Sunday, July 25, 2010

Workers Stage Silent Protest Stand Outside ILO Offices

Over 50 disgruntled workers from 25 different companies staged a silent protest stand outside the Cairo office of the International Labor Organization. A handful of plain-clothed policemen and uniformed officers were stationed outside the ILO office ahead of this protest. No scuffles or arrests took place.

The ILO staff reportedly expressed their surprise regarding this protest stand - although workers, labor lawyers, and activists had contacted the regional ILO office days earlier informing them of their planned visit.

One delegate from each company was allowed in to list their complaints and to voice their grievances before the ILO staff/secretaries. Fliers distributed outside, by workers and labor activists, mentioned that their demands focused on the realization of the rights stipulated in the ILO conventions, to which Egypt is a state-party.

Workers' fliers underlined the importance of respecting, implementing and upholding ILO conventions - especially Conventions No. 87 and 98 - concerning "Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize", and concerning the "Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining" respectively.

In light of these conventions, which Egypt ratified more than 50 years ago, the rights of unionization, federation, strike, safeguarding unionists, and collective bargaining were demanded; along with demands for an adequate minimum wage, health benefits, the provision of overdue periodic bonuses, unpaid profit-sharing, safe working conditions, full-time contracts, and the reinstatement of sacked co-workers, etc.

Amongst the workers present at this protest stand were those from the Mahalla Textile Company, Petrotrade Company (for petroleum/gas services,) Misr-Iran Textile Company, Al-Mustaqbal Cylinder Production Company, Indorama Shebine Textile Company, Female social-awareness guides (employed by the Ministry of Health,) Al-Ameriya Textile Company, South Cairo Mills, and Abul Sebae Textile Company, amongst others.

"Mohamed" a worker from the (private-sector) Al-Mustaqbal Cylinder Production Company said "we came here today not just to protest against the actions of our Lebanese company-owner, but to get our message across directly to those in the ILO and the UN." He added that 12 workers, including two local union council members, were unlawfully dismissed from their jobs in May of this year on charges of instigating a strike in the company.

"We've demonstrated outside the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, we've demonstrated outside the Lebanese Embassy in Cairo, and now we are demonstrating outside the regional headquarters of the ILO. We hope that they will heed our desperate calls."

Karim Reda, a sacked employee from the Petrotrade Company, said that a total of six workers/employees have been laid-off from their jobs at this public-sector enterprise (affiliated to the Ministry of Petroleum) due to their professional demands and workplace agitation. "We've knocked on all doors - from the Ministry of Petroleum, to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, and parliament. We've been turned away at each one of these doorsteps, we hope that the ILO won't turn us away. Hopefully they'll be able to get the wheels turning once again, hopefully we'll be reinstated in our jobs."

When the worker-delegates stepped out of the ILO offices they said that the staff recommended that they meet again next month to discuss their specific cases. The delegates added that the ILO staff mentioned that they could not offer much in terms of enforcing conventions, reinstating workers, raising wages, pressuring company administrations, facilitating overdue payments, etc.

The ILO staff are reported to have recommended that workers strive to achieve these goals through their own efforts - to establish independent trade unions, to rally for their rights, etc. While the ILO would serve to document violations and bring it to the attention of the ILO authorities in Geneva.

The ILO operates on a system of tripartism - through which it seeks to maintain a "social dialogue" between the interests of governments, employers/capitalists and workers.

Sudanese Migrant Shot Dead at Egypt-Israel Border

The Associated Press
Egyptian border guards fatally shoot African migrant trying to cross into Israel

Sarah El Deeb

CAIRO - An Egyptian official says border guards have fatally shot an African man and detained four as they tried to cross the border into Israel.

Hundreds of Africans seeking asylum and jobs try to illegally reach Israel every year in long desert trips, helped by Bedouin traffickers.

Egypt has killed dozens of migrants at the border in the past two years, drawing criticism from rights groups. The government says it fires warning shots first.

A security official said Saturday the 23-year-old man from Sudan's Darfur region died from a shot to the arm. Four other Sudanese were detained Friday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade

Rage Against Arizona's Immigration Law

Rockers Rage Against the Machine target Arizona law

Wed Jul 21, 2010

Dean Goodman

(Reuters) - Militant rockers Rage Against the Machine said on Wednesday they would headline a concert to raise money for organizations challenging a new Arizona law that targets illegal immigrants.

The show, the group's first in its Los Angeles hometown for 10 years, will take place on Friday, and will also raise the profile of a "SoundStrike" artist boycott of the state.

Boycotters include rock bands Nine Inch Nails and leftist musicians such as Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Ry Cooder, as well as filmmaker Michael Moore.

But the music industry is largely ignoring the strike, evidenced by upcoming shows from the likes of big names like Lady Gaga, KISS, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stone Temple Pilots and Brad Paisley.

The Obama administration on Thursday goes to federal court to try to block the law, known as SB 1070, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

The Justice Department is among plaintiffs including civil rights and advocacy groups who have lodged seven separate lawsuits that seek to block the law from taking effect on July 29.

Rage Against the Machine, a chart-topping foursome known for its leftist politics and anti-corporate tirades, reunited in 2007 after a seven-year hiatus, in time to poke jabs at the administration of President George W. Bush.

The band once likened the Bush administration to Nazi war criminals and said its members should be shot, and accused the government of being at war with Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.

It managed to top the closely watched U.K. Christmas chart last year with its nonfestive 1992 anthem "Killing in the Name" after a Facebook campaign to ensure that a favored reality-show contender did not come first.

*Editing by Jill Serjeant

Anarchist Catalonia

Anarchist Catalonia

Anarchist Catalonia (July 21, 1936 – February 10, 1939) was the self-proclaimed stateless territory and anarchist society in part of the territory of modern Catalonia (Spain) during the Spanish Civil War.


In 1936, the main anarchist movement, CNT-FAI, decided, after several refusals, to collaborate with the Spanish government of Francisco Largo Caballero. On November 6, Juan García Oliver became Minister of Justice (he abolished legal fees and had all criminal dossiers destroyed), Juan López became Minister of Comerce, Joan Peiró became Minister of Industry, and Federica Montseny became Minister of Health.

During the Spanish Civil War, many anarchists outside of Spain criticized the CNT-FAI leadership for entering into government and compromising with communist elements on the Republican side. Indeed, during these years the anarchist movement in Spain gave up many of its basic principles; however, those in Spain felt that this was a temporary adjustment, and that once Franco was defeated, they would revert to their anarchist ways. There was also concern among anarchists with the growing power of Marxist communists within the government. Montseny later explained: "At that time we only saw the reality of the situation created for us: the communists in the government and ourselves outside, the manifold possibilities, and all our achievements endangered."

Indeed, some anarchists outside of Spain viewed their concessions as necessary considering the possibility of the Nationalists winning the war. Emma Goldman said, "With Franco at the gate of Madrid, I could hardly blame the CNT-FAI for choosing a lesser evil: participation in government rather than dictatorship, the most deadly evil."


Main article: Spanish Revolution

Anarchism was frowned upon by the government of the Spanish Republic, which considered the anarchists a threat and disloyal to both the Republic and the war. Clashes were particularly vicious between Soviet-backed communists and anarchists, since the movements often found themselves completely at odds with each other (see Barcelona May Days). Much of Spain's economy was put under worker control; in anarchist strongholds like Catalonia, the figure was as high as 75%. Factories were run through worker committees; agrarian areas became collectivized and run as anarchist communes. Even places like hotels, barber shops, and restaurants were collectivized and managed by their workers. In some places, money was entirely eliminated, to be replaced with vouchers.

