Category: Human Rights

I’m a disabled person and Sarah Newton is an outrageous, gaslighting liar

Last year I wrote an article about how the social security system in the UK has been re-structured around “ordeals”, which were introduced by the Conservative government in order to discipline and “disincentivise” citizens from claiming welfare support.  The government’s aim is to ‘deter’ a ‘culture of dependency’ (a debunked myth) by undermining any sense of security people may have of fulfilling their most basic needs.  Welfare support is extremely conditional, precarious and punitive, because it is founded on traditional Conservative prejudices about poor people. 

Ordeals are intrinsic to a system of punishment that the draconian Conservatives claim will “change the behaviours” of underpaid, unemployed and disabled people. By creating a hostile environment, the government are somehow claiming that it’s possible to simply punish people out of having basic needs.  If employment were genuinely ‘the route out of poverty’, as the government claim, why is it that most people who need social security support are in work?

Then there are the additional concerns about how the government treats those citizens who are too ill to work. The Conservatives simply refuse to believe them or their doctors.

Yesterday in parliament, the Shadow Disabilities Minister Marsha De Cordova again raised the fact that the United Nations (UN) had found “grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights” in the UK.

The Labour MP added yesterday in parliament: “This government’s policies have created a hostile environment causing grave violations on disabled people.”

The entire assessment process has established a system marked by assuming disabled people are somehow faking their disability or illness. It’s a case of “remove people’s support first, they can appeal later”. Once they have got through mandatory review and struggling without any income, that is. (To date, two-thirds of appeals are won by claimants. This is despite the legal aid cuts, which mean disabled people appealing their rejectionfor support are denied any legal support in a staggering 99% of cases.)

Outrageously, Newton said it’s “not true” that disabled people face a hostile environment.” She also asked the opposition not to say “things” that they “know are not true”.


Basically Newton was inviting the Labour party to collaborate in gaslighting disabled people, as well as attempting to stifle genuine concerns, democratic dialogue and avoid any democratic accountability whatosever. Absolutely shameful, authoritarian behaviour. 

The United Nations (UN) and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission have already verified the truth of these statements, presented by Labour shadow ministers, disability charities and disabled people. 

However, the Conservatives have a track record of denying empirical findings that don’t match their ideological expectations. They simply deny and dismiss any criticism of their prejudiced and discriminatory policies. Damian Green, the Work and Pensions Secretary at the time of the UN inquiry report, famously claimed that cuts to support for disabled people did “not necessarily mean worse outcomes.” 

If the Conservatives genuinely believed that were true, they wouldn’t have such a problem in ensuring very wealthy people paid a fair amount of tax more generally. Apparently, money matters only to the rich. Cuts to their income must be avoided at all costs. And it does cost some of society’s most marginalised citizens, leaving us vulnerable. 

Those in the work-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) group have already seen their support brutally cut to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Personal Independent Payment (PIP) was introduced to cut costs, too.

The fact that disabled people are also dying after losing their benefits is continually ignored, often dismissed by the government as ‘anecdotal evidence’, which does not ‘demonstrate a ‘causal link’ between the death and government policy”. 

My own experiences of the Conservatives hostile environment

As a disabled person who has gone through three ESA assessments, and more recently, a PIP assessment, a mandatory review and tribunal, I can verify that the Conservatives’ policies have created a hostile and harmful environment for disabled people. When I went through the ESA assessment in 2011, I was already gravely ill with a severe lupus flare. I was forced to leave a job I loved in 2010.

By then I had worked with the illness as long as I possibly could. I became ill with lupus in 1998. The illness is chronic, progressive and is characterised by periods of acute illness, followed by periods of relative remission. Each flare generally imposes an increasing amount of damage to joints, nerves, tendons, organs and blood cells, as the disease progresses, causing myriad symptoms that vary over time, and from person to person. 

Unbelievably, despite being so ill, I scored zero points at the assessment and the stress of having to fight for a means to live exacerbated my illness. I won an appeal nine months later. In the meantime I was placed on a work programme that I couldn’t possibly undertake. The disability advisor I saw at the job centre told me she could see I was unfit for work.

Just three months following the appeal, I was told I must attend another assessment. By this time I was so poorly that I collapsed at the interview. The Atos doctor told me I should never have been sent for another assessment. I was on chemotherapy treatment at the time, which ought to have exempted me, as should the tribunal outcome just a couple of months previously. The initial Atos report, presented to the court, was clearly about someone else’s life and conditions. The tribunal said that working would place me at unacceptable risk. 

I also ensured the assessment was recorded the second time, so little was my trust of the fairness and rationality of the process. Or the honesty and integrity of Atos’s ‘health care professionals’. At the second assessment, I saw a doctor, who sent me home in a taxi, Atos actually paid for it. He also recommended that I was placed in the Support Group.

It was two years before my treatment stopped the aggressive advance of my illness, which also leaves a wake of progressive damage to bones, joints, tendons, nerves, blood cells, major organs and my immune system – causing further disability. My rheumatologist is sure the severe stress of assessment and appeal, coupled with the financial hardship I experienced, exacerbated my flare. By 2013 I was still very frail, and weighed less than eight stones, despite feeling less acutely ill.

The experience was so distressing for me that I could not face going through a PIP assessment, despite the fact that I needed the additional support. I put off claiming until last year, when I needed aids and appliances in my home just to manage day-to-day tasks like taking a shower and cooking. The occupational therapist from my local council helped me with my claim. By this time I desperately needed the additional support.

The PIP assessment was dehumanising and degrading and the ‘examination’ included movements that left me in a lot of severe pain, reducing my mobility further, substantially. Some of my joints were badly swollen by the evening, following my appointment, including both shoulders and knees. I was asked to do movements I wasn’t familiar with, and it isn’t until you try them that you find you cannot actually bend or reach that way. The movements were also done in quick succession. I was trembling with the effort and complained I was in pain. When I refused to do a squat, I was asked why. I explained that I simply couldn’t do it. I have arthritis in both hips and lower spine, both of my wrists and shoulders won’t take any weight and had I fallen backwards, I risked breaking a wrist, as I also have early onset osteoporosis because of my ilness.

People should not be leaving assessments in a worse condition than when they arrived for them.

I made a formal complaint, but was fobbed off by the fact that the person carrying out the investigation, who said he ‘wasn’t in the room at the time’ of the assessment and so could neither verify nor negate my ‘allegations’. It took him four pages to say that.

I was just one point short of an enhanced PIP award. The reasoning on the assessment report for denying me a point for cognitive difficulties was that I had a degree (1996, Master’s in 2007), worked as a social worker (until 2010, when I became too ill to work) and a driving licence in 2003. I have been unable to drive since 2005 because of flicker induced seizures. Clearly the idea that an illness that prevents me from continuing in work, which is also well-known for causing neurological illness, has led to increasing cognitive difficulties since 2009 isn’t acceptable to PIP assessors, who wanted to keep my award as low as possible.

The DWP didn’t even bother writing to let me know the outcome of my mandatory review. Throughout the process, from the first ESA assessment to the last PIP assessment, I was treated as though I was somehow a burden, rather than being supported.

Newton claimed yesterday that the opposition’s comments are “dangerous”and “deter” people who need support from claiming it. What utter tosh. It is government policies that are dangerous, and that have created a series of ordeals in the assessment process, designed to weight the assessments towards permitting the DWP to refuse people support.

I needed PIP in 2011, but my experience of ESA assessment was so devastating that I was deterred from claiming PIP until I was absolutely desperate, last year. I simply could not face risking my health even further with another assessment, unless I absolutely had no choice. That last assessment also caused an exacerbation of my illness and injury to my already damaged joints and tendons. 

How dare Newton tell such hard faced, deplorable lies.

She went on to say: “We have very strong protections for people with disabilities in our country.”

Newton even had the cheek to cite Labour’s Equality Act as a ‘protection’ for disabled people, as if it was the Conservatives who designed this policy. This is same Act that this government has violated over and over because of their welfare ‘reforms’ and austerity programme.

Those protections were brought about by the last Labour government, which also included the Human Rights Act, as well as Labour signing the UK up to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – an international human rights treaty intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

The established human rights and equality frameworks have been methodically ignored by this government, who decided to target disabled people with a significantly disproportionate burden of their ideological austerity programme. The UN found that the Conservatives’ treatment of disabled people gravely and systematically violates our human rights. The evidence gathered by the UN came from disabled people’s accounts (including mine) and those of disability organisations and charities.

This is a government that has systematically marginalised disabled people economically  socially and politically, sidestepping human rights and equality legal frameworks. Apparently the government doesn’t regard democratic accountability to disabled people as particularly important. Instead, ministers simply lie and deny other people’s experiences and accounts. 

Newton also shamefully suggested people losing their motability cars should complain to the Motability charity – not the government. It’s not the charity that are creating a hostile environmen for disabled people, carrying out assessments that are absolutely unfit for purpose. This government simply refuse to accept any responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. History has taught us that such right wing authoritarian governments are very, very dangerous.

How dare this minister deny and dismiss the accounts of disabled people – those directly affected by her government’s draconian policies. How dare she call other people ‘liars’ while she stood there lying in parliament. She seems to have forgotten that disabled people have the same democratic right as other groups to hold a dialogue with the government, but instead we have patronising and vindictive ministers telling us their punitive and authoritarian policies aren’t causing us any harm or distress. We say they are and we are told by this manipulative, gaslighting liar that it is we that are ‘lying’. 

Newton presented us with despicable and manipulative gaslighting tactics used by bullies, psychopaths and despots. When Newton claims that the opposition are telling ‘untruths’, she is also accusing those of us who have suffered because of her governments wretched and punitive policies. She then goes on with hard faced cheek to ‘condemn the condemners’*(see below for outline of techniques of neutralisation):

I honestly ask all members opposite, please do not use this language of hostile environment. It is simply not the case.

“And the very people that need all of our support are put off from seeking it and coming forward.

“Really, I would ask them to stop saying things which they know are not true.”

The Conservatives talk a lot about “evidence-based policy”, but they don’t walk the talk. An overwhelming weight of evidence has highlighted the cruel, draconian effects of the Tories’ social polices to date. The government have simply chosen to deny and ignore it. 

Clearly the government is committed to trying it on by paying people (from their OWN contributions) as little as they can possibly get away with from the public fund. Perish the thought that public paying taxes towards public services may actually want to use those public services at some point in their lives. Yet the government irrationally insists that the cuts are “to provide tax payers with value for money.”

