The Olympic Legacy: Sporting Leg-Ends, Spivs & Gentrification

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By Phil Thornton

Well, the circus has packed up for another 4 years. Maybe it was fitting that West Ham’s first league home game at their new ‘Olympic’ stadium (bought and paid for by the ‘Great British Public’ TM) came as a reminder of all those ‘legacy’ promises that were spun in order to justify the obscene costs of the London 2012 Games.

“Legacy” – it’s one of the words of the new millennium. Everyone’s after a legacy from political failures like Tony Blair and Barak Obama to global institutions like FIFA and the World Bank.

When the much lauded opening ceremony for London 2012 was taking place, I was sat in a tapas bar on the Costa del Sol watching it with the sound turned off. Now praised as some kind of glorious reimagining of British cultural, scientific and social triumphs , all I saw was a surreal, Lionel Bart-esque imperialist wet dream. The Queen! With James Bond!! How very er, British!

Underneath all the showbiz however was the familiar story of land grabbing, social engineering, corporate greed and political sophistry. I was also reading Iain Sinclair’s ‘Ghost Milk’ at the time which put all the 2012 hype into its true historical context. Here’s Sinclair writing in 2008, four years before the London games began about what was already happening to that much romanticised area of the East End where the Hammers now plough their trade.

StratfordWestfieldTo question all this at the time or even now is to be branded a ‘naysayer’, a ‘cynic’, a ‘Doing Britain Down-er’ and anyone that opposes such magnificent projects is an enemy of ‘progress’ but what kind of progress is it, if progress at all? These vast theme parks, like the Millennium Dome before it, sold on similar promises, soon become nothing more than corporate entertainment centres with terrible transport systems and windswept concourses.

Soccer - West Ham United Takeover - Upton ParkWest Ham owners, David Gold and David Sullivan won’t be moaning however. They now have a buck shee super-stadium and won’t even have to stump up the running costs for most of it. This places them at a considerable financial advantage to other clubs both in London and elsewhere who have to spend large parts of their revenues on stadium costs.

What’s the betting that Gold and Sullivan end up selling large chunks of the Irons off to ‘investors’ keen to take a punt on a project that’s too big to fail. Where is the legacy in all this for those kids living in the shadow of the new stadium, or those businesses now left without a customer base in Green Street?

Just as Manchester City’s move from Maine Road to Eastlands left an already impoverished area, Moss Side, even more bereft, so West Ham’s move will have a lasting legacy on the population of E13. Yet at least City pay £4 million a year in rent to use the former Commonwealth Games stadium plus all overheads. West Ham’s deal not only upset other clubs, notably Spurs and Orient who had their eyes on the ground but also may fall foul of European ‘state aid’ laws, y’know those pesky ‘level playing field’ rules those Brussels types were always imposing on us.

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Legacy doesn’t always work out in the way those who seek it planned. Blair was looking around for a legacy and thought he’d found one with Iraq. That backfired but hey, he’s still milking that cash cow for all it’s worth, so what’s a legacy worth these days? Obama thought he’d found one with Health Care but, that piece of ‘communism’ is still twitching in the morgue and The First Black President presides over a nation whose law enforcement and judiciary kills and incarcerates its black population in frighteningly disproportionate numbers. No you can’t mate!

The word legacy actually means “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.” It’s not about some demagogue associating themselves with a piece of legislation or a bloody conflict, it’s not about creaming off contracts or gifting a stadium to a bunch of millionaire businessmen. If it wasn’t yours in the first place, how can you pass it on?

Abstract legacies will no doubt justify Team GB’s record medal haul at Rio 2016. They were ‘inspired’ by the successes of 2012, and maybe some were, and maybe money talks and bullshit walks, and maybe asking what it’s all about anyway, is just being a joyless loser. Keep those flags flying, keep those medals and honours coming, keep the myth intact; ‘we’re all in it together’ folks.

Israel – The Apartheid State

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By Phil Thornton (Author of Casuals)

The Zionist regime of Israel despises the ‘apartheid’ description of their cruel oppression of the Palestinians.

This is the definition of apartheid:  “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.”

Now, I don’t believe in using words such as ‘race’ as that term implies differences in humans that don’t actually exist, apart from in the warped minds of evolution deniers.

