ISRAELI APARTHEID: Jerusalem mayor cuts health funds for Arab children

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday rejected municipal recommendations and cut funding for a toddler health-care center in East Jerusalem, while approving aid to a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood.

The funds would have gone to opening a branch of the “Drop of Milk” (Tipat Halav) program, which provides prenatal and toddler health-care services in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Last year, authorities from the Jerusalem municipal offices recommended to the mayor to open the aid center in Silwan, which would service around 100,000 residents.

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Authorities also recommended opening a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood that is home to around 7,000 residents.

During discussions on the 2010 budget, Barkat decided to cut the aid that would open the center in Silwan while simultaneously approving the aid to open the same center in a Jewish neighborhood – a move that outraged residents of Silwan.

“I don’t understand why there is a ‘Drop of Milk’ center in the mayor’s neighborhood while there is none in ours?” asked Silwan resident Fakhri Abu Diab. “Why does he deserve one and we don’t? Are my children different from his children?

“Soon, Hamas will open a ‘Drop of Milk’ center and we will go there,” Abu Diab added.

Jerusalem city councilwoman Laura Wharton condemned the decision.

“This decision is caused by discrimination against the Arab population and I hope that we will succeed to reverse it,” Wharton said.

As opposed to most of Israel, the ‘Drop of Milk’ program in Jerusalem is under municipal authority.

Like other health services in Jerusalem, including toddler care, there is a wide gap in services provided to residents in East and West Jerusalem.

Other Jerusalem areas under public jurisdiction contain a total of 25 ‘Drop of Milk’ centers, while East Jerusalem, with its 250,000 residents, is home to just four Drop of Milk centers.

Many residents of East Jerusalem have difficulty taking their children long distances in order to receive care. This results in many children not receiving vaccinations as well as a delay in services for sick children living in East Jerusalem.

In response, the Jerusalem municipality said that they are working to improve services provided to the residents of Silwan and they still intend to build a ‘Drop of Milk’ center in the Arab neighborhood in the future.

REf: Haartez

Mind you,  they will scream that Israel is the beacon of light, the only democracy in the ME aso. They all know that this “democracy” is thin as cheap make-up. Truth is not their cause, while promoting and justifying apartheid is. Israel is new-South Africa! These are OLD NEWS! If you didn´t know, you need to ask yourself why!!!

Welcome to Israhell!

/Aa

GAZA: ONE YEAR ON: ‘Israel resembles a failed state’

One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.

Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones – more than 1,400 people, almost 400 of them children – there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.

According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.

Promises of billions made at a donors’ conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called “international community” and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues.

Policy of destruction

Amid the endless, horrifying statistics a few stand out: Of Gaza’s 640 schools, 18 were completely destroyed and 280 damaged in Israeli attacks. Two-hundred-and-fifty students and 15 teachers were killed.

Of 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, 48 per cent were damaged or destroyed.

in depth

Ninety per cent of households in Gaza still experience power cuts for 4 to 8 hours per day due to Israeli attacks on the power grid and degradation caused by the blockade.

Forty-six per cent of Gaza’s once productive agricultural land is out of use due to Israeli damage to farms and Israeli-declared free fire zones. Gaza’s exports of more than 130,000 tonnes per year of tomatoes, flowers, strawberries and other fruit have fallen to zero.

That “much of Gaza still lies in ruins,” a coalition of international aid agencies stated recently, “is not an accident; it is a matter of policy”.

This policy has been clear all along and it has nothing to do with Israeli “security”.

Destroying resistance

From June 19, 2008, to November 4, 2008, calm prevailed between Israel and Gaza, as Hamas adhered strictly – as even Israel has acknowledged – to a negotiated ceasefire.

That ceasefire collapsed when Israel launched a surprise attack on Gaza killing six people, after which Hamas and other resistance factions retaliated.

Even so, Palestinian factions were still willing to renew the ceasefire, but it was Israel that refused, choosing instead to launch a premeditated, systematic attack on the foundations of civilised life in the Gaza Strip.

Author says the war aimed to erode support for Hamas but failed to do so [GALLO/GETTY]

Operation Cast Lead, as Israel dubbed it, was an attempt to destroy once and for all Palestinian resistance in general, and Hamas in particular, which had won the 2006 election and survived the blockade and numerous US-sponsored attempts to undermine and overthrow it in cooperation with US-backed Palestinian militias.

Like the murderous sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, the blockade of Gaza was calculated to deprive civilians of basic necessities, rights and dignity in the hope that their suffering might force their leadership to surrender or collapse.

In many respects things may seem more dire than a year ago.

