Friday, 24 July 2015

Letter to the JEP - in response to John Boothman

On the 15th July the JEP published the latest in a series of letters in which John Boothman attempts to demonstrate why Reform Jersey's figures on how much a tax rate of 25% on earnings above £100k are wrong.

One of the things I find most frustrating in politics is when people attempt to discredit your position by saying things which are not true, in the hope that because they've said it some people will believe them.

John Boothman's letters have been a prime example of this. Nothing he has said in any of them has been true and had he done any research he would have quickly found that out, yet he persisted with not just one letter but three.

So on the 16th July I wrote a letter to the JEP for publication to clarify these figures and explain how they are arrived at and why Boothman's attempt to come up with figures was completely flawed.

Since it's been a week and the JEP have not published that letter, I produce it here, along with a link to the Freedom of Information request that I reference.

Dear Editor,

I did not originally intend on wading in on John Boothman’s ongoing debate with my Reform Jersey colleague Deputy Geoff Southern over how much a 25% rate of tax on earnings above £100,000 would bring in, however his latest attempt to rubbish our figures was so far off the mark that I feel it necessary to intervene. 
Mr Boothman began his latest set of estimates by saying “If we assume” before attempting to draw out the figures of what earnings in those bands actually were. 
Unfortunately for Mr Boothman, there is no need to make any assumptions because we have access to all the relevant figures thanks to a recent Freedom of Information request. 
That request shows us that the number of people with a Jersey taxable income in 2012 of over £100,000 is 4,535 and that their income is a total of £935m. If you deduct the first £100,000 for each person that gives a total income in the ‘over £100,000 bracket’ of £481m. An additional 5% income tax on earnings over £100,000 would therefore have raised £24m in 2012. This corresponds with Deputy Geoff Southern’s revised figure and is approximately 60% higher than Mr Boothman's estimate of £15m. 
This week’s revelations about the Council of Minister’s financial plans for the next 4 years should shock and offend any Islander with a social conscience. 
They are targeting pensioners, young people and the vulnerable, incidentally none of whom are to blame for the fact we now find ourselves with a £145m looming blackhole. No Islander will go untouched as they introduce new taxes which none of them had the good grace to warn the public about before the election last year. 
The government’s fiscal incompetence has been laid bare for all to see and they are desperately trying to rectify it by pursuing a brand of austerity more economically bankrupt and mean-spirited than even their counterpart in the UK is. 
Reform Jersey believe that if we want to continue to live in an Island which looks out for the vulnerable, with well-funded public services which we can all rely on, it’s time to look at our tax model. 
If Mr Boothman has a change of heart, he will be more than welcome to come join us and our friends in advocating an alternative which benefits the many, not just the few.

Deputy Sam Mézec
Chairman of Reform Jersey

 Freedom of Information request -

Monday, 6 July 2015

Response to Stephen Regal in the JEP

On the 6th July the JEP published not just one, but three letters criticising me for having the temerity to set up a group whose purpose is to suggest that the government might want to cool it down when engaging with a country in the Middle East which regularly invades its neighbours and massacres large numbers of civilians. You'd have thought that might be considered a noble enterprise, but apparently not to some people (one a former States deputy would you believe?).

Needless to say, not a single argument employed in those letters stands up to any scrutiny (most can be disproved in 30 seconds on Google) and they have actually done the opposite of their purpose which is to have disenthused those of us who care about the Palestinian tragedy.

I have sent the JEP a response to the first of the three letters in which the writer says that I would fail to rise to the challenge of criticising the Arab dictatorships too. I've simply drawn his attention to three occasions where I have not only rose to the challenge, but probably surpassed it too.

But the most serious of the letters was from Stephen Regal. His lengthy letter was possibly the poorest argument I have ever read on the Middle Eastern conflict and I cannot let the outrageous things he said go unchallenged, though it is impossible to do so in a letter short enough to be published in the JEP, so I have produced it here instead -

Mr Regal wrote his letter without making the slightest attempt to get in contact with me to investigate what the purpose of the new group was going to be, what my views on other conflicts in the region were or what experience I have. This makes his claims that I am somehow ignorant to be almost comically ironic.

He begins his letter by stating that he wished to take issue with my statement “last year as Israel was launching another of its regular bombardments of the Gaza Strip killing hundreds of innocent children…” Well the first thing to point out there is that, as a matter of objective fact, there is nothing to take issue with there as it is all completely true and verified by both Amnesty International and the United Nations (not organisations I’d recommend taking umbrage with).

