Monday, 16 March 2015

Unreported Israel: Poverty, injustice and child abuse

As the Israeli parliamentary and general elections edge closer to finishing, the United States and the world has their gaze focus on Israel for the moment. Netanyahu is unpopular across Israel despite his popularity in Congress. He has been using last ditch war mongering threats and the usual tough guy imagery for supporters. Compared to his rivals, Netanyahu is completely out of touch with ordinary people. Ordinary Israelis are more concerned about the continual family, student and homeless poverty experienced by 1 in 3 Israelis, high cost of living and austerity measures in Israel and scandalous corruption than about the threat of Iran. For the past four years since 2011, Israelis have protested against crushing poverty in Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

The article below was written by Moti Leybel, an Israeli social activist and researcher fighting against child abuse in Israel, an injust foster system and rampant childhood poverty common in many Western countries. The article was originally published here.

Unreported Israel: poverty, injustice, child abuse

By Moti Leybel

Below is an open letter by Moti Leybel, an Israeli citizen who is prepared to risk arrest and even his life to tell the world what is happening in unreported Israel. The letter was received via Marianne Azizi, author of the book Sour Milk and Stolen Honey,
My name is Moti Leybel. I live in Israel. I am a blogger, journalist and activist.
I want to tell you some of the things that are happening here that the people of the world don’t really know about.

There is growing awareness throughout the world of the plight of Palestinian kids. Many people here also feel very bad about this and wish things were different. Instead of war we would like peace but, unfortunately, war is better for the rich and for big companies, and most of it is caused by our prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
The economy here is very bad; it is not as the government tries to represent it to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and to the rest of the world.

Many of us have to work in two or three jobs in order to exist, and everything here is so expensive that sometimes we just can’t afford food.
Over 30 per cent of the population is living in poverty, and 800,000 of them are children. It is the equivalent of 20 million people in Britain living in poverty. This is unacceptable.
People in Israel can’t afford to own a home. Owning a home has become a dream for most of us.
Many of us have to work in two or three jobs in order to exist, and everything here is so expensive that sometimes we just can’t afford food.

But our prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, doesn’t care about any of this. He never talks about it here and does nothing to fix it. All he will talk about is the security situation in Israel.
This is the only thing Netanyahu was elected for. He makes wars to scare us and then says: “I am the best for Israel’s security.” But what about our financial security? Our health? Food?
What I will say next will shock most people.
Israel is making people poorer and poorer, to the extent that we cannot afford food or clothing for what is defined as “children at risk”.
Once our children are declared “at risk”, the welfare authorities do their utmost to take them from us and put them in institutions or in foster homes. In either case, we are talking about private hands that are making a lot of money from our kids. I call it child trafficking.

… people of the world, I challenge and beg you: please help our children. Publicise my words widely and let everyone know what is really happening in Israel.
Social workers in Israel form relationships with the businesses of child institutions and foster organisations. I believe that they benefit financially from these relationships.
The social workers here often complain about their low incomes but the fact is that many of them live in expensive homes located in upmarket areas – homes that are out of proportion with their declared incomes. At any one time 85,000 kids will be living outside of their parents’ homes, and every year 12,000 kids join them (these are official welfare and social security figures, but we believe the real numbers are much higher).

Human rights organisations here tend to ignore the hard cases that we bring to them.
Children are being beaten and raped in the foster homes and institutions, all in the name of “the children’s welfare” – or is it? We believe that the real beneficiaries are the rich people’s bank accounts.
Some groups here in Israel try to draw the world’s attention to these horrors, but the media here are not cooperating with us. On the contrary, they take the authorities’ side.
So, people of the world, I challenge and beg you: please help our children. Publicise my words widely and let everyone know what is really happening in Israel.
Help us.
Moti Leybel