Barack Obama, the US president, whom many hoped would change the vicious anti-Palestinian policies of his predecessor, George Bush, has instead entrenched them as even the pretense of a serious peace effort has vanished.

According to media reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in building an underground wall on its border with Gaza to block the tunnels which act as a lifeline for the besieged territory [resources and efforts that ought to go into rebuilding still hurricane-devastated New Orleans], and American weapons continue to flow to West Bank militias engaged in a US- and Israeli-sponsored civil war against Hamas and anyone else who might resist Israeli occupation and colonisation.

Shifting public opinion

These facts are inescapable and bleak.

However, to focus on them alone would be to miss a much more dynamic situation that suggests Israel’s power and impunity are not as invulnerable as they appear from this snapshot.

A year after Israel’s attack and after more than two-and-a-half years of blockade, the Palestinian people in Gaza have not surrendered. Instead they have offered the world lessons in steadfastness and dignity, even at an appalling, unimaginable cost.

It is true that the European Union leaders who came to occupied Jerusalem last January to publicly embrace Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, – while white phosphorus seared the flesh of Gazan children and bodies lay under the rubble – still cower before their respective Israel lobbies, as do American and Canadian politicians.
But the shift in public opinion is palpable as Israel’s own actions transform it into a pariah whose driving forces are not the liberal democratic values with which it claims to identify, but ultra-nationalism, racism, religious fanaticism, settler-colonialism and a Jewish supremacist order maintained by frequent massacres.

The universalist cause of justice and liberation for Palestinians is gaining adherents and momentum especially among the young.

I witnessed it, for example, among Malaysian students I met at a Palestine solidarity conference held by the Union of NGOs of The Islamic World in Istanbul last May.

And again in November, as hundreds of student organisers from across the US and Canada converged to plan their participation in the global Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the successful struggle against South African apartheid in the 1980s.

‘Bankrupt’ state

This week, thousands of people from dozens of countries are attempting to reach Gaza to break the siege and march alongside Palestinians who have been organising inside the territory.

Each of the individuals traveling with the Gaza Freedom March, Viva Palestina, or other delegations represents perhaps hundreds of others who could not make the journey in person, and who are marking the event with demonstrations and commemorations, visits to their elected officials, and media campaigns.

Against this flowering of activism, Zionism is struggling to rejuvenate its dwindling base of support.

Multi-million dollar programmes aimed at recruiting and Zionising young American Jews are struggling to compete against organisations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which run not on money but principled commitment to human equality.

Increasingly, we see that Israel’s hasbara [propaganda] efforts have no positive message, offer no plausible case for maintaining a status quo of unspeakable repression and violence, and rely instead on racist demonisation and dehumanisation of Arabs and Muslims to justify Israel’s actions and even its very existence.

Faced with growing global recognition and support for the courageous non-violent struggle against continued land theft in the West Bank, Israel is escalating its violence and kidnapping of leaders of the movement in Bil’in and other villages [Muhammad Othman, Jamal Juma and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh are among the leaders of this movement recently arrested].

Travel fears

In acting this way, Israel increasingly resembles a bankrupt failed state, not a regime confident about its legitimacy and longevity.

And despite the failed peace process industry’s efforts to ridicule, suppress and marginalise it, there is a growing debate among Palestinians and even among Israelis about a shared future in Palestine/Israel based on equality and decolonisation, rather than ethno-national segregation and forced repartition.

Last, but certainly not least, in the shadow of the Goldstone report, Israeli leaders travel around the world fearing arrest for their crimes.

For now, they can rely on the impunity that high-level international complicity and their inertial power and influence still afford them.

But the question for the real international community – made up of people and movements – is whether we want to continue to see the still very incomplete system of international law and justice painstakingly built since the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi holocaust dismantled and corrupted all for the sake of one rogue state.

What we have done in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the rest of Palestine is not yet enough. But our movement is growing, it cannot be stopped, and we will reach our destination.

Ref: Al jazeera

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He will be among more than 1,300 people from 42 countries traveling to Gaza with the Gaza Freedom March this week.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

California ‘first failed US state’? (many more to come!)


FOCUS
California ‘first failed US state’?
By Rob Reynolds in Los Angeles

More Californians rely on food handouts amid rising unemployment and state benefit cuts [EPA]

On Sunday mornings at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in the rough-edged Tenderloin district of San Francisco, the sanctuary is always rocking to old-school gospel music.

California crisis

Video: Elderly hit hard by healthcare cuts
Video: Hard times fall on America’s Golden State
“It’s so good to come together,” Pastor Cecil Williams declares. His is a diverse congregation – white and African-American, gay and straight, young and elderly.

For four decades Pastor Williams has been an outspoken advocate for the city’s poor and marginalised. On one bright October Sunday recently, he preached a sermon on compassion and the need for social justice.