It is reported,

"The first measure in the collectivization of the Barcelona street railways was to discharge the excessively paid directors and company stooges. The saving was considerable. A conductor averaged 250 to 300 pesetas a month, while the general director (manager) was paid 5,000 and his three assistants 4,441, 2,384, and 2,000 pesetas respectively. The amount saved through the abolition of these posts went to increase the wages of the lowest paid workers 40% to 60%, and intermediate and higher brackets 10% to 20%. The next step was the reduction of working time to 40 hours per week (but for the war situation, it would have been cut to 36 hours weekly).

Another improvement was in the area of management. Before the revolution, streetcars, buses, and subways were each privately owned by separate companies. The union decided to integrate and consolidate all transportation into an efficient system without waste. This improvement meant better facilities, rights of way, and incomparably better service for the riding public. Fares were reduced from 15 to 10 centimes, with free transportation for school children, wounded militiamen, those injured at work, other invalids, and the aged.

Despite their limitations, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists established collectives where the means of production and exchange were socialised, through direct management by the workers and not through imposition by the state. Economic surplus was also self-managed. Also, and once again in contrast to the USSR, the workers of the collectives were rewarded equally, without productivity falling or initiative lacking. The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy believe that if there is not a large wage differential, initiative and interest in increasing production will be lost. This idea was shown to be false in the Spanish anarchist collectives, where solidarity between the collectivists made self-government function satisfactorily.

The newly liberated zones worked on anarcho-syndicalist principles; decisions were made through councils of ordinary citizens without any sort of bureaucracy. The CNT-FAI leadership was at this time not nearly as radical as the rank and file members responsible for these sweeping changes. In addition to the economic revolution, there was a spirit of social revolution. Some traditions were deemed as oppressive and done away with. For instance, the idea of free love became popular.


The most effective anarchist unit in Catalonia was the Durruti Column, led by already legendary militant Buenaventura Durruti. It was the only anarchist unit which managed to gain respect from otherwise fiercely hostile political opponents. In a section of her memoirs which otherwise lambasts the anarchists, Communist militant Dolores Ibárruri states: "The [Spanish Civil] war developed with minimal participation from the anarchists in its fundamental operations. One exception was Durruti..." (Memorias de Dolores Ibarruri, p. 382).

The column began with 3,000 troops but at its peak, was made up of about 8,000 people. They had a difficult time getting arms from a suspicious Republican government, so Durruti and his men compensated by seizing unused arms from government stockpiles. Durruti's death on November 20, 1936, weakened the Column in spirit and tactical ability; they were eventually incorporated, by decree, into the regular army. Over a quarter of the population of Barcelona attended Durruti's funeral. It is still uncertain how Durruti died. Modern historians tend to agree that it was an accident, perhaps a malfunction with his own gun. Widespread rumors at the time claimed treachery by his men. Anarchists tended to claim that he died heroically and was shot by a fascist sniper.

Another famous unit was the Iron Column, comprising ex-convicts and other "disinherited" Spaniards sympathetic to the Revolution. The Republican government denounced them as "uncontrollables" and "bandits", but they had a fair amount of success in battle. In March 1937 they were incorporated into the regular army.


During the Civil War, the Spanish Communist Party gained considerable influence due to the reliance on supplies from the Soviet Union. Communists and liberals on the Republican side suppressed the anarchists revolution in order, as they said, to ensure that the war received maximum resources. They accused the anarchists of not fighting as hard as the Republican forces, and putting social change before defeating the Nationalists. The Anarchists' response was that "the revolution and the war are inseparable". Pravda announced in December 1936 that "...the mopping up of Trotskyists and anarcho-syndicalists has already begun. It will be carried out with the same vigor as in the USSR."

Their efforts to weaken the Anarchists were successful: government was eventually restored in many of the collectivized areas, and power was taken away from workers and unions,[citation needed] to be monopolized by the Communist Popular Front.

The Communists also spearheaded measures to integrate the anarchist militias into the Popular Army. Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, working in Spain for Stalin, had predicted in 1936: "Without the participation of the CNT, it will not, of course, be possible to create the appropriate enthusiasm and discipline in the people's militia/Republican militia." Indeed, the counter-revolutionary fervor often served to weaken the anti-fascist war effort. For example, a huge cache of arms was allowed to fall to Francoist forces for fear that it otherwise would end up in the hands of the anarchists. Troops were pulled off the front lines to crush anarchist collectives. Many able soldiers were assassinated for their political ideology. Enrique Lister, said that he would "shoot all the anarchists [he] had to." It was revealed that many anarchists were being held in prisons under Communist orders, rather than fighting on the front, and that furthermore many of these prisoners were tortured and shot.

In what became known as the Barcelona May Days, the most dramatic effort against the anarchists happened in May 1937. Communist-led police forces attempted to take over a CNT-run telephone building in Barcelona. The telephone workers fought back, setting up barricades and surrounding the Communist Lenin Barracks. Five days of street fighting ensued, causing over 500 deaths. This tragic series of events within the Spanish Republic greatly demoralized the workers of Barcelona.

Afterwards, the government sent in 6,000 men to disarm the workers, and the POUM was outlawed. However, the Communist workers were allowed to keep their weapons; only the anarchists were forced to turn them in.

Throughout the Civil War, various Communist newspapers engaged in a massive propaganda campaign against the anarchists and the POUM. They were often called "Hitlerites" and "fascists" in the pay of Franco.

George Orwell noted this in Homage to Catalonia: "Just imagine how odious it must be to see a young 15-year old Spaniard brought back from the front lines on a stretcher, to see, poking out from under the blanket an anemic, bewildered face and to think that in London and Paris there are gentlemen dressed to the nines, blithely engaged in writing pamphlets to show this little lad is a covert fascist."


Egyptian Teachers Establish Independent Syndicate

Congratulations to Egypt's teachers for the creation of the 2nd independent professional association to be established in the country, since 1957. The article below, however, confuses trade unions and professional syndicates.

The General Union of Real Estate Tax Employees is a trade union - according to Egyptian law and its professional classifications, affiliations, and structures - while the Teachers' Union is a professional syndicate.

Professional syndicates are not grouped under the Egyptian Trade Union Federation - this is a (state-controlled) structure established exclusively for (subjugating) trade unions


School teachers form Egypt's 2nd independent union

Tue, 20/07/2010

Noha el-Hennawy

In 1993, Ashraf el-Hefny got his first job as a mathematics teacher at a public school in the coastal city of El-Arish earning LE150 a month. Over the course of 17 years, his pay gradually increased to a current LE1150.

But the salary increases failed to keep pace with rising inflation rates, which have hit unprecedented levels in recent years, and his current income barely suffices for the everyday needs of his family of five.

“It's not enough,” the teacher complained. “These low salaries show that the state doesn't care about education.”

For el-Hefny, finding an efficient channel through which to voice his claim to a reasonable salary represents the biggest challenge. And, like thousands of other teachers, he found little succor in the government-dominated teachers union.

Frustrated with the union's ineffectiveness, el-Hefny, along with hundreds of colleagues, last week announced the establishment of an independent teachers syndicate.

“It's very important to have this syndicate,” he said. “The existing union is pro-government, and it's crucial for any professional group to have a union that is capable of defending its rights."

The new syndicate's founders claim to have attracted 5000 of Egypt's roughly one million teachers. The by-laws of the new syndicate demand a minimum wage of LE1200, the improvement of working conditions in public schools and the amendment of Egypt's education law.

