Israel: Racist attacks on African migrants in the exclusivist, undemocratic state of Israel

Israelis protest against African migrant workers in south Tel Aviv, May 23, 2012. Photo by Moti Milrod

African migrants meet angry backlash in Israel

By EDMUND SANDERS
Los Angeles Times
Published: Monday, May. 28, 2012

TEL AVIV — The first Molotov cocktail ignited a backyard fence, just a couple of feet from where three Eritrean refugees were sleeping outdoors on makeshift beds of wood planks atop old TVs. One man burned his arm trying to extinguish the flames with a blanket.

Moments later, a second firebomb was tossed through an open air vent into the adjacent apartment, where another family of African asylum-seekers was sleeping. It exploded in the shower without causing injury.

The post-midnight attacks last month by unknown assailants continued across Tel Aviv’s dilapidated Shapira neighborhood, striking another refugee house and a kindergarten catering to African children.

Israelis protesting in south Tel Aviv against anti-foreigner violence on Thursday. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

“We’re just looking for some peace in our life,” said Berhun Gergrehra, 60, a former Eritrean soldier who fled poverty and repression there two years ago, arriving in Israel after walking through Sudan and Egypt with his teenage son and daughter. “But everyone here just hates us. Why?”

Israel is a nation founded by refugees, mostly Jews escaping persecution in Europe and the Middle East. It grew and prospered thanks to additional immigration from Russia, Ethiopia and other nations.

But now Israel’s identity as a refuge is being challenged by an influx of tens of thousands of Africans, who also see the country as a haven from oppression in their native lands. Since 2006, more than 60,000 Africans – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, including the latter’s Darfur region – have poured over the border from Egypt’s Sinai desert, taking advantage of Israel’s proximity as one of the nearest modern democracies accessible to African refugees.

But unlike past waves of Jewish immigrants, the flood of Africans is triggering an ugly and sometimes violent backlash in Israel. Refugee activists say some government leaders are fostering the intolerance and anger toward Africans, who are accused of committing crimes, stealing jobs from Israelis and potentially undermining the Jewish character of the country. Continue reading

The Islamist Complex: Will the Left Rise to the Challenge?

“So why fear the Islamist rise? Let the Islamists rule, and fail. Let the Islamists expose their opportunist positions on imperialism and Israel. Let the Islamists contradict their double speech on liberties by suppressing social freedoms, arts and literature. Let the Islamists maintain the capitalist model which will leave impoverished Arab populations with no hope. Exposing the Islamist shortcomings will aid the formation of a true unashamed secular, leftist, and anti-capitalist current, which will be forced to present theoretical arguments, confront reality and deliver answers and programs.”
This is Part Three of a series by Hisham Bustani, “One Year After the Arab Uprisings.”
Part One, titled “The Failure of the Arab ‘State’ and Its Opposition” was posted on revolutionary frontlines at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-failure-of-the-arab-state-and-its-opposition
Part Two, titled “Arab Uprisings: Progress, But Not Yet a Revolution”, was posted at https://revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/arab-uprisings-progress-but-not-yet-a-revolution/

A young boy waves a black flag inscribed with Islamic verses at a rally of Tunisian Salafi Islamists in the central town of Kairouan 20 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Anis Mili)

By: Hisham Bustani

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Since the Arab uprisings were not class-based, have no philosophical backbone, and lack a leading revolutionary party to drive the movement towards defined socio-economic and political change, the ground was set for the rise of institutionalized currents that already had a substantial presence, chiefly the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist factions.

Historically, political Islam served as a close ally to Arab despotic regimes, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when it was used as a tool to confront the expansion of nationalist and leftist currents. In Jordan, for example, the Islamists were allowed to stay legally active during the period of martial law (1957-1989) while all other parties were banned. They were permitted to establish institutions, associations, banks, hospitals, schools, universities, and a huge network of social support organizations, in addition to their leading of Friday prayers and their activities in key government institutions like the Ministry of Education. The Salafi movement was completely nurtured and backed by the US and its subservient ally Saudi Arabia during the Cold War. It was used primarily in Afghanistan against the Soviets and later spread throughout the world.

It was only when Islamist groups grew too strong for government manipulation and became a possible threat that the regimes unsuccessfully tried to move against them. It was too late. The Islamists had already opened channels with the US administration, and began to present themselves as a possible, more efficient and more popular replacement for the Arab regimes.

