Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 2015

Israel’s exploitation of the Syrian war: Laid bare

Last summer in the occupied Golan Heights, an Israeli military ambulance ferrying wounded fighters from across the border in Syria came under attack by Druze.

Rebel fighters had been inadvertently straying into Israeli-held territory for years.

But these fighters in the ambulance were different: they were members of the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra, which has been fighting Bashar Al Assad’s forces with varying degrees of success, and essentially funded by Saudi Arabia.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.
Israel’s influence in the Syrian war is becoming easier to detect on the ground, writes Joseph Dana

As the chaos of the Syrian civil war deepened, Al Nusra and other extremist groups have taken advantage of the security vacuum to rally support from external governments, reportedly including Turkey and the United States. Israel’s role in aiding these fighters, however, had been shrouded in secrecy until the episode on the Golan Heights.

As the Israeli ambulance sped towards a field hospital with two wounded Al Nusra fighters, it encountered a large group of Druze blocking the road.

The Druze, a small Muslim sect who live in Syria, Israel and Lebanon, have been largely on the side-lines of the Syrian war but have remained loyal to Bashar Al Assad’s government. Recently there has been sporadic fighting between the Druze and extremist groups like Al Nusra inside Syria.

In June, Druze in Syria alerted their brethren on the other side of the border that the Israeli army was treating Al Nusra fighters who had been wounded fighting the Druze.

On the Golan Heights, Druze attacked the Israeli ambulance convoy with stones, eventually attacking the wounded fighters. When the dust settled, one Nusra fighter was killed and another was unconscious from the blows of the mob.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu then held a special meeting with Druze leaders to keep the situation under control. Despite the fact that this episode was reported extensively in local and foreign press, the Israeli army continues to deny its links to Al Nusra.

When Hezbollah operative Samir Kuntar was killed in an Israeli targeted assassination in Syria two weeks ago, Tel Aviv’s foothold in the conflict came under renewed inspection.

Hafez Al Assad, who ruled Syria before his son for 3 decades, often joked that the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights was the quietest in the Middle East, but since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, things have steadily heated up.

While Israel has tried to keep its involvement in the Syrian war under wraps, there are several things we know about its participation.

First, Israel has been carrying out air strikes against Hezbollah targets throughout Syria. Ostensibly, these air strikes are tailored to keep Hezbollah from obtaining Syrian chemical weapons.

In the 2006 Lebanon war, the Iranian-backed militia became the only Arab fighting force to unconditionally force Israel to retreat from Arab land occupied in the course of battle.

(In May 2000, Israel withdrew from south Lebanon unilaterally and in great hurry after its occupation presence was made untenable by Hezbollah resistance fighters)

Hezbollah has an extensive rockets cache that can reach any part of Israeli territory, as well as an elaborate network of underground bunkers in southern Lebanon that the Israeli military has never succeeded in fully destroying. It makes sense that Israel would want to keep Assad’s chemical weapons out of Hezbollah’s hands. (As if Hezbollah ever used chemical weapons that are easily manufactured)

In Syria, Hezbollah has endured heavy losses; it is operating outside its normal strongholds in a country where it doesn’t have the support it enjoys in Lebanon, and the war appears to be wearing the group’s resources thin.

In a sign of its dwindling human capital, the group has recently ratcheted up recruitment with promises of cash for new fighters.

For decades, Iran and its proxies have been Israel’s primary enemies. Now that those groups are fighting a draining war in Syria, Israel is taking the opportunity to hit them with air strikes.

An uneasy alliance between Israel and radical extremist groups fighting in the region – as last summer’s episode on the Golan seemed to confirm – is not beyond comprehension.

Note: Israel is purchasing cheap oil from ISIS through Turkey. The objective of Israel is to divide Syria into small cantons in order to impose its military dominion in the region.



A Moveable Feast? Reflections on the French Coverage of the Paris Attacks

By Muriam Haleh Davis. Posted on Jadaliyya. Nov. 27, 2015

Writing on the relationship between acts of terror and the mystification of liberalism in 1947, Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote that,

cunning, violence, propaganda, and realpolitik” appeared “in the guise of liberal principles” and were “the substance of foreign or colonial politics, and even of domestic politics.” [1]

He was not writing about religious fanatics, but he was rather concerned with another specter that once faced Europe: Communism.

Unlike the Cold War, if France is indeed “at war,” one is at a loss to characterize what kind of war it is, or against whom it will be fought. Perhaps we are in what Jean Baudrillard categorized as a “Fourth World War,” in which the symbolic singularity of terrorist acts disrupts postmodern flows of culture and capital. [2]

We should not be surprised then, that responses to this war have come in the form of hashtags, online prayers, and a public show of solidarity by figures such as Justin Bieber.

Surely Baudrillard would have been amused while reading that some individuals have tried to capitalize on the violence by registering hashtags such as “#PrayforParis” and “#JesuisParis” with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI).

The “Pray for Paris” campaign was fundamentally at odds with the cultural context of the attacks: the young, progressive Parisians targeted in the attacks tend to see prayer as a reactionary pastime engaged in by the dimmer-witted Republicans (i.e. us) across the pond.

If one was looking for a language of compassion, offering a prayer struck an odd note.

Other misunderstandings also occurred in the Anglophone coverage: Saint-Denis and the banlieue were portrayed as remote, exotic, and dangerous locales as journalists denied the realities of time (in 2015, it is mainly historians that remain obsessed with the Algerian War) and space (line thirteen of the metro).

In fairness to my linguistic compatriots, there have been some excellent articles by a few writers–such as Adam Shatz (and the #ParisSyllabus hashtag organized by a group of historians who work on France)–who actually knew what a banlieue was before the 2005 unrest.

While French reporters have also provided plenty of ignorant commentary on the attacks, some of the domestic and regional context of the attacks seems to have been lost in translation.

“Reinforcing the Borders”–but which Ones?

Along with the death of 130 individuals, the Paris attacks had a more technocratic victim: the Schengen Zone. Unlike the proverbial dead horse that is killed first, and beaten later, the Schengen Zone had already received a number of swift kicks before the interior ministers of the European Union gave it a near death sentence.

Already under pressure due to the refugee crisis, the introduction of the security measures inspired by the War on Terror crushed the dream of a borderless Europe.

Marc Cher-Leparrain, writing for the excellent blog OrientXXI has called these measures “ill-adapted and counterproductive.” Nevertheless, France’s historical distance from US foreign policy in the Middle East seems to be coming to a close, as Hollande met with Obama to put aggressive action in Syria back on America’s military agenda.

Even if mainstream news sources implicitly recognize that Islamic State (IS) was born from the American invasion of Iraq, it has largely fallen to alternative news sources to criticize the folly of copying American strategies in the domains of security measures and military aggression.

There are other borders to protect as well–borders internal to France.

The far-right and on-the-rise National Front (FN) has declared that Saint-Denis (where the mastermind of the attacks was found) should be placed “under supervision.” The French phrase used–mise sous toutelle–is wonderfully colonial in tone, though the argument the FN made is not rooted in colonial history, but in local politics.

Others on the Right have followed this amalgam of leftist politics and Islamic activism by articulating a notion of “Islamo-gauchisme.” Saint-Denis’ status as a “red” (i.e. communist) banlieue, an expression of working class solidarity, has been framed as proof of the link between struggles for economic justice and a culture of terrorism.

This profiteering uses the specter of communitarianism to further undermine the public infrastructure (such as the state-owned public transportation company Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, RATP) that serves the outer reaches of “Greater Paris” (grand Paris).

Paris’ urban gentrification rests on expanding the city’s border beyond its historic center, and thus physical “reinforcements” are impossible. But the FN, poised to profit from the attacks in the upcoming regional elections, are finding ways to erect internal boundaries in novel ways.

Regardless of the dreams of spatial and cultural “reinforcement,” [3] it is clear that the nation-state is no longer the correct frame of reference to understand the attacks: the arms trade, financial flows (especially regarding the “petro-monarchies of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia”), infrastructures of illegal human transport (expanded from boats to trucks with tragic consequences) is creating a new geography of war and displacement.

While Anglophone commentators such as Robert Fisk have focused on the erasure of borders in the Middle East, a reading of the French media shows that a re-territorialization is also occurring in Europe.

We might think of the introduction of terrorscapes that connect spaces in new ways. [4] How else could we explain one of the (many) conspiracy theories that emerged after the attacks: that a single girl had lived through multiple terrorist attacks (Boston, Sandy Hook, Paris).

While school and police shootings haunt the American terrorscape rather than representations of the banlieue, the use of particular repertoires and stagings of violence may also partake in the “spirit of terrorism” that relies on prior inspiration while also seeking absolute singularity.

Ethnocentricism and Hashtags

Social media has been a particularly unpleasant place for many of us who felt personally connected to the attacks. Facebook offered us the French flag as a “filter” for one’s profile photo, and adapted an existing “check in” function (used in the past for natural disasters) to be used during the attacks. Cries of hypocrisy resounded.

Attempts to reestablish (or dismantle) hierarchies of suffering hailed from Beirut to Baghdad and beyond. Nadia Marzouki, a political scientist particularly well-suited to think about suffering in a comparative (and connected) frame, asked in Le Monde:

Is it not pretentious and orientalist to depict the citizens of the Arab world only as victims of attacks and of a lack of empathy in the West?

The citizens in the Arab world have no need for the pity of the West to affirm themselves as sovereign actors regarding their future.

The compassion of good conscience (bien pensant) expresses both of form of narcissism and paternalism so that once again we speak of “us” and “our” sentiments rather than of others and the increasing hybridity of our collective destinies.

Marzouki was not the analyst who threw into stark relief the impossibility of conceptualizing an “us” versus a “them.” Given that the attackers were born in Europe and some spent time in Syria, the line between the domestic and the foreign has never been as blurred.

Political scientists Olivier Roy and Jean-François Bayart–both major figures in French political science–took differing positions. Roy framed the problem in terms of the “Islamization of radicality” (as opposed to the “radicalization of Islam”) and posited the problem squarely inside the metropole: the caliphate will eventually disappear, he claims, but the generational revolt among French youth will remain.

Bayart’s theory postulating the return of a “boomerang,” on the other hand, tended to foreground France’s foreign policy.

Another prominent political scientist–Jean-Pierre Filiu–wrote off any attempt to explain the attacks through the lens of politics, preferring to explain the violence by focusing on the apocalyptic beliefs of the perpetrators.

Economist Thomas Piketty said the violence was a problem of “importation” asking: “How can these young people who have grown up in France confuse Baghdad and the Parisian banlieue, and try to import here the conflicts that taking place there?”