“Teachers have no offices at the schools where they teach,” said el-Hefny. “They are often forced to wait for their classes in playgrounds or in hallways.”

“Also, class conditions are very poor, with as many as 80 or 90 students in each class," he added. "This is unfair to both teachers and students."

The establishment of the new union represents the latest episode of a teachers’ protest movement that first began in 2007, triggered by the amendment of Egypt's education law. By giving the government more leeway to hire and fire newly appointed teachers, the amendment served to antagonize thousands of the nation's already frustrated teachers.

“The amendment made teachers feel they were being subject to serious humiliation,” said Kamal Mogheeth, a co-founder of the new union.

The existing teachers syndicate represents Egypt's largest professional union, comprising roughly one million members.

“It is the most important of Egypt’s 24 professional unions,” said Amani Qandil, executive director of the Arab Network for NGOs and expert on Egyptian professional syndicates. “It has a huge number of members who, if they ever turned against the government, could potentially launch a revolution.”

For this reason, the government has always kept a close eye on the teachers union. Since 1956, noted Qandil, the syndicate has been headed by figures--usually associated with the Education Ministry--known for their loyalty to the ruling regime.

Founders of the new syndicate, therefore, are adamant about changing the existing power structure. They envisage a free and fair electoral system in which all members directly elect their representatives.

Mohamed Kamal Soliman, secretary-general of the official syndicate, for his part, sees no need for a new union, dismissing allegations that he merely serves government interests.

“It's not true that the syndicate is pro-government,” said Soliman, who has held the position since 2002. “The syndicate should be rational and moderate and should protect teachers' rights through legitimate channels, not through arm-twisting, protests and sit-ins.”

According to Qandil, the teachers’ attempts to redefine their relationship with the state must be examined within Egypt's current socio-political context.

“There's an ongoing process of change by which some labor and professional groups have succeeded in imposing their demands on the government," she explained. "This has encouraged teachers."

Deteriorating economic conditions, for one, have prompted numerous professional and labor protests within the last six years. Most protest groups have voiced demands for better employment conditions, along with the establishment of independent unions.

Teachers are not the first group in Egypt to claim the right to form an independent syndicate. In 2008, real estate tax collectors defied the legacy of state-controlled unions by announcing the creation of their own autonomous union. The announcement came on the heels of a series of labor strikes that forced the government to heed their demands for higher salaries.

Qandil, however, does not expect teachers to meet with the same success.

“The geographic dispersion of teachers, their divergent social backgrounds, and their complicated relationship with the government will all have a negative impact on the future of the movement,” she said, going on to explain that most members of the existing teachers union work for public schools and therefore fear dismissal if they are seen to be challenging the government.

To circumvent the legal strictures against forming professional syndicates, teachers refer to the new entity as a "labor union." According to the law, the People’s Assembly must formally recognize any new syndicate, provided that no other syndicate exists for the same professional grouping.

Although unions may be subject to less stringent restrictions, however, it remains difficult for teachers to fulfill the two legal requirements needed: that their members obtain the endorsement of the Education Ministry; and that they provide the Manpower Ministry with their founding documents.

As of press time, the Manpower Ministry declined to acknowledge the receipt of any such documents.

With a view to ensuring that labor and professional entities would never pose a threat to the regime, the state has always maintained the right to interfere in union affairs through the 53-year-old Egyptian Trade Union Federation.

“The state has an iron fist,” said Mogheeth. “But we'll keep trying until we get our free syndicate.”

Israel Destroys West Bank Village

IDF destroys West Bank village after declaring it military zone

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 21 July 2010

The IDF’s Civil Administration destroyed a Palestinian village Monday morning that had earlier been cleared out when its water supply was cut off.

The IDF demolished about 55 structures in the West Bank village of Farasiya, including tents, tin shacks, plastic and straw huts, clay ovens, sheep pens and bathrooms. These structures served the 120 farmers, hired workers and their families who lived in the Jordan Valley village.

The Civil Administration said they had declared the area a live fire zone and posted eviction orders for 10 families in tents on June 27.

“Since no appeal was filed in the following three weeks, and given the danger posed by the location of the tents, they were removed,” they said in response.

The villagers made a living by sheep farming and working land owned by families in the town of Tubas. Some of them have been living in Farasiya for decades.

A packaging warehouse that was built together with Agrexco in the late 1970s was also torn down.

Atef Abu al-Rob, a photographer for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, who arrived at the village hours after the demolition, said mattresses, pipes and broken furniture were lying on the ground in the debris.

Since 1967, Israel has prevented Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley from growing, whether by cutting off their water supply, declaring large areas as live fire zones or banning all construction.

About a year ago the IDF set up hundreds of warning signs near Palestinian farming communities, marking them closed military areas. Such a sign was set up at the entrance to Farasiya.

The families had recently been forced to leave the village when the Israeli authorities cut it off from its water sources, said the popular committees’ coordinator in the valley, Fathi Hadirat. The villagers were forbidden to use the water wells the Mekorot Water Company had dug in the area.

Hadirat said a few years ago the Civil Administration destroyed the pipe the villages had laid from a nearby stream used for drinking water and irrigation.

Since then they have been watering the sheep and fields with water unfit for human consumption, pumped from a salt water source. They received drinking water in tanks.

About four months ago the IDF confiscated their pumps. On Sunday, 10 families from Bardala, a village north of Farasiya, were given demolition notices.

A farmer who owns 300 sheep was told to leave in 24 hours or his herd would be confiscated.

2010: The Hottest Year in Recorded History

It's the hottest year in recorded history

Jul. 20, 2010

Anna Mehler Paperny and Patrick White

Around the globe, it is the summer of our sun-stricken discontent.

This week, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that the Earth is on course for the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880 – 0.7 degrees above the 20th-century average.

It is the sweltering outcome of a bizarre confluence of abnormal weather that has been swirling about the globe for months – in the process parching Thai crops, melting German roads, thwarting Canadian military operations and wreaking worldwide climatic havoc.

Throughout Canada, the heat has been far more pronounced than the global average. Temperatures from January onwards have been 3.9 degrees above average, shattering the previous record of 3.2 degrees set in 2006.

Much of the U.S. has cooked of late amid a series of heat waves as the jet stream – which divides cool northern air and warm southern air as it wraps around the globe – remains at an abnormally high latitude. High-pressure systems have formed to the south of the jet stream, preventing it from dropping south and creating a self-perpetuating heat dome.

The same phenomenon has scorched much of Russia and Europe, as Muscovites have taken to the streets in bikinis and more than 1,000 Russians have drowned in the last month trying to escape record temperatures.

Meanwhile, the interaction of a zone of low pressure northwest of the British Isles and high pressure around the Mediterranean is pushing hot air into Europe, said British weather service spokesman Barry Gromett.

Monsoon rains have been plentiful over the Indian Ocean, but they have not continued on to land, scorching the earth in South Asia.

Polar cold fronts that normally sweep north through South America from the South Pole have been stalled by weather blocks – competing atmospheric centrifuges that halt weather patterns in their tracks.

International climate experts are at a loss to explain why these local phenomena are happening all at once, even when they factor in multi-decade cycles caused by shifts in ocean currents and El Nino’s heat factor.

“What is causing that is very difficult to answer,” said Annamalai Hariharasubramanian, a meteorologist with the University of Hawaii. “Since this warming has been there on a very large spatial scale, and also persisting for a couple of months now … these long-term oscillations could contribute but it looks like it’s more than that.”

