An invitation to debate: Open letter to Kamm and Finkelstein

[I have just sent this message to Oliver Kamm and Danny Finkelstein, two of those whose writings in the Norwich North byelection campaign in effect required me to pen the posting below entitled: ‘Me: a clarification’. Unlike some of the other attacks on me during the campaign, Kamm and Finkelstein had the decency to make theirs on the record, and without selectively quoting bits of sentences I wrote. Nevertheless, I believe them to have seriously distorted my views, and I would welcome the chance to debate with either of them publicly over these matters. I hope that they will have the courage to take up my invitation!]
 
‘Hello. I’m writing today because I’ve noted your criticisms of me in your blog-columns, during the past month of the Norwich North byelection campaign; now that I finally have some time to draw breath and potentially respond, it occurs to me that the most interesting and satisfactory way in which we could engage over these matters would be a debate, in person, in public. So: would you care to debate with me over the issues you have raised, presumably concentrating on questions around Iraq, Israel, terrorism etc, at some public venue e.g. in Norwich or in London, sometime in early Autumn?
I look forward to your reply.
 Rupert Read.’

Me: a clarification

During the recent byelection in Norwich North I was subjected to having my
views misrepresented and my character viciously attacked in a number of areas.
These depictions are both baseless and (in a number of cases) libelous.

Lest there be any misunderstanding let me for the record state my position on the areas and issues in question quite
clearly…

I abhor violence and I abhor racism and discrimination in all its forms.

I condemn any person who commits violence against scientists and others
in the name of animal rights. (I also condemn those who perpetrate vile
experiments against animals for the purposes of testing cosmetics etc.)

I condemn any terrorist attacks on civilians. With regard to the
response of Islamic-fundamentalist militants to Western intervention in
Iraq, I don’t believe that we can be surprised if we are subjected to attack by those
who oppose the presence of Western troops, given that our attack
on Iraq was unprovoked and internationally-illegal.
But that is of course not in the least saying that
we _deserve_ to be attacked back. Any government needs take into account the
backlash that may be directed at its citizens as a result of its
military operations. To say this, as I have done, and have been attacked as
an ‘extremist’ for so doing, is to say nothing more than what our
intelligence services have gone on record as saying (and as many others such
as Tony Benn and Charles Kennedy have also said).

I support the right of Israel to exist in a state of peaceful and mutual
respect with its neighbours.  But I condemn the actions of the Israeli
government while Israeli settlements continue to be founded within the West
Bank in contravention of international law and Israel’s military action
in response to militant attacks is more often than not suffered by
civilians and not Palestinian paramilitaries.  Condemning these actions
of the Israeli government is not a condemnation of the Israeli people, still
less of Jewish people. I abhor discrimination of any kind.  I support every
fair minded attempt to usher in a future where both sides can enjoy what
we in Britain take for granted.

Thus as regards the charge of anti-Semitism I find this particularly
vile.  Like all Greens I am wholly aware of the particular suffering of
the Jewish people through hundreds of years of European history and
their being subject to a myriad of lies and prejudices culminating in
the Holocaust. Anti-semitism is as a result an especially vile attitude, and
one which I have absolutely no truck with whatsoever. I reserve my right

to criticise the foreign policy of the state of Israel without being smeared as ‘anti-Semitic’.

I am innocent of the ‘charges’ that have been laid upon me by those seeking
to gain short-term political advantage against the Green Party, and I trust that these
charges will now no longer be repeated in the ‘echo-chamber’ of the
blogosphere.

Report from human rights delegation to Honduras

Report from the International mission for solidarity, accompaniment,
and observation in Honduras [from my trusted friend and philosopher
colleague, Thomas Wallgren]:

An international mission for solidarity, accompaniment, and
observation in Honduras has arrived in Tegucigalpa on Monday 27th
July. (See mission statement with list of members, attached.)

On Monday, July 28th the mission was received by several local human
rights organizations. (See list at the end.) It also witnessed two
demonstrations organized by the supporters of the Zelaya government

On Tuesday, July 29th the delegation took part in a press-conference
organized by the Committee for relatives of disappeared detained
people in Honduras (el Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos
en Honduras COFADEH), announcing the mission and reporting about the
first observations of the mission. (See the press release enclosed –
in Spanish only.)

