Archive | June 10th, 2012

Israel’s State Comptroller slams West Bank industrial zones

Ben White

Last month, Ha’aretz correspondent Akiva Eldar wrote an article on the boycott of settlement products in which he referred to a recently released State Comptroller report. The findings, according to Eldar, provide further reasons for boycotting products made in West Bank industrial zones.

In Israel, the role of State Comptroller – accountable to the Knesset – is to monitor and audit public institutions for efficiency, legality, and ethical conduct. According to Eldar, the new report’s “section on industrial zones…did not get enough exposure” – but now the State Comptroller’s damning findings have been translated into English (by Connie Hackbarth, Alternative Information Center) and is available in its entirety below.

Some noteworthy points and extracts are highlighted here:

Between April 2006 and June 2010, the Ministry of Industry “conducted an audit in only four industrial zones out of twenty”. This lack of oversight and enforcement means that “as seen in documents of the Civil Administration, harm was caused to the salary of the Palestinian workers and their rights”.

The State Comptroller’s Office noted a “continued failure for years of the lack of substantial supervision and enforcement in the field of safety and hygiene in Israeli factories in Judea and Samaria, which has to point to ongoing disregard for human life”, all of which “places in real danger the well-being, health and lives of the workers in the industrial zones”.

“According to the document of the Civil Administration from January 2011, factory owners in the [Mesila] industrial zone took over some 25 dunams of privately owned Palestinian land and some 25 dunams of state lands.”

In “Mesila” industrial zone “buildings were constructed without building permits” and “there are serious environmental hazards in the industrial zone”.

“The “Alei Zahav” industrial zone is functioning without an approved urban planning plan, and all the factories in it are functioning without building permits and without employment permits. Despite this, the Civil Administration granted these factories permits to employ Palestinian workers; the industrial zone functions without development infrastructures and sewage infrastructure, all the while harming the environment.”

“In the audit, weighty findings were raised related to a harming of the rights of workers employed in the industrial zones under Israeli administration. This is expressed in the absence of care in conducting ongoing audits of the Civil Administration and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment of the Israeli employers on the subject of paying minimum wage, which resulted in the phenomenon of harming the wages of Palestinian workers; in the lack of substantial supervision and enforcement in the topic of workplace safety and hygiene, which can lead to real danger to the health and lives of the workers in the industrial zones; and in not arranging the insurance of workers for workplace injuries. The lack of care in these subjects harms the image of the state of Israel and its position in international public opinion as a state which enforces the law and protects the worker rights of Palestinians employed by Israelis in Judea and Samaria.”

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Sami Kishawi

“Every third child in Gaza stunted by hunger”: interview with renowned doctor Mads Gilbert.
Dr. Mads Gilbert and a team of Palestinian surgeons prepare emergency treatment at al-Shifa hospital during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January 2009.  (NORWAC)
For many people around the world, Israel’s three-week attack on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009 provided a stark glimpse of the reality that Palestinians endure on a regular basis. It was a scene straight from a horror film, a cause for concern and outrage. For others, including Norwegian physician Mads Gilbert, it was a call to action, beckoning solidarity workers back to Gaza’s pockmarked streets.

Gilbert was all too familiar with the scene. A veteran anesthesiologist who had been deployed to help handle emergency medical situations in Palestine and in Lebanon, Gilbert instinctively made his way to Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital when the bombing began. His experiences, shared of course by the Palestinian physicians and hospital employees he sought to aid, are still today widely regarded as some of the most testing instances of solidarity work.

Although Israel’s air and land invasion of the Gaza Strip — known as Operation Cast Lead — happened three and a half years ago, its after-effects are still relevant today. Gaza’s infrastructure has yet to fully recover and no one has been held accountable over the hundreds of civilian casualties.

Gilbert’s eyewitness accounts are shared far and wide in order to shed light on these tragic consequences and to encourage others to remain steadfast in their solidarity work for Palestinian rights.

Mads Gilbert spoke to The Electronic Intifada contributor Sami Kishawi.

Sami Kishawi: How did you become involved in the solidarity movement for Palestinian rights?

Mads Gilbert: In 1967, when the Israeli-Arab war broke out, I actually volunteered to go to Israel. Like a majority of Norwegians, I was brought up with the narrative that Israel was a heroic, growing little country constantly attacked by its neighbors. So when the war broke out, the Israeli embassy issued an appeal for Norwegians to volunteer as kibbutz workers. It was presented as some form of novel socialist movement. I signed on.

That same evening, I was contacted by a friend of my sister, Ebba Wergeland, who had heard that I was planning on volunteering in Israel. I went to her dormitory where we had tea — and that’s where she told me about Palestinian history, a history I had not heard about.

The next day, I went back to the embassy and withdrew my volunteer forms and instead chose to became a member of the Norwegian Palestine Committee (NPC).

SK: What were your experiences like during your first medical missions to Palestine and Lebanon?

MG: In 1981, I witnessed first-hand Israel’s aerial bombardment of West Beirut and the destruction of the Fakehani neighborhood where the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] was headquartered at the time. Palestinian leaders issued an appeal to the international community to come to the aid of the wounded. Through the NPC, I organized the first Norwegian emergency surgical team and that was my first encounter with the Palestinian diaspora.

In 1982, when the invasion of Lebanon fully commenced, we again sent emergency surgical teams as a measure of solidarity. We managed to enter the besieged West Beirut where we worked in an underground makeshift hospital installed in the Near East School of Theology. Together with Lebanese and Palestinian doctors and nurses, we performed lifesaving surgeries around the clock, mostly in makeshift operating rooms located in the three underground stories of this Catholic school.