One variable is the ever-shrinking size of the world’s ice caps. In June, Arctic ice cover shrank to the smallest area observed since record-keeping began in 1979.

“Ice reflects sun and when you melt it, the Earth absorbs more heat, which causes further melt back, which causes more warming,” said Danny Harvey, a climate researcher at the University of Toronto. “So when you lose ice, it means we’re in big trouble.”

There are myriad effects from this global tale of sweat and sunburn. For South Asia’s farmers, the dry, hot weather could spell agricultural disaster. Across much of the Prairies, wave after wave of muggy, rain-laden systems from the southern U.S. has dumped a record amount of rain and then warmed the sodden region just enough to create a perfect mosquito incubator. Meanwhile, weather experts across Europe are making comparisons to the heat wave of 2003, when soaring temperatures contributed to the deaths of more than 25,000 people.

Still, some experts are more cautious about drawing conclusions as to the extent of the heat wave: Antonio Moura, director of Brazil’s National Institute of Meteorology, said that while much of South America has had an unusually warm, dry winter so far, that could change with an expected, if delayed, cold front.

“One has to be looking at it more carefully, without jumping so much on one side or another,” he said. “We have to be careful about providing information that the whole globe is catching on fire.”

PETA Campaign in Egypt Ends with Catfight

Animal rights campaign ends with catfight

July 18, 2010

Marine Weitzmann and Jon Jensen

CAIRO: A fistfight between two women broke out in Mohandessin Sunday, after two-dozen Egyptians scrambled to collect free vegetables given away by an animal rights group.

Two activists from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) group distributed free chili peppers near Moustafa Mahmoud Square to promote vegetarianism, in an event billed “Spice Up Your Life, Go Vegetarian.”

Female representatives from the American-run organization, wearing short-skirts and red leggings, distributed pamphlets in Arabic and English, which said that eating meat can lead to “environmental destruction, cruelty to animals, health risks, and poverty.”

Ashley Fruno, a Canadian employee of the Asia-Pacific branch of PETA, said the event was meant to be “a sexy and funny way to promote a serious subject.”

The onlookers, many of whom seemed more interested in free chilies, eventually dashed to fill their bags from a large pile of peppers PETA had placed on the ground.

The rush for chilies led to the scuffle between the two women, one of whom was knocked to the ground while both had their headscarves pulled off, angering several onlookers.

“It is shameful that they put food on the ground for us, as if we were animals. They are disrespecting Egyptians,” screamed one man, who only went by the name Mahmoud.

Imported red chili peppers sell for LE 7-10 per kilogram on average in Cairo.

Mohamed Hassan, 32, gathered three crates of peppers to use for cooking in his small street-side restaurant.

“Of course, I will not stop eating meat, however expensive it may be,” said Hassan. “But now I have a whole lot of peppers, which should last me at least three days.”

Despite the fight, PETA said they achieved what they had come for.

“We are used to getting negative reaction from some people,” said Nadia Montasser, a local PETA media representative. “As long as we get the message out, it's a success.”

Anarchism & Nonviolence

Anarchism and Nonviolence: Time for a ‘Complementarity of Tactics’

July 15, 2010

Randall Amster

With the conclusion of the G20 protests in Canada, the inevitable post-mortem dissection has begun in earnest. Activists prepare to file lawsuits, organizers vow to do things differently next time, police pledge to investigate further, the media highlight the purported “destruction” before moving on to the next big story, and world leaders promise to continue their efforts unhampered by the misguided protesters. And, as is by now par for the post-protest course, pretty much everyone seems to cast blame on “the anarchists.”More recently, in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant verdict in Oakland, the media fan the flames by blaming the few stray acts of window-breaking and looting on “self-described anarchists,” while police officials emphasize that this de facto terrorist segment justifies their conduct vis-à-vis protesters in general. More rifts develop in the streets, and although a tenuous solidarity is at times expressed as well, the lasting images once again are of anarchists acting in seemingly unproductive ways that put the interests and safety of larger movement contingents in jeopardy.

These are but two recent examples of a phenomenon that has been regularly played out in North America since at least the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. Antipathy toward anarchists seems to have increased steadily since then, not only from corporate elites and law enforcement officials, but from a number of fellow movement participants as well. Ironically, this comes at a time when interest in anarchism among activists has greatly expanded, and likewise when its impact upon American activism in general has seen a strong resurgence in recent years.

Critical voices regularly chastise anarchists without indicating that they fully understand what anarchism actually is. But anarchists as well oftentimes seem to act in contravention of both historical and political senses of what anarchism represents. This is further made problematic by the basic fact that anarchists generally eschew doctrinaire definitions and ideological litmus tests, suggesting that people ought to be free to define their own actions and ideas in the manner of their own choosing. And yet, a kind of orthodoxy that increasingly seems like “fundamentalist anarchism” may be taking hold among some sectors that posture as “real revolutionaries,” who denigrate as “pathological” those who would seek to deploy their version of anarchism in less spectacular ways than overtly “smashing the state” by striking at some of its symbolic targets.

Interestingly, this plays right into the hands of the caricature of anarchism as violent, bomb-throwing, chaotic behavior that seems to be the first question one gets asked when their anarchism is presented in mixed company. Indeed, I always enjoy getting that inevitable query: “Isn’t anarchism just violence and destruction?” To which I usually reply: “How many people would you estimate have been killed by anarchists in the last hundred years? Now, how many would you say have been killed by liberals, or conservatives, in that time frame? If a lawyer or corporate manager were here before you now, would you ask about the blood on their hands or just let it slide as part of business as usual? The state didn’t save us from the violence of anarchy — it simply monopolized it, institutionalized it, and expanded its role in our lives.”

I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a series of workshops on “Anarchism and Nonviolence” in the U.S. and Canada. As one might expect, spirited conversations ensued in which many powerful young voices felt challenged by the notion of being nonviolent in a world that in their lifetimes has appeared as inherently violent. Indeed, these issues get at the heart of matters of ethics, tactics, and visions for the future, comprising some of the most basic concerns for social movements and individual consciences alike. One of the exercises we did in these workshops was to create a working definition of anarchism, and then one of nonviolence. Comparing the two lists, many overlapping values emerged: self-governance, rejection of domination, respect and mutual aid, antiwar and anti-oppression practices, solidarity, a radical egalitarianism, and the politics of “prefiguring” the future society. Further, it was pointed out that both notions, (an)archism and (non)violence, trace their linguistic origins to the negation of something — yet have developed proactive self-definitions despite an initial reactive framing.

And the synergies don’t end there. Among the anarchist milieu, we find figures such as Emma Goldman, who dabbled in the use of revolutionary violence in her younger days but came to reject it in her later years. She once told her comrade and coconspirator Alexander Berkman that “violence in whatever form never has and probably never will bring constructive results,” and further elucidated her position that “methods and means cannot be separated from the ultimate aim. The means employed become, through individual habit and social practice, part and parcel of the final purpose.” In the end, Goldman saw nonviolence and revolution as intertwined:

It is one thing to employ violence in combat as a means of defense. It is quite another thing to make a principle of terrorism, to institutionalize it, to assign it the most vital place in the social struggle. Such terrorism begets counter-revolution and in turn itself becomes counter-revolutionary.… The one thing I am convinced of as I have never been in my life is that the gun decides nothing at all. Even if it accomplishes what it sets out to do — which it rarely does — it brings so many evils in its wake as to defeat its original aim.… If we can undergo changes in every other method of dealing with the social issues we will also have to learn to change in the methods of revolution. I think it can be done. If not, I shall relinquish my belief in revolution.