Last year Israel launched the paradoxically named “Operation Protective Edge” in which 2,251 Gazans were killed, with 65% of them civilians (United Nations figures). Conversely, 74 Israelis were killed, 6 of them civilians. To put it another way - for every one Israeli civilian killed there were 244 Palestinian civilians killed.

At the end of 2008 Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in which around 1,400 Gazans were killed, 926 of them civilians. Conversely, 13 Israelis were killed, 3 of them civilians and 4 soldiers killed by other Israeli soldiers. To put it another way – for everyone one Israeli civilian killed there were 309 Palestinian civilians killed.

Israel’s incursions into Gaza are both regular and deadly. Therefore my statement was completely factually accurate and left nothing whatsoever to take issue with, unless you seek to deny (or in this case cast doubt on) that fact.

So let’s move on –

The next paragraph begins with “Sadly Deputy Mézec fails to mention the fact that-”. Let me get this out of the way first – there are trillions of facts I failed to mention. Why? Because I had to condense my statement to the media onto one side of A4. They then further condensed it down into a quarter of a page in the JEP.

Just because I failed to mention a particular fact does not mean that I automatically reject that fact.

Prior to Israel’s engagement [sic] in Gaza last year more than 2,500 rockets had been fired at Israeli civilian targets in the period immediately prior to Israel’s operation and more than 10,000 rockets in total”.

I’ll be clear – I utterly condemn every single rocket that is fired by a militant group in Palestine. They are wrong to do so and they should stop immediately. I could not be more unambiguous.

What betrays any hope of intellectual calibre from his argument is the inference written across every word of his letter that because I did not fit anything about the crimes of Hamas in my one side of A4 that I am somehow an apologist for them.

Hamas are a deeply nasty organisation who I have no truck with. Were I a Palestinian I would be a supporter of a secular and non-militant Socialist political party instead. What I am intending to form in Jersey is a Palestinian Solidarity Group, not a Hamas Solidarity Group. The fact he equates the two as being the same shows how ignorant he actually is and displays the same mentality that is actually causing such strife on the road to peace.

As an elected politician here in Jersey how would he wish our elected government to respond if our nearest neighbour behaved in such a manner?

There is no need to try to ask us to imagine this hypothetical scenario because what he is describing has actually happened!

For decades the United Kingdom was subjected to terrorist attack after terrorist attack committed by the Irish Republican Army. They murdered a member of the Royal Family and came close to murdering the Prime Minister, all in the name of the political cause of ending the British state in the north of Ireland.

What did Britain do in response? Did we bomb Dundalk? Did we send the SAS into Dublin? Did we enforce a blockade on the Republic of Ireland, stopping basic necessities from getting in?

No, because Britain is a civilised country. Instead, we learnt that the only way that you make peace with your enemies is by talking to them and recognising when their demands are legitimate.

The demands of the Palestinian people are legitimate. Their country was stolen from them. Their people were cast asunder to the four corners of the Earth. Millions of their compatriots live in refugee camps where they are subjected to inhumane conditions (and sometimes even massacre at the behest of the Israeli Defence Force, as with Sabra and Chatila).

But if we really do want to talk about hypotheticals, let’s have a go -

Imagine tomorrow the Breton diaspora from around the world decide that they are going to invade the Channel Islands on the tenuous basis that our Islands were once part of Brittany over a thousand years ago.

After a brief bit of fighting most of us Jersey folk end up retreating to Alderney.

Those of us left in Jersey are banned from forming political groups which advocate allowing their families displaced in the war to come back home. Meanwhile, anyone who claims Breton heritage is allowed to come to Jersey to occupy a home once lived in by a Jersey family, regardless of whether they have ever even set foot in this hemisphere.

Once in a while the Breton air force sends it’s bombers (paid for from billions of dollars of American aid) to bomb our already densely populated area, killing huge numbers of civilians in the process. They do drop leaflets beforehand to let us know they are going to bomb, but then they shoot at any of us who dare attempt to leave the Island by boat to seek safety.

The Breton regime in Jersey openly admits that the purpose of the blockade of Alderney is designed to keep the population as malnourished as possible to ensure that they are not capable of effectively fighting back.

When Jersey people in Alderney dare have the temerity to say they’d like their Island back, the world lambasts them as terrorists, whereas the Bretons who occupy their Island are called the victims.