Yet reading the attacks in terms of an “importation” has dangerous echoes with the discourse of a clash of civilizations, and it seems to take solace in the distinction between “us” and “them” that Marzouki’s article so skillfully deconstructed. Threats of European eurocentricism are everywhere, it seems.

Even the hashtag the New Anticapitalist party (NPA) used, “#vosguerresnosmorts” (your wars, our dead), has also (unjustly, I would say) been the subject of eurocentric accusations. The question of how to account for the multiple spaces in which these acts were incubated might start by asking: what is France in the first place?

Indeed, a more radical take sees the clash as a war between two global ideologies: the first is organized around the economy and prioritizes the neoliberal gospel that prioritizes work, productivity, and social capital, while the other is Islamic fundamentalism. Far from being an expression of nihilism, the attacks thus appear as a mark of a deeper set of divisions that are not limited to territory or identity.

The liberal reading of terrorism presents the violence as an attack on the “French way of life.” The notion that Paris is a “moveable feast,” a symbol of festivity, and the capital of culture is of course a self-flattering image to explain one’s own victimhood. It also allows the hashtag #JeSuisEnTerrasse (I am having a drink on a terrace) to appear as an act of resistance.

Rejecting the economistic argument above, it would seem that these commentators view Paris as an overflow of joy, of life, and of entertainment. Of course it is reassuring to see one’s culture as so superior that it must inevitably provoke jealousy and hatred, as Thomas Serres has argued on this site.

The young Parisians who were killed, overflowing with “cultural capital,” are often imprecisely referred to as bobos in the French media. Yet the symbolism of this target is not, as it might seem, diametrically opposed to the attack that was allegedly planned (but not carried out) on the financial center of Paris at la Defense.

As Frederic Jameson reminds us: “The becoming cultural of the economic, and the becoming economic of the cultural, has been identified as one of the features that characterized what is now widely known as postmodernity.” [5]

It was thus telling that when the Socialist Party’s new Minster of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, called for a “greater opening of French society,” he presented this as synonymous with a parallel opening of the economy. Unlike Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who refused any explanation (social, sociological, or cultural) of the attacks, Macron converted the violence into a platform to introduce more neoliberal reforms.

In thinly coded language Macron spoke of the “glass ceilings and corporatisms” (read: unions and regulations) that he claimed have “fed the frustration of individuals and created economic inefficiencies.”

Islam and Bureaucracy

Increasingly, the press postulates that the alterity of “radical Islam” (now used as a catch-all phrase despite the importance differences between Salafist and Takfiri branches, for example) can be eliminated through the bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is increasingly appearing as the “law of equivalence” on which Europe is based.[6]

On the one hand, predictable measures have been proposed to make Islam subservient to the French state: prohibiting Arabic sermons, asking Muslims to condemn the attacks (désolidariser), and encouraging imams to have a state-affiliated certification, for example.

The rise in Islamophonic acts has also been striking. The State of Emergency, first introduced during the Algerian War, has prompted protests and raised questions about the abuses of state power that are already underway. But on the other hand, one has the impression of technocrats that doth protest too much. What emerges from the evidence presented in the French media points to overwhelming proof of bureaucratic ineffectiveness rather than a lack of existing procedures.

For example, the mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had been featured prominently in the Islamic State’s official magazine, Dabiq, and yet, he continued to move between Syria and Belgium.

Another one of the attackers, Salah Abdeslam, was pulled over on a highway the day after the attacks and then Belgian authorities subsequently released him. It was not that these attackers were unknown to the French state–almost all of them had a file with the French authorities.

But as all bureaucrats know, the devil is in the details.

Many of these individuals were the object of the now infamous “S form” (Fiche “S” for atteinte à la sûreté de l’Etat, threatening national security). Rather than being an effective marker of risk, the sheer number of these files (currently estimated at 20,000) renders them all but meaningless.

Indeed, while 20,000 individuals are classified as “threats” to the state, 10,500 of them are specifically marked as radicalized–a category that includes the extreme right, the extreme left, as well as those accused of being radical Islamists.

While the “fiche S” is an element of surveillance, it neither carries proof of guilt, nor an obligatory surveillance system.

In the midst of these discussions, it has become a common refrain in the French media to refer to the violence as the “deadliest attack ever to take place on French soil.” Yet that distinction likely belongs not to 13 November 2015, but to 17 October 1961, when the Paris police attacked a peaceful demonstration of 30,000 Algerians as their nationalist sentiments were often seen as a form of terrorism and associated with Islam.

The lesson to draw here is not that there is some causal link or “blowback” between the Algerian War and the present. Rather, we should note that the cruelty of the liberal state and the specter of Islamic radicalism are not competing–but complimentary–phenomenon. As Baudrillard reminds us, “The repression of terrorism spirals around as unpredictably as the terrorist act itself.” [6]

[1] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humanism and Terror (translated by John O’Neil), New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 2000 (1969), xiii.

[2] Jean Baudrillard, The Spirit of Terrorism (translated by Chris Turner), New York: Verso Books, 2002, 12.

[3] The French the word renforcer is particularly polymorphous; listed synonyms include bétonner (literally to make into metal), armer (to arm) and, finally, radicaliser (to radicalize).

[4] Here I am borrowing from Arjun Appadurai’s notion of five “scapes” that connect flows of information (1990) and which he labels ethnocscapes, technoscapes, fianscapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes.

[5] Frederic Jameson, “Notes on Globalization as a Philosophical Issue” in The Cultures of Globalization, ed. Frederic Jameson and Masao Miyoshi (Durkham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998), 54-77.

[6] Baudrillard, 35.

Political and Sectarian Dimensions of Welfare Provision in Lebanon

Why is it that the Lebanese Government consistently struggles to provide basic services?

Lebanon’s government has consistently failed to adequately deliver a range of services, among them water provision (potable or otherwise), electricity, and waste collection and treatment.

This state of affairs stems in part from the fact that service delivery in Lebanon is clientelistic in nature, meaning citizens often must depend on political leaders and parties to access state services.

At present, these issues are at the forefront of public discourse as political deadlock has prevented national leaders from agreeing on how services should be delivered and citizens have on multiple occasions taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the country’s political elite.

A central theme of these protests has been curbing corruption and dependence on the sectarian political system. In Compassionate Communalism: Welfare and Sectarianism in Lebanon, I examine the method and conditions by which parties distribute services, and to which political and sectarian groups those services are delivered.

Melani Cammett , professor of government at Harvard University and LCPS research fellow.

While it is generally assumed that ethnic or sectarian groups merely serve their own and exclude those affiliated with other communities, this blanket assumption should be questioned.

Indeed, it is unclear why sectarian groups engage in public goods provision at all if they are virtually assured of the support of in-group members, as research on ethnoreligious politics implies. Charitable concerns and visions of social justice undoubtedly compel many officials and staff members of these groups to provide social assistance, but political motivations are also important.

In focusing on the political dimensions of the provision of social services two key factors shape how a sectarian party distributes welfare goods.

First, it matters whether a party engages in a “state-centric” political strategy or

Second, one focused on providing services outside of formal state institutions.

In the former case, parties are more likely to service members of other religious or sectarian communities, in addition to more passive supporters, including those with little to no record of directly supporting the party in question.

The latter strategy focuses on hardcore party supporters and entails executing policy outside the scope of state institutions, often manifested in the form of street action such as protests, riots, or militia politics.

Second, it matters whether a party faces competition from other parties claiming to represent the same community (in-group or intra-sect competition). In this instance, it is more likely that welfare goods will be distributed to “in-group” members, most often hardcore supporters.

In Lebanon, I compare the welfare distribution strategies of major Christian, Shia Muslim, and Sunni Muslim political parties with other ostensibly sectarian groups in Iraq and India.

The distribution of welfare goods in Lebanon varies across different parties.

For example, until the late 2000s, the predominantly Sunni Muslim Future Movement offered services relatively broadly, something which has changed more recently, whereas the Shia Muslim Hezbollah provided services mainly in Shia areas, although it welcomed members of other sects in its welfare institutions and had begun to branch out beyond its core areas of operation.

Christian political parties tend to focus social assistance efforts in heavily Christian communities. The degree to which these parties face serious competition within their respective sects and the types of political strategies they prioritize help explain the variation in the propensities of these organizations to serve out-group communities or to reach out beyond their core base of supporters at a given time.

Although I focus on the sectarian dynamics of welfare distribution, sectarian identity should not be considered a fixed or immutable constant.

Sectarian organizations have complex goals in offering social services; they may distribute or facilitate access to social services to fulfill altruistic commitments, present themselves as the protectors and guarantors of well-being, gain supporters, or consolidate their control over territory and people.

Specific political goals—and not only charitable motivations—underlie the provision of social services by these groups.

Yet, garnering support through service provision is not necessarily an economic or material transaction, nor does it always occur through direct exchanges. As in-depth interviews with citizens in Lebanon reveal, the receipt of services or welfare directly or by family members, members of their community, and beyond engenders a sense of belonging to a community, which has enormous psychological benefits, particularly in the context of underdeveloped and unstable national state institutions.

The delivery of social services by ethnic or sectarian groups provides much-needed support for some but comes with economic and political costs.

First, the welfare activities of sectarian parties and their precursors arguably helped create and certainly reinforced a tendency toward fragmentation in the Lebanese welfare regime, which engenders inefficiencies and inhibits meaningful reform.

Second, to the extent that sectarian organizations extend benefits to their supporters, they are less likely to foster shared commitments to a national polity through their distributional activities.

The potentially detrimental impact of their social programs on national integration is most visible in the education sector, in which protracted struggles have complicated the process of devising curricula for subjects such as history and civics. The inability to agree on a common national narrative hinders the construction of national solidarities, which many social scientists associate with the improved delivery of social services and public goods.

Third, although competition is generally assumed to boost accountability, under certain conditions it can limit the extent and inclusiveness of welfare provision. In power-sharing systems, such as the Lebanese consociational system, parties face incentives to prioritize in-group members when other parties compete to become the dominant representative of the same sectarian community.

For access to welfare, the consequences of service provision by sectarian parties are complex.

On the one hand, these groups, among other non-state actors, fill a gap which public agencies might not otherwise fill.

On the other hand, they distribute benefits on a discretionary basis, locking the poor and vulnerable into unequal relationships of clientelist exchange.

As the director of a Lebanese NGO observed, “Without [the social programs of sectarian groups], Lebanon would have been poorer than India.” Yet Pére Gregoire Haddad, the founder of the non-sectarian Mouvement Social, has asserted, “Confessional organizations divided the country and they divided the mentalities of the Lebanese people.”