On the same day the mission accompanied two Hondurian human rights
organization in a a fact-finding mission to the border area of El
Paraiso, next to Nicaragua, with the camp of president Zelaya nearby
on the Nicaraguan side.

"Life in the capital of Tegucigalpa may seem normal to an outside
visitor at first sight," says Tom Kucharz, a Spanish delegate of the
mission. "At night here is however, curfew in the entire country, as
declared by the illegitimate president installed after the coup
d'etat, Roberti Micheletti. Heavy censorship, suspension of the
freedom of movement and gathering and the lack of credibility of the
information provided by the de facto government and authorities
controlled by it contribute to creating a situation of tension and
fear. There are two verified victims of politically related violence
and there is also a greatly heightened rate of murders in the capital
city of Tegucigalpa as reported by police sources and Human Rights
organizations. Rumors about mass detentions and violent oppression
prevail."

The convoy yesterday was allowed to pass through all way to the
border, contrary to what was the case when CODAFEH attempted two
earlier fact-finding missions since last Friday when the border was
first closed. Between Tegucigalpa and the border, a distance of a
little more than a 100 kilometers, there were 8 check-points, some of
which controlled by civilian police, some by the army and some by both
forces.

"We saw hundreds of heavily armed police and soldiers. The whole area
is very heavily militarized. The area between the last civilian
check-point and the border is de facto in a state of emergency
controlled completely by the army," says the Finnish member of the
mission, Thomas Wallgren.

"The situation at the border seems to have changed decisively during
the last days. On Friday 24th, when it was reported that Zelaya was
trying to enter the country, and during the first days after that, we
have several reports according to which crowds of people from various
parts of the country who support Zelaya headed to the border in what
seemed to be a spontaneous political movement with little coordination.

Yesterday, our mission met a group of 38 persons from an indigenous
group that was referred to as "lencas", who were on their way back
from the border area. The group, traveling in a hired truck, had been
stopped by an army check-point in El Paraiso and refused further
passage. They had decided to try to reach Nicaragua by crossing by
foot over the mountains. At the night of the 27th to the 28th they
were, as they reported to us, encircled by armed forces, captured and
given the choice between being detained in El Paraiso and returning
home. Overall, our conclusion is that the army has by now been
successful in its effort to prevent any movement of supporters of
Zelay to the border or in the border area," says Wallgren.

"What we see is a lot of psychological pressure, organized to
demoralize and demobilize the supporters of the legitimate government.
This appears to be a dictatorship with a civilian face" says Nora
Cortiña, the Argentinian leader of the mission.

Yesterday, when the mission stopped at the last civilian check-point
in El Paraiso, it was invited to meet with Xiomara Castro de Zelaya
who camps at the local district office there with her family, and
supporters. The first lady of the country, Xiomara Castro, has been
presented an offer by the military officers in charge there to
continue to the border, but only without her supporters. In a short
personal meeting in her temporary office, Xiomara informed us that she
has firmly rejected the offer. She says she will go only of all
citizens that want to go with her are granted there constitutional
right to travel freely in their own country.

Tegucigalpa, 29th July 2009

Phones in Honduras:
+504 – 898 52 607 / +504 – 964 23 566 / +504 – 965 93
265 / +504 965 91 621

e-mail: Tom Kucharz: agroecologia@ecologistasenaccion.org,
thomas.wallgren@helsinki.fi

Organisations that the mission has visited so far include:
El Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CODEH)
El Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras COFADEH
El Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de las Víctimas de la
Tortura y sus Familiares (CPTRT), FIAN-Internacional,
La Coalición Hondureña de Acción Ciudadana (CHAAC), and
Sindicato de Trabajadores de Bebidas y Similares (STIBYS)

Letters from me on Norwich North in today’s Guardian/Indy

We have had to combat this idea making the rounds in some of the press that
"the Greens were
disappointed" with our Norwich North result. Well, obviously we were
disappointed, in that we'd rather have won, etc; but it was nevertheless
easily our best by-election
result ever:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/jul/28/green-party-norwich-north-byelection

Your leader (The message from Norwich North, 25 July) confuses the
city of Norwich with the constituency of Norwich North. The Greens are
very strong in Norwich. However, two-thirds of Norwich North was
outside of the city in the Broadlands suburbs, where we have
comparatively little presence. Norwich North was our best national
byelection result ever. It's clear that the byelection was another
boost for ourselves and Ukip, and another bad day for the "big three"
parties in Westminster. Even the Conservatives lost 2,000 votes,
compared to their result in 2005.