Syria’s My Lai

05/28/2012

The Houla Massacre Marks a New Level of Violence

Some 109 people were killed on Friday night in the Syrian village of Houla after regime troops, responding to attacks by the Free Syrian Army, bombarded the village with tank and mortar fire. This image is taken from a video said to be of the burial of the victims on Saturday of 92 people, including 32 children.

By Ulrike Putz  in Beirut

With at least 109 dead, including dozens of children, the weekend massacre in the Syrian village of Houla could go down in history alongside such brutal post-World War II massacres as My Lai and Srebrenica. In Syria, it will likely trigger a new wave of violence and reprisals.

My Lai. Sabra and Shatila. Srebrenica. And now Houla. The sheer intensity of international outrage over the Friday-night massacre means that the village in northeastern Syria could very well join the towns in Vietnam, Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina as short-hand for the murder of defenseless civilians in the post-World War II era. According to the United Nations, at least 100 people were killed in the attack, many of them young children. On Sunday afternoon, the UN Security Council condemned the killings and blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the slaughter.

China on Monday joined the long list of countries to denounce the violence. “China feels deeply shocked by the large number of civilian casualties in Houla, and condemns in the strongest terms the cruel killings of ordinary citizens, especially women and children,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.

The death toll from the attack continued to rise on Sunday, with several of the 300 people wounded succumbing to their injuries. The number of dead is now thought to be 109 villagers. In addition, some 3,000 people took to the streets of Damascus to protest against the bloody government attack, according to activists. Security forces reportedly fired into the crowd, killing two. Houla, it would seem, is not yet over.

But global disgust has not brought an end to the violence. At least 24 people were killed in the central city of Hama during bombardments on Sunday night, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Eight of those killed were reportedly children. The bombardment came after several attacks on Assad forces by fighters with the Free Syrian Army, though reports of the violence have yet to be independently verified, Reuters reported.

With a number of the wounded having succumbed to their injuries over the weekend, the death toll now stands at 109, including dozens of children under the age of 10.

Close-Range Shots

According to activists, the Friday night slaughter in Houla came at the hands of Syrian security forces and other fighters loyal to the Assad regime. UN observers, who visited the village on Saturday morning, confirmed that evidence — such as tank shells found at the site — indicates that regime troops are behind the violence. Images produced during the UN visit intensified the global revulsion: more than 30 of those killed are children under the age of 10. Some of the pictures show children who appear to have been executed with close-range shots to the head.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle joined the chorus of condemnation on Saturday, saying in a statement that “it is shocking and horrifying that the Syrian regime refuses to cease using brutal violence against its own people. Those responsible for this crime must be brought to justice.”

Given the presence of UN observers, the Syrian regime was unable to deny, as it often does, the events that took place in Houla, located not far from the rebel stronghold of Homs. Instead, Damascus claimed that it carried no responsibility, with state television reporting that “terrorists” were behind the bloodbath.

Since the uprising in Syria began some 15 months ago, foreign journalists have been largely prevented from entering the police state, making it difficult to verify reports coming out of the country. Information from Syrian activists, on which most media outlets depend, have furthermore proven unreliable in the past. Continue reading

India: Maoists support Bharat Bandh (Strike) against gas price hike

TNN | May 27, 2012

BHOPAL: Outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has extended their support to ‘Bharat Bandh’ on May 31 in protest against the unprecedented hike in petrol prices asking the people to be on the forefront of the agitation against the wrong policies of UPA-IIgovernment at the centre.”Petrol prices went up 10 times in 14 months, triggering inflation. People have to stand up against exploitation,” CPI (Maoist) central committee spokesman Abhay said in an e-mail statement sent to TOI.Slamming the UPA-II government for repeatedly making claims poverty was declining, the rebels said increase in petrol prices within few days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made such a claim indicated that the government was not concerned about the common masses.

Abhay said the UPA-II and its economists were blaming subsidies for the present economic crisis and were trying to somehow phase out them. “This will only put the already overburdened common man in more trouble”, he added.

Maoists appealed to the people in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, parts of Maharashtra (Gadchiroli, Gondia, Chandrapur and Bhandara), Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar to actively participate in the Bharat Bandh on May 31.