Note: This analysis failed to consider the more current reality in Lebanon: All political leaders are primary business people and do Not invest time or energy of the social political necessities. Their business enterprises cater to everyone who afford to purchase their products and services.

Consequently, our political structure has No benefit of nationalizing any institution or service.

Our system is a mafia system where each canton is the monopoly of a few political business men.

A letter to our daughter: Mark Zuckerberg

Dec. 1, 2015

Your mother and I don’t yet have the words to describe the hope you give us for the future.
Your new life is full of promise, and we hope you will be happy and healthy so you can explore it fully.
You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in.
Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today. (That’s for sure)
While headlines often focus on what’s wrong, in many ways the world is getting better. Health is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting. Technological progress in every field means your life should be dramatically better than ours today.
(The statistics use ratios, but the actual numbers are horror stories: More people are coming to this sorry world of environmental degradation and increased military interventions than all the ratios and rates can tell of the horrors)
We will do our part to make this happen, not only because we love you, but also because we have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation.
We believe all lives have equal value, (believing is a good start. Actual actions are Not materializing in the value systems) and that includes the many more people who will live in future generations than live today.
Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here.
But right now, we don’t always collectively direct our resources at the biggest opportunities and problems your generation will face.
Consider disease.
1. Today we spend about 50 times more as a society treating people who are sick than we invest in research so you won’t get sick in the first place.
2. Medicine has only been a real science for less than 100 years, and we’ve already seen complete cures for some diseases and good progress for others. As technology accelerates, we have a real shot at preventing, curing or managing all or most of the rest in the next 100 years.
3. Today, most people die from five ailments — heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases — and we can make faster progress on these and other problems. (What about the curable diseases that poorer people are denied treatment in Africa, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Iraq…?)
Once we recognize that your generation and your children’s generation may not have to suffer from disease, we collectively have a responsibility to tilt our investments a bit more towards the future to make this reality.
Your mother and I want to do our part.
Curing disease will take time. Over short periods of five or ten years, it may not seem like we’re making much of a difference.
But over the long term, seeds planted now will grow, and one day, you or your children will see what we can only imagine: a world without suffering from disease.
There are so many opportunities just like this. If society focuses more of its energy on these great challenges, we will leave your generation a much better world.
• • •
Our hopes for your generation focus on two ideas: advancing human potential and promoting equality.
Advancing human potential is about pushing the boundaries on how great a human life can be. (People who die in poor countries are as viable as those living in countries with colonial passports)
Can you learn and experience 100 times more than we do today? (Just doubling the experience is hard to handle)
Can our generation cure disease so you live much longer and healthier lives? (Will society respect elderly with good health and give them satisfactory opportunities Not to live in isolation?)
Can we connect the world so you have access to every idea, person and opportunity?
Can we harness more clean energy so you can invent things we can’t conceive of today while protecting the environment?
Can we cultivate entrepreneurship so you can build any business and solve any challenge to grow peace and prosperity?
Promoting equality is about making sure everyone has access to these opportunities — regardless of the nation, families or circumstances they are born into. (Issuing United Nation passports to all living creature is the goal for equality of life quality in treatment)
Our society must do this not only for justice or charity, but for the greatness of human progress. (what kinds of progress can be classified as Great?)
Today we are robbed of the potential so many have to offer. The only way to achieve our full potential is to channel the talents, ideas and contributions of every person in the world.
Can our generation eliminate poverty and hunger?
Can we provide everyone with basic healthcare?
Can we build inclusive and welcoming communities?
Can we nurture peaceful and understanding relationships between people of all nations?
Can we truly empower everyone — women, children, underrepresented minorities, immigrants and the unconnected?
If our generation makes the right investments, (Including time, energy, voluntary work and contribution…) the answer to each of these questions can be yes — and hopefully within your lifetime.
• • •
This mission — advancing human potential and promoting equality — will require a new approach for all working towards these goals.
We must make long term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years. The greatest challenges require very long time horizons and cannot be solved by short term thinking.
We must engage directly with the people we serve. We can’t empower people if we don’t understand the needs and desires of their communities.
We must build technology to make change. Many institutions invest money in these challenges, but most progress comes from productivity gains through innovation.
We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates. Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.
We must back the strongest and most independent leaders in each field. Partnering with experts is more effective for the mission than trying to lead efforts ourselves.
We must take risks today to learn lessons for tomorrow. (At the expense of the less fortunate people?) We’re early in our learning and many things we try won’t work, but we’ll listen and learn and keep improving.
• • •
Our experience with personalized learning, internet access, and community education and health has shaped our philosophy.
Our generation grew up in classrooms where we all learned the same things at the same pace regardless of our interests or needs.
Your generation will set goals for what you want to become — like an engineer, health worker, writer or community leader. You’ll have technology that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus. You’ll advance quickly in subjects that interest you most, and get as much help as you need in your most challenging areas.
You’ll explore topics that aren’t even offered in schools today. Your teachers will also have better tools and data to help you achieve your goals.
Even better, students around the world will be able to use personalized learning tools over the internet, even if they don’t live near good schools. Of course it will take more than technology to give everyone a fair start in life, but personalized learning can be one scalable way to give all children a better education and more equal opportunity.
We’re starting to build this technology now, and the results are already promising.
Not only do students perform better on tests, but they gain the skills and confidence to learn anything they want. And this journey is just beginning. The technology and teaching will rapidly improve every year you’re in school.
Your mother and I have both taught students and we’ve seen what it takes to make this work. It will take working with the strongest leaders in education to help schools around the world adopt personalized learning.
It will take engaging with communities, which is why we’re starting in our San Francisco Bay Area community.
It will take building new technology and trying new ideas. And it will take making mistakes and learning many lessons before achieving these goals.
(It will take teachers whom kids like in order to learn)
But once we understand the world we can create for your generation, we have a responsibility as a society to focus our investments on the future to make this reality.
Together, we can do this. And when we do, personalized learning will not only help students in good schools, it will help provide more equal opportunity to anyone with an internet connection.
• • •
Many of the greatest opportunities for your generation will come from giving everyone access to the internet.
People often think of the internet as just for entertainment or communication. But for the majority of people in the world, the internet can be a lifeline.
It provides education if you don’t live near a good school. It provides health information on how to avoid diseases or raise healthy children if you don’t live near a doctor. It provides financial services if you don’t live near a bank. It provides access to jobs and opportunities if you don’t live in a good economy.
The internet is so important that for every 10 people who gain internet access, about one person is lifted out of poverty and about one new job is created.
Yet still more than half of the world’s population — more than 4 billion people — don’t have access to the internet.
If our generation connects them, we can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. We can also help hundreds of millions of children get an education and save millions of lives by helping people avoid disease.
This is another long term effort that can be advanced by technology and partnership.
It will take inventing new technology to make the internet more affordable and bring access to unconnected areas. It will take partnering with governments, non-profits and companies. It will take engaging with communities to understand what they need.  (Let’s invest spreading what is available and good enough to these 4 billion people)
Good people will have different views on the best path forward, and we will try many efforts before we succeed.
But together we can succeed and create a more equal world.
• • •
Technology can’t solve problems by itself. Building a better world starts with building strong and healthy communities.
Children have the best opportunities when they can learn. And they learn best when they’re healthy.
Health starts early — with loving family, good nutrition and a safe, stable environment.
Children who face traumatic experiences early in life often develop less healthy minds and bodies. Studies show physical changes in brain development leading to lower cognitive ability.
Your mother is a doctor and educator, and she has seen this firsthand.
If you have an unhealthy childhood, it’s difficult to reach your full potential.
If you have to wonder whether you’ll have food or rent, or worry about abuse or crime, then it’s difficult to reach your full potential.
If you fear you’ll go to prison rather than college because of the color of your skin, or that your family will be deported because of your legal status, or that you may be a victim of violence because of your religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, then it’s difficult to reach your full potential.
We need institutions that understand these issues are all connected. That’s the philosophy of the new type of school your mother is building.
By partnering with schools, health centers, parent groups and local governments, and by ensuring all children are well fed and cared for starting young, we can start to treat these inequities as connected. Only then can we collectively start to give everyone an equal opportunity.
It will take many years to fully develop this model. But it’s another example of how advancing human potential and promoting equality are tightly linked. If we want either, we must first build inclusive and healthy communities.
• • •
For your generation to live in a better world, there is so much more our generation can do.
Today your mother and I are committing to spend our lives doing our small part to help solve these challenges.
I will continue to serve as Facebook’s CEO for many, many years to come, but these issues are too important to wait until you or we are older to begin this work. By starting at a young age, we hope to see compounding benefits throughout our lives.
As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.
We will give 99% of our Facebook shares — currently about $45 billion — during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.
(Read about this bogus charity trust meant Not to pay taxes to Uncle Sam)
We’ll share more details in the coming months once we settle into our new family rhythm and return from our maternity and paternity leaves. We understand you’ll have many questions about why and how we’re doing this.
As we become parents and enter this next chapter of our lives, we want to share our deep appreciation for everyone who makes this possible.
We can do this work only because we have a strong global community behind us. Building Facebook has created resources to improve the world for the next generation. Every member of the Facebook community is playing a part in this work.
We can make progress towards these opportunities only by standing on the shoulders of experts — our mentors, partners and many incredible people whose contributions built these fields.
And we can only focus on serving this community and this mission because we are surrounded by loving family, supportive friends and amazing colleagues. We hope you will have such deep and inspiring relationships in your life too.
Max, we love you and feel a great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you and all children. We wish you a life filled with the same love, hope and joy you give us. We can’t wait to see what you bring to this world.


Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

HUDEIDAH, Yemen — The second floor of the dialysis clinic here looks more like a refugee camp than a kidney treatment center.

A few dozen patients have been living here for days, sleeping on either plastic chairs or the grime-covered floor. They are waiting for treatment but the clinic’s machines are not working.

With each passing day the toxins in their blood increase. They get sicker. They can do nothing but wait.

Like all of Yemen, they are slowly dying.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous on 

The dialysis center represents all that is wrong with the country right now. Yemen is the site of a civil war, with one side backed by a Saudi-led coalition, the other led by the Houthi rebel movement, (seeking independence from the US/Saudi mandate).

For 9 months now, Saudi Arabia has been both bombing the country, at times indiscriminately. It has also imposed a crippling blockade. (The UN has repeatedly denounced Saudi/US bombing of every infrastructure, hospital, schools… at no avail)

The results have been dire for what was already the poorest country in the region.

Food is scarce and Yemenis everywhere are going hungry. Officials say the country is on the brink of famine.

The blockade has also prevented deliveries of fuel, which inhibits the ability of Yemenis to travel — for treatment at a dialysis center, for example. It has also led to an energy crisis.