Cllr Rupert Read
Norwich Green party

==

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letters-democracy-in-iran-1763263.html

Your leading article "A by-election that obscures as much as it
reveals" (25 July) said that the Green Party doubled its vote in
Norwich North. In fact, we more than tripled our vote share from 2005,
and it was our best national by-election ever. This was despite
two-thirds of Norwich North being outside the city (where we are very
strong, and the opposition group on the council), in the Broadlands
suburbs. What is clear from Norwich North is that the by-election was
a boost for ourselves and UKIP, and another bad result for the "big
three" parties in Westminister.

Councillor Rupert Read
Norwich Green Party

Greens triple vote in Norwich North

9.7% is best ever by-election result for the Green Party

Green party campaigners were today celebrating their performance in the Norwich North by-election after more than tripling their vote, compared with the 2005 general election.

The result was by far the best performance ever for the Green Party in a Westminster by-election.

The Green Party received 9.7% of the vote, up from 1,252 in 2005 to 3,350 today.

In comparison to 2005, the votes of Conservative, Labour and LibDem parties all went down. The Labour and LibDem vote also fell as a proportion of the turnout.

Adrian Ramsay, opposition leader on Norwich council, and the Green Party’s deputy leader, said: “This was our best by-election result ever. Our best previous result was 7.4% in the Haltemprice and Howden/David Davis by-election. We started from a low base (2.7% in the 2005 general election), and we trebled our vote. On the ground, we had roughly £12,000 to spend, compared to the £100,000 that the Tories have apparently spent.”

“Rupert ran a positive campaign, on issues such as the NHS, renewable energy, transport and living wages, and we are very pleased with the level of interest we’ve generated. With new members and supporters, we can now concentrate on Norwich South for the general election.”

On the issue of the coming general election, Ramsay said that: “Norwich South will be different from Norwich North, since two-thirds of Norwich North was outside of Norwich City. The Greens have led local election vote share in Norwich for the last three years running, and we are the official opposition within Norwich City.”

Rupert Read, the by-election candidate, added that: “The Norwich North campaign was done on a fraction of the budget of the large parties, some of which deluged residents with countless leaflets. We are pleased to have done so well without that kind of overkill.”

Results, with % change from 2005:

Chloe Smith (C) 13,591 (39.54%, +6.29%)
Chris Ostrowski (Lab) 6,243 (18.16%, -26.70%)
April Pond (LD) 4,803 (13.97%, -2.22%)
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) 4,068 (11.83%, +9.45%)
Rupert Read (Green) 3,350 (9.74%, +7.08%)

2009 turnout:  45.76%, down -15.33% on 61.09% in 2005

Rupert Read visits Norfolk Solar today (pictured with owner Lee Rose)

‘This excellent small business is helping to convert homes and businesses to solar energy and providing training for traditional plumbers and heating engineers to learn new skills for a low carbon future.  This is just the sort of enterprise which the Green Party wants to see reproduced a thousand times across the UK and its work should be incorporated into local colleges to equip the workforce for thousands of new green jobs. This won’t just happen by leaving it to the market: there must be a national programme of insulation, and energy conservation with green job creation and the reskilling of existing workers: the future economy must be made green. Investment should be directed into green new jobs not wasteful I.D cards, motorway building and wars. ‘

NO2ID hustings – videolinks!

See links for the By-Election question responses that were filmed from the NO2ID Hustings debate on last Friday:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SFXQyi5SVs – Question 1, ID Card – Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqa4p23rtDg – Question 1, ID Cards – Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9oFwBX7BY4 – Question 2, Afghanistan – Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2znXyOks5YA – Question 2, Afghanistan – Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjmZBb_08GU – Question 3, Norfolk Unitary Authority.