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Ed Webb

On British colonialism, antisemitism, and Palestinian rights | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Palestine was not lost in the late 1940s, as is commonly believed; it was lost in the late 1930s, as a result of Britain’s savage smashing of Palestinian resistance and support for Jewish paramilitary forces
  • Churchill held Arabs in contempt as racially inferior. His description of Palestinian Arabs as a “dog in a manger” is shocking, but not entirely surprising; racism usually goes hand in hand with colonialism.
  • In British eyes, a Palestinian state was synonymous with a mufti state; accordingly, Britain’s hostility towards Palestinians and Palestinian statehood was a constant factor in its foreign policy from 1947-49.
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  • Britain gave a green light to its client, King Abdullah of Transjordan, to send his British-led little army into Palestine upon expiry of the British mandate, to capture the West Bank - which was intended to be the heartland of the Palestinian state. The winners in the war for Palestine were King Abdullah and the Zionist movement; the losers were Palestinians. Around 750,000 Palestinians, more than half the population, became refugees, and the name Palestine was wiped off the map.
  • When Jordan formally annexed the West Bank in 1950, Britain and Pakistan were the only UN members to recognise it.
  • Against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, the reassessment of Britain’s colonial past and the drive to decolonise school curricula, some scholars have leapt to the defence of the British Empire. Nigel Biggar, the Regius professor of theology at the University of Oxford, for example, defends the British Empire as a moral force for good. Referencing Cecil Rhodes and the campaign to remove his statue from Oriel College, Biggar conceded that Rhodes was an imperialist, “but British colonialism was not essentially racist, wasn’t essentially exploitative, and wasn’t essentially atrocious”. The British Empire’s record in Palestine, however, is rather difficult to reconcile with the benign view of the learned professor. 
  • Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) is by far the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Britain, and its membership includes around 80 percent of Tory members of parliament. Since the May 2015 general election, CFI has sent 24 delegations with more than 180 Conservatives to visit Israel.  The last three leaders of the Conservative Party have been uncritical supporters of the State of Israel. Former Prime Minister David Cameron described himself as a “passionate friend” of Israel and insisted that nothing could break that friendship.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a slightly more nuanced take on Britain’s record as a colonial power in Palestine. In his 2014 book on Churchill, he described the Balfour Declaration as “bizarre”, “tragically incoherent” and an “exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. This was one of the rare examples of sound judgement and historical insight on Johnson’s part. But in 2015, on a trip to Israel as mayor of London, Johnson hailed the Balfour Declaration as “a great thing”. 
  • Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary in 1917, undertook to uphold the civil and religious rights of the native population of Palestine. A century later, the House of Commons added national rights as well, voting in October 2014 - by 274 votes to 12 - to recognise a Palestinian state. Cameron chose to ignore the non-binding vote
  • The Conservative government’s adoption in 2016 of the IHRA’s non-legally-binding working definition of antisemitism falls squarely within this tradition of partisanship on behalf of Zionism and Israel, and disdain for Palestinians.  The definition states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  • The definition does not mention Israel by name, but no fewer than seven out of the 11 “illustrative examples” that follow concern Israel. They include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”; “applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”; “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”; and “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”. 
  • antisemitism was singled out for attention and punishment by a Conservative government that is renowned for its intensely relaxed attitude towards Islamophobia. 
  • Many left-wing Israelis regard Israel as a racist endeavour. B’Tselem, the highly respected Israeli human rights organisation, issued a closely argued position paper in January titled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”
  • Right-wing Israelis continue to hotly deny that Israel is an apartheid state and reject any comparison with apartheid South Africa. But there is no law against calling Israel an apartheid state, and progressive Israelis do so all the time. Comparisons with Nazi Germany are also not proscribed by Israeli law. Such comparisons are less common in Israeli political discourse, but they are occasionally expressed in newspaper editorials and even by politicians. 
  • To achieve consensus on the document within the IHRA, it was necessary to separate the statement from the illustrative examples that followed. Pro-Israel partisans, however, have repeatedly conveyed the false impression that the examples are an integral part of the definition.
  • What the non-legally-binding IHRA document does do, with the help of the examples, is shift the focus from real antisemitism to the perfectly respectable and growing phenomenon of anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is sometimes described by pro-Israel stakeholders as “the new antisemitism”. It is essential, however, to distinguish clearly between the two.
  • The 11 examples make a series of unwarranted assumptions about Israel and world Jewry. They assume that all Israelis adhere to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state; that Israel is a “democratic nation”; that Israel is not a racist endeavour; and that all Jews condemn the comparison between Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.
  • the definition’s very vagueness confers a political advantage. It enables Israel’s defenders to weaponise the definition, especially against left-wing opponents, and to portray what in most cases is valid criticism of Israeli behaviour as the vilification and delegitimisation of the State of Israel.