Electricity is intermittent at best. Meanwhile, violence has displaced millions. For all these reasons, the economy has essentially collapsed.

Saudi Arabia put together a coalition of Arab countries that is directly supported by the United States. (Till now, all fighters are hired mercenaries and no State has officially sent regular soldiers)

The stated goal is to drive back the Houthi rebels and reinstall the country’s ousted president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour. Mansour is friendly to Saudi Arabia and the United States, allowing the latter to conduct its counterterrorism campaigns(the kinds of terror instigated by the US/Saudi activities in the entire region)  inside the country. For Saudi Arabia, the war is about countering perceived Iranian influence on a neighboring country.

The airstrikes alone have devastated Yemen, hitting civilian targets like weddings and hospitals with disturbing regularity. The blockade, meanwhile, is having a quieter, slower, but ultimately more deadly impact.

Saudi Arabia says the blockade is preventing weapons from reaching the Houthis. But it is also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Yemenis. The Houthis and their allies have set up their own blockades in areas they control, making the problem even worse.

Effectively, Yemenis are being strangled to death. Every day that passes they lose more and more of the essentials: food, water, shelter, fuel and health care.

All of these shortages meet at Hudeidah’s sole dialysis center.

Darweesh Abdullah, an elderly woman who lives more than 40 miles away from the center, has waited for a week, sleeping on the floor. She typically needs dialysis every four days. Now her chest has tightened, making it difficult to breathe. Her legs and feet have swollen. She can no longer walk. “After the war it got a lot harder to get help,” she said.

In a room down the hall, 29 dialysis machines sit eerily idle.

Mohamed Abdo, a young hospital supervisor, tries to explain the situation to a knot of forlorn patients gathered around him. There is a problem with the facility that treats the water used in the machines, he tells them, and the hospital must wait for engineers from the distant capital to fix it.

“This has happened a lot and it will happen again,” Abdo said. It is stiflingly hot and humid and there is sweat dripping from his forehead. “We have a very, very big problem.”

Patients await treatment at a dialysis center in Hudeidah. They could be waiting for days or even weeks. The center lacks electricity and faces other problems as a result of the war. With each day, the toxins in their bodies grow. They are slowly dying.

Rawan Shaif/GlobalPost

Because of a lack of fuel for generators, extended power cuts in the clinic are frequent. If they occur during dialysis, the machines stop and the blood inside can clot. “Many patients have died because of a lack of treatment,” said Hanan Ahmed, a specialist at the center. Some patients can’t reach the center for treatment at all. With high fuel prices, transport costs have skyrocketed, making long journeys an arduous and expensive ordeal.

Aisha Abdo and her husband, Yahiya Hussein, have been living in the clinic for a month and a half because they cannot afford to make the trip from Haradh twice a week for Aisha’s dialysis. “We don’t have money to go home,” Yahiya said. “We are living here for now. We don’t know what the future holds.”

Mohamed Taher, a father of five, was unable to raise the 2,000 riyals (about $9) to make the trip from his village about 40 miles away. His nephew, Saeed Ibrahim, watched helplessly as his uncle grew frail. On Oct. 22, Saeed came to see Mohamed and found him dead. “There’s no hospital in our area and we just couldn’t afford it,” Saeed said, softly.

The deadly coalition airstrikes receive most of the international press coverage on Yemen, which is already limited. The United Nations says the conflict has so far killed nearly 6,000 people, including more than 2,500 civilians. More than 630 of them have been children. Airstrikes have killed the majority of Yemenis.

But it is the Saudi blockade that might have the most lasting and devastating effects. And that blockade was brought to Yemen by the UN Security Council.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, Russia, the UK, China and France. In mid-April, less than three weeks after the Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign, the council passed a resolution drafted largely by the Persian Gulf countries taking part in the war. The resolution imposed a strict arms embargo on the Houthi leadership and their allies. The council approved the resolution, with everyone voting in favor except Russia, which abstained.

The move came after weeks of closed-door negotiations between diplomats from Gulf states and Russia. Russia had lobbied for the language to include text mandating “humanitarian pauses” in the coalition airstrikes. But Gulf countries vigorously opposed that, saying it would allow the Houthis to regroup, according to The New York Times.

The final text leaves it to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation, including the establishment of humanitarian pauses, as appropriate, in coordination with the Government of Yemen.”

Critics say the measure amounts to an endorsement of the siege that is choking supply lines and killing Yemenis who have little or nothing to do with the war.

“The UN resolution certainly allowed for an extremely strict embargo on Yemen that — regardless of intentions — has created blockages that made it very difficult to get basic goods in and out of Yemen,” says Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a founding member of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.

(The Houthi representative in the negotiation denounced the US for ordering the continuation of the bombing and refusing any cease fire that all parties are demanding)

Yemen relied heavily on imports for basic goods before the crisis, including more than 90 percent of its staple foods. The impoverished country also imported other essential commodities, like fuel and medicine

In September, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that commercial fuel imports fell to just 1 percent of monthly requirements. Food imports hit their second-lowest level since the war began. Over 21 million people — or more than 80 percent of the population — now require some kind of humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs.

“People’s lives are at risk and we are seeing an enormous impact on civilian populations,” said Trond Jensen, the head of OCHA in Yemen, which oversees all humanitarian planning in the country. “Part of it is generated by the conflict and part of it is generated by what we see as the de facto blockade — the implementation of the Security Council mandated arms embargo — which has effectively blocked many critical inputs from coming into the country.”

Back in Hudeidah, which is a port city on the Red Sea, the siege is on display. While the southern port of Aden is larger, it is mostly a transit stop for ships. Hudeidah is Yemen’s main conduit for goods. About 80 percent of the country’s imports should move through here.

All the typical elements of a port city are evident: lines of heavy trucks, loading docks, silos and cranes. But absent are the energy and the noise. There is little movement. These days there is almost no industrial activity at all. No boats are allowed into the port without the approval of the Saudi coalition, a process that can take weeks. As deliveries wait, desperately needed cargoes of food begin to spoil.

“The coalition has no red lines.”Yahiya Abbas Sharaf, the deputy chief of Yemen’s Red Sea Port

The deputy chief of Yemen’s Red Sea Port, Yahiya Abbas Sharaf, said the blockade tightened in July, severely restricting access to the port. Since then, he said, not a single large container ship has been allowed into Hudeidah. Before the war, the port would receive a container ship every two to three days.

As if the blockade weren’t enough, late at night on Aug. 17 nine airstrikes hit the port within a span of 15 minutes. All five loading cranes were damaged. A hangar with loading and transport vehicles was destroyed. Sharaf said on the same day they bombed the port in Hudeidah, the coalition announced the port in Aden, now under Saudi control, was operational.

“The coalition has no red lines,” Sharaf said.

The spokesman for the coalition, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, flatly denies that humanitarian aid is being prevented from entering. “Hudeidah is controlled by the Houthis and we allow ships to go to the port to give them food, medicine and fuel,” al-Asiri told GlobalPost. “Since the start of the military operation more than 800 ships have arrived in different ports.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sees it differently. “Severe import restrictions, caused mainly by the naval blockade imposed by the coalition forces during the conflict, have also aggravated the humanitarian situation,” the commissioner wrote in a statement released in September.

The blockade has turned average Yemenis into experts in wattage. They know details about battery capacity and the power requirements of anything imaginable. At night, the headlights of passing cars and motorbikes slice through the dark. Some shops on the main thoroughfares light up the sidewalks but, for the most part, to walk the streets of Yemen after sunset is to wade through blackness.

The fuel required to create electricity is now mostly sold on the black market. The prices are exceedingly high. Across Yemen, young men and boys line city streets selling jerrycans and plastic water bottles filled with fuel, colored bright red or deep yellow. According to the United Nations, average fuel prices are 273 percent higher than normal. In some places, the cost of fuel is 400 percent higher.

As a result, electricity is now a precious resource. It must be rationed. In Sanaa, the capital, the electric grid has been dead since September.

After sunset, people use candles indoors and light small fires outside. They walk with small headlamps and flashlights. The hum of generators is everywhere. For those who can afford the heavy expense, solar panels are a popular solution. It’s enough for some lights, but not enough for a fridge.

Nothing in Yemen is as bad as the hunger.

Ten of Yemen’s 22 provinces are now classified as facing an emergency food situation, according to the World Food Program. “Half of the country is now just one step away from famine,” the aid agency’s Deputy Regional Director Matthew Hollingworth said during a news conference in Sanaa in December.

Yemenis, especially those uprooted from their homes, are engaged in a daily struggle to find something to eat.

The Dahadh camp sits on the sunwashed rocky hills of Khamer, a town in Amran governorate just north of the capital. Some 3,000 displaced Yemenis, most of them from war-torn Saada, have been living here for months — many of them since the beginning of the conflict nine months ago.

They have no comforts. Inside dust-covered tents emblazoned with large UN logos, a single sheet provides little respite from the hard ground. Some families have blankets. Many don’t. They bathe standing in small plastic tubs. To relieve themselves, they walk over the hill, out of sight, and defecate on the ground.

But compared to the lack of food, none of that matters. “My life is all hunger and fatigue,” says Mariam Ahmed, a gnarled and frail grandmother who says she hasn’t eaten for two days. She speaks haltingly, wheezing out short sentences. “There is nothing here. I’ve cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.”

Gnawing pangs of hunger are a daily reality for people like Mariam. Her appetite is never sated. She is weak from the lack of food and there is an almost constant ache in her empty stomach. More than 3 million people in Yemen were added to the ranks of the severely hungry in less than a year.

According to recent estimates, 7.6 million people are severely food insecure, a level of need requiring urgent external assistance, the United Nations says.

Camp residents say they have only received two deliveries of food since they arrived, the last one in July. They survive mostly on bread, tea and sometimes rice. When they do receive donations of blankets or mattresses they sell them in order to buy flour.

The bread is baked in metal barrels. With no cooking oil or even wood to make fire, they have taken to burning plastic bottles that children scavenge from the town streets. They pile the bottles in the middle of the camp and light them on fire. The poisonous fumes seep into the dough and a toxic sludge oozes from the bottom of the barrel.

“We know this is not good for us, but what can we do,” said Abdo al-Obadi, a local leader in the camp. “It’s either this or we die of hunger.”

Al-Obadi arrived here in March in the first days of the war when his neighborhood in Saada came under heavy bombardment. He piled 16 families into his truck and drove south. He has been living in the camp ever since. “It’s very bad here,” he said. “There is no work, we have nothing to do.”

Now winter is approaching, and there’s no protection from the cold. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” Al-Obadi said. “I think I will be here for four to five years,” he added matter-of-factly. “When the war ends and they rebuild our houses and Yemen is stable.”