There is the Palestinian nakba for you.

Bearing in mind Israel does not occupy one centimetre of Gaza, having unilaterally withdrawn in 2005.”

Unilaterally withdrawing after how many decades of occupation and stealing of land to place Israeli settlers there? The incredulity of that whitewash there was pretty lame.

But this as a statement is further evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of his argument.

It may well be the case that Israel does not currently physically occupy the Gaza Strip (let’s conveniently ignore the occupation of the West Bank for now) but in case you hadn’t noticed, they run the strictest embargo on the planet.

Gaza’s airport was destroyed by Israel, so nothing gets in or out by air. Israel tightly guards its sea ports, so nothing gets in or out without Israel’s permission (in fact just a few days ago they refused to allow a charity convoy in, though they managed to stop them without killing anyone, unlike last time).

After Operation Cast Lead Israel told the United Nations it would allow materials in to rebuild the homes they destroyed, yet years later the UN confirmed that 75% of what they had pledged to do had not happened.

The electricity supply to Gaza is turned off if they are struggling to power the air conditioning in Tel Aviv.

And I know what some will be itching to say. “Aha, he hasn’t criticised the Egyptians who also share a border with Gaza which they refuse to allow goods through either!” Wrong. I deplore the Egyptian dictatorship as I deplore all of the Arab governments whose human rights records are appalling.

To say Gaza is not occupied is clearly a matter of semantics. Israel still more or less controls what can and cannot happen there. It may as well be occupied.

Here is my favourite bit though – “He also fails to mention that BDS targets only Israel in spite of the horrors perpetrated by the so-called Isis against all and sundry”.

Really, Mr Regal? REALLY?

If anyone can point out to me any shop on the high street that is selling goods provided to them by ISIS I give you my cast iron guarantee that I will never shop there again in my life.

How are we meant to boycott ISIS when there is nothing to boycott in the first place? They don’t sell us goods, they don’t provide us with software and the British government has already banned us from heading to their controlled territories on holiday.

He fails to mention the excesses of the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war”.

Yes, it wasn’t on my one side of A4.

In other forums I have regularly criticised the conduct of Bashar al Assad who I believe to be a class A maniac and whose demise cannot come soon enough (on the condition that he isn't just replaced by ISIS or another religious fundamentalist ruler).

Not one word does Deputy Mézec utter regarding the activities of Iran and its nuclear aspirations

Well partly because it doesn’t have any but he hasn’t let facts get in the way so far so why start now?

Benjamin Netanyahu is about the only person on the planet who still believes that Iran is after nuclear weapons. Even Mossad have told him that it isn't true. He simply pedals the lie and drums up fear because it's about the only thing he can make political capital out of given how extremist far-right his political views are.

But it’s incredibly ironic for someone to lament the right of Iran (a country which has not invaded another country in over 200 years and is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) to obtain nuclear weapons whilst defending a country which has hundreds of illegally obtained nuclear weapons and last invaded another country just over 200 days ago. The hypocrisy is excruciating.

Oh and by the way, I’m a unilateralist. I oppose all countries possessing nuclear weapons. But I wasn’t sure where to fit that fact on my one side of A4.

or Russia’s takeover of large parts of Ukraine

Again, not much room for it on my one side of A4. But it’s quite rich for someone to be indignant about one country occupying another country’s territory in a letter in which you are defending Israel.

Sadly one can only put one construction upon BDS singling out the only democratic [sic] country in the Middle East, that is resurgence of the centuries old basic anti-Semitism

Oh dear, here we go…

I believe that when it comes to BDS there are few greater advocates than the British Labour Party MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who has in recent years spoken out about the war crimes committed by Israel and in support of boycotting Israel until the electorate there feel their standard of living going down as a clear consequence of their refusal to elect governments who are genuinely interested in peace.

Can somebody please explain to me how Kaufman, whose family was murdered in the Holocaust and who grew up an ardent Zionist, is anti-Semitic? I’m fascinated to see a justification of how such an accusation can claim to have a place in what should be a civilised political debate.

I’m not saying that Deputy Mézec is anti-semitic

Quite right he is not. If he had I would not be writing a blog, but would be on the telephone to a lawyer.