I think my devotion and my dedication to the Palestinian people were forever etched into my heart and mind during the dreadful summer of 1982.

SK: What brought you to Gaza during Israel’s invasion in 2008 and 2009?

MG: For the last fifteen years, I’ve been working in Gaza on and off. I teach at al-Azhar University and I’ve been working on numerous projects with the paramedics and staff at al-Quds and al-Shifa hospitals.

When the invasion began on 27 December 2008, I had just gotten back to Norway from teaching in Gaza. I was extremely worried because I was already aware of the toll the brutal siege of Gaza took on the health sector, food, water and security of the civilian population there.

My home city, Tromsø, has been a formal twin city with Gaza since 2001, and I immediately decided to make an effort to go back to support the hospitals, not because they cannot manage, but in solidarity and to be a witness and a voice. When my good friend Dr. Erik Fosse called me that very same afternoon, we quickly decided to make an emergency medical team and pack up to travel to Gaza.

SK: What caught your attention during your time in Gaza?

MG: First and foremost, I was extremely impressed by the Palestinian healthcare workers who were bravely working day and night to save their fellow people under the most difficult conditions possibly imaginable. The heroes were the Palestinians and not us. My impression also included the stoic bravery and unyielding courage of the Palestinian civilian population in the midst of death and suffering during the brutal Israeli onslaught.

Second, the character of the Israeli military attacks was unbelievably brutal and disproportionate. The attack on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and population, the repeated use of illegal weapons like white phosphorus bombs, and the testing of new and extremely destructive US-manufactured weapons like the DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosive] and other “small diameter bombs” all indicated that Israel used its force unjustifiably and disproportionately, clearly in violation of the international laws of war and humanitarian rules.

Also important is the very special fact that this onslaught fell upon an already besieged civilian society, already on its knees with a very young civilian population — the average age in Gaza is 17.6 years, and 58 percent are 18 years or younger — unable to seek any safe shelter, imprisoned as they were by the Israeli siege. But the most impressive aspect of it all is that they did not collapse. They organized rescue and they did not lose their humanity. The dignity and the discipline of the Palestinian people moved me deeply.

SK: On 3 January 2009, you sent a text message to your international contacts. It read: “They bombed the central vegetable market in Gaza City two hours ago. Eighty injured, 20 killed. All came here to Shifa. Hades! We’re wading in death, blood and amputees. Many children. Pregnant woman. I’ve never experienced anything this horrible. Now we hear tanks. Tell it, pass it on, shout it. Anything. Do something! Do more! We’re living in the history books now, all of us!” It was a very passionate, a very urgent message. What was happening? What were you seeing and doing?

MG: Our hands were full that day. In the early morning, there had been waves of injured coming in. We were quite exhausted, all of us.

Suddenly, all of the Palestinians in the hospital went to their mobile phones to listen to the FM radio. That’s when we got the message that Israel was bombing a vegetable market in Gaza. We heard the ambulance sirens and the first wounded started to come in. I was in the disaster reception area at the ground level of al-Shifa and it was just hell. Victims were pouring in. I had to step back a few steps. I stood by the window and looked out. I saw the condensation streaks of the Israeli bombers and heard the orchestra of sirens. That’s when I wrote down and sent the message, without drafting, without hesitating, like a desperate reflex.

It needed to be said. I sent the text to some media people based across the border in Israel and to people in Norway. It spread like fire on a dry prairie. It was translated and spread all over the world. I think the reason for that was because it was a passionate message, an authentic one, more intense than the media stories, maybe. This cannot go on, I said. And yet it kept going on for another two weeks.

This text message became graphic in Norway, and it was translated and spread all over the world. This message, in a way, connected people to the realities of Gaza.

SK: We are all too familiar with the stories of despair, but did you experience any hopeful or uplifting moments during your medical mission in al-Shifa?

MG: Every day at every moment, there were uplifting moments. Even under desperate conditions, the hospital staff was working day and night. We had little food. We had an endless current of the most horrible injuries coming in and almost all of the staff — the doctors, nurses, ambulance people, and volunteers — was confronted with wounded family members and friends. Yet they never broke down or gave up.

Of course, we wept. We were all sad and we were outraged. But there was this strong feeling of being in al-Shifa for a greater cause, to show that military power and oppression, racism and occupation will not win in the end. The Palestinians of Gaza once again showed me the true qualities and humanity.

All the windows in the eastern wall of the surgical block were shattered. It was ice cold. The generators were broken and power blackouts were hourly. We were lacking trolleys and operating tables. We had to do operations on the floor. It was tense, yes, but the Palestinians remained calm. We used humor as a form of medicine. There was Arabic coffee all of the time and maybe some food. At the end of the first two weeks, we were actually all receiving emergency food rations from the World Food Organization. Yet no one gave in.

SK: Is there anything to be said about Israel’s lack of accountability for the deaths of so many innocents?

MG: It is hard to understand how Israel has been vindicated without even being taken to trial or being faced with the same type of investigation that other state and governmental entities in similar situations have faced.

Given the moral responsibility of the Israeli government and its army, if you should judge Israel in accordance with the scale that we judge other states, I would say that Israel today presents itself as a failed state. They wage warfare against a basically unarmed, occupied civilian population, in sharp contrast to some of the most fundamental rules of humanitarianism and laws of wars. And Israel still chooses not to allow — let alone organize — independent legal examinations or investigations of the war crimes perpetrated by their political and military commanders and their soldiers.