Ira Chernus, in chapter five of his book American Nonviolence, assesses Goldman’s transition:

It is not surprising that Goldman eventually endorsed nonviolence. Her anarchist views embraced the fundamental premises of the nonviolent abolitionists. She believed that all people should be treated as equals because no one should have authority over another…. She believed that when people do have authority over others they are coercing others, and thus they are bound to do violence. She believed that no one could achieve right ends by wrong means. Her anarchism also foreshadowed important ideas that would later shape the nonviolence tradition. She believed that all power is based on consent. No one can impose their authority upon another.

Another parallel to consider is the inherent anarchism of Mohandas Gandhi’s worldview. Known of course as an iconic figure of nonviolence, Gandhi likewise borrowed from and advanced many aspects of anarchism in his social and political philosophies. As described by Josh Fattal in the Winter 2006 edition of Peace Power, Gandhi’s anarchism was made plain in myriad ways:

Mohandas Gandhi opposed the State. The State is the military, police, prisons, courts, tax collectors, and bureaucrats. He saw the State as concentrated violence. “The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.” Gandhi recognized that the State claims to serve the nation, but he realized that this was a fallacy. “While apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, [the State] does the greatest harm to mankind.” According to Dr. Dhawan, Gandhi was a philosophical Anarchist because he believed that the “[the greatest good of all] can be realized only in the classless, stateless democracy.” While Gandhi advocated democracy, he differentiated between direct democracy and western democracy…. He had no more appetite for majority democracy of America; “It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority.” By centralizing power, western democracies feed into violence. Thus, he thought decentralization was the key to world peace…. Reiterating the idea of Anarchy, Gandhi said, “In such a state (of affairs), everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbor.”… Gandhi’s concept of swaraj elucidates the connection between the individual and society. Swaraj translates into ‘self-rule’ or ‘autonomy.’… The principle of swaraj ultimately leads to a grassroots, bottom-up, ‘oceanic circle’ of self-ruling communities.

Anarchists will recognize many familiar themes here, including autonomy, self-governance, decentralization, self-sufficiency, and a federated network of horizontal communities. As Gandhi explained:

Independence begins at the bottom… It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its own affairs…. In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.

There are more such examples — as well as some that contradict the thesis being advanced here, of course — but a fuller exposition will necessarily await another opportunity. The point of offering this nexus between anarchism and nonviolence at this juncture is simply to suggest that we look for ways to support and bolster both paradigms since they are increasingly coming into contact with one another in the real world of on-the-ground activism and organizing. Rather than repeat useful but by now tired mantras about respecting a “diversity of tactics,” we might consider instead looking to generate a “complementarity of tactics” in which the choices we make are mutually-reinforcing. This is particularly true in an era when provocateurs and propagandists alike can easily exploit the tensions among movement cohorts to denigrate all.

It seems to me that this is a matter of urgency for our movements. I’m not going to assert that my reading of anarchism as inherently nonviolent is somehow correct or true. I am, however, strongly suggesting that anarchists consider the implications of the moment in which we find ourselves. The “useful idiot” sense of anarchists becoming the justification for the escalating police state and all of its retributive techniques against activists in general has become palpable (even as we recognize it as obviously fallacious and revisionist). What worked once or even a few times as a tactic can grow stale when done repeatedly, and frankly begins to seem neither creative, spontaneous, or very anarchistic at this juncture. Not to mention that it has created a situation so rife with the prospect of infiltration that it cannot even be certain any longer whether anarchists themselves are in fact guiding their own course of conduct and self-definitions.

This may not win me any new friends among fellow anarchists, yet it needs to be said: Anarchists ought to publicly and demonstrably proclaim their nonviolence, especially in the context of mass demonstrations. This will make it clear that any violence done in that theater — which time and again is used to legitimize mass arrests, bloated police budgets, and the rest of the fascistic enterprise — is not the product of anarchists but more likely of agents of the state itself. After all, that is the basic notion being advanced, isn’t it? To wit: the state (including its corporate underwriters and beneficiaries) is inherently violent both overtly and structurally; anarchists above all reject the state and thus would do well to highlight the fundamental contrast. “The state is violent, and we are not” would be a very good place to start the discussion.

This article originally appeared on

Did the Egyptian Government Overreact to Swine Flu?

IRIN Middle East
Analysis: Did the Egyptian government overreact to H1N1?

18 July 2010

CAIRO,(IRIN) - While a review is underway of how the World Health Organization (WHO) and national authorities handled last year’s outbreak of the H1N1 virus, also referred to as swine flu, medical experts in Egypt have criticized their government for overreacting to the pandemic, provoking unjustified fear and wasting millions of dollars-worth of much-needed public funds.

“Egypt is probably the only country in the world that acted in such an insane way towards the virus,” Saed Aun, a former preventive medicine advisor to the Egyptian health ministry, told IRIN. “The Egyptian government applied the wrong policies in dealing with the crisis.”

When H1N1 was first detected in a university dormitory in April 2009, the Egyptian Cabinet in May decided to cull all the nation’s more than 350,000 pigs obstensibly to avert the spread of the virus, although the link between H1N1 and pigs had not been officially established.

Apart from the enormous loss to pig farmers, the culling led to an accumulation of rubbish on the streets of the capital as pigs had been eating much of it previously.

In Cairo, the livelihoods of unofficial rubbish collectors - known as ‘Zabalin’ to Egyptians - and pig farmers were very much intertwined as the former collected organic waste from the capital’s streets and sold it to farmers to feed their pigs. The cull hit the livelihoods of 70,000 former pig farmers and ‘Zaballin’ and their families in the Cairo area, according to local NGO Association for the Protection of the Environment.

“The waste was a good source of profit for the rubbish collectors,” said Israel Ayad, a pig farmer and unofficial spokesman for the rubbish collectors. “Why should they collect rubbish after the pigs are gone?”

In reference to the health hazards posed by the piles of rotting waste in the capital, Chairman of the Doctors’ Association Hamdy al-Sayed described the situation as a “national scandal”.

The government later said the cull was not related to H1N1 but was simply a general health measure.


Experts say Egypt’s schools were the biggest losers in the government’s handling of the pandemic. In addition to the intermittent closures of some schools, the ministries of health and education ordered all schools to halve the sizes of their classrooms, which led to many children being able to attend only three days a week.

“The state of confusion surrounding the appearance of the virus harmed the educational process greatly,” Nadia Youssef, an educational specialist at Cairo University, said. “The problem was that the virus appeared during the first months of the academic year. Some schools were closed down while parts of the curricula were removed, affecting the educational record of the students badly.”

Health officials in Egypt are divided over whether they can expect any more waves of H1N1 infections.

The country’s 55 hospitals and health centres capable of dealing with H1N1 cases say they are ready to receive any new patients and have large stocks of vaccines.

Fathi Shabana, head of Imbaba Fever Hospital, said his hospital had 60,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine in preparation for winter, which is considered to begin in November.

However, Mustafa Orkhan, head of the Swine Flu Centre, a local NGO which gives tips on H1N1, said he did not expect any more outbreaks of the virus in Egypt.

“Egypt is safe as far as this virus is concerned,” he said.


The issue of H1N1 vaccinations is at the heart of public and expert debate on the pandemic and how it has been handled.

The government spent 30 million Egyptian pounds (US$5.4 million) to buy 1.9 million doses of the vaccine, having failed to secure the 5 million doses it was seeking to purchase.