There IS NO discrete group of tax payers that never use public services, who are simply paying for “other peoples'” support. Everyone pays tax, including those claiming welfare support. Most people claiming support have worked, many needing support are actually IN work. Furthermore, as employment has become increasingly precarious, many move in and out of employment, through no fault of their own. 

The “value for the tax payer” spin is simply a divisive strategy – a political game of “us and them” that is used to justify punitive policies which target some groups, while the deliberate scapegoating of those groups serves to de-empathise the public to their loss of support, increasing vulnerability and distress. 

Deliberately cutting money from disabled peoples’ crucial lifeline support can hardly be described as providing “value for money” nor is it “fair” and “supportive”. This consistent response and denial from a government of liars indicates quite clearly that the cuts were always intentional on the part of the government.

The gaslighting, denial and dismissal by Newton and her Conservative colleagues indicates a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population, which this Orwellian government clearly have absolutely no intention of stopping or putting this right any time soon.


* Techniques of neutralisation: 

Used to switch off the conscience when someone plans or has done something to cause harm to others. 

The idea of techniques of neutralisation was first proposed by David Matza and Gresham Sykes during their work on Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association in the 1950s. Matza and Sykes were working on juvenile delinquency, they theorised that the same techniques could be found throughout society and published their ideas in Delinquency and Drift, 1964.

They identified the following psychological techniques by which, they believed, delinquents justified their illegitimate actions, and Alexander Alverez further identified these methods used at a socio-political level in Nazi Germany to “justify” the Holocaust:

1. Denial of responsibility. The offender(s) will propose that they were victims of circumstance or were forced into situations beyond their control.

2. Denial of harm and injury. The offender insists that their actions did not cause any harm or damage.

3. Denial of the victim. The offender believes that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed. Or they may claim that there isn’t a victim.

4. Condemnation of the condemners. The offenders maintain that those who condemn their offence are doing so purely out of spite, ‘scaremongering’ or they are shifting the blame from themselves unfairly. 

5. Appeal to higher loyalties. The offender suggests that his or her offence was for the ‘greater good’, with long term consequences that would justify their actions, such as protection of a social group/nation, or benefits to the economy/ social group/nation.

6. Disengagement and Denial of Humanity is a category that Alverez
added to the techniques formulated by Sykes and Matza because of its special relevance to the Holocaust. Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews and other non-Aryans as subhuman. A process of social division, scapegoating and dehumanisation was explicitly orchestrated by the government. This also very clearly parallels Gordon Allport’s work on explaining how prejudice arises, how it escalates, often advancing by almost inscrutable degrees, pushing at normative and moral boundaries until the unthinkable becomes tenable. This stage on the scale of social prejudice may ultimately result in genocide.

Any one of these six techniques may serve to encourage violence by neutralising the norms against prejudice and aggression to the extent that when they are all implemented together, as they apparently were under the Nazi regime, a society can seemingly forget its normative rules, moral values and laws in order to engage in wholesale prejudice, discrimination, exclusion of citizens, hatred and ultimately, in genocide.

In accusing citizens and the opposition of ‘scaremongering’, the Conservatives are denying responsibility for the consequences of their policies, denying harm, denying  distress; denying the victims and condemning the condemners.

Meanwhile, for many of us, the government’s approach to social security has become random, controlling and an unremitting, Orwellian trial. 

Read some of the accounts of other disabled people who have also faced the Conservative’s hostile environment and social security ordeals:

Fit for work assessment was trigger for suicide, coroner says

Man leaves coroner letter as he fears Work Capability Assessment will kill him

Jobcentre tells GP to stop issuing sick notes to patient assessed as ‘fit for work’ and he died

Cystic fibrosis sufferer refused PIP – the Conservative bureaucratic wall and systematic dismantling of social security

Man with diabetes had to have his leg amputated because of benefit sanctions

Benefits Assessor: How Long Are You Likely To Have Parkinson’s?

Please let’s help Peter to maintain his mobility and independence

Thousands of disabled people have already lost their specialist Motability vehicles because of Conservative PIP cuts and many more are likely to be affected.

Remembering the Victims of the Government’s Welfare “Reforms”  (This list needs to be updated).

 


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The government’s eugenic turn violates human rights, costing families at least £2,800 each so far, according to DWP statistics

See the world through the eyes of society’s weakest members, and then tell anyone honestly that our societies are good, civilised, advanced, free.” Zygmunt Bauman.

every child used to matter

Every Child Matters was Labour’s comprehensive and effective child welfare and protection policy that the Conservatives scrapped the day after they took office in 2010. The phrase “Every Child Matters” was immediately replaced with the phrase “helping children achieve more”. This reflects a fundmental change of emphasis from a rights-based society, for which both government and citizen share responsibility, to one where the individual is held solely responsible for their circumstances, regardless of structural conditions and the impact of political policies. 

What was a “Children’s Plan” under the last Labour government is now a “free market education plan”, marking the Conservatives shift from free schools to “for profit” schools. 

The price of having more children than the state deems acceptable

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics released today show that more than 70,000 low-income families lost at least £2,800 each last year after having their entitlement to benefits taken away as a result of the government’s “two-child policy”.

The joint analysis conducted by the DWP and HMRC shows that from 6 April 2017, just under 865,000 households with a third or subsequent child were claiming child tax credits or Universal Credit. Of these, DWP and HMRC claim that 70,620 reported a third or subsequent child after 6 April 2017, and that consequently they weren’t receiving  benefit support for at least one child. Around 38% of those families affected were lone parents – 26,800 of them in totalcourt ruling in June 2017 deemed the policy as discriminatory towards lone parents with children under two. 

The two-child policy means that households claiming child tax credit or universal credit, who have a third or subsequent child born after 6 April 2017, are unable to claim a child element worth £2,780 a year for those children. Iain Duncan Smith has said that the draconian policy has been designed to “incentivise behavioural change”, reflecting the government’s keen embrace of wonk behavioural economics in order to prop up a failing neoliberal administration.

Presumably Duncan Smith doesn’t think that people on low incomes who need social security support should have children. However, 59% of those families affected by the cruel an uncivilised imposed cut in their low income are in work. Financially punishing them for having a child isn’t going to change the profiteering behaviours of the draconian government, exploitative employers or the precarious conditions of the labour market. These are events and circumstances beyond the control of families and their children. 

Many people have children when they are relatively affluent, and may then fall on hard times through no fault of their own. It’s hardly “fair” to punish people for the structural conditions that are largely shaped through government policies based on neoliberal economics. However, Duncan Smith claimed, nonetheless, that the policy would force claimants to make the “same life choices as families not on benefits, and ‘incentivise’ them [imported US managementspeak, which means ‘to motivate’] to seek work or increase their hours.”

The Conservatives have seemingly overlooked the fact that when people struggle to meet their basic needs, they are rather less likely to be able to improve their socio-economic situation, since necessity rather than choice becomes their key motivation. Punishing people who have little income by taking away even more cannot possibly help them to improve their situation. It can only serve to inflict further suffering and distress.

The statistics also showed that 190 women were “exempted” from the eugenic policy, which the government has insisted is “working” and had been “delivered compassionately,” after they were forced to prove to officials their third child was conceived as a result of rape. The women have had to disclose rape in order to claim benefits under the government’s two-child benefit policy, according to the official DWP stats released today. That’s 190 women forced to disclose being sexually assaulted just to feed their children.

The so-called rape clause has been widely condemned by campaigners, who say it is outrageous a woman must account for the circumstances of her rape to qualify for support. The SNP MP Alison Thewliss called it “one of the most inhumane and barbaric policies ever to emanate from Whitehall”. 

A government spokesperson said: “The policy to provide support in child tax credit and universal credit for a maximum of two children ensures people on benefits have to make the same financial choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.”

Adding ludicrously: “We are delivering this in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards in place.” George Orwell’s dystopian novel became a government handbook of citizen “behavioural change”.

The rollout of universal credit will increase the number of families affected. All new claims for the benefit after February 2019 will have the child element restricted to two children in a family, even if they were born before the policy was introduced.

Personal decision-making and citizen autonomy is increasingly reduced as neoliberal governments see human behaviours as a calculated investment for future economic returns. Now, having a child if you happen to be relatively poor invites the same outraged response from the right as those we saw leading up to the welfare ‘reforms’ regarding the very idea of people on welfare support owning flat screen TVs and Iphones.

Apparently, people struggling to get by should do without anything that would make their life a little more bearable. You can only have public and political sympathy and support if you lead the most wretched life. Perish the thought that you may have bought your TV during better times, when you had a job that paid enough to live on. Or decided to have a child.

However, it is profoundly cruel and dehumanising to regard children as a commodity. Economic ‘efficiency’ and the ‘burden on the tax payer’ are excuses being used to justify withholding public funds for fundamental human necessities, for dismantling welfare and other social safety nets.

There is no discrete class of tax payers; everyone pays tax, including those who need social security provision

Campaigners have said that the number of families affected by the policy would drive up UK poverty levels, putting an estimated 200,000 children into hardship.

In April this year, 60 Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders condemned the policy, arguing it would lead to a rise in child poverty and abortions.

Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group said: “An estimated one in six UK children will be living in a family affected by the two-child limit once the policy has had its full impact. It’s a pernicious, poverty-producing policy.”

She went on to say:

“Our analysis with IPPR last year found 200,000 children will be pulled into poverty by the two-child limit. Today’s DWP statistics now show it’s already having a damaging impact – and at a fast pace. These are struggling families, most of them in work, who will lose up to £2,780 a year – a huge amount if you’re a parent on low pay.

“An estimated one in six UK children will be living in a family affected by the two-child limit once the policy has had its full impact. It’s a pernicious, poverty-producing policy. Even when times are tough, parents share family resources equally among their children, but now the government is treating some children as less deserving of support purely because of their order of birth.”

Jamie Grier, the development director at the welfare advice charity Turn2us, said: “We are still contacted by parents, the majority of whom are in work, fretting over whether this policy means they might consider terminating their pregnancy.” (See The government’s eugenic policy is forcing some women to abort wanted pregnancies.)

 

The curtailment of benefits for mothers and chilren is a form of negative eugenics, as is using financial ‘incentives’ to ‘nudge’ women claiming welfare support to use contraception.