I have no doubt whatsoever that there are people whose support for Palestine is motivated by their hatred of Jews. If one of these people ever attempts to infiltrate the Palestinian Solidarity Association, once I’ve calmed down my initial urge to punch them, I will throw them out and they will never be allowed back in again.

Anti-Semitism is a vile form of racism. But it is not the same thing as wanting to see an end to the crimes being perpetrated against the Palestinian people.

In fact some of the most important contributors to the Palestinian struggle have been Jews.

Sir Gerald Kaufman as I mentioned before, Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein, the list goes on.

Do not fall into the trap of assuming that opposition to the crimes committed by the State of Israel is the same thing as hating Jews. It is not, and it could prove to be a very costly supposition to make.

I can’t particularly be bothered to explain in detail why the list of products Mr Regal has claimed we should be boycotting is nonsense given the headache I already have, but I will point out the hilarity of his claim that we’ll have to boycott phones because Motorola has Israeli connections (I use a Samsung by the way…), that is about as intellectually robust as the rest of his argument.

Above all perhaps Deputy Mézec’s time would be better spent exercising his mind dealing with issues we Islanders face here at home

I wonder how often Mr Regal reads the JEP. I’m in it virtually every other day for this reason or for that reason. Whether it is about the political party which I have formed to campaign on a platform of social justice, or the propositions we bring to the States with the explicit intention of benefiting lower and middle income earners in Jersey, or the huge amount of constituent casework that we are known for, often taking up cases for people who don’t even live in our constituencies.

If he is genuinely concerned about issues of social justice and would like States Members to do more to help Islanders here, why doesn’t he direct some of his indignation at the low calibre of States Member that is mostly elected here (with very few exceptions) or to our actual democratic system which perpetuates ineffective and inefficient government which has gotten us to the point of building up a £125m deficit and upcoming tax rises for ordinary working Islanders plus £60m of cuts to public sector jobs. Might that not actually be a better cause to use a platform for speaking out on?

As it happens, I had guessed that this Palestinian group project would probably take up around 2 hours of my time this whole month. Thanks to these objectors, it’s now 3 and a half hours as I had to spend time correcting the record.

Rather than blindly and awkwardly entering an arena of which he has little knowledge and even less experience

Once again he shows that he has no intention of pursing a line of argument fit for anyone who considers themselves to be an adult.

Mr Regal and I have never met. He knows virtually nothing about me. He has no idea at all how many times I may or may not have visited the region. He has no idea who I have or have not met who has been involved in the conflict. He has no idea what books I have or haven’t read. He has no idea what I have or have not witnessed.

All he knows is that I have reached a conclusion which is different to his, so he has assumed that the only reason I could possibly disagree with him is because I’m some sort of ignoramus who shoots from the hip without doing any research.

That is the very definition of ignorance.

As for my experience, I am going to outright refuse to enlighten him. I’d prefer to leave him in the dark because it shows how robust his argument is that he has to resort to playing the man not the ball.

Deputy Mézec should be aware that disengagement is not the ultimate way to solve a problem

I have two words to disprove that – South Africa.

The boycott South Africa movement played a huge part in ending Apartheid.

The regime there realised that there was no future for Apartheid so long as it became an excuse for the international community to stop dealing with their country and to cause economic hardship for the white community whose dominance they wanted to preserve.

Boycotts can and do work (and they're a lot less violent than some of the alternatives). I believe that it is the best option for securing peace because all other options have had almost 70 years of failure.

Anyone is entitled to disagree with that. But what Mr Regal has attempted to pass off as an argument against it has fallen short in every conceivable way.

Finally I want to offer any of my objectors a challenge –

The first meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Association was hijacked by a group of well organised Christian fundamentalists who came to deliberately obstruct us. We were shouted down and some attendees were accused of anti-Semitism. But we have not been set back and we never will be no matter what mob we run into because we have the facts on our side.

Given that they chose to write letters to the JEP for publication to slander myself and spread more misinformation into the public domain without first attempting to contact me and offer a chance of reconciliation in a sensible and constructive way, then let’s have a public debate.

One hour, live on BBC Radio Jersey (I’m sure they’d be happy to facilitate it). Let’s do it, if you think you can handle it.

I know that I am right and I know that I am speaking on behalf of countless Islanders who are fed up of seeing their government strive for their 20 pieces of silver as they act with no regard to the suffering of millions of people around the world.

I have the privilege of working with a group of people whose message is simple – not in our name.

History will judge us and my conscience is crystal clear.