Later, a plan to inoculate 1.2 million schoolchildren went awry as hundreds of thousands of parents refused to send their children to schools to get the vaccine after rumours spread that the vaccines could cause physical deformities.

Now, the health ministry still has some 500,000 doses of the vaccine in its stocks. Some of these will be used to inoculate around 70,000 people travelling to Saudi Arabia in November to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage, but the inoculation is optional.

The remaining vaccines will expire in May 2011.

“These vaccines will of course be thrown out after they expire,” Aun said. “This is yet one more indication of the failure of the government to deal with the crisis wisely.”

Health officials said 16,356 Egyptians had contracted the H1N1 virus to date and 280 people had died - most of whom had other health problems.

Globally, more than 15,000 people died as a result of the virus since April 2009 but the WHO had predicted two to four million deaths.

A Few Samples of Egyptian Police Brutality

McClatchy Newspapers
Examples of Egyptian complaints of police abuse

July 19, 2010

CAIRO — Since February, an independent, nonprofit torture-victims advocacy group in the Egyptian capital has kept a diary of allegations of human rights abuses under the emergency codes in Egypt. Here are some examples of entries, based solely on victims' stories and records compiled by the Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and other human rights groups:

June 11: A group of police officers and plainclothes agents reportedly beat some 70 demonstrators and arrested 12 in Alexandria who were expressing anger at the killing of Khaled Said, whose beating death earlier that week sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.

June 7: A police force armed with batons and guns allegedly stormed the village of Amriya on the outskirts of Alexandria, attacking sharecroppers to remove them from the land they'd farmed for years. A high-ranking state security official had purchased the land and reportedly wanted to clear off the farmers. Police officers allegedly beat the women and threatened them with rape, and arrested many of the men.

June 6: Two plainclothes police agents in Alexandria reportedly beat Khaled Said to death. Witnesses said that the policemen tied Said's arms behind his back and roughed him up, including smashing his head against a marble slab. Said then was dragged outside and shoved into a neighboring building. His assailants continued to beat him, ramming his head against an iron gate, steps on a staircase and the walls of the building. Photos of Said's lifeless body, broken teeth and dislocated jaw were widely circulated on the Internet, stirring a wave of protests that lasted for weeks.

May 24: A police force allegedly beat and dispersed a group of workers who'd staged a strike in front of the house of Parliament in Cairo. The officers took away cameras and cell phones from journalists who were covering the sit-in.

Read more:

Egypt Police Tortured 12 People to Death in 2009

Egyptian police ‘tortured to death’ 12 people in 2009, says rights group

Wed, 14/07/2010

Pakinam Amer

Among widespread and continuing human rights abuses throughout Egypt in 2009, 12 people were tortured to death by police, according to the annual report of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).

“We documented 63 cases of torture in detention in the same year. And this is not exhaustive; we include only confirmed cases where there’s clear evidence of wrongdoing,” said Hafez Abu Saada, the lawyer who heads the rights watchdog at a press conference Tuesday. “Obviously, laws are still not firm enough to put an end to this crime.”

According to the 578-page-report, 125 cases of death resulting from torture were recorded between 2000-2009, with 12 such cases recorded in 2009.

“Many of the perpetrators go unpunished mainly because of the reluctance of victims’ families to pursue their case in court, for fear of police retaliation,” states the report.

The report carries the names and case histories of all of the alleged 2009 torture cases. Not mentioned is the recent case of Khaled Saeed, an Alexandrian 28-year-old man who was allegedly beaten to death by police on a sidewalk on 6 June this year.

Abu Saada puts the blame on the nearly three-decade-long Egyptian Emergency Law which provides legal justification for perpetuating human rights abuses, which range from the detention of bloggers, collective punishment, forced displacement and election fraud, to preventing peaceful demonstrations.

In 2009 alone, police authorities put down at least 82 peaceful demonstrations or protests, says the report. This includes police intervention against the thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets in 2009 to protest a violent Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip, as well as the blue-collar workers of Mahalla who in April 2009 demanded better wages.

The EOHR report also documents 530 cases of mistreatment of prisoners, 113 cases of arbitrary detention, 20 cases of “disappearances,” and ten cases of “collective punishment” (thought to be a systematic procedure used by police to extract information and/or confessions).

Other violations recorded in 2009 include the detention of prisoners in inhumane conditions, and as well as physical and sexual harrassment, and verbal humiliation of detainees. The report mentions cases of prisoners who were shackled, stripped naked and blindfolded. Some had salt forced into their eyes and were electrocuted or kicked repeatedly by officers, says the report.

Arbitrary arrest is reported as widespread and a considerate threat to personal security. According to statistics and anecdotal evidence provided by those who underwent unlawful arrests, many of the violations occurred in 6 October province, where more than 20 cases of documented arrest without a warrant were recorded.

During Muslim-Christian sectarian clashes many Egyptians were arrested to extract confessions because the police did not have a specific list of suspects based on evidence. In 2009 four cases involving forced entry into homes, the arrest of several members from the same family, attacks against personal property, and harrassment of citizens inside their homes were recorded in the provinces of North Sinai, Fayoum and Kafr el-Sheikh.

The trials of civilians before military tribunals remains a phenomenon to be concerned about, the report says. In 2009, there were three such cases, two in North Sinai, with the third being the renowned “Khairat el-Shater” trial in which around 40 prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood were charged with membership of a banned group, money laundering, and militancy.

The report also mentions cases tried at the Emergency State Security Court, referred there by direct order from the president.

The EOHR further recorded 190 cases where freedom of expression was blocked or journalists and bloggers harassed and targeted by security officials. Violations included physical assaults on reporters and bloggers, prosecution of reporters, censorship, and banning or withdrawing the publication of controversial work. The year 2009 saw in total 148 reporters stand trial on charges of libel or spreading “rumors.”

Libyan-Sponsored Gaza Aid Ship Docks in Egypt

Gaza Aid Ship Docks in Egypt

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Libyan aid ship originally bound for the Gaza Strip has been diverted to a port in Egypt after the Israeli navy warned the vessel against trying to break an Israeli blockade on the Palestinian coastal territory.

An Egyptian official said the Amalthea arrived in El Arish, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, about 45km south of the border with Gaza, in mid-evening on Wednesday.

"Medical supplies and passengers will enter Gaza through the Rafah border [crossing], while food will enter through the Awja border," Captain Gamal Abdel Maqsoud, who is in charge of the port, said.

He said Egypt's Red Crescent would be responsible for taking the 2,000 tonnes of food and medicine over both borders and had lorries waiting in El Arish.

Yousseuf Sawani, executive director of the Gaddafi Foundation which charteredthe vessel, confirmed earlier that it had decided to divert the ship away from Gaza for safety reasons.

"It was unacceptable for us to enter into a confrontation and risk bloodshed," Sawani said.

"The aims of Amalthea have been achieved without bloodshed and the result is gains for the Palestinians."

He said earlier on Wednesday that eight Israeli warships had surrounded the Libyan aid ship, preventing it from continuing its journey to Gaza.

Request accepted

Amr el-Kahky, Al Jazeera's correspondent in El Arish, said the Egyptian foreign ministry had officially accepted a request from the ship to dock in El Arish.

"Offloading of the ship and loading [the supplies] onto trucks to travel to Gaza is due to take place tomorrow [Thursday]," he said.

The Amalthea is carrying 12 crew members and at least nine passengers, including six Libyans and one each from Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria.

A separate attempt to deliver aid relief and medical supplies to Gaza is also currently under way.

