, Palestenian policemen killed in fighting were often described as gunmen, then later militants, compared to Israeli soldiers. This is loaded language, according one side the status of legitimate representatives of their people, and the others a lesser status as armed representatives of a faction. In this context, when for nearly a decade its coverage has been less than impartial, the BBC’s decision, though still lamentable, is less surprising. The BBC’s efforts at charity fundraising already prove quite nauseating, but after this Pudsey et al will seem more of a joke.

Massive Social Problem in Ballymena Area

January 22, 2009

No, it’s not heroin. Nor indeed fundamentalist Protestantism. Both of which are massive social problems in the Ballymena area. Instead, it is an unholy alliance of Catholic and state grammar schools setting their own transfer test. And what has the Incompetent for Education got to say about it?

Ms Ruane said in a statement: “I am still working to achieve agreement which could allow schools to apply to use the department’s test during a three-year transition period.”

Well that’s just dandy then. I’m so pleased to see that as per usual, she – and her party – have done precisely nothing to address this situation beyond empty rhetoric. But not surprised in the slightest. So once again, the children of Ballymena get the short end of the stick. I’m glad I’m from Belfast.

Pure, Unadulterated Cheek

January 19, 2009
Would you buy a transfer system from this woman?

Would you buy a transfer system from this woman?

Caitríona Ruane is angry. Very angry.

“I will not stand by and watch while our children are failed,” she said.

Stop looking in the mirror then.

PS Apologies for not blogging for the last month. Work just piled up, Christmas etc. I hope to provide more substantial posts in the near future, but could not let this go. Thank you to all those who continued to look in.