Frederick Osborn defined eugenics as a philosophy with implications for social order. The Conservatives see eugenics as a political concern for governance. The view arises from a focus on neoliberalism and particularly, with competitive individualism. It is linked with the Conservatives’ views concerning economic productivity, and managing resources and wealth. The Conservatives believe that poverty arises because of ‘faulty’ perceptions, cognitions and behaviours of poor people. The two-child policy is aimed at maintaining the socio-economic order. Modern eugenics is market-based and austerity driven.  

Eugenics rejects the doctrine that all human beings are born equal and redefined moral worth purely in terms of genetic fitness. However the UK government is more concerned with economic “fitness”. The doctrine challenges the idea of human equality and opens up new forms of discrimination and stigmatisation.

Eric Hobsbawm (1996) among others has pointed out in The Age of Capital 1848-1875, mounting concentrations of wealth were coupled with the massive displacement of populations and socio-economic disruption on a previously unimaginable scale. At the core of this process of destructive change is the commodification process, which has transformed human needs into marketable goods.

As the welfare state and social protection systems are being dismantled, neoliberal governments have called forth a new social imaginary of ‘functional’ and ‘dysfunctional’ people. The ‘dysfunctional’ are simply those that haven’t managed to any accumulate wealth – which is the majority of us. The deployment of terms such as ‘deserving’, ’empowerment’, ‘grit’ and ‘resilience’ in policy discourses and the way these are being used to pathologise service users and to reconstruct the relationship between the state and citizens indicates an authoritarian government that seems determined to micromanage the psychology, self perceptions and characters of those it deems ‘dysfunctional’. 

This idea, which also underpins the pseudoscientific discipline of behavioural economics is one way of justifying huge wealth inequality and maintain the status quo. It also serves to create a utopian free-market order with the power of the state and to extend this logic to every corner of society. As sociologist Loïc Wacquant said, neoliberalism represents an “articulation of state, market and citizenship that harnesses the first to impose the stamp of the second onto the third.”

Childrens’ worth, for the Conservatives, may be counted out in pounds and pence or not at all.

The Conservatives believe it is necessary to govern through a particular register, that of the economy. The government offers economic ‘opportunities’ for only the ‘right kind’ of people. As a neoliberal form of governmentality, we are witnessing the construction of a new meritocratic ‘common-sense’ in which the rule of the ‘brightest and best’, those with the highest level of cognitve functioning, is presented simply as a form of rational economic ‘natural selection’. The two-child policy reflects this view of  a marketised ‘natural selection’ mechanism.

A major criticism of eugenic policies is that, regardless of whether “negative” or “positive” policies are used, they are susceptible to abuse because the criteria of selection are determined by whichever group is in political power at the time. Furthermore, negative eugenics in particular is considered by many to be a violation of basic human rights, which include the right to reproduction. Another criticism is that eugenic policies eventually lead to a loss of genetic diversity,

The political restriction of support to two children seems to be premised on the assumption that it’s the same “faulty” families claiming social security year in and year out. However, extensive research indicates that people move in and out of poverty – indicating that the causes of poverty are ‘structural rather than arising because of individual psychological or cognitive ‘deficits’. 

The Conservatives have always held an elitist view of humanity – wealthy people are seen as worthy, noble and moral, and poorer people are regarded as biologically-driven, impulsive and crassly sexualised. This set of prejudices justifies a harsh set of social policies that aims to abolish government assistance to the ‘undeserving’ poor, while preserving and enhancing the privileges accorded to their ‘deserving’ betters. 

These ideas can be traced back in part to an 18th-century English clergyman—and Thomas Robert Malthus, who was one of the founders of classical economics. Malthus wanted an end to poor relief and advocated exposing unemployed people to the harsh disciplines of the market.

Malthus maintained that despite a ‘generous’ welfare system, poverty in England kept increasing. He also believed that welfare created ‘peverse incentives’ –  Conservatives echo these claims that support to unemployed citizens always creates more of the poverty it aims to alleviate. From this view, receiving ‘unearned’ resources ‘incentivises’ unemployed people not to seek work, thus perpetuating their own condition.

Central to Malthus’s ‘scarcity of resources thesis’ (paralleled with the Conservatives’ austerity programme an ‘deficit reduction’) is the idea that hunger and deprivation serves to discipline the unemployed people to seek work and control childbirth. Apparently, cruelty is the key to prosperity.

The Conservatives are contemporary Malthusians, who endorse removing benefits as a necessity to compel citizens to work, and when in work, to work even harder, regardless of whether their children suffer in the punitive process of imposed deprivation.

Malthus believed that poor people procreate recklessly, whereas wealthy people excercise ‘moral restraint’. The Conservatives’ draconian social policies also depend on the endorsement of divisive cultural prejudices and dehumanising views of poor and vulnerable citizens. 

The two-child policy is an indication of the government’s underpinning eugenicist ideology and administrative agenda, designed to exercise control over the reproduction of the poor, albeit by stealth. It also reflects the underpinning belief that poverty somehow arises because of ‘faulty’ individual choices, rather than faulty political decision-making and ideologically driven socio-economic policies.

Such policies are not only very regressive, they are offensive, undermining human dignity by treating children as a commodity – something that people can be incentivised to do without. This reveals the government’s  bleak and dystopic view of a society where financial outcomes override all other considerations, including human lives.

Conservatives’ two-child policy violates human rights

I wrote in 2015 about some of the implications of the two-child policy. Many households now consist of step-parents, forming reconstituted or blended families. The welfare system recognises this as assessment of household income rather than people’s marital status is used to inform benefit decisions. The imposition of a two-child policy has implications for the future of such types of reconstituted family arrangements.

If one or both adults have two children already, how can it be decided which two children would be eligible for child tax credits?  It’s unfair and cruel to punish families and children by withholding support just because those children have been born or because of when they were born.

And how will residency be decided in the event of parental separation or divorce – by financial considerations rather than the best interests of the child? That flies in the face of our legal framework which is founded on the principle of paramountcy of the needs of the child. I have a background in social work, and I know from experience that it’s often the case that children are not better off residing with the wealthier parent, nor do they always wish to. 

Restriction on welfare support for children will inevitably directly or indirectly restrict women’s autonomy over their reproduction. It allows the wealthiest minority freedom to continue having children as they wish, while aiming to curtail the poorest citizens by ‘disincentivising’ them from having larger families, by using financial punishment. It also imposes a particular model of family life on the rest of the population. Ultimately, this will distort the structure and composition of the population, it openly discriminates against the children of larger families . 

People who are in favour of eugenic policies believe that the quality of a race can be improved by reducing the fertility of “undesirable” groups, or by discouraging reproduction and encouraging the birth rate of “desirable” groups. The government’s notion of “behavioural change” is clearly aimed at limiting the population of working class citizens. And taking public funds from public services. 

Any government that regards some social groups as “undesirable”, regardless of the reason, and which formulates policies to undermine or restrict that group’s reproduction rights, is expressing eugenicist values, whether those values are overtly expressed as “eugenics” or not.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory, states:

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2.  Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

An assessment report by the four children’s commissioners of the UK called on the government to reconsider imposing the deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans at the time to repeal the UK’s Human Rights Act.

The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present to the United Nations.

Many of the government’s policy decisions are questioned in the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK.

England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:

“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”

It’s noted in the commissioner’s report that ministers ignored the UK supreme court when it found the “benefit cap” – the £25,000 limit on welfare that disproportionately affects families with children, and particularly those with a larger number of children – to be in breach of Article 3 of the convention – the best interests of the child are paramount:

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people aged 17 and under. The convention is separated into 54 articles: most give children social, economic, cultural or civil and political rights, while others set out how governments must publicise or implement the convention.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the State Party (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) now has to make sure that every child benefits from all of the rights in the treaty. The treaty means that every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

Article 1

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Article 2

1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Article 3

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

Article 4

States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.

Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 26

1. States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.

2. The benefits should, where appropriate, be granted, taking into account the resources and the circumstances of the child and persons having responsibility for the maintenance of the child, as well as any other consideration relevant to an application for benefits made by or on behalf of the child.

Here are the rest of the Convention Articles.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article then you can contact Turn2us for benefits advice and support, or BPAS for pregnancy advice and support, including help to end a pregnancy if that’s what you decide.

 

Related 

A brief history of social security and the reintroduction of eugenics by stealth

UN to question the Conservatives about the two-child restriction on tax credits

The government has failed to protect the human rights of children

European fundamental rights charter to be excluded in the EU withdrawal Bill, including protection from eugenic policy

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I’m disabled through illness and on a very low income. But you can make a donation to help me continue to research and write free, informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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The unarmed Palestinian protestors who were killed on the Gaza border include an 8 month old baby

The United States blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into Israel’s killing of Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border.

The statement, drafted by Kuwait ahead of a meeting on Tuesday, expressed “outrage and sorrow” at the deaths of at least 58 people during demonstrations over the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

It also demanded all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution calling on them not to station diplomatic missions in the contested holy city.

“The Security Council expresses its outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest,” the draft text reads.

“The Security Council calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these actions to ensure accountability.”

The statement also called on “all sides to exercise restraint with a view to averting further escalation and establishing calm”.

Most UN member states say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that the relocation of the US embassy has prejudiced any such deal. France, one of the council’s five permanent members, has condemned “the violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators” and said president Emmanuel Macron would speak to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.  

On Monday, 10 of the council’s 15 members wrote to UN secretary-general to express profound concern” that a 2016 resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land that Palestinians want for an independent state was not being implemented. UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov reported last year that Israel was continuing to flout the demand for an end to settlements, which is prohibited by international law.

Back in January, Trump threatened in a tweet to cut millions in funding support contributions in order to force Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas into coming to the negotiating table to hash out a peace deal with Israel. 

In cutting the aid package, the administration appeared to be in line with Trump’s tweet in which he wrote that Palestinians were receiving “hundreds of millions of dollars” but gave the US “no appreciation or respect.” 

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

…peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?

One of the sticking points in the peace process has been the control of Jerusalem. Trump broke with 70 years of diplomatic procedure and announced the US would recognise the holy city as the capital of Israel. 

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had originally advocated for cutting off funds going to UNRWA completely, echoing her sentiments that the world body had an “anti-Israel bias.”

She was talked down after Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that if the relief agency’s efforts are severely hampered it could cause further unrest in Jordan, an ally which hosts several million Palestinian refugees. 