A convoy of 150 people, including "unionists, journalists and academics", is travelling overland in 25 vehicles from Jordan to the Egyptian Rafah crossing.

These challenges to the blockade come a day after Israel's military admitted mistakes in the May 31 attack on a flotilla of aid vessels trying to breach the blockade.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists, eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen, were killed after Israeli soldiers boarded the lead ship Mavi Marmara.

Following an international outcry over the raid, Israel recently eased restrictions on the Gaza Strip, allowing some previously banned items into the territory.

But construction materials remain heavily restricted, Gazans have very limited freedom of movement, and Israel still enforces a naval blockade on the territory.

*Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Omar Al-Bashir Indicted For Genocide In Darfur

FACTBOX - Omar Bashir indicted for genocide

July 12 (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court issued a second arrest warrant on Monday for Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for the crime of genocide. Here are some key facts about Bashir:


* Bashir was born in 1944 in the Nile Valley north of Khartoum. The son of a small farmer, he graduated from Sudan's military academy in 1966 and was a career army officer who rose to the rank of general.

* He served at least one tour of combat duty in the south against the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). In June 1989 he overthrew the democratically elected civilian government of former Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi.

* In October 1993, he dissolved the military junta which brought him to power and appointed himself civilian president in a move designed to establish Islamic government in Africa's largest country as stable and civilian-based.

* Bashir was previously sworn in after an internationally-backed 2005 north-south peace deal which ended Africa's longest civil war, a conflict that claimed some 2 million lives and destabilised much of the region.

* Bashir was accused in July 2008 by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor of masterminding a campaign of genocide in Darfur. The United Nations says the long-running conflict has killed 300,000 people and uprooted 2.7 million. Bashir put the death toll at 10,000 people. * In March 2009 the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but stopped short of including a charge of genocide. It was the first indictment of a sitting head of state.

* Two months later, Bashir said in an interview that the arrest warrant issued against him is part of a plot against Sudan and denied responsibility for large-scale killings there. "The ICC ruling is fundamentally null and void," said Bashir, saying of the ICC charges against him: "This is all lies."

* In February 2010, judges at the ICC reversed a decision that prosecutors had not provided sufficient evidence to add genocide to Bashir's charge sheet.


* Bashir has promised to resolve the Darfur conflict through negotiations and to enhance relations with the south, even if it chooses secession in a planned 2011 referendum.

-- Yet the escalation in Darfur fighting since April polls has been discouraging those hoping for a quick renewal to a Qatari-sponsored peace process, which had seen some progress because of reconciliation between Sudan and neighbouring Chad.

* On April 26, 2010, Bashir won Sudan's first open elections in 24 years. Bashir won 68 percent of the presidential vote, while Salva Kiir retained his job as the president of Sudan's semi-autonomous south.

-- After the vote that outside observers said fell short of global standards, Bashir was expected to form a coalition with Kiir as the country heads toward a 2011 referendum on whether south Sudan should split off and become Africa's newest state.

The Environmental Toll of the Gaza Siege

The Huffington Post
The Environmental Toll of the Gaza Siege

July 12, 2010

Hani Almadhoun

The siege on Gaza has many intended and unintended consequences. Three years under siege is a long time, but in those years the people of Gaza have learned to adapt with the frequent interruptions of their lives due to the circumstances imposed on Gaza. Every time you head to a Gaza market, you are reminded of those difficulties. If the price if your favorite item (i.e. fruit juice, potatoes chips, baby formula, and yogurt) is exceptionally high, the vendor is likely to blame the Israeli siege or the Egyptian authorities for a recent tunnel bust affecting supplies.

But humans are not the only ones paying a toll for the policies toward Gaza -- the ecosystem of this narrow strip of land is suffering too. Some of the effects of siege may have a positive impact on the environment, others not so much. Here are few areas where the Gaza siege leaves its footprints:

* Recycling Programs: Due to limitations on goods entering into Gaza, residents of Gaza now recycle pretty much anything and everything. Plastic bottles, scrap metals, plastic chairs, soda cans, pots and pans, electronic appliances and pretty much anything made of plastic. On any given day in Gaza, it would be hard to miss those animal pulled carts with scruffy looking men using a bullhorn asking young boys and girls to bring them anything to recycle for few cents. Once they collect enough material, those traveling recycling scavengers head to the nearest recycling plant and sell their collection to be recycled. Much of the plastic collected comes out as plastic trays sold to serve food on. Organizations like ANERA initiated a program to clean farm land from plastic bottles. Those plastic bottles came out as water bottles and electricity pipes. Schools collect the books by the end of the year and hand them out to the next class. While it's true that Palestinians have been recycling those items long before the siege, it's safe to say the siege allowed for the expansion of those recycling programs and participation in them.

* Landfills: Since Gaza is a very dense area, the option of using landfills is limited. With limited space the accumulation of landfills are often strongly oppose by surrounding residents due to health hazards and the smell. The other challenge is to find a landfill that won't contaminate arable land and groundwater--an increasingly important commodity. Many Gaza farmers get rid of their garbage by bury the perishable byproducts, which also helps by fertilizing the ground. Others who live in urban settings prefer to burn their trash--another health hazard.

* Solid Waste processing: Solid waste in Gaza consists of household waste, building debris, agricultural industrial waste, and car workshops. German aid agencies took the lead on this project and they hired a number of Gaza engineers and workers to collect scrap metal in Gaza and recycle it. In the aftermath of the Israeli offensive of 2009, the UNDP launched a project where they would collect home debris and rubbles and use them to sustain the Gaza sea port. Other Gaza workers collect scrap metal and stones to sell them to make cement, the most famous banned item by Israel. Other items the Gazans have been recycling are car batteries, shoes and bags to give them a second life.

* Electricity: It has been a long time since residents of Gaza can remember a full day in which they had electricity. Due to shortage of fuel, political gridlock, and the siege, there are frequent power outages. While most people have adapted their lifestyle (perishable food, visit with family, do homework...etc.), this might be method to promote more efficient use for electricity. On the downside, Gaza businesses and few homes own diesel operated power generators. Those generators are further contributing to the pollution problem. Not to mention that a dozen of people have either lost their lives or were injured by power generator related accident.

* Sewage water in your beach: Gaza beach goers can easily spot barrel size pipes pumping treatment water into the Gaza beach few meters away from where little boys and girls take a dip in the sea. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Gaza the water authority in the Gaza Strip has been unable to import the parts necessary for the maintenance and repairs at water and sewage pumping stations. According to a July 2009 report WHO, Gaza seawater samples collected during three month period by the Gaza public health laboratory were contaminated with fecal bacteria. The Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights noted that, consuming seafood fished in areas with considerable quantities of raw sewage water poses a serious threat to human health, because marine environment contaminants can be transferred through the marine food chain. It's not surprise that Gaza hospitals see a surge in patients with various skin complications during the swim season.

* Low grade fuel: Another thing the Israeli military gets to decide how much fuel makes it to Gaza. Needless to say, Gaza smugglers started smuggling Egyptian fuel to make up for the shortage. But even if Israel allows all the needed fuel into Gaza, it seems like a better business decision to buy the Egyptian fuel that comes heavily discounted due to subsidies and inferior quality. While the Gaza taxi drivers are cheering the cost saving fuel, the Gaza eco system disagrees. Needless to say the smuggled fuel represents a heavy burden on the Gaza. In a hot day, you can easily see the smog and the black smoke emitted from those Gaza cars and do not think to wear a light color shirt on your walk.