  • Israel is not a democracy. Even within its original borders, it is a flawed democracy at best, because of discrimination at multiple levels against its Palestinian citizens. But in the whole area under its rule, including the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel is an ethnocracy - a political system in which one ethnic group dominates another. 
  • In the Orwellian world of the post-full-adoption Labour Party, many of the members who have been suspended or expelled for the crime of antisemitism were themselves Jewish. Several Jewish Labour Party members have been investigated since 2016, nearly all on the basis of allegations of antisemitism. This made a mockery of the claim of Keir Starmer, who succeeded the allegedly antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as leader, to be making the Labour Party a safe place for Jews.  
  • In the rush to burnish its pro-Zionist credentials, the Labour Party turned against some of its most progressive Jewish members. Moshe Machover, the veteran Israeli British anti-Zionist, was expelled and then reinstated in 2017 after the Guardian published a letter of protest undersigned by 139 Labour Party members, including eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, dismissing the insinuation of antisemitism as “personally offensive and politically dangerous”.
  • Anti-Zionism is opposition to the exclusive character of the state of Israel and to Israeli policies, particularly its occupation of the West Bank. Antisemitism relates to Jews anywhere in the world; anti-Zionism relates only to Israel. 
  • In a letter to the Guardian published in November 2020, a group of 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists and intellectuals expressed their concerns about the IHRA definition. Palestinian voices are rarely heard in the national debate on antisemitism and Israel-Palestine.
  • Through ‘examples’ that it provides, the IHRA definition conflates Judaism with Zionism in assuming that all Jews are Zionists, and that the state of Israel in its current reality embodies the self-determination of all Jews. We profoundly disagree with this. The fight against antisemitism should not be turned into a stratagem to delegitimise the fight against the oppression of the Palestinians, the denial of their rights and the continued occupation of their land
  • Another call on universities to resist the government’s attempt to impose the IHRA definition came from an unexpected source: British academics who are also Israeli citizens. I am a member of this group, brought together by outrage at Williamson’s rude and crude intervention. It came as a surprise to discover that there are so many of us but, on the issue of his threat, we were all on the same page, regardless of our diverse academic disciplines, ages, statuses and political affiliations.
  • Our demarche took the form of a long letter sent in the last week of January to all vice chancellors of English universities and many academic senates. Since then, our letter has been signed by an impressive list of 110 supporters, all Israeli academics outside the UK, including many from Israel. We tried to reach a wider public beyond the academy by publishing our letter in the mainstream media. Our request was either rejected or ignored by no less than 12 national newspapers and other media outlets. We were rather surprised and disappointed that not a single national paper saw fit to publish our letter or to report our initiative. But the letter was eventually published by the Jewish leftist online journal, Vashti.
  • In our letter, we said: “Fighting antisemitism in all its forms is an absolute must. Yet the IHRA document is inherently flawed, and in ways that undermine this fight. In addition, it threatens free speech and academic freedom and constitutes an attack both on the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the struggle to democratise Israel.”
  • The Loach affair vividly demonstrates the damage that the IHRA document can do to free speech on campus. The document was used to smear a prominent left-wing critic of Israel and a defender of Palestinian rights, and to try to deny him a platform. The attempt at no-platforming ultimately failed, but it caused totally unwarranted pain to the artist, placed the master of his old college in an extremely awkward position, stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling on both sides of the argument, wasted a great deal of time and energy that could have been put to better use, and, worst of all, in my humble opinion, was completely unnecessary, unjustified and unproductive. All it did was sour the atmosphere around an imaginative cultural event.
  • it must be emphasised that antisemitism is not a fiction, as some people claim. It is a real problem at all levels of our society, including university campuses, and it needs to be confronted robustly wherever it rears its ugly head. Secondly, it would be quite wrong to suggest that Jewish students who protest about antisemitism are inventing or exaggerating their feeling of hurt. Jewish students genuinely feel vulnerable and have a real need for protection by university authorities against any manifestation of bigotry, harassment or discrimination. 
  • the definition is implicitly premised on Jewish exceptionalism - on the notion that Jews are a special case and must be treated as such. This gets in the way of solidarity and cooperation with other groups who are also susceptible to racial prejudice, such as Arabs and Muslims. To be effective, the fight against racism needs to take place across the board and not in isolated corners.
  • Despite its claim to the contrary, Israel does not represent all Jews globally, but only its own citizens, a fifth of whom are Palestinian.
  • British Jews are not collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct, but the IHRA definition implicates them in Israel’s affairs, and encourages them to target anyone they consider to be an enemy of the Jewish state.
  • do we need a definition of antisemitism at all? My own view is that we do not. The very term "antisemitic" is problematic because Arabs are Semites too. I prefer the term "anti-Jewish racism". What we need is a code of conduct to protect all minority groups, including Jews, against discrimination and harassment while protecting freedom of speech for all members of universities. 
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    Opinion of an Israeli academic at Oxford University
Ed Webb

Saudi officials sweep the streets. Labour shortages and random arrests in crackdown on ... - 0 views

  • it appears that some over-zealous inspectors may be rounding up foreigners on the mere suspicion of working illegally – contrary to the assurances given by officials when the crackdown began. In Makkah, a police spokesman appeared to admit that random arrests were taking place when he said the campaign in the city was focusing "on main squares and public places" and well as places that had previously been identified by investigators. Some members of the public have also joined in, raising fears of community-based violence directed at migrants. Yesterday Tawakkol Karman, Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, posted a photo on her Facebook page (below) which is said to show a Saudi man attempting to detain a Yemeni expatriate while waiting for police to arrive.
  • it appears that some over-zealous inspectors may be rounding up foreigners on the mere suspicion of working illegally – contrary to the assurances given by officials when the crackdown began. In Makkah, a police spokesman appeared to admit that random arrests were taking place when he said the campaign in the city was focusing "on main squares and public places" and well as places that had previously been identified by investigators. Some members of the public have also joined in, raising fears of community-based violence directed at migrants. Yesterday Tawakkol Karman, Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, posted a photo on her Facebook page (below) which is said to show a Saudi man attempting to detain a Yemeni expatriate while waiting for police to arrive.
  • it appears that some over-zealous inspectors may be rounding up foreigners on the mere suspicion of working illegally – contrary to the assurances given by officials when the crackdown began. In Makkah, a police spokesman appeared to admit that random arrests were taking place when he said the campaign in the city was focusing "on main squares and public places" and well as places that had previously been identified by investigators. Some members of the public have also joined in, raising fears of community-based violence directed at migrants. Yesterday Tawakkol Karman, Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, posted a photo on her Facebook page (below) which is said to show a Saudi man attempting to detain a Yemeni expatriate while waiting for police to arrive.
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  • it appears that some over-zealous inspectors may be rounding up foreigners on the mere suspicion of working illegally
  • fears of community-based violence directed at migrants
  • The crackdown has caused a shortage of workers in the construction industry which is said to be driving up labour costs by  as much as 30%. Recruiting new workers to fill the vacancies is a long and complicated business because of the kingdom's labour laws. Small construction firms have been especially hard-hit and 40% of them have now stopped operating, according to Khalaf al-Otaibi, president of the World Federation of Trade, Industry and Economics in the Middle East. Otaibi also pointed out that small and medium-sized firms account for about 75% of Saudi Arabia's construction industry.
  • About 300,000 Sudanese living in Saudi Arabia are facing deportation, according to reports from Khartoum.  The Sudanese government says it has no intention of helping them because it is too busy dealing with its own economic problems.
Ed Webb

Qatar moves to announce abolishment of kafala system | News | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Qatar has pledged to abolish its labour system that ties migrant workers to their employer and requires them to have their company's permission to leave the country as part of sweeping reforms to its labour market.
  • Under Qatar's "kafala" (Arabic word for sponsorship) system, migrant workers must obtain their employers' permission - a no-objection certificate (NOC) - before changing jobs, a law that rights activists say ties them with their employers and leads to abuse and exploitation.
  • Qatar and its labour laws have been under the spotlight ever since the country was named the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Its government has pledged to resolve labour disputes in the run-up to the tournament.
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  • Protesting workers, mostly from Bangladesh, told Al Jazeera that in addition to poor living conditions, they had not been paid for four months, the companies had failed to renew their work permits - making their status in Qatar illegal - and were not given the required letters that would allow them to switch employers.
  • Last year, Qatar announced it was abolishing the need for exit permits for non-domestic migrant workers. It also did away with the need for an NOC if the migrant worker completed the contract duration or finished five years in the event of an undefined time period in a contract.
Ed Webb

'She just vanished': Ethiopian domestic workers abused in Lebanon | Conflict | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • Aster left Ethiopia in search of work. But after a Lebanese family hired her as a live-in housekeeper in 2014, she found herself cut off from the outside world and labouring without pay. Aster’s family, unable to contact her, feared she was dead.
  • Driven by Ethiopia’s rising living costs and unemployment, hundreds of thousands have gone to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait. But what many find, activists and domestic workers say, is a cycle of exploitation and modern-day slavery that is hard to escape.
  • Rights groups have long documented cases like Aster’s, finding “consistent patterns of abuse” under Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries’ “kafala” or sponsorship system. The system links a migrant domestic worker’s legal status to the contractual relationship with her employer.
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  • In Lebanon, where as many as 400,000 Ethiopians live, migrant workers are also excluded from the protections of the country’s labour laws – putting their lives and livelihood at risk of abuse and exploitation.
  • Local traffickers in Ethiopia work in tandem with recruitment agencies in Beirut. Ethiopian traffickers are known to have charged up to $500 to facilitate the travel of recruits to Lebanon, where domestic workers make on average $150 a month.
  • Some Lebanese employers force their domestic workers to put in extremely long hours, deny them days off, withhold pay, confiscate their passports to prevent them from leaving, and severely restrict their movement and communication
  • Following reports of abuse, Ethiopia, in 2008, banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon for work. But the ban has never been properly enforced and the numbers of women migrating to Lebanon for work swelled in subsequent years.
  • “I kept asking ‘when are you going to pay my sister?’ She would say that after six months, Meskerem would receive the accumulated pay,” Tsedale told Al Jazeera by phone from Beirut. In March of 2015, with Meskerem yet to see a penny for more than two years of work, an exasperated Tsedale reached an agreement with her sister’s employer: Meskerem would be paid by the end of the month or she’d be permitted to leave. But when Tsedale went to visit her sister towards the end of March, she found an empty apartment.
  • Meseret started working for a Lebanese family as a domestic worker shortly after arriving in the city of Jounieh in February 2011. Things started off well, Emebet said. Her daughter received her salary and sent money home. But a little over a year after departing Ethiopia, she was suddenly unable to reach Meseret by phone and the monthly remittances stopped coming in. “I don’t know why she suddenly stopped calling,” Emebet said. “She just vanished.” Meseret’s parents made the trip to Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry, a two-hour bus ride away in Addis Ababa on at least two occasions to plead for help in locating their daughter. “They took our names and opened a file for her. We hoped they might provide answers.” But none came
  • “This is Lebanon”, a Canada-based domestic worker rights organisation that works to locate and free women who have been abused under the kafala system
  • “Since 2017, we’ve looked into over 6,000 complaints of various types of abuse,” Uprety told Al Jazeera. “Many are resolved through negotiations, in particular when it’s cases related to unpaid salaries. We escalate things only when abusers refuse to cooperate.”
  • The group helped free Filipina domestic worker Halima Ubpah. According to This is Lebanon, Ubpah was confined without pay in the home of a family with close connections to Lebanon’s political elite for 10 years.
  • This is Lebanon caseworkers studied the files of both Meskerem and Meseret for most of 2019. A few weeks after Al Jazeera visited the Emebet’s home, the group called Meseret’s Lebanese employer, Dr May Saadeh, a single mother of three daughters. This is Lebanon activists told Saadeh they would post Meseret’s story to the group’s Facebook page if she did not release the Ethiopian woman. Saadeh gave Meseret some cash and booked her a flight back to Ethiopia. Within days, Meseret was free. By September 2019, Meseret arrived back home.
  • On June 17, 2020, a taxi pulled up to the Keyrouz family home. Aster, who had made coffee for Oula Keyrouz, walked outside, pretending to be taking out the trash. Instead, she stepped into the waiting vehicle, never to be seen again by the family that had stripped her of her dignity for six years. She was dropped outside the Ethiopian consulate, where members of a community group who had called the taxi, paid the fare and took her in. “It was like being freed from prison,” Aster later said.
  • Meseret boarded a late-night flight back to her homeland, with nothing but the clothes on her back and the cash she was handed. She had no luggage and was still owed seven years worth of pay, more than $12,000.
  • When she was taken by her employer to renew her residency papers, Meseret pleaded with officers at the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut for help. But they turned her away, she said. Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry, as well as an official Meseret said she spoke to at the consulate did not respond to requests for comment. Saadeh also did not respond to Al Jazeera’s repeated requests for comment.
  • Meskerem boarded a plane and returned to Ethiopia as part of a group of formerly imprisoned domestic workers whose one-way tickets were covered by donations from members of the large Ethiopian community in Lebanon. Meskerem was a free woman again, but returned to Ethiopia last June, terribly scarred by her ordeal. Emaciated, drained, Meskerem had also lost most of her teeth.
  • After months of recuperating, Meskerem gradually opened up about her time in Lebanon, and spoke of the physical and mental abuse endured, the lack of food and how she was locked in at all times and forbidden contact with the outside world
  • “Aster is happy in our home, she is like one of my daughters,” Oula Keyrouz told Al Jazeera by phone. “I don’t understand what the family in Ethiopia wants because we don’t speak their language. But we treat her well.” But Aster told Al Jazeera that she has endured years of abuse, in particular at the hands of Oula’s husband Michel, allegations Oula denied. Aster explained that years ago Michel nearly strangled her with a belt, as punishment for an ill-fated escape attempt.
  • Oula Keyrouz admitted that Aster was owed six years worth of pay, totalling thousands of dollars. “We keep her money for her in a safe. She will take all of it when she returns to her country one day.” When asked when that might be, Oula Keyrouz said that “because of the dollar crisis in Lebanon,” the family couldn’t afford to send Aster home.
  • “Out of nowhere, she suddenly told me that I would be going home. I wasn’t allowed to use a phone for seven years. That day, she handed me the phone and said, ‘call your mother, tell her you will see her soon’.”
  • Aster was part of a group of 90 Ethiopian domestic workers who were repatriated in September, with the help of Egna Legna Besidet, a Beirut-based nonprofit organisation.
  • Aster successfully escaped the Keyrouz home, but like Meseret and Meskerem, she returned from Lebanon empty-handed after years of toiling without pay.
  • Oula Keyrouz admits Aster is still owed six years of wages, but denies her family mistreated Aster, saying she has pictures she took of Aster enjoying herself in the family home. “I saw her like a daughter to me, like another one of my children.”
  • When asked about the three women’s cases, Lebanese Labour Ministry official Marlene Atallah said her office was aware of such cases and was working on preventive measures. “We have set up a committee at the ministry tasked with dealing with complaints from domestic workers,” Atallah explained. “There is now an emergency hotline number workers can call in case of violations. We have also begun giving orientation sessions for domestic workers to learn how to bring their cases to Lebanese courts.” But Lebanese courts have rarely sentenced abusive employers to jail time, and any kind of justice is often out of reach for migrant workers.
  • authorities estimate that at least two domestic workers die weekly on average. These are mainly deaths by suicide or from botched escape attempts.
  • the deaths of most migrant workers in Lebanon are rarely looked into.
Jim Franklin

Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Gulf labour laws fail to halt abuse - 0 views

  • Every year thousands of women arrive in the Gulf to take up jobs as domestic workers.
  • The majority of them leave behind their families on a huge financial gamble to try to earn enough in remittances.
  • Two and a half years ago, Mary left her family in East Africa to work as a maid in a private house in the Middle East.
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  • "The beatings started on the second day," she said. "No day passed without beatings. If she didn't beat me in the day she would beat me at night."
  • One day she was ordered to have sex with another maid. When she refused, her employer threatened her with more beatings.
  • "She said the law was in her favour. Not in mine," Mary said.
  • Simel Esim, a specialist in domestic worker abuse at the International Labour Organisation (ILO), said the workers are simply not protected by labour laws.
  • "You are attaching a person's legal status, visa status and employment to one person as the employer and also the provider of housing, food and health care.
  • "It creates total dependency and total dependency means total vulnerability and opens the door wide for abuse and exploitation."
Ed Webb

Qatar Migrant Workers Battle Coronavirus Outbreak During World Cup Construction - 0 views

  • There are more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar—a significant number given that the country’s overall population is just 2.6 million. In recent years the foreign laborer population in Qatar has swelled as the country has undergone a construction boom ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is set to be held there.
  • as the coronavirus pandemic edges its way across Qatar, which now has more than 2,000 confirmed cases, the migrant workers’ cramped living quarters and lack of access to health care, proper sanitation, and nutritious food imperils an already highly vulnerable group of people.
  • abuse—which at times has amounted to forced labor and human trafficking—has been exacerbated by South Asian governments’ inability to successfully lobby for strong protections. (Critics contend there has been scant political will given the huge portion of GDP now made up by remittances from overseas workers.
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  • Some 35 million migrants are employed in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in Jordan, and in Lebanon, and incidences of exploitation are well documented
  • “The situation here is serious,” Narendra said, describing the lockdown in part of the Industrial Area. “I have been frequently speaking with workers who are in lockdown areas. Employers aren’t allowing people out to buy food, and companies are not providing food. We don’t have any rights to ask for support.”
  • While Qatar has now shut down all public spaces, construction workers are still working on a variety of projects despite the fact that hundreds of cases of the coronavirus have spread among their communities
  • the true burden of disease among migrant workers is unknown. The government doesn’t give figures on what portion of the infected are migrant workers. And some migrants fear coming forward to report their symptoms.
  • Research published last year in the journal Cardiology explored the relationship between heat exposure and the deaths of more than 1,300 Nepali workers over a nine-year period until 2017. The climatologists and cardiologists found a strong correlation between heat stress and young workers dying of cardiovascular problems in the summer months
  • At the heart of the abuse faced by migrant workers has been Qatar’s kafala system, which legally binds foreign workers to their employers, restricting workers’ ability to change jobs and preventing them from leaving the country without their employers’ permission—a practice that has been described as modern slavery. In October 2019, the government announced reforms that would allow migrant workers to change jobs and leave Qatar without employer consent. Thus far, only the second reform has been implemented. And while campaigners laud the progress, enforcement of laws remains spotty, and there’s little clarity on when further reforms will be rolled out.
  • Most workers sleep in dormitories, sharing rooms with up to 10 people and sharing kitchens and bathrooms with dozens more. When they head to work on the construction sites, it is on overcrowded buses. In response, the government recently announced it would reduce bus capacity by half, that construction workers would work a maximum six hours a day, that workers’ accommodation would be limited to four people, and that all accommodation sites would be sanitized and information on hand-washing and hygiene would be provided. Whether this is just rhetoric remains to be seen.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

BBC News - New Israeli funds for West Bank settlements - 0 views

  • The Israeli cabinet has decided to include some West Bank settlements in a national scheme that will entitle them to millions of dollars' worth of funds.
  • The Labour Party leader warned some of the new money might go to extremists. On Friday a mosque in the West Bank was set on fire, and sprayed with Hebrew graffiti. Labour leader Ehud Barak said: "I don't think that we need to award them a prize in the form of including them in the national priority map." His five ministers in the coalition government voted against the plan. The other three right-wing parties in the coalition - Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas - voted for it.
Erin Gold

Philippines seeks accord on workers - The National Newspaper - 0 views

  • A member of the Philippines’ Congress has called for a meeting between the Minister of Labour and his country’s labour secretary to find ways of better protecting Filipinos working in the Emirates.
  • He called for an agreement between Manila and the Government that would see the UAE more urgently combat the problem of employers withholding the passports of workers from his country.
  • “We will ask our public relations officers to assist our workers in filing a complaint against their sponsors who are holding their passports,” he said.
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  • He also suggested the rules governing accreditation of UAE-based recruitment agencies be more stringent, to prevent cases of contract substitution, sex trafficking and illegal recruitment of Filipino migrant workers.
  • They visited a Dubai shelter that currently houses 119 women, mostly housemaids, who have left their jobs complaining of a lack of food and sleep, maltreatment, overwork or non-payment.
  • Ms Ilagan, of the Gabriela Women’s Party, said Filipinas were generally vulnerable to abuse and were willing to gamble when recruited to work overseas.
  • The shelter occupants told the legislators that their passports were being kept by their employers, preventing them from returning to the Philippines.At least 15 of the women have been asked by their employers to refund recruiting costs.
Alana Garvin

University of Minnesota Human Rights Library - 0 views

  • No one shall be tried twice for the same offence.
    • Erin Gold
       
      does this mean that they may only be tried for the specific crime once?
  • No citizen shall be expelled from his country or prevented from returning thereto.
  • Free choice of work is guaranteed and forced labour is prohibited. Compelling a person to perform work under the terms of a court judgement shall not be deemed to constitute forced labour.
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  • The State shall ensure that its citizens enjoy equality of opportunity in regard to work, as well as a fair wage and equal remuneration for work of equal value.
  • Citizens have a right to live in an intellectual and cultural environment in which Arab nationalism is a source of pride,
  • The family is the basic unit of society, whose protection it shall enjoy.
    • Alana Garvin
       
      what is their defenition of a family?
  • Jordan. United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Djibouti. Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic. Somalia. Iraq, Oman. Palestine, Qatar, Comoros, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen.
Ed Webb