I would also say that the international community is making a huge failure by not applying the same strict rules to Israel as it does to other countries. It’s an incredible double standard that allows Israel to go unpunished, attack after attack, war after war.

SK: What is the healthcare situation in the Gaza Strip like now?

MG: As a result of the Israeli siege, there has been widespread development of anemia among children and women due to malnutrition as a result of siege and poverty. Stunting, where a child is more than two standard deviations shorter than what it should be, is sharply on the rise. In 2006, around 13.5 percent of children were stunted. In 2009, 31.4 percent under age two were stunted.

In other words, every third child is less developed than he or she should be. And stunting does not only affect growth. It also affects brain development and the ability to learn. This is a direct consequence of malnutrition. Remember, this is not caused by drought or natural disasters, but a deliberate, man-made lack of food and water, imposed, planned, and executed in the most detailed way by the Israeli government. They even calculate how many calories to let in to Gaza to avoid outright starvation but to “just” cause malnutrition since that goes under the radar of human rights abuses.

Similarly, water cleaning plants and pump stations for sewage cleaning and waste disposal are destroyed and haven’t been repaired because spare parts have not been let in due to the siege. Spare parts sit for up to two years on the border without being let in. Donated trucks from the UN and Japan for solid waste disposal are also being kept out.

Instead, 280 donkey cart drivers are commissioned to manually pick up the waste from the 600,000 inhabitants of Gaza City who should, of course, have a modern system. Plus, there is no fuel for the water pumping stations. The blackouts can last for 18 hours a day and the lack of fuel for running the water pump stations means that 50 percent of Gaza’s population receives water for only six to eight hours a day every fourth day.

So why won’t Israel let Palestinians have clean water and allow them to clean the wastewater? Why will they not allow them to collect their solid waste? Clearly Israel wants to make life as difficult as possible for the Palestinian community in order to break their resistance, to humiliate them, and to conquer them. It is not going to happen.

SK: I visited al-Shifa less than one year ago and was astounded by how underfunded and under-resourced its facilities were. Is there anything people living outside of Palestine can do to help the hospital maintain its operation? And how can these individuals contribute to the Palestinian solidarity movement?

MG: We need to organize and increase political pressure. We have to influence our leaders, politicians and governments. We have to encourage the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the State of Israel. There is mounting support for the Palestinian solidarity movement.

Churches, universities, and sports teams must be convinced to boycott Israel. We must explain to people in Israel that they cannot expect “business as usual” as long as the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians continue. At the end of the day, such peaceful political pressure will force Israel’s population — and hopefully also the United States — to change its stance, I believe.

Ultimately, I think this work on the home front is more effective than trying to smuggle in equipment or supplies. The most fundamental demand is to lift the siege on Gaza and to allow for the reconstruction of the Gaza infrastructure: the schools, the hospitals, the roads and the waste management system. To end the occupation of Palestine and safeguard the return of the Palestinians in diaspora is a prerequisite for lasting peace.

SK: What about for those who are medically-inclined?

MG: For medical students, we need to raise awareness in medical schools. Students must be trained to see the evidence of the extensive and destructive effects the Israeli occupation has on population health. And why not get in contact with medical students in Gaza and make alliances? Involve yourselves with programs of exchange to other campuses and travel, travel, travel, travel.

Go there and see for yourselves, not necessarily to do medical work but to meet medical students and to make partnerships. They are well organized and highly motivated and it is obviously worth the effort. Solidarity between individuals and people is a strong force and much needed in the current situation in occupied Palestine — and in the refugee camps outside Palestine. Everyone can make a difference by being active, not by being idle.

Sami Kishawi is an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago. He is an active member of Students for Justice in Palestine and Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights, two youth-led movements advocating for Palestinian rights through direct action.

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Sharing – a growing trend and a path to justice and peace


By Graham Peebles
Graham Peebles highlights the green shoots of a culture of sharing around the world and argues that, through sharing, justice and the dissipating of tensions between wealthy countries and the developing nations may eventually be realized.

Emerging with growing momentum among the evolving values of the new time is the unifying principle of sharing. Sharing has become fashionable, the Economist reportsAccording to Mark Levine in the New York Times, “Sharing is clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern; owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward.”

The sharing craze has spawned new books and sharing initiatives, schemes and groups abound, from the international to the individual. The internet offers a platform for creative sharing opportunities that many are developing. News and communication are being revolutionized, the sharing of images, film, knowledge, ideas, opinions, etc. is transforming notions of participatory democracy, expanding free speech and freedom of information. This is of particular value to those living in developing countries who have for so long been isolated. Thanks to improving access to the internet nations are being empowered, connected, interconnected and integrated into the world community.

Sharing in action

The internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia, launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, is a sharing phenomenon. There are currently, according to Wikipedia itself “over 22 million freely usable articles in 284 languages, written by over 34 million registered users and countless anonymous contributors worldwide, and visited monthly by 14 per cent of all internet users”. [emphasis added] In a further sharing initiative, Wikipedia states that “in late March 2012, the Wikimedia Foundation announced Wikidata, a planned universal platform for sharing data between all Wikipedia language editions”, creating an expanded integrated resource for data and information, freely available to everyone, potentially anywhere in the world.

In a positive sign of the times, the United Nations has recently established a website for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that champions positive development programmes. According to the UN, the aim of the website is to give local communities in developing countries the skills and know-how to better manage the natural resource in their environment, and to strengthen partnerships between groups working on sustainable development projects. This ground-breaking forum offers groups working in associated areas the chance to share their knowledge, research and experiences. Those “working on environmental issues in developing countries can submit content, as well as share their expertise and experiences with peers”.

In a further move, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department for Field Support is cultivating sharing in their work, as is made clear on their website. “Best practices and case studies from the field are shared with all missions through a dedicated Community of Practice and dedicated training. We also use resources from our partners like UNEP and the Swedish Research Agency.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is also offering a toolkit for sharing on their website, stating that non-governmental organizations “may partner with the UNHCR in joint planning and information-sharing to ensure coherence in operational approaches”.

Shared environment

International and intergovernmental cooperation and sharing of data is most evident on environmental issues. The Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change was set up by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988 and involves 120 countries. Thousands of scientists work on a voluntary basis, writing and reviewing papers that are summarized for key policy makers.

Sticking with the environment, “carpooling” is a brilliant travel scheme based on sharing. People travelling to the same destination share a vehicle and the travel costs. This idea began in America, where in 2009 around 10 per cent  of commuter journeys where shared. It is another internet-based scheme, functioning via websites and smartphones. The website is one of the largest and operates throughout Europe and claim to “transport a million people every month”. The idea is simple, as most sharing schemes seem to be, and has many benefits. As explains, “by sharing a ride, people save gas and money, reduce auto emissions and meet new friends. Pollution, traffic, parking and road maintenance are reduced. People can share experiences and help each other.” There is even a British charity, Carplus, which promotes car sharing and car club schemes throughout the country. Following on from Velib, the successful bicycle sharing scheme started in 2007, Paris is the first city to set up a car sharing scheme. As the Guardian reports, “Annick Lepetit, in charge of transport at city hall,described it as “moving into another culture, the culture of car sharing”. We could perhaps expand this and say the culture of sharing is upon us!

Shared education

Sharing between students and teaching staff is finding a place within many educational institutions. Group work within schools is the model increasingly being employed, helping to build relationships, encourage cooperation and balance somewhat the divisive effects of competition. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in its 2009 teacher evaluation report, concludes: “The expectation is that teachers engaging in reflective practice, studying their own methods of instruction and assessment, and sharing their experience with their peers in schools, becomes regular and routine part of professional life.” As this becomes the norm in schools, children will increasingly adopt the habit of sharing, encouraging broader social responsibility.

Economic sharing

The breakdown in the current, unjust economic system, which is based on competition and separation, has led to some radical experiments in social living, with sharing being a key ingredient.

Heidemarie Schwermer is a 70-year-old German former schoolteacher who, after seeing large numbers of homeless people in Dortmund where she lived, founded in 1994 Give and Take Central, Germany’s first exchange circle. Two years later she gave away all of her belongings and has lived without money for the last 16 years. A remarkable achievement, made possible by various demonstrations of sharing. In an interview with Share International in April 2012, she explains the idea:

Anyone can participate in “give and take” – even if one has no money. In the interim there are many such centres where people can exchange services without money playing a role: a haircut in exchange for a car repair, babysitting for window cleaning, counselling or office work for baking, and much more.

This extraordinary story has been replicated in a more modest fashion in Britain by Mark Boyle, also known as “the moneyless man”. Mark lived for a year without any cash and founded the Feeconomy Community and the online sharing website. According to Wikipedia “The Freeconomy Community has over 25,000 members in over 150 countries… allows people to share, moving away from exchange economies towards pay it forward philosophy.” “Freeconomy” functions through individuals offering skills and support to other members of the community for free, or in exchange for help they need. The community is completely open and operates through the internet. Pay it forward describes the process of, having received a good deed, one performs an act in kind to someone else, not paying the deed back but paying it forward, thereby sharing generosity of spirit through an act of gratitude expressed as kindness. This is a central idea within the “freeconomy” philosophy, based as it is on sharing.

Sharing “stuff” and democracy

Anyone who has spent time in developing countries and returned to the West recognizes the waste and overconsumption that has driven capitalism for decades, entrapping the human sprit in the process. As a result, many in the (so-called) developed world are simply awash with “stuff”. Instead of throwing away things no longer needed, websites like Freecycle and Freegle offer a mechanism for reusing unwanted items, by passing them onto someone else. As the Freegle site says, “Don’t throw it away – give it away”. The community consists of around 1.5 million members in Britain and around 350 “reuse groups” as they call them. The Freecycle Network, originated in Tuscon, Arizona, in the USA in 2003 and now has a presence in 85 countries worldwide with almost nine million members in 5,000 communities. The first Freecycle group in Britain was set up in London in October 2003, there are now 540 groups with 2,500,000 members. To reuse is to share. It is an example of the pay forward economic idea, based as it is on the virtue of generosity.

Another example of community-generated sharing is Food Swap, founded in America by five women. It is best  described in its own words: “A food swap is a recurring event where members of a community share homemade, home-grown or foraged foods with each other. Swaps allow direct trades to take place between attendees, e.g. a loaf of bread for a jar of pickles or a half-dozen backyard eggs.” Starting in the US, there are now food swap groups in Canada too. At a slight tangent yet connected is Couchsurfing. People with a spare sofa, or bed even, offer it to travellers on the understanding that one fine day the traveller may return the favour. According to theEconomist, “There are 2.3 million registered couchsurfers in 79,000 cities worldwide.”

Sharing skills, goods, knowledge, techniques, workspaces, ideas and views, exchanging services and materials – the list is endless. Platforms of contemporary barter, homemade jam for freshly baked bread, lunch in payment for cleaning – the cynic might se these as schemes generated by economic necessity but the effect is that worldwide the seeds of social transformation are beginning to take root. These could be  the seeds of a new and more just economic structure, one that clarifies action through the purification of motive. In The Art of Cooperation, Benjamin Crème advocates the “principle of sharing” as the foundation for a new and just global economic system – an idea whose time is dawning.

Sharing the road to peace

The visionary Brandt Report (BR), published in October 1981, “called for international codes of conduct for the sharing of technology… global safeguards against restrictive business practices and a new framework for the activities of multinational corporations”. So far these measures have not been implemented in any meaningful way, and the economic divisions between and within North- South countries highlighted in the BR have widened. The failure to implement the  BR’s recommendations has led to the “missing out on vast possibilities for international peace and development through sharing with poor nations the benefits of the information revolution, 90 per cent of technology ownership and use remains in developed nations, creating a global ‘digital divide’”.

Peace and sharing are connected, a relationship made clear in the BR, which back in 1980 stated that “A new century nears, and with it the prospects of a new civilization. Could we not begin to lay the basis for that new community with reasonable relations among all people and nations, and to build a world in which sharing, justice, freedom and peace might prevail?”

Look closely with an open mind and you may see the early signs of such a world, for within the fogs of conflict and suffering there is hope and cause for optimism. The growing sharing initiatives are a herald of the new; they are to be welcomed and championed. Professor Frederico Mayor Zaragoza, a former director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in an interview with Share International, makes the case for peace through sharing: “We [the UN] exist to create, physically and intellectually, the conditions for peace. This implies real justice and sharing, not a simple distribution of aid and political patch-up.”

“Perennial values of goodness, justice, freedom and peace are the aspirations of men, women and children everywhere; a key element in their realization is, it seems, sharing, for without sharing justice remains simply a dream, peace a fantasy.”

“Real justice” is concerned with the implementation of universally agreed human rights, with participation, consultation and, crucially equality and the fair distribution of the world’s resources. All are democratic ideals and all will be realized through expressions of sharing.

Sharing equitably the world’s resources, many of which are to be found in developing countries, would be a giant step in establishing justice and dissipating tensions between wealthy countries and the developing nations. Benjamin Crème makes the point in The Art of Cooperation: “Sharing the world’s resources will restore sanity to the world. It will make life happier for most people.” Furthermore: “Through sharing alone will justice be confirmed.“

Clearly it is unjust that 70 per cent of the world’s natural resources, food, water, etc. are usurped and wasted by 30 per cent of the world’s people, as is currently estimated to be the case. For example, the USA, with just 5 per cent  of the world’s population, consumes 25 per cent of the resources – is this just, or even sane? Sharing of the world’s resources equitably among the people, based on need, would be a giant step in establishing justice. Professor Zaragoza goes on to say that “since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations has been eroded because it has been forced to divert from its essential core work – peace through justice, meaning real sharing, cooperation, development, health, housing and education”. Perennial values of goodness, justice, freedom and peace are the aspirations of men, women and children everywhere; a key element in their realization is, it seems, sharing, for without sharing justice remains simply a dream, peace a fantasy. In a world which has long been saturated with violence and suffering, mankind cries out for peace. Sharing is crucial in fulfilling this long cherished ideal.

Sharing unites people and helps us to recognize our universal nature. It is to be cultivated in all areas of life. The Brandt Equation states: “Caring, mutual respect, generosity and sharing begin at home after all, and should be expressed no differently in global economic relations. It is, in fact, that simple.”

It is a fact simple indeed that is gaining ground. Let us harken to the call for sharing, within the home, the community, the nation and throughout the world, and witness the dispelling of that 21st century epidemic, stress, and the flowering of justice.

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Egypt’s on-air warning: Don’t talk to foreigners – they’re all spies


The Egyptian government was stung by a wave of criticism yesterday following the appearance of a series of television adverts which appeared to warn viewers against talking to foreigners because they might be spies.

The glossy-looking commercials, which last for about 40 seconds, feature a foreign man walking into a café and then sitting down with a group of three young Egyptians.

To a doom-laden soundtrack replete with violin crescendos and plodding drumbeats, a girl at the table starts talking to the English-speaking guest about a reported conspiracy against the army.

The curious visitor nods along, before tapping a message into his mobile phone to an unknown third party. A slogan then appears on screen saying: “Every word has a price; a word can save a nation.”

The adverts, which started appearing on state-owned and private television stations this week, have generated bemusement and anger among Egyptians and foreigners alike.

Taking to Twitter to vent her feelings, the Cairo-based journalist Reem Abdellatif said the adverts took Egypt back to the “Dark Ages”.

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia, writing on her Egyptian Chronicles webpage, raised the possibility the campaign was an opening salvo in a war against civil-rights organisations and journalists.

She said: “I fear that this ad is an introduction for a campaign against human rights activists and journalists from abroad so they will not cover the upcoming crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood as well [as] revolutionary powers and groups if [Ahmed] Shafik is elected as a president.”

Since the Military Council took power last year, viewers who have watched the tightly controlled state-television news channels have been fed a sporadic diet of stories about “foreign hands” interfering in Egyptian politics.

The paranoia reached its apogee this year, when 16 Americans were among 43 non-governmental-organisation workers put on trial accused of illegally using foreign funds to foment unrest.

In an example of the febrile swirl of conspiracy theories doing the rounds, Al-Ahram newspaper – Egypt’s most venerated publication – ran a front-page story saying: “American funding aims to spread anarchy in Egypt.”

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, one Cairo-based American photographer said he felt the xenophobia in Egypt had got markedly worse in recent months. “I’ve felt less safe,” said Cliff Cheney, 38. “I’ve felt more animosity.”

It is still unclear who was behind the advertising campaign, but one prominent journalist who used to work for the state-owned Nile TV network told The Independent that it was probably ordered on air by the Ministry of Information.

“They used to give these kind of spots to the head of the channel,” said Shahira Amin, talking about previous government-sponsored commercials. “They were prerecorded and the ministry would say it had to run a certain number of times.”

Nobody from the Ministry of Information was available to comment yesterday.

The uproar over the adverts came as hundreds of protesters flocked to Tahrir Square yesterday to rally against the forthcoming presidential election.

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British journalist says Syrian rebels set him up to die in no man’s land


LONDON—A British journalist claims Syrian rebels set him up to die in no man’s land near the Lebanese border, saying Friday he believes they wanted to use his death at the hands of government forces to score propaganda points.

Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent Alex Thomson said the incident happened Monday in the Syrian town of Qusair, about half an hour’s drive from the battered city of Homs.

In a blog post published to Channel 4’s website and in an email exchange with the Associated Press, Thomson said he, his driver, a translator and two other journalists were trying to return to government lines when their rebel escort led them down what he described as a dead-end in the middle of a “free-fire zone.” A shot rang out, and he said their car made a series of panicky manoeuvres before retreating the way it came.

Thomson claimed that they weren’t led into no man’s land by mistake.

“I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army,” he wrote in the post, explaining that their deaths at the hands of President Bashar Assad’s forces would have drawn sympathy to the rebel cause. “Dead journos are bad for Damascus,” he said.

Thomson said he and his colleagues eventually managed to get back to the government side. He has since left Syria.

His account wasn’t possible to verify amid the chaos gripping Syria, but in an email he insisted that there was no other explanation for what happened.

“They said: ‘Go left.’ Road was totally blocked 50 yards ahead. They had to have known.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists calls Syria “the most dangerous place for journalists in the world,” saying that it has recorded the deaths of nine local and international reporters there since November.

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MeK terrorist group tasks 2 battalions to stir unrests in Syria


The terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO also known as the MEK, PMOI and NCR) has tasked 400 terrorists with stirring unrests in Syria, head of an Iran-based rights disclosed on Saturday.

According to Seyed Mohammad Javad Hasheminejad, secretary-general of the Habilian Association – a human rights group formed of the families of 17,000 Iranian terror victims – the revelation was made by a highly trusted MKO veteran who used to serve the MKO ringleader, Maryam Rajavi, as her highly confided interpreter in top secret sessions with former Iraqi regime officials and US authorities.

Hasheminejad said he had informed Syria of MKO’s meddling during a meeting with Syrian Ambassador to Tehran.

Hasheminejad had told the Syrian envoy late in May that MKO is preparing itself to stage a massive terrorist operation in Syria.

“We hold proof and authentic documents showing an extensive and all-round presence of this terrorist organization in Syria. This terrorist grouplet is using all its possibilities to stage terrorist and sabotage operations in Syria,” he said at the time.

During the meeting, Hasheminejad told Syrian envoy that the MKO has been acting as a US mercenary ever since the fall of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hossein in 2003, and added, “The US and some western countries have been supporting all those terrorists who stage large-scale sabotage operations in Syria.”

He reiterated the United States’ destructive role in recent developments in Syria, and said, “The MKO has even produced many video clips against President Bashar Assad on Syrian soil and has been distributing these clips among the people.”

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Report: Zio-Nato Rebels Responsible for Houla Massacre


National Review

It was, in the words of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, the “tipping point” in the Syria conflict: a savage massacre of over 90 people, predominantly women and children, for which the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed by virtually the entirety of the Western media. Within days of the first reports of the Houla massacre, the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, and several other Western countries announced that they were expelling Syria’s ambassadors in protest.

But according to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print out of fear of reprisals from armed opposition groups.

According to the article’s sources, the massacre occurred after rebel forces attacked three army-controlled roadblocks outside of Houla. The roadblocks had been set up to protect nearby Alawi majority villages from attacks by Sunni militias. The rebel attacks provoked a call for reinforcements by the besieged army units. Syrian army and rebel forces are reported to have engaged in battle for some 90 minutes, during which time “dozens of soldiers and rebels” were killed.

“According to eyewitness accounts,” the FAZ report continues,

the massacre occurred during this time. Those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla’s population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet.

The FAZ report echoes eyewitness accounts collected from refugees from the Houla region by members of the Monastery of St. James in Qara, Syria. According to monastery sources cited by the Dutch Middle East expert Martin Janssen, armed rebels murdered “entire Alawi families” in the village of Taldo in the Houla region.

Already at the beginning of April, Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix of the St. James Monastery warned of rebel atrocities’ being repackaged in both Arab and Western media accounts as regime atrocities. She cited the case of a massacre in the Khalidiya neighborhood in Homs. According to an account published in French on the monastery’s website, rebels gathered Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in Khalidiya and blew up the building with dynamite. They then attributed the crime to the regular Syrian army. “Even though this act has been attributed to regular army forces . . . the evidence and testimony are irrefutable: It was an operation undertaken by armed groups affiliated with the opposition,” Mother Agnès-Mariam wrote.

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US, Pakistan beginning to look more like enemies


Associated Press

You know a friendship has gone sour when you start making mean jokes about your friend in front of his most bitter nemesis.

So it was a bad sign this week when the U.S. defense secretary joshed in front of an audience of Indians about how Washington kept Pakistan in the dark about the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden a year ago.

“They didn’t know about our operation. That was the whole idea,” Leon Panetta said with a chuckle at a Q&A session after a speech in New Delhi, raising laughs from the audience. The Bin Laden raid by U.S. commandos in a Pakistani town infuriated Islamabad because it had no advance notice, and it was seen by Pakistan’s powerful military as a humiliation.

The U.S. and Pakistan are starting to look more like enemies than allies, threatening the U.S. fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the country and efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan before American troops withdraw.

Long plagued by frustration and mistrust, the relationship has plunged to its lowest level since the 9/11 attacks forced the countries into a tight but awkward embrace over a decade ago. The U.S. has lost its patience with Pakistan and taken the gloves off to make its anger clear.

“It has taken on attributes and characteristics now of a near adversarial relationship, even though neither side wants it to be that way,” said Maleeha Lodhi, who was serving as Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and was key in hurriedly putting together the two countries’ alliance.

The latest irritant is Pakistan’s refusal to end its six-month blockade of NATO troop supplies meant for Afghanistan. Even if that issue is resolved, however, the relationship may be on an irreversible downward slide. The main source of U.S. anger is Pakistan’s unwillingness to go after militants using its territory to launch attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

On the Pakistani side, officials are fed up with Washington’s constant demands for more without addressing Islamabad’s concerns or sufficiently appreciating the country’s sacrifice. Pakistan has lost thousands of troops fighting a domestic Taliban insurgency fueled partly by resentment of the alliance with the U.S.

Panetta’s comments about the bin Laden raid may have been unscripted, but others he made while in India and Afghanistan seemed calculated to step up pressure on Pakistan. He stressed Washington’s strong relationship with India — which Islamabad considers its main, historic enemy — and defended unpopular American drone attacks in Pakistan.

He also said in unusually sharp terms that the U.S. was running out of patience with Islamabad’s failure to go after the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, considered the most dangerous militant group fighting in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqanis and other Afghan militants based on its soil because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, especially in countering the influence of India.

Pakistan lashed out at Panetta on Saturday and denied the country was providing safe havens for militants.

Panetta “is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region.”

A senior U.S. official described the relationship as “the worst it has ever been.”

“This is from Washington’s point of view and from Pakistan’s point of view, and even among the real well-wishers on both sides who are appalled and befuddled that we can’t get past all of this and move beyond,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

After years of frosty relations caused by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Washington and Islamabad were thrust together on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida attacked New York and Washington. The U.S. demanded Pakistan support the war against bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. The U.S. directed billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan and sought to convince Islamabad it was not simply interested in a “transactional” relationship based on counterterrorism cooperation, but wanted a long-term strategic partnership.

U.S. officials have largely abandoned that argument over the past 18 months as the relationship has suffered repeated crises.

“Because of the toxic atmosphere on both sides, the two countries cannot even work in a transactional way,” said Lodhi, the former Pakistani ambassador.

In January 2011, a CIA contractor sparked outrage when he shot to death two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore who he claimed were trying to rob him. Anger over the incident was still simmering when the U.S. killed bin Laden in May.

In November, American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani troops at two Afghan border posts. The U.S. has said it was an accident, but the Pakistani army claims it was deliberate.

Pakistan retaliated by kicking the U.S. out of a base used by American drones and closing its border to NATO supplies meant for troops in Afghanistan. Negotiations to reopen the route have been hampered by Islamabad’s demand for much higher transit fees and Washington’s refusal to apologize for the deaths of the Pakistani troops.

The U.S. has attempted to bridge the difference over money by offering to repave highways used by the supply trucks, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

But Pakistani officials have made clear the route will not reopen without some kind of apology. The U.S. has expressed its regret over the incident but has refused to apologize for fear it could open the Obama administration up to criticism by Republicans upset with Pakistan.

A senior U.S. defense official, Peter Lavoy, arrived in Pakistan on Friday to participate in the negotiations. But Panetta’s comments could complicate matters.

Such statements do “water down the willingness to cooperate with the United States,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.

President Barack Obama showed U.S. anger over the supply issue at a NATO summit last month in Chicago by refusing a one-on-one meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

However, the U.S. and Pakistan both have reasons to walk the relationship back from the brink.

The U.S. continues to receive some intelligence cooperation from Pakistan on militants and has been able to continue drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region despite public protests, likely because of tacit agreement by Pakistani military leaders. Both could be threatened if the relationship heads farther south.

Just as important is Pakistan’s support on the Afghan war. Pakistan is seen as key to striking a peace deal with the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan that will allow the U.S. to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014 without the country descending into further chaos.

Pakistan is keen on freeing up over a billion dollars in frozen U.S. aid, which will only be released if it reopens the supply line. Also, Pakistan can ill afford to become a true enemy of the U.S. at a time when it is struggling to contain its own Taliban insurgency and right its stuttering economy.

But politics on both sides make breaking the impasse difficult, particularly with U.S. elections this fall and Pakistani elections due early next year — possibly even sooner.

Historically, Pakistan’s army has steered the relationship with the U.S. But fearing public backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant, the generals have tossed the NATO supply line issue to Pakistan’s weak and unpopular civilian government. The politicians are reluctant to do anything that could hurt their election prospects.

“The longer Islamabad delays and dithers, the opinion in Washington is hardening,” said Lodhi. “Time is the enemy of a reset in relations.”

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N.Y. health chief calls for end to metzitzah b’peh rite (penis sucking) in circumcisions



U.S. Health Department investigations show that 11 infants contracted the herpes virus between 2000 to 2011 as a result of the rite.


The New York City Health Commissioner called for an end to a controversial circumcision-related rite.

In a strongly worded statement, Dr. Thomas Farley said that direct oral-genital suction, known as metzitzah b’peh, should not be performed during Jewish ritual circumcision. He said that several hospitals, including those serving the haredi Orthodox Jewish community, have agreed to distribute a brochure that describes the risk of contracting the herpes virus from the practice.

The controversy over metzitzah b’peh was reignited in March after it came to light that an unidentified infant died Sept. 28 at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center from “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the death certificate,

Health Department investigations of newborns with the herpes virus from 2000 to 2011 have shown that 11 infants contracted the herpes virus when mohels, or ritual circumcisers, placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut, according to a statement from the department. Ten of the infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage and two babies died.

The brochure “Before the Bris” describes the risk to infants of contracting herpes through direct oral-genital suction and advises parents to ask the mohel before the brit if he practices metzitzah b’peh.

“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn,” Farley said. “Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals.”

Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with alternative approaches used by some mohels, such as the use of a sterile tube or gauze to take the blood from the circumcision wound.

Jewish Rabbi Explains Why Baby Penis Is To Be Sucked

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By: The Ugly Truth 

Knesset to mark Armenian genocide, day before release of Gaza flotilla report

Recognition of Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey comes alongside Turkish lawsuit against senior Israeli officials involved in IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship, the Mavi Marmara.

news flash for those taken in by this latest stunt–those primarily responsible for having killed 1.5 Armenian Christians were Jews who pretended to convert to Islam. The ‘Young Turks’ movement was aimed at secularizing (de-Islamicizing) Turkish society and the massacre was carried out in order to begin the narrative that Islam was at war with Christianity. However, it was a Zionist maneuver from the beginning.

Furthermore, as far as Jews are concerned, the only good Christian is a dead Christian, and therefore we need to see the gesture in the Knesset for what it really is–an attempt to distract the world from Israel murderous assault on a ship that resulted in close to a dozen civilians being killed.


On the eve of the publication of the State Comptroller’s report regarding the 2009 raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, the Knesset is expected to hold a public discussion about the genocide of the Armenian people, at the request of MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz).

Knesset chairperson Reuven Rivlin decided to permit the debate for Tuesday. The decision follows the Turkish decision to try senior Israeli officials in court for their involvement in the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara – the debate will be held just one day before the publication of the State Comptroller’s report on the affair on Wednesday.

The Knesset will mark the anniversary of the genocide with its first discussion of the matter on Tuesday, and a second public discussion will be planned, to be held by one of the Knesset committees.

Throughout the years, the government and the Knesset have refrained from discussing the subject in fear of harming relations between Israel and Turkey.

Over the last three years, determination has developed to discuss the murder of roughly one and a half million Armenians by Turkey 97 years ago, mostly because of the deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey.

This is not the first time the Knesset has mentioned the subject. Last December, the Knesset Education Committee held an open discussion of the matter, the first of its kind. A representative of the Foreign Ministry relayed the ministry’s position. “This subject, given the current atmosphere, could deteriorate our ties with Turkey. Our relationship with Turkey is very fragile and sensitive right now, and we cannot cross the line – we must approach the subject intelligently. Such a decision could have very serious strategic consequences,” said the representative.

Rivlin also commented during the discussion in December.  “The subject doesn’t come up in the Knesset because of events that take place between Israel and Turkey, nor because we are trying to take advantage of the political situation to get even. I first entered the Knesset in ’88, and a year later we made a suggestion for a day concerning the Armenian tragedy. We were prevented from speaking about it as a ‘holocaust,’ though we most definitely felt that as humans, as Jews, as citizens of Israel that aren’t Jews, we must bring this subject up, and flood the public with the questions that arise, because we are obligated to prevent denial of the tragedy,” said Rivlin.

“We are standing in front of all the peoples of the world, and saying that denial of a holocaust is something that Humanity cannot agree with. We didn’t come to discuss something political, rather moral,” continued Rivlin.

MK  and Meretz chairperson Zahava Gal-On, who initiated the discussion set to take place, said  then, “this is an exciting moment, in my opinion, that the Education Committee is holding an open discussion, with a great deal of participation. For years, Israel always considered relations with Turkey. That is the central issue in terms of recognition of the murder of the Armenian people, which has yet to take place in Israel’s Knesset.”

“Unfortunately, relations with Turkey are very tense, and I think that it is in our interest not to make them worse. Israel’s government must advance relations regardless of the Armenian issue; it is a historic and moral obligation,” said Gal-On.

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, also among the upcoming discussion’s sponsors, was the only one who expressed outright opposition to an official recognition by Israel of the Armenian genocide in December. “We cannot disconnect the discussion from the fact that we must rehabilitate our ties with Turkey – it’s an existential necessity,” he said. “We need to fit in the Middle East even if it is difficult,” said Schneller, in December.


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