“Resist Oplan Bayanihan in South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula”

A massive and brutal terror campaign is currently ravaging the people of South Qezon-Bondoc Peninsula (SQ-BP) as part of the intensification of the US-Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression.
It is marked by one of the most concentrated deployments of fascist forces in the history of the enemy’s suppression and encirclement campaigns. Up to eight strike battalions are positioned in 22 towns, or an average of 200 fascist forces per municipality. They include the entire 74th IB, the 85th IB, the 76th IB and Special Forces Battalion, the 416th and 417th Public Safety Management Companies and three and a half battalions of CAFGU under the 59th IB. This is aside from forces of the Philippine National Police assigned to the various towns of SQ-BP.
The presence of these fascist forces are a major disruption in the normal course of the masses’ lives. They impose martial rule. They utilize their so-called “people-centered” tactics under Oplan Bayanihan but commit wanton violations of human rights.
Squad-size groups of armed soldiers comprising “peace and development teams” stay for long periods in villages. For up to six months, they live like fattened pigs in peasants’ houses in over 50 barrios, spending their days getting drunk, gambling and texting.They also use barangay centers and other public structures are bases. They are a bane to the masses’ livelihood.  Continue reading

Institutional rape and abuse of prisoners at Alabama women’s prison

Guards at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison Accused of Sexual Contact With Inmates

May 23, 2012, by

Tutwiler Prison (Photo: Equal Justice Initiative)

(CNN) — Male guards at an Alabama women’s prison engaged in the widespread sexual abuse of female inmates for years, a nonprofit group alleged in a formal complaint filed with the Justice Department on Tuesday.

The Equal Justice Initiative asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged incidents occurring between 2009 and 2011 at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. The federal agency confirmed that it received the complaint though declined further comment.

“In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler, EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence,” the Montgomery-based group said in a statement.

“This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct,” said Bryan Stevenson, the group’s executive director.

Stevenson also blamed the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the alleged attacks, which the group says include rapes, and for responding inadequately.

The group claims that more than “20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners.”

“It’s an ongoing thing, a daily thing,” said Stefanie Hibbett, 31, a former Tutwiler inmate. “You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done.” Continue reading

China: Striking workers use social media to publicize grievances and build solidarity and support

How Weibo helped Dongguan factory workers get their voices heard

China Labour Bulletin, May 10, 2012

When the boss refuses to listen to workers’ grievances, those workers often have no option but to go on strike. But whether or not this tactic works sometimes depends on workers’ media advocacy skills.

On 7 May, workers at a Taiwanese-owned Crocs shoe factory in Dongguan heard that their monthly performance bonus would fall from 500 yuan to 100 yuan. Given that the bonus usually accounted for one fifth of their income, this was a big deal. They complained to the management who as usual didn’t bother to listen. In the afternoon of 8 May, around 1,000 workers, one third of the workforce, decided not to go to work.

But given the relatively isolated location of the factory, well hidden within a gigantic industrial park, the workers’ action didn’t get much attention, not to mention government intervention. When CLB called the factory office, the factory denied the bonus dispute by saying that workers wouldn’t know their bonus until the middle of this month.

One young worker, in anticipation of this official response, started posting strike information on his Weibo page in order to generate public support and media attention. To validate his account, he posted a photo showing the empty workshop during working hours.

CLB then posted a story about the strike on our Weibo page with the worker’s photographic evidence. The story immediately got the attention of labour rights activists and news reporters in Guangdong. Within one hour or so, the post had been retweeted more than 50 times.

In the late afternoon, the young worker told CLB that around five reporters had gathered at the factory gate but their attempts to get in had been foiled by security. The local labour bureau showed up as well.

In the morning of 9 May, CLB learnt that after government mediation, factory management had agreed to raise the bonus from the initial 100 yuan to at least 300 yuan. As a result the factory’s operations have basically returned to normal.

The young worker could not hide his exuberance when his effort to seek media attention during the strike paid off and reaped a substantial bonus increase for over one thousand of his coworkers.

In contrast, late last month, hundreds of employees stopped working at a Chongqing auto factory in protest against increasing workloads and stagnant pay levels over the last few years. The three-day strike got no traditional media coverage and only limited social media exposure and was eventually subdued by management’s threat of dismissal.

It is hard to imagine how the one thousand Dongguan workers’ voices could have been heard without one young worker’s persistent and successful media liaison, especially the use of Weibo. Microblogs have become a relatively free platform for workers, labour scholars, rights advocates, journalists and even trade union officials to interact and exchange information. But to get your particular cause noticed on this overloaded platform definitely requires skill and persistence. And it’s comforting to see China’s tightening control over this new social platform hasn’t balked workers’ attempts to get their voices heard.