“You affirm who you are when you stand up for others in need,” Williams told his flock. “And you can say, we are going to change this old world to a new world.”

But it is a harsh new world in California these days. A state once synonymous with opportunity and prosperity, sunshine and surf, Hollywood and Disneyland have fallen on bitterly hard times.

‘Land of opportunity’

The evidence is no further away than the church basement, where free meals are prepared for homeless and hungry people such as Robert Shirley. He’s been homeless, on and off, for months, he says.

“California was the land of opportunity. You could make it out here,” Shirley says. “Hey, I’m sorry, but California is not that way any more.”

The number of meals served here has jumped 21 per cent since last year. Williams says the free kitchen’s clientele has changed drastically.

“They were people [in food lines] who were carrying briefcases, people who were dressed in suits, people who were dressed up very nicely and had been a part of the middle class”

Robert Shirley, homeless California resident
“They were people who were carrying briefcases, people who were dressed in suits, people who were dressed up very nicely and people who had been a part of the middle class,” he says.

“And we were seeing them come through the lines. And that, of course, was shocking.”

California is the world’s eighth-largest economy, but its unemployment rate is over 12 per cent – the highest in 70 years.

Millions of people lost their homes when the housing bubble burst. Millions more have been thrust into poverty by the recession.

In July, the state legislature haggled for weeks over how to close a $26bn budget gap. Instead of increasing taxes for corporations or the wealthy, the budget deal that emerged to be signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s Republican governor, ordered deep spending cuts, laying off tens of thousands of state workers.

Reduced funding for education, coupled with big tuition increases, sparked a student and faculty strike at California’s public universities. Programmes for ex-prison inmates and parolees have been slashed.

And the social safety net of healthcare and services for the poor, children and elderly – the least powerful and least vocal members of society – has been systematically shredded.

“The people that are going to be effected first and foremost will be the poor, those who are in great need,” Williams says sadly. “They are not considered to be human beings.”

State ‘abandoning its poorest’

In Pleasant Hill, a suburb outside San Francisco, I met a remarkable young woman named Amy Fedeli. Only 24-years old, she has deferred her dream of college and a career in nursing to support her 75-year-old grandmother, Margaret, and seven-year-old niece, Emilia.

She’s keeping faith with her loved ones in a state that is systematically abandoning its poorest and least powerful people.

Schwarzenegger is fighting a legal challenge against proposed cuts in elderly care [EPA]
Margaret, who suffers from a neurological disorder and mild dementia, is too frail to be left home alone while Amy goes to her job at a medical-records company.

So she attends a state-funded adult day-care programme where she gets physical and occupational therapy, health checkups, and a chance to interact with other people and keep her mental faculties sharp.

But as part of the effort to pare down the budget deficit, California has cut many programmes for the elderly poor.

New rules would limit seniors to three days a week in adult day care. That is a big problem for the Fedeli family. Without the daily care she gets at the senior centre, Amy says, Margaret might not survive for long.

“She would probably end up in a nursing home,” Amy says. “She would probably pass. She would probably die, God forbid.”

To care for Margaret, Amy would have to quit her job, leaving the little family without any income. Why has she accepted so much responsibility at such a young age?

“It’s family, that’s all I can say,” Amy says. “Your family, you stick with them – that’s all.”

State politics ‘deadlocked’

A legal challenge has temporarily halted some of the cuts to elderly care. But Schwarzenegger is trying to overturn the court ruling and re-institute the cuts.

Donna Calame, who runs a state programme that provides in-home care for seniors, told me the attitude of Schwarzenegger and the legislature makes her livid.

“For me, it’s really obscene,” she said in an interview.

“We are a rich state. I think it is because of the wealth in California that, to me, makes the choices that have been made this year so morally reprehensible.”

“Somewhere, somehow, the public good, as a concept of governance, has disappeared in this state”

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, analyst, University of Southern California

Critics say California’s politics are so deadlocked, its government so dysfunctional, it may become the US’s first failed state.

The state legislature is hamstrung by a law requiring a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes and pass a budget. That makes compromise practically impossible.

I asked political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California what’s wrong with California.

“What is the matter with California is, that we have become politically so polarised that we can’t agree on something that will make this state work,” Bebitch Jeffe laments.

“Somewhere, somehow, the public good, as a concept of governance, has disappeared in this state.”

The failure of California’s government has bred profound cynicism among its people.

Back at the soup kitchen, Robert Shirley has some blunt advice for the people in charge of the Golden State.

“If our politicians don’t get their heads out of their asses, this state is going to be – let’s put it this way: some of those Third World countries are going to look a lot better than California.

Ref: Al jazeera