Nicky whatsit

Nikki Haley walked out of an emergency Security Council meeting yesterday when the Palestinian envoy began to speak, just hours after she praised Israel for acting with “restraint” in handling the protests in Gaza. The meeting was held to discuss the violence in Gaza. Haley told the Security Council that Hamas, with the help of Iran, was to blame for the violence and pointed to “Molotov cocktails being flown into Israel via kites.”

Israeli forces dropped drones with tear gas and shot at Palestinian protesters in Gaza on Monday, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called the protesters “part of the problem and not part of the solution.” Kushner’s family has longtime ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and previously failed to disclose that he once led a group that funded West Bank settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Hours after Kushner’s speech, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah also claimed that the Palestinian deaths on Monday were “an unfortunate propaganda attempt” by Hamas.

The United States unveiled its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, the same day as Israel’s independence day, after having moved its location from Tel Aviv. The move has been roundly condemned by Palestinian leadership and other world leaders, as East Jerusalem — under Israeli occupation since 1967 — has been recognised as the capital of a future Palestinian state by the international community.

But the protests in Gaza were about more than the embassy. Many of those involved were participating in the “March of Return” protests, which began on March 30, and involved tens of thousands of Palestinians marching to the Gaza border fence to demand the right to return to family homes lost in 1948.

Riots in the region had already broken out in the wake of Trump’s “recognition of Jerusalem” and cutting off all aid is likely to have have escalated protests and violence.

UK policy should reflect the asymmetry of the two parties (occupier and occupied), the importance of international law and human rights treaties as a reference point, and accountability for violations of that body of law and of those treaties.

The British Government must suspend the granting of arms export licenses to the Israeli military,  produce, and formulate tougher rules for charities regarding support for settlements, building on the recent Charity Commission warning.

The UK should condition bilateral ties with the Israeli government, including in relation to trade arrangements, in respect for international law and human rights.

British Palestinian scholar-activist Yara Hawari wrote “The past is not in the past. Britain continues to be complicit in the suffering of the Palestinians through its diplomatic and trade relations with Israel”.

Ending that complicity would be the best form of apology.

Israel claims that its troops were “defending its border” and accused Hamas militants of using the protests as a cover for attacks. It said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” along the border and that some had tried to breach security fences. However, no Jewish people were killed. It’s not clear what danger Israel faced from unarmed protestors, nor is it explained why the response from the military was so absolutely disproportionate.

The unarmed Palestinian people who were atrociously murdered 

Medics and journalists were among the injured in what the Palestinian Authority condemned as a “massacre”.  The Israeli military,  however, claim they were defending the state borders.

The following was published on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, by Middle East Eye.

The Gaza Ministry of Health has released the names of 58 unarmed Palestinians killed. They were protesting for their freedom and dignity. 

From left: Ahmed Alrantisi, Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, Ahmed Altetr, Alaa Alkhatib Ezz el-din Alsamaak, Motassem Abu Louley (Photo: Screengrab)

From left: Ahmed Alrantisi, Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, Ahmed Altetr, Alaa Alkhatib Ezz el-din Alsamaak, Motassem Abu Louley (Photo: Screengrab) 

Editor’s note: Middle East Eye has live coverage of protests in Palestine and Israel here.

Sixty-one people were either killed or died of wounds inflicted by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday and Tuesday as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated across the occupied territory to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

The youngest victim was just 8 months old. Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor’s family told media that the baby’s mother had left the child at home to join the demonstrations. When the infant began crying her uncle took her towards the protest area in order to locate his sister. 

Reports on Palestinian social media said Laila had been in a tent away from the security fence when a tear gas canister was dropped by a drone.  

Fresh protests are expected. Tensions are running high as many families bury their dead.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health released the names of 58 Palestinians killed:

1. Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, 8 months old

2. Ezz el-din Musa Mohamed Alsamaak, 14 years old

3. Wisaal Fadl Ezzat Alsheikh Khalil, 15 years old

4. Ahmed Adel Musa Alshaer, 16 years old

5. Saeed Mohamed Abu Alkheir, 16 years old

6. Ibrahim Ahmed Alzarqa, 18 years old

7. Eman Ali Sadiq Alsheikh, 19 years old

8. Zayid Mohamed Hasan Omar, 19 years old

9. Motassem Fawzy Abu Louley, 20 years old

10. Anas Hamdan Salim Qadeeh, 21 years old

11. Mohamed Abd Alsalam Harz, 21 years old

Fadi%20Abu%20Salmi%20-29%20Motaz%20Al-nuFrom left: Fadi Abu Salah, Motaz Al-Nunu, Jihad Mohammed Othman Mousa, Mousa Jabr Abdulsalam Abu Hasnayn, Ezz Eldeen Nahid Aloyutey, Anas Hamdan Salim Qadeeh 

12. Yehia Ismail Rajab Aldaqoor, 22 years old

13. Mustafa Mohamed Samir Mahmoud Almasry, 22 years old

14. Ezz Eldeen Nahid Aloyutey, 23 years old

15. Mahmoud Mustafa Ahmed Assaf, 23 years old

16. Ahmed Fayez Harb Shahadah, 23 years old

17. Ahmed Awad Allah, 24 years old

18. Khalil Ismail Khalil Mansor, 25 years old

19. Mohamed Ashraf Abu Sitta, 26 years old

20. Bilal Ahmed Abu Diqah, 26 years old

21. Ahmed Majed Qaasim Ata Allah, 27 years old

3_46.jpg


From left: Mahmoud Wael Mahmoud Jundeyah, Ibrahim Ahmed Alzarqa, Musab Yousef Abu Leilah, Jihad Mufid Al-Farra, Saeed Mohamed Abu Alkheir, Mohamed Hasan Mustafa Alabadilah (screengrab)
 

22. Mahmoud Rabah Abu Maamar, 28 years old

23. Musab Yousef Abu Leilah, 28 years old

24. Ahmed Fawzy Altetr, 28 years old

25. Mohamed Abdelrahman Meqdad, 28 years old

26. Obaidah Salim Farhan, 30 years old

27. Jihad Mufid Al-Farra, 30 years old

28. Fadi Hassan Abu Salah, 30 years old

29. Motaz Bassam Kamil Al-Nunu, 31 years old

30. Mohammed Riyad Abdulrahman Alamudi, 31 years old

31. Jihad Mohammed Othman Mousa, 31 years old

32. Shahir Mahmoud Mohammed Almadhoon, 32 years old

33. Mousa Jabr Abdulsalam Abu Hasnayn, 35 years old

4_36.jpg
From left: Shahir Mahmoud Mohammed Almadhoon, Khalil Ismail Khalil Mansor, Mahmoud Saber Hamad Abu Taeemah, Mohamed Ashraf Abu Sitta, Mustafa Mohamed Samir Mahmoud Almasry, Obaidah Salim Farhan (screengrab)
 

34. Mohammed Mahmoud Abdulmoti Abdal’al, 39 years old

35. Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim Hamdan, 27 years old

36. Ismail Khalil Ramadhan Aldaahuk, 30 years old

37. Ahmed Mahmoud Mohammed Alrantisi, 27 years old

38. Alaa Alnoor Ahmed Alkhatib, 28 years old

39. Mahmoud Yahya Abdawahab Hussain, 24 years old

40. Ahmed Abdullah Aladini, 30 years old

41. Saadi Said Fahmi Abu Salah, 16 years old

42. Ahmed Zahir Hamid Alshawa, 24 years old

43. Mohammed Hani Hosni Alnajjar, 33 years old

44. Fadl Mohamed Ata Habshy, 34 years old

45. Mokhtar Kaamil Salim Abu Khamash, 23 years old

46. Mahmoud Wael Mahmoud Jundeyah, 21 years old

47. Abdulrahman Sami Abu Mattar, 18 years old

48. Ahmed Salim Alyaan Aljarf, 26 years old

4_37.jpg
From left: Mohammed Hani Hosni Alnajjar, Yehia Ismail Rajab Aldaqoor, Mohammed Riyad Abdulrahman Alamudi, Ahmed Adel Musa Alshaer, Fadl Mohamed Ata Habshy, Ismail Khalil Ramadhan Aldaahuk (screengrab)
 

49. Mahmoud Sulayman Ibrahim Aql, 32 years old

50. Mohamed Hasan Mustafa Alabadilah, 25 years old

51. Kamil Jihad Kamil Mihna, 19 years old

52. Mahmoud Saber Hamad Abu Taeemah, 23 years old

53. Ali Mohamed Ahmed Khafajah, 21 years old

54. Abdelsalam Yousef Abdelwahab, 39 years old

55. Mohamed Samir Duwedar, 27 years old

56. Talal Adel Ibrahim Mattar, 16 years old

57. Omar Jomaa Abu Ful, 30 years old

58. Nasser Ahmed Mahmoud Ghrab, 51 years old

59 – 61: Unidentified

The UN tweeted this response:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzOpUMAmRkU

 

Related

UN spokesman cries on camera over Gaza school attack

The UK government must stop selling arms to Israel and end its own complicity in human rights abuses

 


 

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The UK government must stop selling arms to Israel and end its own complicity in human rights abuses

 

Image result for uk arms sales to israel

Russia, France, and the UK have all expressed “serious consternation” over the legality of the US Embassy moving to Jerusalem, and Israel’s heavy-handed response to the ‘clashes’ it has provoked, which have reportedly caused at least 58 deaths, including six children under 18, killed by Israeli fire during demonstrations on the day of the US embassy’s inauguration in Jerusalem. There are at least 2,771 injured among Gaza protesters.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said: “We have publicly criticised the move multiple times. International resolutions declare that the status of Jerusalem – one of the most important issues of the entire peace process – must be resolved in direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.” 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said that Donald Trump’s decision, made last December, “violated international law,” but expressed particular alarm at IDF tactics.

“France calls on all actors to show responsibility to prevent a new escalation,” Le Drian said in a statement. “France again calls on the Israeli authorities to exercise discernment and restraint in the use of force that must be strictly proportionate.” 

The UK government has reaffirmed its commitment to keeping its embassy in Tel Aviv and said it was worried that the unilateral move could derail an already dormant peace process. 

A spokesperson Theresa May said “We are concerned by the reports of violence and loss of life in Gaza. We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts. The UK remains firmly committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.” 

I think president Trump is at the helm of that very ship that has now sailed. 

Britain has also called for a UN investigation looking at why “such a volume” of live ammunition was used by Israeli troops against Palestinian protestors in Gaza. That is a truly priceless comment, given the sheer volume of arms sales the UK government has made with Israel. The UK government approves thousands of  arms deals with states it condemns for human rights abuses. And then is “surprised” when those states use them.