The Nazis believed in racial purity, as did the architects of apartheid in South Africa. The Zionists obviously believe that the Palestinians are ‘culturally’ different to them, not only in terms of religion and language but also ‘race.’

There are some who still believe in the ludicrous genealogies of the Bible right back to Adam and Eve or at least back to Shem, y’know Noah’s lad who founded the ‘Shemite’ race.

Such people still use these spurious and childish arguments to justify their ‘right’ to land and natural resources and to remove others from it and place them in what amount to huge open prisons.

Like the South Africans, they believe that they are intellectually, morally and culturally superior to these lower, savage races. They dress up their barbarity in cloaks of sophistry.

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They use words such as these:

“Because America and Israel, we share a common destiny, the destiny of promised lands that cherish freedom and offer hope. Israel is grateful for the support of American — of America’s people and of America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.”

– Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the US congress in 2015

‘Promised lands?’   Who promised them to you? Your God? Oh, OK then, crack on!

‘Cherish freedom and offer hope!’   You’d have to laugh at such nauseating lies if it wasn’t for the pathetic reality of the world’s richest state giving tacit approval for its client state’s (or is the other way around) illegal and disgusting treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel needs to be treated with similar contempt shown to the South African regime in the 70s and 80s. If the waving of a Palestinian flag at a football match in Glasgow can be regarded by Uefa as an illegal act then maybe it’s UEFA that needs to examine itself, not Celtic fans.

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Meanwhile, the campaign to ‘Match the fine for Palestine’ continues to build and is now standing at around £140,000 – a phenomenal sum of money raised by Celtic fans in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in aid of two very worthwhile charities working in the occupied territories. The original modest target of £15,000 set by the Green Brigade has been bettered almost ten times over! It is an unequivocal answer to the oligarchs who run the game that these football fans will not be silenced when it comes to matters of injustice, inequality, racism and apartheid.

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The beauty of Celtic fans’ solidarity with Palestine

In just 24 hours Celtic supporters have raised more than £50,000 for humanitarian projects in Palestine. This was their response to the threat of a UEFA fine for the club as a result of their display of Palestinian flags at the Champions League play-off match against Be’er Sheva. A demonstration of their understanding of the issues and a display of international solidarity with the people of Palestine.

By John Wight

The worldwide response to the stance that thousands of Celtic fans took in solidarity with the Palestinians during their Champions League tie with Israeli side, Hapoel Beer-Sheva, leaves no doubt that in the second decade of the 21st century internationalism remains more powerful than any number of Apache helicopter gunships, cruise missiles, and tanks when it comes to shaping the world. For the Palestinian people, living in a de facto open prison in Gaza and under the longest military occupation in modern history in the West Bank, the sight of Celtic fans flying and waving a flag that means more to them than life itself will have made their hearts soar, reminding them they do not stand alone in defiance of an oppressor dedicated to their subjugation, cultural annihilation and despair.

While no one is suggesting that a free Palestine is just around the corner, the growth in international support for this righteous objective, with the spread and growth of the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, makes the status quo evermore untenable and unsustainable.

A people who find themselves living under occupation, subjected to a racist system of apartheid at the hands of a colonial power, can never be anything but politically aware. Under such conditions you don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing, and neither does it take a PhD in politics or economics to gain an understanding of the world. Thus the struggle waged by generations of Irishmen and women against British colonialism entrenched the worldview and core values that underpin Irish republicanism. A key plank of those values is the unshakeable belief that standing on the side of justice in the matter of oppression is more than a choice it’s an obligation and a duty. When it comes to the Palestinians this takes on added force when we consider the solidarity they have shown towards the Irish struggle in the past.

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One of the most moving documents I have ever encountered in my political life was a letter written by Palestinian political prisoners in tribute to Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers upon Sands’ death. The letter was smuggled out of the Nafha prison in the Negev desert, where they were incarcerated, and arrived in the Falls Road soon after.

It reads:

To the families of the martyrs oppressed by the British ruling class. To the families of Bobby Sands and his martyred comrades.

We, revolutionaries of the Palestinian people who are under the terrorist rule of Zionism, write you this letter from the desert prison of Nafha.

We extend our salutes and solidarity with you in the confrontation against the oppressive terrorist rule enforced upon the Irish people by the British ruling elite.

We salute the heroic struggle of Bobby Sands and his comrades, for they have sacrificed the most valuable possession of any human being. They gave their lives for freedom.