Unreported Israel: the stark facts

Marianne Azizi adds:
Moti Leybel’s letter is representative of a growing number of Israelis dissatisfied with the lack of social justice in Israel.
Some 95 per cent of Israelis are pessimistic – and who can blame them!
With the eyes of the world on the upcoming Israeli elections and the increasing international pressure in relation to the Palestinian issue, here are some facts and figures in unreported Israel regarding the social injustice and human rights abuses of Israel’s own ciizens.
  • Israel has not signed up to any international human rights treaties, making it impossible for Israelis to appeal against human rights abuses.
  • Israel has signed up to the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention (UNCRC). It not only avoids liability for any children in the occupied territories, but is also in flagrant breach of a large number of articles affecting its own children’s wellbeing, welfare and safety.
  • A poll taken in November 2014 found that 95 per cent of Israelis are pessimistic about their future, with one in four in poverty having contemplated suicide.
  • Over 800,000 children are in poverty – the official UN poverty line is USD 7 per day. Over a third of Israelis are on or below the poverty line.
  • Freedom to leave Israel is often denied to citizens, turning them into hostages in their own country. (Israel conceded to the UN that 30,000 citizens are prevented from leaving the country every year but unofficial figures are much higher.)
  • Israel is viewed unfavourably according to a recent poll in Europe, placing it on a par with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.
  • Corruption in Israel in on the rise, and the country ranks 24 out of 37 in the OECD’s corruption index. Real corruption is much higher.
  • Wages are the lowest in the OECD, yet child support demands upon divorce are the highest. Women are exempt from consideration in financial settlements, leaving many fathers paying 80 per cent of their income, often without visitation rights.
  • Statutory gender discrimination exists against men in divorce, resulting in 1 in 72 divorcing men committing suicide, one of the highest figures per capita in the developed world.
  • Contact centres for child visitation are six times higher than in any other developed country, implying that children are at more risk in Israel than in any other country in the developed world.
  • Children are being taken by the welfare authorities from parents in poverty and placed in institutions, contributing to the USD 1 billion family breakdown industry.
  • Bizarrely, on the UN happiness index Israel ranked 11 in the world in 2012. How could this be possible when one in three people are in poverty?
Israel is a nuclear power, along with the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Most of these countries have high poverty. Israel, despite evidence, refuses to confirm or deny its nuclear arsenal but, with the statistics above, it is clear the GDP is not being spent on the people of the country.
These facts are hardly ever reported. The Israeli people are tired of the corruption, lack of public spending and the arbitrariness of the family courts, which are causing the breakdown in the very fabric of the country which never tires of declaring its right to exist.
Perhaps it is time to move beyond existence and begin to give the citizens a life.

Monday, 9 March 2015

In Salah Algeria gas is a fracking problem

Algérie : l'exploitation du gaz de schiste A In Salah - الشروق تحقق : الغاز الصخري 

In the town of In Salah, Algeria, multinational gas companies/corporations have been exploring and drilling for Algerian shale gas for over a decade. Algeria, one of Africa's largest countries has been blessed with highly valuable natural resources ie petroleum or oil, petro chemicals gold, serving as part of the trans-Saharan routes and is the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Algerians have seen what their resources mean for other nations and the consequences of not allowing easy access like in Libya and Iraq. Touted as an alternative to rising depletion of the petroleum, United States, France and other countries have been investing their time and quests to pumping shale gas to continue feeding their consuming needs gas and petro, seeking energy independence as the United States has been advertising on TV,  as well as creating reserves in case a second oil embargo emerges or access to the oil fields in Saudi, Nigeria, Venezuela or other OPEC countries is limited in the near future. Shale gas extraction is also happening in Romania, Spain and United States. The extracting process is literally one of the dirtier aspect of shale gas. It involves hydrofracking which fracking chemicals leads to polluting water supplies, earthquakes and lasting health problems. In turn many local residents in In Salah like elsewhere with gas drilling have turned out in hundreds to protest the multinational company in this case Halliburton's shale gas drilling. Many families in In Salah, an Oasis town in the far south of Algeria's Sahara Desert with few water resources, have condemned the drilling as not only hurting the town's people and nature life, but also siphoning and shipping gas off while leaving little for the town or Algerian people.