Back in 2015, the UK government lifted all restrictions on arms sales to Israel following a year-long review of 12 export licences for weaponry which it admitted may have been used in the bombardment of Gaza.

Then business secretary, Sajid Javid, said his department was satisfied that the licences for material including components for military radar and tanks meet the UK’s export criteria, which ban any sale of arms where there is a “clear risk” that they may be used to commit serious breaches of human rights.” 

The UK gave the go-ahead for dozens of military exports to Israel, including components for drones and air-to-surface missiles, in the immediate aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, which claimed more than 2,000 lives, including those of hundreds of Palestinian civilians.

Campaigners said the exports showed that the government was conducting “business as usual” in its arms sales to Israel and turning a “blind eye” to the risk that UK-made weaponry could be used in any fresh clashes between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Britain’s refusal to suspend the 12 licences led to the resignation of Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi, who said Britain’s stance was “morally indefensible”.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has today said that Israel’s killing of 58 Palestinian protesters and wounding of thousands more is an “outrage” and a “wanton disregard for international law”. 

He said: “Firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed civilians is illegal and inhumane and cannot be tolerated.”

The Labour party leader also made comments on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, saying “the majority of the people of the Gaza Strip are stateless refugees, subject to a decade long blockade and the denial of basic human and political rights.

“More than two thirds are reliant on humanitarian assistance, with limited access to the most basic amenities, such as water and electricity,” he added. 

Corbyn has supported for the European Union and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into Gaza, and long encouraged a review of arms sales to Israel.

He has previously said: “The UK government must support the UN Secretary-General’s call for an independent international inquiry into the killing of protesters in Gaza and review the sale of arms that could be used in violation of international law. The silence from international powers with the responsibility of bringing a just settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict must end.”

His statement concluded that a return to negotiating a two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was equally scathing, calling Israel’s actions “vicious and utterly avoidable slaughter” and urging an independent investigation.

Corbyn said the UK’s response was “wholly inadequate,” adding: “We cannot turn a blind eye to such wanton disregard for international law. That is why Labour is committed to reviewing UK arms sales to Israel while these violations continue.”

Labour MP Luciana Berger said America’s decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem was “hugely inflammatory”.

I’m currently researching and writing an in depth article on the UK’s arms trade and the implications of selling weapons and components to states with records of human rights abuse. I’m exploring the symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and militarism. Scientific and technological research has made possible the manufacture of ever-more complex and powerful modern weaponry with such massive destructive potential and has further increased the risk of large-scale warfare and escalation into nuclear conflict. Yet the UK continues to sell weapons of mass destruction and arms components, which then inflame conflicts and further fuel proxy wars, that are already destabilising our fragile world security.

Information warfare has also gained a growing significance, exemplified by increasing US National Security Agency (NSA) and UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) global data capture, and has led reference to be made to the evolution of a “military-information complex”. 

There is a detailed list and quarterly breakdown, from Wolverhampton TUC, of UK’s arms and weapon component exports to Israel, going back years, here.

From the 2017 Department of Trade’s Strategic Arms Export Controls document, there are listed details of the exports the UK government made to Israel (page 147): 

Weapons the UK sold to Israel part one

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Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.

Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.

A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.

Israeli tank

Among the export licences granted to 130 British arms-makers, one is for a company selling components for Israel’s main battle tank. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

Through the arms trade, the UK is complicit in the violations of Palestinians’ human rights. Despite the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the Uk remains a major arms exporter to Israel, and purchaser of Israeli weapons and technologies. More than 100 companies manufacturing and selling military equipment to Israel have offices and manufacturing plants in the UK. Many financial institutions are invested in the weapons trade and profit from it. By holding shares in companies that export military technology and weapons to Israel, and by providing and facilitating loans to companies producing such military technology and weapons, these companies are complicit in the murder of Palestinians. 

BAE systems, Rolls Royce, Boeing and Babcock are all involved in providing arms and components to Israel. Banks like HSBC are involved in financing loans for some companies, and have ties with the arms industry. 

The prime minister’s husband, Philip May, works for a private investors company that is the largest shareholder in arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, whose share price has soared since the recent airstrikes in Syria. The company, Capital Group, is also the second-largest shareholder in Lockheed Martin – a US military arms company that supplies weapons systems, aircraft and logistical support. Its shares have also rocketed since the missile strikes earlier this year. 

Capital Group was also linked to the Paradise Papers scandal in 2017. News and current affairs magazine, Private Eye, suggested at the time that Philip May’s company used offshore law firm Appleby to devise investments in tax havens.

When asked at the time of the scandal about her husband’s role, a spokesperson for the prime minister told reporters: “Mr May is involved in the development of Capital Group’s retirement solutions. He is not an investor but consults with other Capital associates on retirement products and solutions for clients.”

“Capital allocation strategy” is the process of allocating financial resources to different sources to ‘maximize profits’ and ‘increase efficiency’. Overall, it is management’s goal to ‘optimize’ capital allocation so that it generates as much wealth as possible for its shareholders. This is often done using a principle of ‘blind trust’. Investments are carried out through third-party companies. “Blind” investments are unseen. Politicians often place their personal assets in blind trusts to avoid public scrutiny and accusations of conflicts of interest.

Nonetheless, there clearly ARE some serious and deadly conflicts of interest.

Image result for uk arms sales to israel


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The government’s eugenic policy is forcing some women to abort wanted pregnancies

Image result for eugenics 2 child policy UK

The prejudice and stereotypes that fuelled eugenic thinking during the last century. In the UK, the Conservatives’ policies reflect this regressive and authoritarian approach to a class-based ‘population control’. 

In 2015 I wrote an article that expressed my grave concerns about the Conservatives’ welfare cuts. I discussed the Conservatives’ announced plans to cut welfare payments for larger families, in what amounts to a two-child policy. Welfare rules with such a clearly defined eugenic basis, purposefully aimed at reducing the family size of some social groups – in this case the poorest citizens – rarely come without serious repercussions.

Iain Duncan Smith said in 2014 that limiting child benefit to the first two children in a family is “well worth considering” and “could save a significant amount of money.” The idea was being examined by the Conservatives, despite previously being vetoed by Downing Street because of fears that it could alienate parents.

Asked about the idea on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, Duncan Smith said:

“I think it’s well worth looking at,” he said. “It’s something if we decide to do it we’ll announce out. But it does save significant money and also it helps behavioural change.”

Firstly, this is a clear indication of the government’s underpinning eugenicist designs – exercising control over the reproduction of the poor, albeit by stealth. It also reflects the erroneous underpinning belief that poverty somehow arises because of faulty individual choices, rather than faulty political decision-making, labour market conditions, ideologically driven socioeconomic policies and politically imposed structural constraints.

Such policies are not only very regressive, they are offensive, undermining human dignity by treating children as a commodity – something that people can be incentivised to do without.

Moreover, a policy aimed at restricting support available for families where parents are either unemployed or in low paid work is effectively a class contingent policy.

I also wrote: Limiting financial support to two children may also have consequences regarding the number of abortions. Abortion should never be an outcome of reductive state policy. By limiting choices available to people already in situations of limited choice – either an increase of poverty for existing children or an abortion – then women may feel they have no choice but to opt for the latter.

That is not a free choice, because the state is inflicting a punishment by withdrawing support for those citizens who have more than two children, which will have negative repercussions for all family members. Furthermore, abortion as an outcome of state policy rather than personal choice is a deeply traumatic experience, as accounts from those who have experienced such coercion have testified. Although dressed up in the terminology of  behavioural economics, if the state limits choices for some social groups, that is a discriminatory, coercive form of behaviourism. Removing support for a third child is also discriminatory.

UK poverty charity Turn2Us recently submitted written evidence to the Work and Pensions select committee, regarding the ongoing inquiry into the impact of the Benefit Cap.

The charity’s report discusses worrying trends reported by their helpline over the last year: “The most worrying trend that is emerging is pregnant women asking the call handler to undertake a benefit check to ascertain what they would be entitled to if they continue with the pregnancy, citing that the outcome will help them to decide whether they continue with the pregnancy or terminate it.” 

Those women who have abortions from choice are very often not prepared emotionally to deal with the aftermath, finding themselves experiencing unexpected grief, anger and depression. 

Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) is a group of psychological symptoms that include guilt, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, a desire to avoid children or pregnant women, and traumatic flashbacks to the abortion itself.

Women considering abortion and those who feel they have no other choice have a right to know about the possible emotional and psychological risks of their choice. One of the biggest risk factors for the development of PAS arises when the abortion is forced, or chosen under pressure. Research suggests women commonly feel pressured into abortion, either by other people or by circumstances. And sometimes, by the state.

Many people choose to have children when they are in favorable circumstances. However, employment has become increasingly precarious over the last decade, and wages have been depressed and stagnated. The cost of living has also risen, leaving many in hardship. A large number of citizens move in and out of work, as opportunity permits. The Conservatives say that “work is the route out of poverty”, and claim employment is at an “all time high”, yet this has not helped people out of poverty at all. The ‘gig economy’ has simply made opportunities to secure, well paid employment much scarcer.

The two-child policy treats some children as somehow less deserving of support intended to meet their basic needs, purely because of the order of their birth. 

Abortion should be freely chosen, it should never be an outcome of state policy in a so-called civilised democracy.

Yesterday I read about ‘Sally’ (not her real name) and the heartbreaking choice she was forced to make. She says she could not bear for family and friends to know what she has been through, so she wished to remain anonymous. Sally and her partner discovered, almost halfway through her pregnancy, that the government no longer pays child tax credit and the child element of universal credit for more than two children. The rule applies to babies born after April 6, 2017 and it’s been widely condemned by human rights and women’s rights organisations, religious leaders and child poverty campaigners.

Last month the charity mentioned earlier – Turn2us – which helps people to navigate access to social security benefits, tweeted that they have seen a “worrying trend” of pregnant women contacting them with questions about the social security benefits they are entitled to and saying they may have to terminate their pregnancies as a result of the savage cuts.

Sally’s extremely distressing experience adds evidence to this account. She and her partner already have two children; sons aged 4 and 5. She’s currently receiving universal credit after being found fit for work following 12 years of claiming employment and support allowance, as she suffers from PTSD.

She explains that she doesn’t live with her partner as they can’t afford to live together. She goes on to say: “[The pregnancy] wasn’t planned as such but it wasn’t avoided.