Israel has announced that they will ease the Gaza siege in the wake of the flotilla massacre late May. If those announced measurements are true then those steps should help reduce the toll on the Gaza ecosystem. I know I certainly hope residents of Gaza and Palestine will continue to see the benefits of recycling materials to reduce the carbon footprint. This would be a tough challenge in an area where the human livelihood is assaulted on daily basis, and people scrape to make a living. But I am hopeful as the people of Gaza even, those with the means, continue to shun air conditioning and instead chose other natural means to keep cool in besieged powerless Gaza.

California Dockworkers Refuse to Meet Israeli Consul

California Dockworkers Reject Meeting With Israeli Consul

9 July 2010

Two weeks after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in the San Francisco Bay Area joined with activists at the Port of Oakland to block the unloading of an Israeli Zim Lines cargo ship, the union reaffirmed its support of Palestinian rights despite pressure from the Israeli consulate and the Zionist-Israeli organization Stand With Us.

On 6 July, a group representing the Israeli consulate and Stand With Us attempted to pressure the ILWU Local 10 into withdrawing its protest of Israel's 31 May attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its condemnation of the Gaza siege and wall in the West Bank. The groups had asked to address the ILWU Local 10's Executive Board at their regular meeting.

However, the local union members were not easily persuaded, and denied permission for the Israeli delegation to attend their meeting, according to a press release issued by Labor for Palestine (US) ("Oakland dockers stand firm as Israeli Consul seeks an audience," 7 July 2010).

The local's rejection of the meeting follows a request sent by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) to the ILWU Local 10 Executive board, praising the union's historic action at the Port of Oakland on 20 June. The Palestinian trade union leaders also expressed deep concern that the Israeli consulate would command a meeting with the union in an attempt to coerce members out of their political stance on Palestinian human rights.

"Although we do not live in the United States, we find it highly unusual and somewhat uncustomary that a paid foreign representative of a racist and apartheid regime can demand and get a meeting with the executive board of a local union no less than the ILWU," stated the PGFTU.

"We humbly ask of you to hold steadfast in the face of backlash and revenge against your union. The call for a meeting with your union by a foreign paid emissary is intervening in the domestic affairs of local community grassroots action in the United States. Israel, an apartheid state, maintaining an illegal war against our people, should not be given the platform at your union house. That platform should be reserved for heroes who champion justice and equality for all. Please ask Mr. Tor to end his government's criminal actions and answer for the 40,000 people Israel killed during the multiple invasions and occupations of Lebanon, the massacres of Deir Yassin, Qibya, Sabra and Shatila, Jenin and Gaza. Like the Turkish nationals [killed on 31 May], the fallen have names, lives and families and worked in the most destitute of conditions. Our mission, like yours, is to bring dignity to our working people."

*Photo caption - Picketers at the Port of Oakland prevent the unloading of goods from an Israeli ship on 20 June 2010. (Bill Hackwell)

Egyptian Man Dies in Saudi Police Station

Egyptian dies in Saudi police station


Mohamed Kamel

The death of 39-year-old Egyptian national Ahmed Saber at a police station in Saudi Arabia has raised suspicions of foul play due to injuries found on the dead man's neck.

Saber, a driver working for a Saudi transport company, reportedly had an altercation with his employer over money on 27 June.

According to a preliminary coroner's report, Saber's shirt had been torn from the side. The report went on to state that the cause of death could not be determined except by way of a thorough autopsy.

The company for which Saber worked was requested by Saudi authorities to turn over the deceased man's medical records for examination.

Egyptian Consul in Riyadh Fawzi el-Ashmawy said the body would be sent to Egypt upon completion of a final autopsy report. "We requested that Saber's family receive all their financial rights," he said.

Saber's wife said her husband had been working for the Saudi company for two years. "They didn't even call us to tell us what happened," she said.

*Translated from the Arabic Edition.

Funeral for Egyptian killed in Saudi Arabia


Mohamed Kamel

Hundreds of Egyptians have attended the funeral of an Egyptian driver who died in a police station in Saudi Arabia following a clash with a Saudi citizen.

The body of Ahmed Saber was buried in the Saudi Arabian village of el-Qarayat, under the supervision of an Egyptian community leader, a number of the driver’s Egyptian friends and a representative of the Egyptian consulate.

Fawzi el-Ashmawi, Egypt’s consul general in Riyadh, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that criminal investigations are still taking place and that the results will be sent to the court once police and forensic reports are completed.

“There’s communication with the Saudi transport company where Saber worked in order to collect his dues and send them to his family,” el-Ashmawi added.

He also affimed that the consulate has contacted the Saudi Foreign Ministry, the prince of this region and el-Qarayat’s governor, demanding a copy of the police and forensic reports, which are set to be issued in a month.

For her part, Khadeega Mohamed Khaleel, the driver’s widow, has asked foreign ministry officials to let her travel to Saudi Arabia at her own expense to visit her husband’s grave.

*Translated from the Arabic Edition.

Dockworkers at Indian Port Boycott Israeli Ships


Dockworkers at Indian port boycott Israeli ships

July 06, 2010

New York
- Dockworkers at the major Indian port of Cochin are refusing to unload Israeli cargo in protest of Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip.

According to the Indian communist publication People's Democracy, "The boycott began on June 17 on receipt of information that cargo unloaded at Colombo Port [Sri Lanka] from Israeli ship m/v Zim Livorno 16 was bound to arrive at Cochin Port in a feeder vessel."

"On June 23, trade unions held a joint protest rally in Cochin Port near the office of Zim Integrated Shipping Services (India) Pvt Ltd – the Israeli shipping line," the report added. At the demonstration, labor leaders denounced Israel's attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May which left nine people dead.

Representatives of several trade unions—including those aligned with both left and right wing parties— joined the demonstration.

The port of Cochin, in the state of Kerala, is one of the biggest ports in India.

The Chochin dockworkers join workers at ports in Sweden, South Africa, and other countries who have refused to unload Israeli cargo. Calls for boycotts against Israel intensified in the wake of the flotilla raid.

On June 20th, dockworkers in Oakland, California, refused to unload an Israeli cargo ship after protesters picketed at the dock.

Egyptian Police Kill Two Eritrean Migrants Bound For Israel

Egypt kills Eritrean migrant at Israel border

July 7, 2010

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP) — Egyptian police shot and killed an Eritrean migrant as he tried to cross the border illegally into Israel, a security official said.

Police had warned the 36-year-old man to stop and when he refused they fired shots, the official said.

He was shot in the pelvis and died from internal bleeding. His body was then taken to the nearby El-Arish hospital, the official added.

The man's death brings to 20 the number of African migrants killed so far this year when attempting the crossing in search of a better life and job prospects in Israel.

Cairo has rejected harsh criticism from human rights groups of its policy of using potentially lethal force against the migrants along the 250-kilometre (150-mile) border.

BBC News
Egyptians shoot African migrant trying to enter Israel

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Egyptian border guards have shot dead a woman as she tried to cross the border illegally from Egypt into Israel.

The woman, who was Eritrean, had ignored orders to stop and was shot in the stomach and leg, officials said.

At least three other people, all Eritrean, were detained, including a child aged four.

Human rights activists have criticised Egyptian soldiers for killing dozens of African migrants at the border in the past two years.

The woman, 38, was shot close to the Egypt-Israeli border in central Sinai.

The death brings to 19 the number of African migrants killed this year while attempting the crossing into Israel, according to the AFP news agency.

At least 17 migrants were killed at the Egypt-Israel border in 2009. Egyptian police claim they are trying to control people-trafficking.