That stability seems a long way off.

This month, members of Yemen’s warring sides met in Switzerland for UN-sponsored peace talks in the hope of negotiating an end to the conflict. A seven-day truce was declared to help the chances of success. However, each side has accused the other of repeated ceasefire violations, which threatened to derail an already fragile process.

Yemeni troops loyal to the ousted president captured two towns in northern Yemen from the Houthis as the talks were underway. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said two ballistic missiles were fired at the kingdom from Yemen. Areas in the north have seen some of the heaviest aerial bombardment and fiercest ground fighting, causing hundreds of thousands of Yemenis to flee their homes.

The displaced are everywhere in Yemen. More than 2.5 million people, or almost one-tenth of the population, have been forced from their homes since the conflict began, according to the United Nations. The majority of the displaced are women and children. Most have fled the relentless coalition bombardment as well as indiscriminate shelling by rebel groups.

Thousands of Yemenis are sheltering in 260 schools across the country, preventing access to education for some 13,000 children. In a government-run school in Sanaa, more than 280 people are living in cramped conditions. Families live 10 to a classroom but there is still not enough space, forcing others to live under tarpaulin draped over the school’s stairways.

“All I ask for is peace. How can someone be outside of their house for this long? We are going to die here from the cold and the hunger.”Zubeida Nasser Ahmed, 43, has been living in a school for seven months

Zubeida Nasser Ahmed has been living here for seven months. Her house was on Jabal Nuqum, a mountain overlooking the capital that is thought to have a munitions depot buried within it. That prompted the Saudi-led coalition to bomb it repeatedly. She was forced to flee with six of her relatives, including her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. She has aged far beyond her 43 years. She has no teeth and her face is wizened by hardship. When she reveals her relatively young age she does so apologetically, aware of the disbelief it arouses.

“It is wearying to live here. But I don’t know where else to go,” she said. There are no medical services. She takes turns with other residents of the school to go outside and beg for food. Winter is arriving and she has no warm clothes. “No one brings us anything.”

She is suffering from chest aches and indigestion. “All I ask for is peace. How can someone be outside of their house for this long?” She points to Jabal Nuqum in the distance, her former home. “We are going to die here from the cold and the hunger.” One child living in the school passed away from malnutrition several weeks earlier.

Those living in the school, however, are the lucky ones. Some displaced Yemenis are living in conditions so squalid they make the schools an appealing refuge by comparison.

The drive east from Yemen’s highlands to the coastal plain is a journey through steadily increasing temperature and humidity. By the time you get to Beni Hassan, a northern area in Hajjah governorate, some 40 miles from the Saudi border, the heat is all-enveloping. Stepping outside is like walking through warm wet cotton.

She says the families living in the school receive little food and there is practically no support from local NGOs, which are overwhelmed by the crisis.

“This is the worst place we have lived. There is nothing here. But where can we go?”Ali Abdullah, 60

On the side of the road, by a small cornfield, is a camp of about 150 displaced families. Though, calling it a camp is indulgent. Residents have built makeshift tents using scavenged pieces of wood that are loosely draped with sheets and torn pieces of tarp. They provide only shade, not shelter.

Nearly all of the people in the camp have been displaced from Haradh, a town near the Saudi border that came under some of the heaviest bombardment of the war. They fled in the first few days of the conflict, not from their homes, but from another refugee camp called al-Mazraq. They had arrived there in 2009, during the last of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s six wars with the Houthis. Saleh, the always-politically-flexible former autocrat, is now aligned with the Houthis in the hopes of returning to power.

The al-Mazraq camp was hit by an airstrike four days after the Saudi-led military campaign began. At least 45 people were killed and dozens more wounded. So the survivors fled, displaced twice over. This time they arrived to far worse conditions.

Like many of the camp’s residents, Saeeda Abu Kheir walked from al-Mazraq to Beni Hassan carrying what few belongings he could. She came with her husband and 10 children — one of whom is mentally disabled — and has been living here in squalid conditions for the past eight months. They are surviving, not living. They sleep on the dirt floor. Their only blankets are used for the roof of their tent. Whenever it rains, the camp floods and the ground turns to mud.

Every day the family scrounges for leftovers in local restaurants or begs for flour and sugar from local residents to make bread and tea. Saeda’s husband tries to find work hauling produce in the local market. She says she has only received food from the United Nations or an NGO once in eight months.

“It’s so, so tough here,” she said, holding a baby in her arms in the sweltering heat. Winter is approaching and she says she will have to remove the blankets off her tent to use them to stay warm. “We need blankets and food. That’s all we ask for.”

They have not fully escaped the bombs, either. Airstrikes hit the area of Beni Hassan frequently. Several days before GlobalPost’s visit in November a power plant nearby was struck, sending everyone running into the corn fields.

Several miles north is a larger makeshift camp that hosts some 4,000 families. Most of them also fled the heavy coalition airstrikes in Haradh. Ali Abdullah, a 60-year-old grandfather, has been living here with his family for the past eight months. He is silver-haired and gaunt, and his story is one of continuous suffering.

He too fled the al-Mazraq refugee camp with his family after the coalition bombing in March. One of his sons returned to their home village only to be killed by artillery fire a few days later. Abdullah sought refuge in a nearby village. He says they were forced to flee again when the area was hit by cluster bombs — which are banned by most countries, though not Saudi Arabia or the United States. Dropped by the coalition, the explosives wounded his nephew. The family eventually arrived at Beni Hassan where they built makeshift tents. “This is the worst place we have lived,” he said. “There is nothing here. But where can we go?”

Abdullah says he almost died when he contracted malaria two weeks earlier. Before that he had a severe case of diarrhea that left him dangerously dehydrated. “I just sat and prayed,” he said. “There is no medical care. Anyone who gets sick just waits to see if he will recover. More people are dying from disease and illness in this place than from airstrikes.”

Like the dialysis center, hospitals in Yemen are ground zero for the humanitarian crisis.

The health system is in “a state of collapse,” according to the World Health Organization. More than 600 health facilities have stopped functioning due to a lack of fuel, supplies and personnel. More than 15 million Yemenis — well over half of Yemen’s population — now lack access to health care.

Visit any medical center — from Sanaa to Saada, Hajjah to Hudeidah — and the hardships are similar: medical shortages, frequent power outages, not enough staff and a ballooning number of patients.

Al-Thawra hospital is the largest medical facility in Yemen. The massive complex sits in the heart of the capital. Despite its stature, al-Thawra is also suffering from an acute shortage of medical supplies. Even basic items like rubbing alcohol are scant. The hospital has not been able to perform heart surgery for two months due to the dearth of proper anesthetics and medicine.

The dialysis center has been closed for two months without the replacement tubes and dialysis solution necessary to run the machines. Even the plastic booties for visitors to cover their shoes have run out; the cardboard boxes at the ICU entrances hang empty.

Near the end of October the hospital began to run out of sutures, forcing them to use makeshift stitches that threaten to tear open.

“We are calling for help as soon as possible. From everywhere, from everyone to be able to run facilities or patients, otherwise we will simply have to stop,” said Dr. Abdul Latif Abotaleb, a surgeon at the hospital for 20 years and its deputy director for the past three months. He adds that many people have died because of a lack of available medicine, mainly kidney and heart patients.

As supplies and staff run short, hospitals in Yemen are overwhelmed. Nearly 27,000 people were reported wounded in the conflict as of mid-October, according to the United Nations. Disease outbreaks, including malaria and dengue fever, have made matters worse. Meanwhile, with the limited care available, people are dying from chronic ailments that are easily treatable. Cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure account for 39 percent of all deaths right now in Yemen.

Like health facilities across the country, one of al-Thawra’s main problems is limited fuel. The hospital has barely had any for the last month and a half. They use the minimum amount possible to power the generators. Electricity is rationed for the ICU and surgery, while other sections of the hospital get power for two hours at a time.

“If the situation continues like this we will all die. The sick and the healthy,” Abotaleb said, adding that he has pled his case with the United Nations and international NGOs. But all he can do is wait. “We don’t know what else to do.”

Farther north, in Saada City, the Gomhouri hospital is one of the only ones left in the entire province. Doctors are forced to ration treatment. Patients who are no longer in critical condition are sent home to make room for others. Rooms that were once clinics have been filled with cots and converted into recovery wards.

The pediatrics ward is filled with malnourished children. Some are crying; most are too weak even for that.

Radwan Saleh is just 16 months old. Emaciated, he lies supine and stares blankly into space. His mother sits beside him. Her village of Sagein near the border came under repeated bombing, so she took her children to live in caves in the mountains before finally returning. They had little food. Radwan developed diarrhea and began vomiting, forcing his mother to leave her other children and take him to Saada for treatment.

The hospital receives as many as 20 malnourished children a day, according to Adel Habes, the head of the pediatrics center. “There was always malnutrition in Yemen. But it has increased 300 to 400 percent because of the war. There are no markets, no milk, no food. Roads are blocked and there is nothing reaching certain areas,” he said. Mothers bring their babies in only when they are critical; they have other children to take care of and the trip is usually fraught with danger and prohibitively expensive.

The Gomhouri hospital is the only medical facility in all of Saada with a malnutrition center. Yet it is in desperate need of antibiotics, milk and other supplies. Since March, more than 190 health facilities providing nutritional services have closed due to insecurity or fuel shortages.

“We are lacking in medicines. All of Yemen has this problem but Saada is particularly bad,” Salah al-Shami, the deputy manager of the al-Gomhouri hospital, said. “We want the world to see what is going on. There are real crimes happening here.”

About 2 million are now acutely malnourished, including 1.3 million children — 320,000 of whom are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, the United Nations says. Chronic malnutrition in early childhood harms physical and mental development, putting children at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives.

Hudeidah is the poorest governorate in the Arab world’s poorest country. It had the highest levels of malnutrition in Yemen before the war. The conflict has sent the levels of malnutrition among children soaring.

The number of cases in Hudeidah has at least tripled, according to Awsan Qaied, the head of the severe acute malnutrition center in Hudeidah’s Thawra hospital. That means more children are dying. Infants with severe acute malnutrition have a 75 percent chance of dying from related complications. “Stop the war, stop the siege and they will get better,” Qaied said.

Adnan Abdulfattah, the head of UNICEF’s office in Hudeidah, said the aid agency’s efforts to reduce malnutrition over the past three years were erased within 4 to 5 months.

“Yemen is probably the worst humanitarian situation in the world,” Abdulfattah said. “People think Somalia is the worst, but Yemen I think is the worst, especially in this part of the country.”

There was a time when Somalis fled to Yemen to escape famine and war. Now they are fleeing the other way.