From here in Nafha prison, where savage snakes and desert sands penetrate our cells, from here under the yoke of Zionist occupation, we stand alongside you. From behind our cell bars, we support you, your people and your revolutionaries who have chosen to confront death.

Since the Zionist occupation, our people have been living under the worst conditions. Our militants who have chosen the road of liberty and chosen to defend our land, people and dignity, have been suffering for many years. In the prisons, we are confronting Zionist oppression and their systematic application of torture. Sunlight does not enter our cell. Basic necessities are not provided. Yet we confront the Zionist hangmen, the enemies of life.

Many of our militant comrades have been martyred under torture by the fascists allowing them to bleed to death. Others have been martyred because Israeli prison administrators do not provide needed medical care.

The noble and just hunger strike is not in vain. In our struggle against the occupation of our homeland, for freedom from the new Nazis, it stands as a clear symbol of the historical challenge against the terrorists. Our people in Palestine and in the Zionist prisons are struggling as your people are struggling against the British monopolies and we will both continue until victory.

On behalf of the prisoners of Nafha, we support your struggle and cause of freedom against English domination, against Zionism and against fascism in the world.

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On Wednesday August 17, 2016, thousands of Celtic supporters answered this message of solidarity from Palestinian political prisoners in 1981 with a message of their own. They did so in the face of UEFA threats of disciplinary action against the club and a hefty fine. Celtic FC and its fans should be proud to pay any such fine, viewing it not as punishment but as an investment in their humanity. As Malcolm X said, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.”

The world now knows that in an age of cynicism and indifference to suffering, Celtic supporters most assuredly do stand for something.

Follow John on Twitter @ JohnWight1

You can see more of his writing at Medium, RT, Sputnik, and Counterpunch.

To make a donation to the #matchthefineforpalestine appeal click here

Let’s Match The Fine For Palestine

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Let’s Match The Fine For Palestine

Click here to make a donation – #‎matchthefineforpalestine‬

At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine. This act of solidarity has earned Celtic respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’.

In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #MatchTheFineForPalestine. We aim to raise £15,000* which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in the Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem.

MAP-logoMedical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) works for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees.

MAP delivers health and medical care to those worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement.

Working in partnership with local health providers and hospitals, MAP addresses a wide range of health issues and challenges faced by the Palestinian people.

With offices located in Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Gaza City, MAP responds rapidly in times of crisis, and works directly with communities on longer term health development.”

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Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem. Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints.
For the young people of Aida, the Lajee Centre offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation via its art and culture programmes and sport programmes.

A female Israeli border guard fires tear gas towards Palestinian demonstrators (unseen) during a protest in the Aida Palestinian refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 22, 2014, after three Palestinians were killed in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank during an operation launched by Israeli soldiers to arrest a militant. Medical and security sources said two of those killed were militants and the third was a civilian. (MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images)
A female Israeli border guard fires tear gas at protesters in the Aida Palestinian refugee camp

The camp’s only football pitch was built last year by the Lajee Centre, at the heart of Aida. The pitch is now protected by metal netting after it was damaged by tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli Defence Forces. Residents had previously played on recreation ground stolen by the wall.

The money will be a much needed boost to the Lajee Centre who will be able to extend their activities to bring much needed relief via their arts, dance and football programmes. One such programme is that of youth football, with the Lajee Centre looking to organise a youth football team to take part in the Bethlehem Youth League.

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There are no organised teams in Aida, with basic equipment like boots in short supply. Funds raised will provide equipment, strips and travel costs to enable the camp to enter a team in the Bethlehem Youth League.

In recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans and all those around the world Salah Ajarma, Coordinator of the Lajee Centre will name the team ‘Aida Celtic’: “It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”

Let’s #matchthefineforpalestine and show the footballing establishment the true spirit of the game.

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Green Brigade Statement: Flying The Flag For Palestine

 

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Prior to last night’s match with Hapoel Beer Sheva a collective of Celtic fans and Palestinian activists in Glasgow called on fans to show our support for the Palestinian people and fly the flag for Palestine. Like many fans throughout the stadium, the Green Brigade answered this call. From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the Occupied Territories. We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night’s actions also sought to raise awareness of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalisation of the Israeli occupation.

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Some have argued that football and politics do not mix, including European football’s discredited governing body. In Palestine, however, there is little dispute. The occupation has seen the Palestinian national stadium destroyed twice by Israeli bombs and footballers killed, maimed and imprisoned. In 2013 we were proud to welcome Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian international footballer detained without crime or trial for three years in an Israeli prison, to Glasgow. Mahmoud had only recently been released from prison after a 96-day hunger strike and widespread international protest.

The BDS campaign builds on the success of earlier anti-apartheid campaigns. In the 1980s fans and citizens protested against South African sports teams and ultimately shamed the authorities into excluding apartheid South Africa from sporting activity. The late anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, whose death was marked by a minute’s silence at European matches on UEFA’s instructions, famously remarked that ‘we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.

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Mandela was right, and like the wider Celtic support we will continue to fly the flag for Palestine.

The response we have had since last night has been overwhelming, with messages of support pouring in from our fellow fans, human rights organisations and the global Palestinian community. We would like to thank them sincerely for their backing and tonight re-iterate our support for justice and freedom in Palestine.

We also understand that a downmarket tabloid newspaper may tomorrow run a story suggesting our group in some way mislead Celtic plc and told them that we would not be displaying our support for Palestine. This is a complete fabrication and we condemn anyone who spreads smear stories attacking football fans to The Sun.

Until the last rebel.

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’66 Days’ – Richard O’Rawe’s Review Of New Bobby Sands Movie

This article was first published on  by The Broken Elbow

Former IRA blanketman, H Blocks PRO and author of Blanketmen  & ‘After Lives’, Richard O’Rawe reviews the new film about Bobby Sands, ’66 Days’.

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Drama at the absolute rawest edge it could possibly be,’ was how journalist Fintan O’Toole described the IRA/INLA hunger strike in Brendan Byrne’s new film, Bobby Sands – Sixty-Six Days. No one who was around at that time could argue with him.

I went to the premiere of this film in West Belfast along with my wife, Bernadette. Accompanying us were Dixie Elliott and his wife, Sharon. Dixie, a former cell mate of Sands’, had been interviewed for the film but his contribution did not make the final cut.

Unsurprisingly, the cinema was packed with Sinn Féin members and supporters. Equally unsurprisingly, many of those present cast their eyes into the darkest reaches of the cinema rather than in my direction. The reason why? Because I wrote a book called Blanketmen in which I said that a committee of republicans, led by Gerry Adams, had control of the hunger strike. I also said that, before the fifth hunger striker Joe McDonnell died, this committee rejected an offer from the British government that the prison leadership believed to be acceptable. Consequently, six more hunger strikers died on the fast.

Richard O'Rawe - 'Was it (Sands' death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.'

Richard O’Rawe – ‘Was it (Sands’ death) worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.’

Notwithstanding the preponderance of Sinn Féin members in attendance at the premiere, this is far from a pro-Sinn Féin film. In fact, one viewer later said to me that he thought Byrne had gone ‘a bit too far’ by using Fintan O’Toole as linkman (O’Toole is not known for his Sinn Féin sympathies).

Byrne also afforded speaking rights to former prison officer, Dessie Butterworth, Tory Cabinet minister, Norman Tebbit, and Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore. As well as that, he did not shirk from raising the despicable IRA murder of a young mother and census collector, Joanne Mathers, two days before the electorate of Fermanagh/South Tyrone went to the polls to elect either Bobby Sands or a Unionist as their M.P. To some of us prisoners, it seemed as if someone wanted to sabotage Sands’ chances of being elected.

I have to say, I found this film challenging. For example: Sands gave an interview to reporter Brendan O’Cathaoir of The Irish Times on the third day of his hunger strike.

Commenting on the interview, O’Cathaoir told Byrne: ‘He spoke fluently about how they felt compelled to start the hunger strike. And he made it pretty clear to me he was likely to die. He talked really in terms of laying down his life for his comrades, and of course I am conscious that his protest was in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi. His most memorial phrase before we parted was: “If I die, God will understand.”’

I later gave some thought to O’Cathaoir saying that Sands’ fast was ‘in the tradition of positive resistance, immortalised by Ghandi’. Ghandi and Sands certainly had things in common: they shared the same imperial foe, they had a great love of their people, and they had iron will.

But unlike the pacifist Ghandi, Sands was committed to armed struggle and, while both revolutionaries may have used the tactic of hunger strike to achieve a political aim, they were altogether different entities.

Another thing that struck me was Fintan O’Toole saying that, ‘Ultimately Bobby Sands’ life effectively marks the end of the tradition of armed struggle because what he said is: There is no justification or need to kill people.’

This is simply not true. The Bobby Sands with whom I lived for three years on the blanket protest was committed to the armed struggle tradition; he never, during any of his talks with his fellow-prisoners, gave the impression that he viewed constitutional politics as a viable alternative to armed struggle: he was a committed IRA man, with all its attendant violence.

He died believing that his death would enhance the armed struggle, not diminish it.

Moreover, he had absolutely no idea that his death would lead to the peace process. If he had known, I doubt if he would have given his life so freely.

Despite Byrne’s attempt to strike a balance by giving anti-republicans a wide platform, this film is about a republican who died on hunger strike and his testimony. There is skilful use of animation, historical newsreels, and an excreta-covered, H-Block prison cell, complete with two men covered with blankets and lying on dirty mattresses on the floor.

A powerful rendition of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike diary from actor, Martin McCann leaves one with a feeling of utter helplessness, as does Mrs Sands being interviewed beside a van outside Long Kesh where she tells the world that her son is dying and, holding back her tears, appeals for no violence when he dies.

This is a film that people should go and view if for no other reason than that it has very coherent insights into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, from both sides of the argument. It is also thought-provoking.

And always, at the back of my mind as I was watching this movie, is the question: Was it worth it? It pains me to say that I don’t think it was.

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Defending The Indefensible – Sinn Fein Meets Likud

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Sinn Fein is defending its decision to meet ‘under the radar’ with the political representatives of the right-wing Likud Party, the party of government in Israel, the facilitators of illegal settlements in the West Bank  and the architects of the destruction of Gaza.  By meeting with Likud, Sinn Fein has in effect broken the international campaign of the BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of Israeli government,  economic and cultural institutions.

That Sinn Fein can try to re-spin this betrayal as ‘critical engagement’ with the Israeli regime demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the principles of ‘solidarity’.

What is it that the Shinners do not understand about the principles of the ‪#‎BDS‬ campaign? Here, in the words of the BDS Movement website, are its stated aims:

WHAT IS BDS?

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.

Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.

BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Eleven years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Ongoing injustice

For nearly seventy years, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights and has refused to comply with international law.

Israel maintains a regime of of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people. This is only possible because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, while corporations and institutions across the world help Israel to oppress Palestinians.

Because those in power refuse to act to stop this injustice, Palestinian civil society has called for a global citizens’ response of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – it’s self-explanatory and it is the campaign that is supported and promoted internationally by the Palestinian liberation movement. Sinn Fein didn’t get an exemption to engage in talks with Netanyahu’s Likud party so their claims that they are working in solidarity with the Palestinians are disingenuous.

It’s apparent that Sinn Fein is a political party that is completely self-absorbed and which operates only in its own self-interest. It has continually used the so-called ‘peace process’ as a means of closing down political debate in the north of Ireland and as a means of enhancing its own inflated view of itself as an arbiter of peace in other conflicts.

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In reality, Sinn Fein’s leadership have chosen a ‘side’; they’ve chosen the side of neo-liberalism against progressive liberation movements around the world. As if to prove their reliability and usefulness to the imperialist/colonialist powers their spokespeople and party apparatchiks tour the world’s hotspots preaching the gospel of ‘peace without liberation’ to the struggles of the Basques, the Colombians, the Tamils and the Palestinians, absurdly suggesting that they have a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to the complex problems of national and social liberation.

When Sinn Fein  leaders refer to ‘conflict resolution’ it is code for the counter revolution that the party has presided over for the last two decades.  It is the export of the counter revolutionary Trojan Horse of ‘conflict resolution’ that Sinn Fein is trying to sell to its former international partners in the liberation movements.

That they put their own self-interestand the potential of economic contracts for the devolved ‘NornIron’ Assembly with the Israeli government and Israeli companiesbefore the liberation of the Palestinian people is an indication of just how low this party has now stooped and how much it has moved away from the struggle for genuine social, economic and national liberation.

Meanwhile the Palestinian political prisoner Bilal Kayed is on the 56th day of his hunger strike…

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