“We were happy to have another child if it happened and we had discussed after the last one was born that we would be very happy to have another child.”

Sally explained her partner is looking for work, but is finding it very difficult to find suitable employment.

“He is currently studying to be a personal trainer so he can earn money to support us.”

Knowing that money would be tight but trusting in her partner’s future earning potential and the safety net of the social security safety net, Sally began to buy items for the baby and booked herself in for a scan.

It was her third successful pregnancy so she knew what to expect and was delighted when she began to feel kicks and movement.

Then she says that she heard news that changed everything. “I was four months along and planning what other things we would need to buy for this baby, and then my friend said any child born after 2017, you will not be able to get any extra money for.

Sally replied “that cannot possibly be true.”

But sadly it is. Sally and her partner were then forced to make a decision they would never have contemplated otherwise. “We are barely surviving now,” says Sally.

“I have two sons but I’ve been denied the chance to have a daughter” – [because of] the callous policy that forces women across the country to choose between their unborn child and being able to look after their existing ones.” 

Many people in work rely on tax credits or Universal Credit to support their families because their earnings are too low to meet the cost of living. Even if Sally’s partner found employment, they would still be unable to claim additional support for another child.

Sally told the Mirror that following her termination, she came around from the anaesthetic crying.

She had been fully sedated while the doctors terminated her four-month pregnancy, a pregnancy she says she had desperately wanted to continue. Sally says “It wasn’t planned, but it was very wanted.”

“I was crying when wheeled me in. They kept asking ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ and I couldn’t even answer, I just had to nod my head.” She goes on to say “I think it’s something I will never forgive myself for.”

“I knew we couldn’t do it to the children already born and we couldn’t do it to the unborn child.” Sally added.

“We thought we could make it work somehow but, honestly, even if we both got a job and 85% of our childcare paid for we still could not afford childcare let alone food.”

Cancelling a scan and midwife appointments, Sally instead booked herself in for a termination. At four months gone that could no longer be a swift appointment, she needed a general anaesthetic and an operation.

I cried at every appointment regarding the termination and I woke up crying from the operation as well,” she said.

I think it’s something I will never forgive myself for. I know I should have prevented it from happening in the first place. My partner was devastated but he tried not to show any emotion because I was so upset.

“He also couldn’t come with me as he had to look after our children so I went alone.”

As the couple prepared to end the pregnancy they tried to find a way to make it work.

“Even on the day he kept saying: ‘Are we sure we should do this? There must be some way that we can keep it.’”

In desperation, they even discussed whether her partner should earn money in less legitimate ways. “He was ready to turn back to crime to support us,” admitted Sally. “But I said if he is in jail how can I cope alone with 3 kids and no money?”

It’s left Sally questioning whether politicians have any regard or respect for her children, and what kind of system leaves her with no choice but to abort a wanted pregnancy or rely on crime to get by.

I feel guilty, ashamed, angry. The Government does not value my right to a family at all or my family, I’m being penalised for being born poor.

I have two sons but I’ve been denied the chance to have a daughter unless we live in complete and utter poverty. I’m disgusted by the Government; I think a two-child limit is sick and disgusting.”

No-one should ever be placed in such a terrible and distressing situation in a wealthy, so-called civilised society. 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has described the two-child limit as “ensur[ing] that the benefits system is fair to those who pay for it, as well as those who benefit from it, ensuring those on benefits face the same financial choices around the number of children they can afford as those supporting themselves through work”.

Everyone pays for the welfare system. People move in and out of work and contribute when they earn. Many people affected by the two-child policy are actually in work. Wages have been depressed and have stagnated, while the cost of living has risen. It’s a myth that there is a discrete class of people that pays tax and another that does not. People who need lifeline welfare support also pay taxes. Many in work are not paid enough to support themselves and therefore rely on support. The problems that needs to be addressed are insecure employment and low pay, but instead the government is punishing citizens for the hardships caused by their own policies

It is grossly inhumane and unfair to punish those citizens and their children affected by circumstances that are constrained because of political and socioeconomic conditions. 

This is a point that completely disregards the fact that 70% of those claiming tax credits are in work, according to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). And it ignores the desperation of women like Sally, forced to abort pregnancies they want to keep.

Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at abortion provider thBritish Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), says: “Financial pressures, job or housing insecurity are often among key reasons for women deciding to end an unwanted pregnancy.

“But the third child benefit cap is more than that because it penalises those already in the most challenging financial circumstances – and as anti-poverty campaigners have noted, it breaks what has been a fundamental link between need and the provision of support, and also discriminates against children simply because of the order they were born in.

“As a charity that has spent the last five decades counselling pregnant women, we know that women don’t decide to continue with pregnancies because they think they could make a bit of money doing so – £7.60 per day to be precise, when it comes to child tax credit for poorer families,” Clare said.

“They do so because that child is wanted and would be a much-loved addition to their family.”  

Moreover, this rule implies that women can always control their fertility when in fact they don’t even have an automatic right to abortion if their contraception lets them down.

“Contraception frequently fails women,” said Clare. “More than half of women we see for advice about unplanned pregnancy were using contraception when they conceived, including many women using the effective hormonal methods.

“We have seen cuts to contraceptive services and one reason BPAS campaigned so hard last year to bring the price of emergency contraception down was because we feared some women were simply being priced out of protection when their regular method failed.

“Ministers speak about people having to make ‘choices’ about the number of children in their families. It is important to note that women in the UK still do not have the right to choose abortion – it can only be provided if two doctors agree that she meets certain criteria and the abortion takes places in specific licensed premises, unlike any other medical procedure.”

Pritie Billimoria, head of communications at Turn2us, said: “A third child is worth no more or no less than a first or second born.

“No parent can see into the future. Parents may be able to comfortably support a third child today but may be a bereavement, divorce or redundancy away from needing state help. We need to see children protected from growing up in poverty in the UK and that means scrapping this limit.”

Parents may become ill or have an accident that leaves them disabled and unable to work, too. It is immoral to punish people and their children for circumstances that are very often outside of their control. 

The policy also been roundly criticised by religious leaders: 60 Church of England bishops joined the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain to call for the policy to be scrapped. Many childrens’ charities, human rights and equality campaigners have also condemned the policy.

The Government has removed benefits from children who simply have no say in being born or in the number of existing children in their families and the results are already showing.

CPAG estimates that more than 250,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, representing a 10% increase in child poverty. Meanwhile a similar number of children already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty.

A Government spokesperson said: “This policy ensures fairness between claimants and those who support themselves solely through work. We’ve always been clear the right exceptions are in place and consulted widely on them.” 

Note the word “solely”. This policy applies to low paid families, too. Yet no family would choose to be poorly paid for their work. This is a punishment for the sins and profit incentive of exploitative employers, and as such, it is profoundly unfair and unjust.

Clare Murphy goes on to say “We see abortion as a fundamental part of women’s healthcare and something which should be a genuine matter of choice – no woman should be left in the position of undergoing abortion because she simply would not be able to put food on the plate or clothes on the back of a new baby. 

As I wrote in 2015, many households now consist of step-parents, forming reconstituted or blended families. The welfare system recognises this as assessment of household income rather than people’s marital status is used to inform benefit decisions. The imposition of a two child policy has implications for the future of such types of reconstituted family arrangements. 

If one or both adults have two children already, how can it be decided which two children would be eligible for child tax credits?  It’s unfair and cruel to punish families and children by withholding support just because those children have been born or because of when they were born. 

And how will residency be decided in the event of parental separation or divorce – by financial considerations rather than the best interests of the child? That flies in the face of our legal framework which is founded on the principle of paramountcy of the needs of the child. I have a background in social work, and I know from experience that it’s often the case that children are not better off residing with the wealthier parent, nor do they always wish to. 

Restriction on welfare support for children will directly or indirectly restrict women’s autonomy over their reproduction. It allows the wealthiest minority freedom to continue having children as they wish, while aiming to curtail the poorest citizens by ‘disincentivising’ them from having larger families, by using financial punishment. It also imposes a particular model of family life on the rest of the population. Ultimately, this will distort the structure and composition of the population, and it openly discriminates against the children of large families. 

People who are in favour of eugenics believe that the quality of a race can be improved by reducing the fertility of “undesirable” groups, or by discouraging reproduction and encouraging the birth rate of “desirable” groups. The government’s notion of “behavioural change” is clearly aimed at limiting the population of working class citizens. 

Eugenics arose from the social Darwinism and laissez-faire economics of the late 19th century, which emphasised competitive individualism, a “survival of the fittest” philosophy and sociopolitical rationalisations of inequality.

Eugenics is now considered to be extremely unethical and it was criticised and condemned widely when its role in justification narratives of the Holocaust was revealed. 

But that doesn’t mean it has gone away. It’s hardly likely that a government of a so-called first world liberal democracy – and fully signed up member of the European Convention on Human Rights and a signatory also to the United Nations Universal Declaration – will publicly declare their support of eugenics, or their authoritarian tendencies, for that matter, any time soon.

Any government that regards some social groups as “undesirable” and formulates policies to undermine or restrict that group’s reproduction rights is expressing eugenicist values, whether those values are overtly expressed as “eugenics” or not.

Human rights and the implications of the Conservatives’ two-child policy 

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory, states:

  1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  2.  Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

An assessment report by the four children’s commissioners of the UK called on the government to reconsider imposing the deep welfare cuts, voiced “serious concerns” about children being denied access to justice in the courts, and called on ministers to rethink plans at the time to repeal the Human Rights Act.

The commissioners, representing each of the constituent nations of the UK, conducted their review of the state of children’s policies as part of evidence they will present to the United Nations.

Many of the government’s policy decisions are questioned in the report as being in breach of the convention, which has been ratified by the UK.

England’s children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:

“We are finding and highlighting that much of the country’s laws and policies defaults away from the view of the child. That’s in breach of the treaty. What we found again and again was that the best interest of the child is not taken into account.”

Another worry is the impact of changes to welfare, and ministers’ decision to cut  £12bn more from the benefits budget. As of 2015, there were 4.1m children living in absolute poverty – 500,000 more than there were when David Cameron came to power. Earlier this year, the government’s own figures showed that the number of children in poverty across the UK had surged by 100,000 in just one a year, prompting calls for ministers to urgently review cuts to child welfare. Government statistics published on in January  show 4.1 million children are now living in relative poverty after household costs, compared with four million the previous year, accounting for more than 30 per cent of children in the country. The Government’s statistics are likely to understate the problem, too.