Yemen’s northern province of Saada, the birthplace and homeland of the Houthi movement, is one of the worst-hit areas in the country. In May, the Saudi-led coalition declared Saada City, home to 50,000 people, a “military zone” and gave civilians a few hours to leave.

The ineffable destruction in Saada is difficult to absorb. Airstrikes have reduced whole neighborhoods to rubble. And they have destroyed almost all civilian infrastructure. Anywhere people once gathered — all the places of communal interaction that breathe life into a city — have been bombed.

The Saudi coalition has targeted nearly every single market, or “souq,” and commercial life has come to a standstill. The Old City is a ghost town. All that remains of its thriving main souq, where residents of other towns once traveled to shop, are empty streets and alleys bordered by rubble. Shops and stalls that sold everything from spices and vegetables to electrical appliances and gold have been razed. The airstrikes came in successive waves, destroying hundreds of stores, and with them hundreds of livelihoods. People who were poor before the war are now barely surviving.

Like his father before him, Saleh al-Tumeri, a wiry 50-year-old with brown teeth and wispy white stubble, sold seeds and “tamr” from his shop in the souq for decades. It was his only source of income. After it was bombed in May he lost everything. “All my goods were destroyed and burnt,” he said. He now hawks his wares on the street but earns a fraction of what he used to. On bad days all he can afford is some rice and a quarter of a chicken to feed his family of 12.

Mahmoud Ali Malek, a guard at the souq, points to where various shops once stood. “It is painful to walk through here. These shops were owned by poor people,” he said. “This was their one source of income.”

Mohsin al-Khatib, a government employee who worked in the electricity sector, says that 95 percent of the city’s electrical facilities have been bombed. What little fuel arrives to Saada is too expensive for most residents to run generators. “We are living like widows in mourning,” he said. “Life here is all misery and struggle.”

On the city’s main thoroughfare, rubble lines the streets where shops once stood. Restaurants, homes, banks, pharmacies, and barber shops have all been hit. Before it was bombed, Ibrahim al-Aqwa used to rent the ground floor of his family home to several retail stores. Like many Yemenis, when asked where he will get money now that his main source of income is gone, he points to the sky. “Life has gone down the drain for us,” he said.

The conflict has crippled economic life on a national scale.

Gross Domestic Product is expected to go from $13.3 billion in 2014 to $8.7 billion in 2015, a decline of 35 percent, according to Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and Cooperation. That leaves real GDP per capita at an alarming $326. More than 2.5 million people have lost their jobs. Meanwhile, soaring prices have depleted household savings.

All across the country, Yemenis are struggling to survive.

“We are living like widows in mourning. Life here is all misery and struggle.”Mohsin al-Khatib, a government employee

Amina Saleh Abdullah al-Najar lives with her eight children in Dahr Hamiyet, a warren of narrow alleys on the west side of the capital.

The small three-room house is dark and sparse, almost cavelike. A small window lets in the daylight. There is no electricity, of course. The only source of light in the evening is a small flashlight with a battery that she charges from a neighbor’s motorcycle.

Amina has been living here for the past seven years. Her husband died 11 years ago. The burden of poverty and a life of manual labor and housework have left deep wrinkles around the eyes of the 55-year-old widow, the only feature visible behind her niqab. Her hands are thick and coarse.

After dawn prayers she heads outside, scavenging for four to five hours to collect plastic bottles from the rubbish-strewn streets, which she then sells to middlemen who sell them to factories. Before the war she would be paid about 1,000 riyals for 10 kilos worth of plastic. With factories producing little, she now only gets 200 riyals. With that she has to pay her rent and feed her eight children. It is never enough.

“The war has affected us in every way,” she said.

Often she goes to restaurants and neighbors to beg for food. Her children frequently have no lunch and no dinner, going to bed with growling stomachs. Water deliveries from a local charity all but stopped two months ago and she now has to pay for water to cook, clean and drink. It costs 20 riyals for 20 liters. Gas is scarce and prohibitively expensive because of the siege. She goes to a local market to buy wood and makes small fires in the alley outside her door to cook her family’s meals.

When asked what she will do if prices continue to climb, she throws her hands in the air. “We will try to live, what can we do?” she said. “Otherwise we will just slowly die here.”

One of the most dire humanitarian situations is in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city some 120 miles south of the capital. In addition to suffering the effects of the coalition blockade, the city is also under a vicious internal siege by the Houthis. “The situation in Taiz is very much a microcosm of the entire situation in the country,” Jensen, the head of OCHA, said.

Battle for control of the city among an array of militias and Houthi forces and their allies heated up in September. The Houthis retreated to the outskirts of the city and have blocked nearly all routes in and out. Aid agencies and residents say the Houthis are preventing nearly any commercial goods or humanitarian aid from entering the city.

“Despite repeated attempts by UN agencies and our humanitarian partners to negotiate access and reach people, our trucks have remained stuck at checkpoints and only very limited assistance has been allowed in,” the UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement in November.

Two-thirds of the population has fled Taiz. The 200,000 men, women and children who still remain are in desperate need of food, water and medical supplies.

“Both sides are using aid as a weapon and they’re using the suffering of the Yemeni people as a political tool. Until now no side in the conflict has showed any willingness to take firm action to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.”Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a founding member of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies

Osamah al-Fakih, a researcher with the Sanaa-based Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, spent a week in Taiz in October doing research. He said Houthi forces have set up checkpoints on the main roads leading to the city and are conducting rigorous searches of anyone trying to enter. Trucks carrying food, fuel and medicine were parked on the side of the road and prevented from going in, al-Faqih said.

The blockade is so extensive that Houthi forces are even confiscating bags of groceries, like potatoes or flour, or small fuel containers carried by individual citizens. “I left Taiz very depressed by what I saw,” al-Faqih said.

Residents try to describe the nightmare. Civilians are caught between coalition airstrikes and shelling by Houthi forces. The rubble-lined streets are empty after dark. Most medical facilities have shut down; restaurants and grocers are closed. Much of the population is displaced within the city. There is no electricity and little cell phone reception.

“These people have already suffered extreme hunger, and if this situation continues the damage from hunger will be irreversible,” World Food Program Regional Director Muhannad Hadi said in October. The aid agency said the last UN food aid to reach Taiz had arrived more than five weeks earlier.

Om Farid fled Taiz in October after her 6-year-old son, Farid Shawky, was fatally wounded in a mortar attack as he was playing hide and seek in their residential neighborhood. A video of the boy in the hospital shows him bleeding as doctors tend to his injuries. Through tears he pleads twice in a soft voice to his father, “Don’t bury me.” He died four days later. Relatives buried him; his parents could not bring themselves to do it. The video quickly went viral and became a symbol of Yemen’s suffering.

As the conflict grinds on into its nine month, the level of suffering in Yemen has garnered relatively little attention in the international press.

“It’s important that Yemen is being reported widely in the media so people are conscious of what is happening here,” Jensen, the head of OCHA, said. “The situation is very, very dire and the only solution to end the suffering is peace. We are trying to press all parties to the conflict to go to the negotiating tables in good faith and find a solution for the sake of the people of Yemen.”

(They have gone to the negotiating table but US/Israel don’t want a cease fire)

Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a fellow at The Nation Institute. Additional reporting for this piece was provided by Amal al-Yarisi.

Note: Apparently, US/Israel want direct control over Bab Mandeb region on the Red Sea 


Study Finds:

Girls With Nagging Moms Grow Up to Be More Successful

. Oct. 30 2015

If your mom drives you crazy sometimes, there’s an upside.

Getting harassed by your mom about finishing up your homework may not thrill you at the time, but apparently, you’ll thank her later in life.

According to a study conducted by the University of Essex in England, you will probably be more successful than your friends with less pushy moms.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeily shared this link for the attention of her mother Raymonde Bouhatab Choukeir

From 2004 to 2010, researchers followed the lives of 15,500 girls between the ages 13 and 14, and they found that the girls with moms who set high standards for them growing up were more likely to go on to college and earn higher wages.

Another bonus of having a mom who’s always on your case: These same girls were also less likely to become pregnant as teens, too.

So maybe a little nagging isn’t so bad after all?

At least, that’s what your mom will tell you when you don’t want to do your homework. Sigh.

Empire’s Election Extravaganza

Noam Chomsky & Abby Martin

World renowned linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, joins Abby Martin to discuss the so-called War on Terror, the warped political spectrum in the United States, and how power functions in the Empire.

Chomsky argues that both the Democratic and Republican party have shifted to the right, with Republicans going “off the spectrum”, dedicating themselves to the interests of the extremely wealthy and powerful, and today’s Democrats becoming what used to be called moderate Republicans.

“What right do we have to kill somebody in another country we don’t like?”

ICYMI ‪#‎NoamChomsky‬ debunks the absurd logic of the “War on Terror” and dissects The Empire’s fascist shift on Media Roots:

Media Roots is a citizen journalism project that reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and…

Delving into libertarianism and the role of predatory capitalism, Chomsky discusses the institution of neoliberal policies, which have pushed for things like major financial institution bailouts, and government subsidies to energy corporations.

The contention that markets provide choices is farcical, argues Chomsky, as the market focuses you on individual consumption of consumer goods.

“New libertarians”, according to Chomsky, are deeply confused as to the meaning and history behind classical libertarianism, and what they propose would lead to society collapsing,

Describing the Iraq war as of one of the last century’s greatest atrocities, Chomsky asks what right the United States has in bombing or invading a country, for whatever reason. (And encouraging Israel to launch successive pre-emptive wars since 1956)

While there is a lot of criticism in regards to the US killing civilians inside Kunduz hospital, “what about killing [Taliban members]”, asks Chomsky. “What right do we have to kill somebody in some other country?”

Abby Martin once again takes up beyond the headlines and brings us to the very heart of the issues in this episode of The Empire Files.

posted on November 7, 2009

‘US foreign policy is straight out of the mafia’

Noam Chomsky is the closest thing in the English-speaking world to an intellectual superstar. A philosopher of language and political campaigner of towering academic reputation, who as good as invented modern linguistics, he is entertained by presidents, addresses the UN general assembly and commands a mass international audience.

When he spoke in London last week, thousands of young people battled for tickets to attend his lectures, followed live on the internet across the globe, as the 80-year-old American linguist fielded questions from as far away as besieged Gaza.

But the bulk of the mainstream western media doesn’t seem to have noticed.

His books sell in their hundreds of thousands, he is mobbed by students as a celebrity, but he is rarely reported or interviewed in the US outside radical journals and websites. The explanation, of course, isn’t hard to find. Chomsky is America’s most prominent critic of the US imperial role in the world, which he has used his erudition and standing to expose and excoriate since Vietnam.