مناوشات بين قوات أمن النظام الجزائري وابناء منطقة عين صالح يوم 01-03-2015مIn Salah
From Imazighen Libya

Friday, 6 March 2015

Christian terrorism in Central African Republic

Central African Republic has been out of the English speaking mainstream media for more than a year. In the French mainstream media, CAR is mentioned or footnoted in international news reports. Occasionally, the country has appeared on Africa Focus programs on France 24 or Sky News in English. A ceasefire has been in place in CAR or Centrafrique since late 2013 when hostilities between the Seleka and Anti-Balaka rebel groups were supposed to end a devastating war between them with civilian caught up in the violence. The Central African capital Bangui is slightly calm down from raging hostilities two years ago. However, the ethnic/religious cleansing of neighborhoods in Bangui and in smaller towns and villages across the country continue to this day. Using the language of sectarianism that was non existence until the coup in Central African Republic some 2 years ago, Christian rebels have taken opportunities to go on a revenge path towards their long standing Muslim neighbors. With all the sectarianism, chaos and the media over hyping the fear of terrorist attacks worldwide, CAR had avoided the Muslim vs Christian and other sectarian inspired violence between Muslim and Christian Central Africans throughout the decade and half war on terror. If the War on Terror can still be called such given the original culprit of September 11th, July 7th bombings are long dead. The horrific violence and brutality carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon has raised neighboring countries' fears of an ISIS inspired chaos and terrorism at West Africa's doorstops.

The Legend of Timbuktu

Remember that West Africa has a long history of Islamic culture, heritage, traditions and legacy of educational achievements with Timbuktu serving as the height of university and indigenous African knowledge throughout the medieval era and exploration age in Africa. Islam in West Africa is nothing new. African Muslims across the continent including parts of North Africa are regarded as some of the more relaxed and liberal practicing Muslims. Killing anyone Muslim, Christian or practicing an indigenous religion through suicide bombing or IEDs that Boko Haram uses in Cameroon, was non existent in Nigeria, Cameroon and Somalia only a few years ago. It would be unthinkable and is widely condemned by ordinary Muslims. What is new is the irrational violence, extreme distortion and twisted interpretation of the Quran used to justify Boko Haram and ISIS' societal destruction of civilians and places being pulled under their control. Central African Republic is close to Nigeria. No doubt, CAR government and civilians recently recovering from a short civil war and sectarian jack in the box fear the reach of Boko Haram or any other terror group such as ISIS in the country and across West and Central Africa.

Centrafrique: Ou en est-on reconciliation? 

Islamophobia has been rising in Central Africa as in Nigeria in response to Boko Haram and ISIS' terror. Despite being neighbors for decades and living in peace, CAR's religious diversity and secular government hasn't saved Central African Muslims from attacks by Christian terrorists who have bombed, killed and chased their own Muslim neighbors and fellow citizens out of their homes and villages. Attacks against Muslim families have emptied many villages and towns such as Bocaranga of nearly all its Muslim residents. Displaced Muslim refugees live on the outskirts of Bangui or in Chad, Nigeria and Niger which hosts hundreds of refugees from neighboring countries. Central African Muslims are now regarded as foreigners by their fellow Christian citizens because of their religion. Even with UN and African Union peacekeepers, Central Africa's citizens are still facing exoduses from their hometowns driven out by Christian rebels turned terrorists or harassed until they are forced to flee. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon has condemned the violence against Muslims as well as Christians during earlier violence against Christians by both rebel groups. The Central African government also reiterated the importance of making the country safe for both faiths to live together as they did even after the Coup against Francois Bozize. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Liberia: Ending dual currency to transform economy

Liberia is currently reviewing the economic and financial drain from the recent crisis. Liberians want to put a final end to the country being synonymous with Ebola. Prior to the crisis, the Liberian economy was breezing through the global financial crisis even with a few hiccups. Liberia's growth rate was 6.8% in 2014. Aside from years of rampant corruption, the growth has been fueled by a combination of iron ore, rubber exports, agricultural products, construction by private businesses and government, oil exploration and mini manufacturing companies. However, some 80% of Liberians are employed in the informal sector. In theory many Liberians are self employed as market women, street vendors, work in unofficial, self constructed business buildings across the country. Agriculture and commercial food and farming production has been pushed as the key to aiding economic growth.

Bloomberg Business:
Liberia's Economy, Nigerian Trade & Africa Telecoms

Fleeing capital

Entrepreneurs in Post war Liberia Journeyman Pictures

There are also many Small and Medium size Liberian businesses in construction, furniture, public works, tourism, and hospitality management.  Many Liberian businesses have long complained and called the government out for snubbing Liberian businesses for Lebanese and other foreign owned services in Monrovia and other towns. Foreign businesses people who have lived in Liberia for decades in some cases are not allowed citizenship due to a few clause in the Liberian Constitution which grants citizenship to only citizens of "black" descendant.  As a result the capital and revenue in (US dollars) the well served and visited Lebanese supermarkets, hotels and auto dealerships that dot Monrovia receive are sent back to Lebanon or other neighboring countries and even the U.S. Dual citizenship is an ongoing debate that most Liberians may accept if put into practice. Most businesses in Liberia utilizes the USD over Liberia's own local currency the Liberian dollar. The LD or Liberty is used by taxis, pehn pen drivers, markets, traders for selling their products. To add further confusion, most market and traders than have to buy their supplies in USD and afterwards convert their money back into Liberian dollars. Also consider the fact that Liberian coins are not in use making certain item more expensive than they should be and also doing away with small change. Both currencies are used as the main legal tenders in Liberia which has log represented a splitting headache for the majority of Liberians who have easier access to Liberian dollar instead of the USD. The USD is regarded as valuable against the LD in financial strengthen and creation of revenue within the country. Being the world's reserve currency, some Liberians find it convenient to use the USD in all transaction and financial reporting on the country's growth and financial well being. Liberia has yet to create a stock exchange and stock market.

Brief economic history of Liberia and Post Ebola affects on the economy

A single currency for Liberia

Now the economic ministry along with the Central Bank of Liberia are planning to change the dual currency regime. The CBL director Mill Jones, Pro te pore Jallah and many Liberian organizations have called for the creation of a single currency system. Both CBL and ministry are emphasizing the use of the Liberian Dollar to end the financial up and down of he mini currency spat between the USd and LD. For practical reasons, phasing out the U.S. Dollar across Liberia an replacing it with the Liberian dollar has been praised and accepted by ordinary Liberians. Ghana had gone through de dollarization, while Nigeria had replaced the colonial West African Pound with the Naira decades ago. so has many other countries pushed put the USD out of their economy for local currencies to fuel economic development that flows down to local people. As for nationalizing Liberia's precious resources, that discussion has yet to begin. Implementing the single currency most likely the Liberian dollar will be done cautiously emphasizing the need to boast the value of Liberian dollar, further grow local, Liberian SME and businesses, push for locally made products and manufacturing and preparing for the risks and dangers that come with single currency. Jones suggests that careful
Planning and implementation could drop the current exchange rate of 1USD=72 Liberian Dollars to at least 1USD=30 LD. Gradually, the exchange rate will lower if done right. Liberia is not reinventing the wheel.

Liberia Investment

The quest for a single currency and dedollarziation is nothing new. The Liberian Dollar and coins was created in 1850s originally modeled on the USD but the LD has long developed its own identity both nationalistic and symbolic. The LD was dropped for USD as the main currency in the early 1900s. It made a comeback wih a new design in 1943. But it's rise was pushed aside by the USD along with Liberia's well known pro-US and Western political Nd economic system throughout most of the Cold War. Ordinary Liberians empathizing with their neighbors' fight against colonialism and neocolonial design in the form of structural adjustments and unfair currency pegs with locks currencies forever attached to the financial strength of the French franc or British pound. Now it's the Euro in many West African countries including the Seychelles and Caribbean countries. In late 1970s, Liberia's radical and revolutionary president William Tolbert started turning Liberia away from the United States and Western countries towards the wider West African region and the non aligned movement. Liberia had managed to balance itself between its non aligned friends and Western supporters that other countries found difficulty with comprising their principles. It's his diplomatic tightrope walk that saved Liberia from colonized by Europe. American influence can still be felt in the country today but in a lesser extent than Tolbert's day. Tolbert promoted a more nationalistic and self sufficiency identity for Liberia including producing Liberian made products, manufacturing and every citizen had a farm in their backyards and agriculture was emphasized as a source of pride and well being for the country as a whole. Self sufficiency and a push to revive the agricultural products and manufacturing is nothing new. Discussions have been ongoing on how to implement laws and lay the foundations for beginning Made in Liberia products and manufacturing while investing in human capital and agriculture.

No Land, No Food, No Life