It’s noted in the commissioner’s report that ministers ignored the UK supreme court when it found the “benefit cap” – the £25,000 limit on welfare that disproportionately affects families with children, and particularly those with a larger number of children – to be in breach of Article 3 of the convention – the best interests of the child are paramount:

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people aged 17 and under. The convention is separated into 54 articles: most give children social, economic, cultural or civil and political rights, while others set out how governments must publicise or implement the convention.

The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the State Party (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) now has to make sure that every child benefits from all of the rights in the treaty. The treaty means that every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

Article 1

For the purposes of the present Convention, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Article 2

1. States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.

Article 3

1. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.

3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.

Article 4

States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international co-operation.

Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.

2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 26

1. States Parties shall recognize for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of this right in accordance with their national law.

2. The benefits should, where appropriate, be granted, taking into account the resources and the circumstances of the child and persons having responsibility for the maintenance of the child, as well as any other consideration relevant to an application for benefits made by or on behalf of the child.

Here are the rest of the Convention Articles.

 

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article then you can contact Turn2us for benefits advice and support, or BPAS for pregnancy advice and support, including help to end a pregnancy if that’s what you decide.

 


 

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Amnesty International express grave concerns about UK government’s outsourced ‘back to work therapy’

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THE BRIGHTON AND HOVE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL GROUP NEWSLETTER.

January / February 2018. Page 4:

Mental Health and “Return to Work”

It’s not just the introduction of Universal Credit which is affecting the Human Rights of too many citizens of the UK. As part of the drive to force physically disabled people into work under the “Work and Health Programme” often via cursory “interviews” those facing mental health issues are being targeted as well.

Image result for equality is the best therapy

This is based on an article by Kitty S Jones. 

In 2016 she wrote: “Last April, more than 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics signed an open letter condemning the profoundly disturbing psychological implications of the government’s austerity and welfare reform measures. The group of professionals said that over the past five years the types of issues causing clients distress had shifted dramatically and now include increasing inequality, outright poverty and that people needing support because of structural problems, such as benefits claimants, are being subjected to a “new, intimidatory kind of disciplinary regime”. 

The signatories of the letter, published in The Guardian, express concern over chancellor George Osborne’s plans, laid out in the latest budget, to embed psychological therapy in a coercive back-to-work agenda. Osborne said the government will aim to give online CBT to 40,000 recipients of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, people on the Fit for Work programme, as well as putting therapists in more than 350 job centres. 

The letter stated that the government’s proposed policy of linking social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy” is utterly unacceptable. The measure, casually described as “get to work therapy,” was discussed by George Osborne during his last budget (2015). 

The letter’s signatories, all of whom are experts in the field of mental health, have said such a measure is counter-productive, “anti-therapeutic,” damaging and professionally unethical. The intimidatory disciplinary regime facing benefits claimants would be made even worse by further unacceptable proposals outlined in the 2015 budget

The proposals are widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and  professionally unethical. With such a narrow objective, the delivery will invariably be driven by an ideological agenda, politically motivated outcomes and meeting limited targets, rather than being focused on the wellbeing of individuals who need support and who may be vulnerable. 

A major concern that many of us have raised is regarding consent to participation, as, if benefit conditionality is attached to what ought to be a voluntary engagement, that undermines the fundamental principles of the right to physical and mental care. Such an approach would reduce psychologists to simply acting as agents of state control, enforcing compliance and conformity. 

That is not therapy: it’s psychopolitics and policy-making founded on a blunt behaviourism,  which is pro-status quo, imbued with Conservative values and prejudices. It’s an approach that does nothing whatsoever to improve public life or meet people’s needs.

The situation seems to be getting worse. Despite the recent Carillion fiasco over outsourcing public sector work other agencies have been given the contracts to deliver the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy component of the Return To Work programme. Of these, G4S (“We are saving the taxpayer £120 million a year in benefit savings.” Sean Williams – Welfare to Work, Managing Director, G4S.) have published the criteria for applicants as therapists to deliver “return-to-work” advice in Surrey, Sussex and Kent. 

The Role Description:

Manage a caseload of Customers and provide return-to-work advice and guidance regarding health issues. 

Targeted on the level, number and effectiveness of interventions in re-engaging Customers and Customer progression into work. 

Focus on practical techniques that enable them to manage their conditions to enter and sustain employment. 

Work with Customers on a one-to-one basis and in groups to provide support on a range of mental health conditions. 

Refer clients to relevant external health or specialist services as required. 

Conduct bio-psychosocial assessments via face-to-face and telephone-based interventions and produce tailored action plans to support Customers in line with contractual MSO. 

Deliver specific health for employment workshops and input into delivery models to support achievement of MSO.

Build relationships with key stakeholders including GP’s, employers and relevant NHS bodies. 

Identify and build relationships with other organisations that contribute to the successful delivery of the programme. 

Expected to contribute substantially to the development of the service. Including the routine collection, review and feedback of activity/data, ensuring that activity targets are adhered to.

Basic Requirements

Experience of delivering CBT. 

Evidence of understanding of Welfare to Work and the issues that unemployed people face.

Amnesty say: “Should this delicate and sensitive work be entrusted to the likes of G4S? It behoves us as, Human Rights activists, to be aware of the grave potential for Human Rights abuses in our country and to act to monitor non governmental agents such as G4S who have already got a very poor track record in Human Rights matters.” 

I listed some of G4S’ Human Rights abuses in my original article, which you can read in full here.

I have also written more than one article about my concerns regarding the related government claim that “work is a health outcome”, and about the political pathologising and stigmatising of people claiming social security.

Please read Amnesty’s newsletter, you can also sign up here, the national and international websites are listed at the foot of the newsletter.

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Promoting social solidarity is a positive way to address antisemitism and the growth of social prejudice

Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party

Jeremy Corbyn addressing the huge rally at Cable Street 80 in 2016.

In 2014, the Guardian reported that “Antisemitism is on rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis.'” As far back as 2012, a survey conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights agency of some 6,000 Jews in eight European countries – between them, home to 90% of Europe’s Jewish population – found 66% of respondents felt antisemitism in Europe was on the rise; 76% said antisemitism had increased in their country over the past five years.

In the 12 months after the survey, nearly half said they worried about being verbally insulted or attacked in public because they were Jewish. It was commented on then that a process of normalisation, whereby antisemitism is being made somehow acceptable, was happening. 

In 2015, it was reported in the Guardian that antisemitic attacks in the UK were at highest level ever recorded. The Community Security Trust recorded 1,168 incidents against Britain’s Jewish population in 2014, more than double that of the previous year. 

There were extremely worrying reports of violence, property damage, abuse and threats against members of Britain’s Jewish population. The Community Security Trust, a Jewish security charity which runs an incident hotlinerecorded 1,168 antisemitic incidents  directed against Britain’s 291,000 Jews in 2014, against 535 in 2013 and 25% up on the previous record in 2009.

Theresa May, the home secretary at the time, described the figures as “deeply concerning” and “a warning to everyone to do more to stop antisemitism in Britain”, while Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said they were “appalling”.

In 2014, one in five of the incidents were threats or abuse on social media, fuelling claims that Twitter, among others, is not cracking down hard enough on hate-speech. In August, Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, received a message on Twitter from a 21-year-old neo-Nazi, Garron Helm, that showed her with the Star of David on her head. It used the hashtag #Hitlerwasright and called her a “communist Jewess”. Helm was jailed for four weeks.

Berger was then bombarded with more than 2,500 hate messages tagged #filthyjewbitch. After Helm’s release, more antisemitic tweets began to emerge from his Twitter account. When Ed Miliband tweeted a link to his article about Holocaust Memorial Day, the user of the account tweeted back “Burrrn! lol”. 

Berger said she was horrified by the CST figures. “I know from the online hate campaign directed at me by neo-Nazis at home and abroad, that antisemites are using every digital platform to intimidate and harass Britain’s Jews,” she said. “Digital media companies, particularly Twitter, need to sharpen up their acts and move faster to remove accounts being used to spread and incite hate. To date, they have been too lax, and moved too slowly, allowing racists a free rein.”

Cooper called on “companies like Twitter to take stronger action against hate crimes on their platforms”. She outlined Labour’s hate-crime strategy which urged Twitter to speed up its removal of racist and antisemitic tweets, improve its communication of criminal activity online to the police, and prevent offenders simply restarting abuse from fresh accounts from the same IP address. 

That was in 2014. The same year I wrote an article about the dangers of nationalism and commented on the toxicity of socially divisive political and media rhetoric. I outlined the dangers of permitting far-right rhetorical flourishes to define and portray the putative “outsider” as an economic threat. This has been used to justify active political exclusion of the constitutive Other.

In 2016, I spoke at a psychology conference in Manchester about the dangers of neoliberal notions of competitive individualism, stigma, and the new era of political-economic scapegoating more generally. I spoke about how neoliberalism, as a totalising doctrine, embellishes our separability from other human beings. It profoundly seperates and alienates us. 

Neoliberalism scripts social interactions that are adversarialand hierarchical in nature, rather than social and cooperative. It is the antithesis of collectivism, mutual support, universalism, cooperation, solidarity and democracy. Neoliberalism has transformed our former liberal democracy into an authoritarian state that values production, competition and profit above all else; including citizens’ lives, experiences, wellbeing and social conditions. 

I have also written about the dangers of essentialising traditionally marginalised social groups, and  rise of eugenic policies more recently, critiquing notions of  politically constructed categories, such as an “employment resistant personality” and its easy elision with notions of “improving” the qualities of particular populations, copled with political concerns regarding the reproduction of people with “undesirable” qualities. The recent limiting of tax credit/universal credit support for children in poor families to two children, to “incentivise behavioural change”, has dangerous eugenic consequences.

Furthermore, such a eugenic approach has a profoundly damaging and reductionist focus on individuals, casting them as biologised neoliberal commodities, which obscures wider social problems, such as political-economic neglect, inequality, imbalanced power relationships, poverty, political exclusion, abuse and oppression. These attitudes are shaping social perceptions and relationships.

 

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120. Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party. We are unaware whether efforts to identify antisemitic social media content within the Labour Party were applied equally to members and activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or outside the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of antisemitism within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we would wish to emphasise that this is also a challenge for other parties.” 

The rise of antisemitism in our society prededated Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party. Yet this past week I have experienced abuse online – on Twitter in particular – on the basis of my political beliefs. I support Labour party policies. I do not support antisemitism. I challenge it. As someone who has written a lot about prejudice, discrimination and oppression more generally, and as someone who holds strong principles of internationalism, inclusion, equality and I also value and have a deep respect of diversity, I was deeply upset at being accused of being an “apologist”,  “complicit” with antisemitism, and of supporting a party where it is “rife”. 

If you point out that this is untrue, the next outraged accusation is that you are “in denial”, “evil”, “disgusting”  and that you “don’t care”. Many of these posts were directly aimed at linking Corbyn and Momentum with antisemitism. However, that does not address the antisemitism and the growth of prejudice, intolerance and oppression more generally in our society. It does nothing at all to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for challenging antisemitism, by passing it off as merely “Labour’s problem”. 

The growth of social prejudice, which was politically directed at traditionally targeted social groups, predated Momentum and Corbyn’s leadership. However, that does not mean that the Labour party has no responsibility in addressing these issues, both within its membership, and within wider society.

Abusing people because of intolerance and discrimination based on the political beliefs they hold does not address antisemitism, nor is it right to devalue the need to by directing prejudiceand hatred at those on the Left. People have a fundamental human right to hold political beliefs without being discriminated against. The right have been trying to pathologise legitimate democratic opposition for a long time now. The language they use is an attempt to discredit Her Majesty’s opposition, and impose a one party state.

Nothing contributes more to the rancor of political discourse than the indiscriminate use of political labels as partisan and prejudiced epithets. Terms and phrases like “cult”, “snowflake” ,”leftard”, “virtue signaler”, “Communist”, “Marxist” ,”Putin’s useful idiots”,  and of course recently, there is the irrational and guilt by association tag “antisemite” and “apologist” are being bandied about by pundits, politicians and those on the right (and some of the left wing neoliberals) more generally.

This oppressive language entailing the wide use of such terms of abuse, aimed at discrediting people on the grounds of their political beliefs, has become so normalised, that when you point it out, people cannot see it for what it is. The practice of labeling persons is dehumanising, it’s a way of dividing, outgrouping and turning human beings into an “it”. When labels are used as weapons to attack and discredit a person, a group, a politial movement, or ideas, they are insidiously irresponsible and repressive. They exploit base emotions and encourage a dangerous mindlessness that buries reason along with its victims.

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In the face of such profoudly toxic divisions in our society, it is worth remembering this. Jewish people, trade unionists, socialists and other groups once stood together, side by side, united in the battle of Cable Street, for example. In solidarity, they fought together against the growth of fascism in the UK.

Depiction of the Battle of Cable Street. 

Let’s also not permit other expressions of prejudice and oppression to be taken out of our collective history. It is important to remember the other victims of the Holocaust, too, who include disabled people, Roma people, socialists, communists, trade unionists, other political dissidents including anarchists, gay people, poor people, Polish people, Jehovah witnesses and Afro-Germans, as well as Jewish people, among other groups.

Living among us today remain Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was an unparalleled atrocity, it mobilised global opinion against eugenics and antisemitism, powerfully stripping it of the terrible prejudice, discrimation and oppression status at its heart, that had been fostered in many European countries. But that does not mean it vanished. The more recent wave of antisemitism is expressed in slightly different language, but the prejudices and hatred behind the rhetoric are the same, which is plain to see.

It is not “whataboutery” – an attempt to deflect from one injustice by referring to the suffering of others – to discuss the rise and impact of social prejudice more generally, and to point to other social groups that have been politically marginalised and othered. There is no hierarchy among groups who are oppressed and persecuted. As I have said on many occasions, prejudice multitasks and grows. This was a point made only too well by Martin Niemöller, a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor. He is best known for a widely-paraphrased statement, of which he made different versions, one of which is “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist ...”. Pastor Niemöller understood the dangers and horror of bystander apathy.

Prejudice, discrimination and oppression is part of a political-social process that tends to affect more than one traditionally marginalised social group over time. 

In the UK, disabled people are also experiencing an unprecedented rise in experiences of hate crimes, discrimination and oppression. A United Nations inquiry, prompted by disabled people, verified that disabled people’s human rights have been systematically and gravely violated by the government, because of their extremely punitive policies and the systematic withdrawal of lifeline social security support. We live in fear for our future. Yet currently, we stand alone in our fight for justice, dignity and freedom. Yet the only way we can fight oppression is by standing together in solidarity to face it. 

The rise of antisemitism is a global phenomemon, and is directly linked to the rise of other forms of prejudice

The Jewish Socialists’ Group has expressed a serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP. 

The group say: “This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.

“Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.”

The group goes on to say: “The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.

“We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.

Corbyn has spent his entire political life fighting all forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. We should all do the same.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett named the rise of the far Right in various countries, the refugee crisis and the Internet as major factors spurring an increase of antisemitic incidents around the world, as he presented the annual antisemitism report to the government in January, 2018.

In his opening comments, Bennett noted that while the number of violent antisemitic incidents recorded around the world decreased, the number of general antisemitic incidents had increased. “Antisemitism is the dangerous fuel feeding our enemies for generations,” he said. “We must ensure every Jew in the world can live a safe and proud life.”

“Also in 2017, we saw a strong antisemitic presence online,” Bennett said. “Much of this discourse was related to the changes in governments around the world, the refugee crisis and the visibility of antisemitism in social media. We must act with all available tools against current antisemitism to ensure the security of the Jewish People, in Israel and the Diaspora.”

Presenting the report ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked on January 27, the ministry highlighted the record number of antisemitic incidents recorded in the UK in the first half of 2017 – there was a 78% increase in physical attacks and a 30% increase in the number of overall antisemitic incidents.

The ministry also flagged the rise of the far Right in Germany and the influx of refugees to the country as factors that have negatively impacted the Jewish population. A study released in December by the American Jewish Committee’s Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin found that antisemitism among Muslim refugees is rampant and requires urgent attention. A new edition of Adolf Hitler’s antisemitic manifesto Mein Kampf also became a bestseller in German bookstores in 2017, the report noted.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who attended the cabinet meeting, addressed the link between the far Right and antisemitism, noting that 15 years ago he proposed a method to distinguish antisemitism from legitimate criticism of Israel among the left, but today extremists from both sides of the political spectrum must be addressed.

Today we are witnessing a new and alarming phenomenon: The rise and emboldenment of right-wing political parties in Europe that profess support for Israel while supporting such antisemitic measures as outlawing circumcision and kosher slaughter, as well as historical revisionism of the Second World War and the rehabilitation of Nazi soldiers,” he said.

On the one hand, they proclaim that they stand with Israel, while on the other hand, they target and harm Jews. We see this in Austria, for example, where the local Jewish community has announced that it will boycott the official Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Vienna if ministers from the far-right Freedom Party attend the event. I have counted at least seven such political parties across Europe.”

We do not need and should not court such double-faced support, on either the right or the left,” Sharanksy said. “We must remain vigilant and not permit antisemitism to go without opposition and protest under the cover of convenient diplomatic stances or intercommunal bridge-building. I note both phenomena with alarm and demand that we do not play into the hands of antisemites, regardless of their political affiliations.”

The rise of the far right in the US was also flagged in the report, and specifically the violent “Unite the Right” rally, which was held in Charlottesville in last August.

The report also noted that the “continued increase of hate discourse among radical left-wing movements, which is mainly felt on college campuses.”

The picture in general in the US, is cause for concern. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitism released in November found that there was a 67% increase in antisemitic incidents across the US from January 1 to September 30, 2017, in comparison with the same period in 2016.

According to the FBI’s 2016 Hate Crime Statistics report, Jews, African Americans and Muslims are targeted more often than any other religious or ethnic group in the United States. The report found that more than half of the racially-motivated incidents in 2016, 54.2%, targeted Jews.

This figure is especially prominent in light of the low percentage of Jews in the US population,” the Diaspora Affairs Ministry’s report said. It also noted that the statistic was high when compared with attacks against other minorities: A quarter of the targets reported were Muslim, 4.1% were Catholic, 1.9% Eastern Orthodox and 0.5 Mormons.

Troubling statistics also emerged from Ukraine, with double the number of antisemitic incidents being recorded in comparison with the previous year, according to the report.

This included dozens of despicable acts of vandalism against memorials, museums and synagogues.

Additional findings highlighted by the ministry were extracted from a PEW survey conducted in 18 Central and Eastern European countries and published in May 2017. The ministry emphasized that the survey had found that 20% of citizens of those countries aren’t willing to accepting Jews as fellow citizens and 26% wouldn’t want Jews as neighbors. Only 42% would be willing to accept Jews as family. The attitudes expressed toward Muslims and Roma’s, were more negative.

About 57% of respondents said they would be willing to accept Roma’s as fellow citizens, 37% would be willing to accept them as neighbors and only 19% as family members.

Meanwhile, 65% would accept Muslims as citizens, 55% would accept them as neighbors and 27% as family.

My own thoughts and concerns about the growth of social prejudice more generally over this over the last few years summarised here. They are echoed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who spoke the Park East Synagogue in New York City In January. The Secretary-General  warned against rising antisemitism and discrimination, saying that the world must “stand together against the normalization of hate.” Guterres spoke about the recent appearance of neo-Nazi groups and the violence they have espoused.

“They are less crude and more dangerous,” he said, adding that oftentimes, groups have tried to rebrand themselves so as to appear more gentle towards Jews.  White supremacist groups, for example, often tout their main cause as reaffirming “white culture” and “white pride,” but in doing so, vilify other ethnic groups, including Jews. 

“The neo-Nazi threat is growing,” he told the audience, which included Holocaust survivors. “Some still seek to deny or diminish the fact of the Holocaust.” 

Guterres added that now more than ever, organizations are using social media to rally groups that espouse hate. 

The UK government’s policies must lead by example and must be predicated on respect for human rights and the rule of law. We must also, as a nation, support those citizens around the world and within our country who are struggling for human dignity and liberty. That is what any civilised nation must do.

Many of our right wing politicians and pundits are so busy trying to discredit and demonise any person speaking from the Left that they fail to recognise their own profound antisemitism. Trying to discredit a left-leaning Jewish group on the basis of their political beliefs, is antisemitic. 

andrew neil antisemitic

 

 
“See the world through the eyes of society’s weakest members, and then tell anyone honestly that our societies are good, civilised, advanced, free.”  Zygmunt Bauman

With thanks to The Jerusalem Post for providing the information used in the second half of this article.

 

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