Like the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, who spoke out against western-backed wars until his death at the age of 97, Chomsky has lent his academic prestige to a relentless campaign against his own country’s barbarities abroad – though in contrast to the aristocratic Russell, Chomsky is the child of working class Jewish refugees from Tsarist pogroms.

Not surprisingly, he has been repaid with either denunciation or, far more typically, silence. Whereas a much slighter figure such as the Atlanticist French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy is lionised at home and abroad, Chomsky and his genuine popularity are ignored.

Indeed, his books have been banned from the US prison library in Guantánamo. You’d hardly need a clearer example of his model of how dissenting views are filtered out of the western media, set out in his 1990’s book Manufacturing Consent, than his own case. But as Chomsky is the first to point out, the marginalisation of opponents of western state policy is as nothing compared to the brutalities suffered by those who challenge states backed by the US and its allies in the Middle East.

We meet in a break between a schedule of lectures and talks that would be punishing for a man half his age. At the podium, Chomsky’s style is dry and low-key, as he ranges without pausing for breath from one region and historical conflict to another, always buttressed with a barrage of sources and quotations, often from US government archives and leaders themselves.

But in discussion he is warm and engaged, only hampered by slight deafness. He has only recently started travelling again, he explains, after a three-year hiatus while he was caring for his wife and fellow linguist, Carol, who died from cancer last December.

Despite their privilege, his concentrated exposure to the continuing injustices and exorbitant expense of the US health system has clearly left him angry. Public emergency rooms are “uncivilised, there is no health care”, he says, and the same kind of corporate interests that drive US foreign policy are also setting the limits of domestic social reform.

All three schemes now being considered for Barack Obama’s health care reform are “to the right of the public, which is two to one in favour of a public option. But the New York Times says that has no political support, by which they mean from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.”

Now the American Petroleum Institute is determined to “follow the success of the insurance industry in killing off health reform,” Chomsky says, and do the same to hopes of genuine international action at next month’s Copenhagen climate change summit.

Only the forms of power have changed since the foundation of the republic, he says, when James Madison insisted that the new state should “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”.

Chomsky supported Obama’s election campaign in swing states, but regards his presidency as representing little more than a “shift back towards the centre” and a striking foreign policy continuity with George Bush’s second administration.

“The first Bush administration was way off the spectrum, America’s prestige sank to a historic low and the people who run the country didn’t like that.” But he is surprised so many people abroad, especially in the third world, are disappointed at how little Obama has changed. “His campaign rhetoric, hope and change, was entirely vacuous. There was no principled criticism of the Iraq war: he called it a strategic blunder. And Condoleezza Rice was black – does that mean she was sympathetic to third world problems?”

 The veteran activist has described the US invasion of Afghanistan as “one of the most immoral acts in modern history”, which united the jihadist movement around al-Qaida, sharply increased the level of terrorism and was “perfectly irrational – unless the security of the population is not the main priority”.
Which, of course, Chomsky believes, it is not. “States are not moral agents,” he says, and believes that now that Obama is escalating the war, it has become even clearer that the occupation is about the credibility of Nato and US global power.

This is a recurrent theme in Chomsky’s thinking about the American empire. He argues that since government officials first formulated plans for a “grand area” strategy for US global domination in the early 1940s, successive administrations have been guided by a “godfather principle, straight out of the mafia: that defiance cannot be tolerated. It’s a major feature of state policy.” “Successful defiance” has to be punished, even where it damages business interests, as in the economic blockade of Cuba – in case “the contagion spreads”.

The gap between the interests of those who control American foreign policy and the public is also borne out, in Chomsky’s view, by the US’s unwavering support for Israel and “rejectionism” of the two-state solution effectively on offer for 30 years. That’s not because of the overweening power of the Israel lobby in the US, but because Israel is a strategic and commercial asset which underpins rather than undermines US domination of the Middle East.

“Even in the 1950s, President Eisenhower was concerned about what he called a campaign of hatred of the US in the Arab world, because of the perception on the Arab street that it supported harsh and oppressive regimes to take their oil.”

Half a century later, corporations like Lockheed Martin and Exxon Mobil are doing fine, he says: America’s one-sided role in the Middle East isn’t harming their interests, whatever risks it might bring for anyone else.

Chomsky is sometimes criticised on the left for encouraging pessimism or inaction by emphasising the overwhelming weight of US power – or for failing to connect his own activism with labour or social movements on the ground. He is certainly his own man, holds some idiosyncratic views (I was startled, for instance, to hear him say that Vietnam was a strategic victory for the US in southeast Asia, despite its humiliating 1975 withdrawal) and has drawn flak for defending freedom of speech for Holocaust deniers.

He describes himself as an anarchist or libertarian socialist, but often sounds more like a radical liberal – which is perhaps why he enrages more middle-of-the-road American liberals who don’t appreciate their views being taken to the logical conclusion.

But for an octogenarian who has been active on the left since the 1930s, Chomsky sounds strikingly upbeat. He’s a keen supporter of the wave of progressive change that has swept South America in the past decade (“one of the liberal criticisms of Bush is that he didn’t pay enough attention to Latin America – it was the best thing that ever happened to Latin America”).

He also believes there are now constraints on imperial power which didn’t exist in the past: “They couldn’t get away with the kind of chemical warfare and blanket B52 bombing that Kennedy did,” in the 1960s. He even has some qualified hopes for the internet as a way around the monopoly of the corporate-dominated media.

But what of the charge so often made that he’s an “anti-American” figure who can only see the crimes of his own government while ignoring the crimes of others around the world? “Anti-Americanism is a pure totalitarian concept,” he retorts. “The very notion is idiotic. Of course you don’t deny other crimes, but your primary moral responsibility is for your own actions, which you can do something about. It’s the same charge which was made in the Bible by King Ahab, the epitome of evil, when he demanded of the prophet Elijah: why are you a hater of Israel? He was identifying himself with society and criticism of the state with criticism of society.”

It’s a telling analogy. Chomsky is a studiedly modest man who would balk at any such comparison. But in the Biblical tradition of the conflict between prophets and kings, there’s not the slightest doubt which side he represents

Theory for what’s behind the rise of ISIS

A year after his 700-page opus “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” stormed to the top of America’s best-seller lists, Thomas Piketty is out with a new argument about income inequality.

It may prove more controversial than his book, which continues to generate debate in political and economic circles.

The new argument, which Piketty spelled out recently in the French newspaper Le Monde, is this: Inequality is a major driver of Middle Eastern terrorism, including the Islamic State attacks on Paris earlier this month — and Western nations have themselves largely to blame for that inequality.

Jim Tankersley covers economic policy for The Post. He’s from Oregon.

Piketty writes that the Middle East’s political and social system has been made fragile by the high concentration of oil wealth into a few countries with relatively little population.

If you look at the region between Egypt and Iran — which includes Syria — you find several oil monarchies controlling between 60 and 70 percent of wealth, while housing just a bit more than 10 percent of the 300 million people living in that area.

(Piketty does not specify which countries he’s talking about, but judging from a study he co-authored last year on Middle East inequality, it appears he means Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. By his numbers, they accounted for 16 percent of the region’s population in 2012 and almost 60 percent of its gross domestic product.)

This concentration of so much wealth in countries with so small a share of the population, he says, makes the region “the most unequal on the planet.”

Within those monarchies, he continues, a small slice of people controls most of the wealth, while a large — including women and refugees — are kept in a state of “semi-slavery.”

Those economic conditions, he says, have become justifications for jihadists, along with the casualties of a series of wars in the region perpetuated by Western powers.

(Why terror Not performed in these oil rich countries? The theory is flawed if Not including the US policies in the equation)

His list starts with the first Gulf War, which he says resulted in allied forces returning oil “to the emirs.” Though he does not spend much space connecting those ideas, the clear implication is that economic deprivation and the horrors of wars that benefited only a select few of the region’s residents have, mixed together, become what he calls a “powder keg” for terrorism across the region.

Piketty is particularly scathing when he blames the inequality of the region, and the persistence of oil monarchies that perpetuate it, on the West:

These are the regimes that are militarily and politically supported by Western powers, all too happy to get some crumbs to fund their [soccer] clubs or sell some weapons. No wonder our lessons in social justice and democracy find little welcome among Middle Eastern youth.”

Terrorism that is rooted in inequality, Piketty continues, is best combated economically.

To gain credibility with those who do not share in the region’s wealth, Western countries should demonstrate that they are more concerned with the social development of the region than they are with their own financial interests and relationships with ruling families.

The way to do this, he says, is to ensure that Middle eastern oil money funds “regional development,” including far more education.

(Syria and Iraq were to be destroyed because they tended to education, health and infrastructure)

He concludes by looking inward, at France, decrying its discrimination in the hiring of immigrants and the high unemployment levels among those populations. He says Europe must turn away from “austerity” and reinvigorate its model of integration and job creation, and notes that the continent accepted a net 1 million immigrants per year before the financial crisis.

The argument has not gained much notice in the United States thus far. It rests on some controversial principles, not the least of which is the question of how unequal the Middle East is compared to the rest of the world — a problem rooted in the region’s poor quality of economic statistics. In his paper last year, Piketty and a co-author concluded inequality was in fact quite high.

“Under plausible assumptions,” the paper states in its abstract, “the top 10% income share (for the Middle East) could be well over 60%, and the top 1% share might exceed 25% (vs. 20% in the United States, 11% in Western Europe, and 17% in South Africa).”

Those would, indeed, be jarring levels. They are the high end of the scenarios Piketty lays out in the paper. Whether they are a root cause of the Islamic State is a debate that is very likely just beginning.

Daesh erects statue to its founder: The ISis Magazine Dabiq wrote

Eyes of the Future

Katia Aoun Hage in Red Lips High Heels 

I took a seat nonchalantly and rested the Arabic traditional instrument, the qanun, on my legs.

Like every rehearsal and performance I attended, I was focused, music ready, mind and spirit in reverence of the music to be created.

Between the sound cables and baby Jesus in the manger, I looked up from the corner to the believers in this newly dedicated Maronite American church.

The stories of tension between families still lingering in the air silently rested on their shoulders.

Stories mingled with a spirit of hope to transcend forgetting what has been. But we all know too well how impossible a task it is: to bury the wounded past.

It will grow surely in the soil of silence to haunt the souls of their children.

Their children, with those big curious pure eyes, suddenly turned to the sound of strings moving their hearts.

Theirs encountered my gaze and reached deeply in my soul to the place of beauty, where no remorse or guilt survived.

And joy was born at the unexpected sounds of a 20 year-old qanun, beaten up, torn and fixed up, glued, dusty in its corners.