Degrowth is not austerity - it is actually just the opposite | Climate Crisis | Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • In this context of accelerating ecological breakdown and economic crises, the degrowth movement has steadily been gaining ground. Based on a robust body of scientific literature, degrowth proponents suggest that capitalism’s demand for unlimited growth is destroying the planet. Only degrowth policies can repair this by rapidly scaling back our material and energy use, slowing down production and transitioning to an economy focused around needs, care and the sharing of wealth.
  • In the 1990s, it was reintroduced as a “missile word” against the then-dominant ideology of sustainable development and green growth: an ideology that was being used by governments and international organisations to greenwash ineffective climate politics, attacks on public services and predatory lending.
  • Capitalism in the Anthropocene by Kohei Saito, a Japanese Marxist scholar, sold more than half a million copies and became a bestseller in Japan.
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  • degrowth has come under severe criticism from pundits, mainstream economists, and the jet-setting Davos elite
  • austerity is always imposed for the sake of growth. We have been convinced, for half a century now, that cutting public services is good for us because it will increase competitiveness, balance the budget, and eventually lead to growth. Degrowth, by contrast, is the argument that we can, and should, move away from an economy that exclusively depends on economic growth.
  • infrastructure projects which will lock in fossil fuel use for decades continue to be built and expanded, while banks, energy companies and multinationals that are involved in polluting and carbon-intensive industries are bailed out with public money and given lucrative government contracts
  • Recessions make inequality worse, degrowth is about making sure everyone has their needs met. Recessions often cause bold policies for sustainability to be abandoned for the sake of restarting growth, while degrowth is explicitly for a rapid and decisive transformation.
  • Because profits are based on making labour and nature as cheap as possible, the very basis of profit is always at risk, for example, through labour shortages or supply bottlenecks. Thus, constant economic expansion will also see constant crises.
  • While austerity increases inequality by curbing public services and benefitting the rich through tax cuts and privatisation of government services, degrowth policies focus on democratising production, curbing the wealth and overconsumption of the rich, expanding public services, and increasing equality within and between societies.
  • As argued by Naomi Klein in the book Shock Doctrine, crises are often taken advantage of by the owners of capital because they make it possible to thrash social and ecological legislation, thus lowering the costs of wages and resources, and further generating windfall profits through inflation.
  • A recent UN report found that nine out of 10 countries worldwide have fallen behind on life expectancy, education and living standards. For decades, international organisations have promised to fight global inequality and poverty with growth – but the results are anything but promising.
  • guarantee access to “universal basic services” like housing, food, healthcare, mobility, and childcare to the general population, by taking them out of the market.
  • Germany’s three-month experiment with a $9 monthly ticket for all regional and city public transport could serve as an example. It not only reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 million tonnes – equivalent to powering about 350,000 homes for a year – but it also helped mitigate the effects of high inflation rates, increased freedom of mobility for all, and was quite popular with the public.
  • a 2020 research paper on energy sufficiency found that it is possible to provide a decent life to the entire global population at 40 percent of current energy use, despite population growth until 2050.
  • reducing the excess energy and resource use of the rich and making designs more efficient within the framework of a truly circular economy have huge potential to reduce demand
  • many people would likely possess fewer material objects – but most would have access to better services and society would be more sustainable, just, convivial, and fulfilling
Ed Webb

Slaves of Babylon | Souciant - 0 views

  • Guest workers often live in villas that “vary from unfinished to decrepit,” several men to a bedroom, kitchen, or toilet, with inadequate sanitation on the outskirts of the urban centers. There are also laws that limit when and where they can take their weekend breaks, even to the point of barring them from certain public parks, beaches, and during certain times of the day – a restriction that Human Rights Watch says is primarily enforced against South Asians, and not Western or Arab expats. As Andrew Gardner and Autumn Watts – anthropologists studying transnational migration in the Gulf – these workers are Invisible Men and Women. They are the largest single demographic in some of these states, but are effectively unseen unless they gather in such numbers to inspire unease among full citizens: “Labor migrants are, of course, visible everywhere in the city — in large work crews, in matching uniforms, on the buses that carry them between labor camps and construction sites — but those encounters from a distance are the limits of typical interaction between them and the middle and upper classes of both foreigners and citizens who make a home, however temporary, on the peninsula.”
  • Qatar is even more heavily dependent on migrant workers than Saudi Arabia. 87% of the population consists of migrants, and 94% of the entire labor force is from overseas – which means that only 6% of the workforce, as native Qataris, can legally form a union or leave a job without their employer’s permission
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