Joy filled those big curious pure eyes tracing smiles on their beautiful faces. From the mud rises the lotus, said the Buddha and from tensions, cracked up instruments and wounded souls rise beauty, that gives hope to a new generation of beings.

A hope that opens the doors wide to the infinite richness of centuries-old culture.

A hope that whirls in the minds and the hearts resurrecting ideas and thoughts long forgotten in the dust of times.

What has been just another performance quickly turned into an invitation.

As the souls of these children reached deep into my own, I remembered my responsibility, my generation’s responsibility, to rise from the ashes and wounds of the civil war, to bring hope and beauty of a culture that never really died, but was merely put on a higher shelf.

By Katia Aoun Hage on the Red Lips High Heels’ blog


Israeli settlements are stifling Palestine’s economy

By: Al-Shabaka

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.

In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Policy Fellow Nur Arafeh and Policy Advisors Samia al-Botmeh and Leila Farsakh address Israel’s arguments against the European Union’s decision to label settlement products by demonstrating the devastating impact Israel’s settlement enterprise has had on the Palestinian economy, dispossessing Palestinians of their land, water, and other resources and creating mass unemployment.

A general view of the occupied East Jerusalem Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo. (AFP/File)

It has taken years for the EU to develop its position on the labeling of goods produced in the settlements Israel has built in Palestinian and Syrian territory since occupying it in 1967.

The European Commission issued a statement in 1998 that Israel was suspected of a breach of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which was signed in 1995 and came into effect in 2000, and which exempted Israeli goods from customs duties.

In 2010, the European Court of Justice confirmed that products originating in the West Bank did not qualify for preferential customs treatment under the EU’s Association Agreement with Israel, and that assertions by Israeli authorities were not binding upon EU customs authorities.

However, it was only in 2015 that the EU took the long overdue step of aligning its actions with its own regulations, partly in response to growing civil society pressure to recognize the illegality of settlements.
On September 10, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the labeling of goods produced in the Israeli settlements as produced in “Israeli settlements” rather than in “Israel” and ensuring that they would not benefit from preferential trade treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Two months later, on November 11, the EU issued its long-awaited guidelines regarding labeling, which it described in low-key language as an “Interpretative Notice.”
However, settlement products will still be traded with the European Union (EU), leaving it to consumers to make an “informed decision” as to whether to buy these products or not.Israel claims that the EU move is “discriminatory” and that it is harmful to the Palestinian economy in general and to Palestinian workers in particular.
This is clearly an attempt by Israel to divert international attention from the reality of the illegal settlement enterprise, its profoundly negative effects on the Palestinian economy, and the moral and legal obligations of the EU.
In fact, Israel’s entire settlement enterprise is illegal under international law, as reaffirmed by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on Israel’s Separation Wall in 2004.
Israel’s transfer of its population to the occupied territory is a breach of the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
The settlements’ economic exploitation of the OPT
This policy brief focuses on the territories Israel occupied in 1967 — the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights — and more specifically on the Israeli settlements and outposts that were built in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). It does not tackle all of Israel’s violations of international law and of Palestinian rights.
The fact that Israel’s settlement construction has been based on the economic exploitation of the OPT has been widely documented.
This has included the confiscation of large swathes of Palestinian land and destruction of Palestinian property to use for construction and agriculture purposes; seizure of water resources to the extent that 599,901 settlers use six times more water than the whole Palestinian population in the West Bank of some 2.86 million; appropriation of touristic and archaeological sites; and exploitation of Palestinian quarries, mines, Dead Sea resources, and other non-renewable natural resources, as will be discussed below.
Settlements have also been supported by an infrastructure of roads, checkpoints, and the Separation Wall, leading to the creation of isolated Bantustans in the West Bank, and to the appropriation of more Palestinian land.
As a result, Israeli settlements now control around 42 percent of West Bank land. This figure includes built-up areas as well as the municipal boundaries of the Israeli settlements. These boundaries actually encompass an area 9.4 times larger than the built-up areas of the West Bank settlements and are off-limits to Palestinians unless they have permits.
The majority of settlements in the West Bank are built in Area C, which represents 60 percent of the West Bank and which is richly endowed with natural resources. According to a World Bank study, 68% of Area C has been reserved for Israeli settlements, while less than 1% has been allowed for Palestinian use.
Within Area C, Israeli settlement exploitation is concentrated in the Jordan Valley and the northern part of the Dead Sea. Israeli settlements control 85.2 percent of these areas, which are the most fertile land in the West Bank.
Their abundant water supply and favorable climate provide the best conditions for agriculture. Indeed, they yield 40% of date exports from Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinians are prevented from living there, building, or even herding their livestock under the pretext that the land is either “state land,” “a military zone” or a “natural reserve.”
Israel also resorts to other ways to expel Palestinians from their lands, by demolishing houses, prohibiting the building of schools and hospitals, and denying residents access to essential services like electricity, water, and well digging. By contrast, most settlements are designated as “national priority areas,” allowing them to receive financial incentives from the Israeli government in the area of education, health, housing construction, and industrial and agricultural development.
Israeli revenue from the exploitation of Palestinian land and resources in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea is estimated at around 500 million NIS annually (around $130 million). To get a sense of the impact on the Palestinian economy, it is worth noting that the indirect cost of Israel’s restriction on Palestinian access to water in the Jordan Valley — and their inability to cultivate their land as a result — was $663 million, the equivalent of 8.2 percent of Palestinian GDP in 2010.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to build new settlements. Netanyahu claimed during his speech at the US Center for American Progress, in November, that no new settlements have been built in the past 20 years.
In fact, 20 Israeli settlements were approved under his rule, three of which were illegal outposts that were then approved by the government.
The most recent manifestation of Israeli settlement policy is the renewed construction of the Separation Wall near Beit Jala (Wall of Shame) in the West Bank, effectively separating the villagers from their privately owned farmland in the Cremisan Valley. The route of this segment of the Wall is designed to allow for the annexation of the settlement of Har Gilo south of Jerusalem, giving it contiguity with the Gilo settlement situated within the boundaries Israel created for the Jerusalem municipality after its occupation began in 1967.

A Palestinian economy stifled by settlements

Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise has clearly had a profoundly negative effect on the Palestinian economy. Israel’s control over water and land has helped to decrease the labor productivity of the agricultural sector and its contribution to GDP: The contribution of agriculture, forestry and fishing declined from 13.3 percent in 1994 to 4.7 percent in 2012, at current prices.
The dumping of solid waste and waste water from industrial zones in the settlements into the OPT has further polluted the Palestinian environment, land, and water.
Restricted access to the vast resources of the Dead Sea has prevented Palestinians from establishing cosmetics businesses and other industries, based on the extraction of minerals.
A World Bank study estimated that had there not been access restrictions, the production and sales of magnesium, potash, and bromine would have had an annual value added of $918 million to the Palestinian economy, the equivalent of 9 percent GDP in 2011.
Severe constraints on access to mines and quarries in Area C have also hindered Palestinians’ ability to extract gravel and stones. The estimated annual lost gross value added to the Palestinian economy from quarrying and mining is $575 million. In total, it is estimated that restricted access to and production in Area C has cost the Palestinian economy $3.4 billion.
As discussed in an earlier Al-Shabaka policy brief, Israel even controls Palestinian access to their own electro-magnetic sphere — a policy to which the settlements contribute — creating losses of between $80 to $100 million annually for Palestinian telecommunication operators.
Furthermore, the absence of contiguity within the West Bank, coupled with other Israeli movement and access restrictions, has fragmented the West Bank economy into smaller disconnected markets. This has increased the time and costs to transport goods from one area in the West Bank to another, and from the West Bank to the rest of the world. As a result, the competitiveness of Palestinian goods in local and export markets has weakened.
As the economy in the West Bank has been marred by unpredictability and uncertainty — which is not surprising, given that the area is under military occupation — the cost and risks of doing business have risen. This has worsened the investment climate, constrained economic development, and increased unemployment and poverty.
Overall, it is estimated that the direct and indirect cost of the occupation was almost $7 billion in 2010 − almost 85% of the total estimated Palestinian GDP.
Dispossessed: Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements
The Palestinian economy has thus been suffering from structural and sectoral weaknesses that are primarily due to Israel’s occupation and its settlement enterprise. The settlements’ take-over of land, water, and natural resources and Israel’s restrictive control of movement, access, and other freedoms have debilitated the economy’s productive base, which is no longer able to generate enough employment and investment, and is increasingly dependent on the Israeli economy and foreign aid.
This harsh economic reality is the primary factor driving some Palestinians to work in Israeli settlements — the figure is estimated at just 3.2 percent of the total employed persons from the West Bank in the Third Quarter of 2015. Instead of being self-sufficient owners of means of production Palestinians have been dispossessed of their economic resources and rights by the Israeli military occupation and Israel’s settlements, and have been transformed into cheap labor.
In fact, most Palestinian workers in the settlements are in low skilled, low paying jobs: At least half of them are employed in the construction sector. In other words, less than 11,000 Palestinians are employed in Israeli settlement industry and/or agriculture.
This means that less than 2%  of the total employed Palestinian population would be impacted in the event of closure of Israeli industries in the settlements.
Palestinian workers in the settlements are subject to difficult and sometimes dangerous working conditions, and it is estimated that 93 percent do not have labor unions to represent them. Indeed, they are subject to arbitrary dismissal and withholding of their permits if they demand their rights or try to unionize.
A 2011 survey found that the majority of Palestinian workers would leave their jobs in the settlements if they could find an alternative in the Palestinian labor market.
While it is argued that Palestinian workers in settlements receive higher wages than in the Palestinian labor market, it is worth noting that they are paid, on average, less than half the Israeli minimum wage.
For example, in Beqa’ot, an Israeli colony in the Jordan Valley, Palestinians are paid 35 percent of the legal minimum wage. Note that the packing houses of Mehadrin, the largest Israeli exporter of fruits and vegetables to the EU, are located in this settlement.
In short, it is effectively Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise that hurts Palestinians, much more than the EU labeling of settlements products. What Palestinians need is not more jobs in settlements or more dependency on the Israeli economy. Rather, what Palestinians need is the dismantling of Israeli settlements, an end to the occupation, and the full realization of their rights under international law.
Only then can they truly strengthen the productive base of the Palestinian economy, generate employment opportunities, ensure self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and stop being dependent on foreign aid.
An examination of recent EU moves as well as policy recommendations for the EU to be fully compliant with international and European law were omitted for brevity.
The full report can be viewed on Al-Shabaka’s website.




December 2015

Blog Stats

  • 1,465,961 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 804 other followers

%d bloggers like this: