PAYPAL WON’T PAY PALESTINE

Palestinians Can’t Use PayPal—but Israeli Settlers Can

A PayPal sign is seen at an office building in San Jose, California May 28, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

A PayPal sign is seen at an office building in San Jose, California May 28, 2014. | Photo: Reuters

PayPal and Palestine

By Sam Bahour

As a Palestinian-American management consultant in Ramallah, Palestine, I advise my Palestinian clients living under Israeli military occupation to use world-class software and online services, assuring them that it will help them enter global markets. Some of these clients are not-for-profit outfits, like the Palestinian Circus School and Birzeit University; others are tech start-ups, many of which are funded by U.S. tax dollars via USAID. Time and again, I regretfully must explain to clients that the most popular worldwide online payment system, PayPal, is unavailable to them.

As an American from Youngstown, Ohio, trying to contribute to building a modern Palestinian economy, and a former software developer who worked all over the U.S., I can never offer a satisfactory answer to those who ask why PayPal refuses to follow the lead of technology giants like Google, Cisco, HP, Oracle, and many others, that all operate in Palestine.

Palestine has a thriving banking sector and all Palestinian banks have corresponding U.S. banks that make money transfers daily. The U.S. Treasury Department is also active in Palestine and has praised the level of Palestinian banking compliance. Considering these financial ties, it is a mystery why PayPal, which is widely considered the most trustworthy company in its sphere, continues to ignores this market. While it’s available to users in Israel and to Israeli settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land, PayPal does not extend its services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

Many of these illegal Israeli settlers live literally a few minutes walk from my home, yet they have access to PayPal, but Palestinians do not. This is doubly unfortunate since Palestinians who live in other parts of the world and are regular users of PayPal cannot use the platform to conduct business with Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel has continuously placed suffocating limitations on the Palestinian economy, many which have been directly challenged by successive U.S. presidents, such as Israel’s refusal to release the needed frequencies for Palestinians to have 3G services. The Internet age has brought with it a bit of relief from these physical limitations, and the Palestinian tech sector is a key area of the economy that has potential to grow, especially considering the population is so young. Palestine produces roughly 2,000 IT graduates per year that are well-positioned to address the huge gap between growing demand for online Arabic content and the current lack of supply. Currently, however, only one-third of these graduates find work in their field. Without access to the needed services that facilitate businesses to grow, more Palestinian youth will fall into the despair of unemployment and all that it carries with it.

In order to meet these market needs and generate employment opportunities, Palestinian startups and entrepreneurs need equal access to services like PayPal for business and charitable services. In December, the President of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE), Edward Thompson, and myself, as Chairman of AVPE, wrote to inform PayPal CEO Daniel Schulman of the company’s shortcomings in Palestine, but our request for a meeting went unheeded. Now, a group of 40 prominent Palestinian organizations have penned a public letter asking Mr. Schulman to reconsider.

Among the signatories are the Palestinian Telecommunications Group (Paltel) the largest private-sector company in Palestine and one that I assisted in establishing, the renowned startup incubator Gaza Sky Geeks, and Palestine’s National Beverage Company, whose CEO Zahi Khouri is an early stage startup investor through another signatory, the Ibtikar Fund. And these are just a few examples — those in tech, business and finance have come together from across the span of the struggling Palestinian economy to make this request. Seemingly small but poignant indignities like this one block the road toward freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians, and we hope to methodically clear them from our path.

In the letter, my co-signers and I explain that while other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about PayPal’s presence in Israel-Palestine, however, is that access to it depends on ethnicity. Again, while Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are completely integrated into the Israeli system and have access to PayPal and other technologies, the Palestinians they live among do not. These are settlements that are considered illegal under U.S. foreign policy and international law, and the settlers who live in them enjoy access to resources that are regularly denied to the Palestinians next door. In fact, Human Rights Watch released a report earlier this year stated that businesses should withdraw from the settlements entirely to end their complicity in “an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians.”

This is not just about access to PayPal. It is about PayPal’s role in empowering entrepreneurs, small businesses, and individuals to make a living and conduct commerce, particularly in parts of the world where physical barriers and limitations are established by governments. We would be doing ourselves, as Americans and Palestinians, a disservice by allowing any company to deny their service based on ethnicity, heritage or because of Israeli pressure to enforce a clear suppression of the Palestinian economy via the limitations of occupation.

It is our sincere hope that our latest attempt to right this wrong will not fall on deaf ears. For the Palestinian people, breaking free from Israeli military occupation will mean carving out a meaningful space for ourselves in the global economy, and we cannot do that without equal access to indispensable tools like PayPal.

 

ISRAEL ‘FEELING HEAT’ OVER SETTLEMENT BUSINESSES

The consequences of Israeli occupation and anti-Palestinian discrimination for Israel’s economy are now coming faster than ever.

In this Nov. 22, 2010, photo, Palestinian women collect scrap timber in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone near the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim. Palestinian advocates contend that multinational companies will need to face "clear legal and moral liabilities" for operating in Israeli settlements. (Associated Press)

In this Nov. 22, 2010, photo, Palestinian women collect scrap timber in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone near the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim. Palestinian advocates contend that multinational companies will need to face “clear legal and moral liabilities” for operating in Israeli settlements. (Associated Press)

Israel ‘feeling heat’ over settlement businesses: Sam Bahour and Edward E. Thompson (Opinion)

The consequences of Israeli occupation and anti-Palestinian discrimination for Israel’s economy are now coming faster than ever. Like so many previous military occupations, Israel is starting to feel the heat of the international community. However, this heat is not of the political kind that Israel has become accustomed to deflecting, but rather the economic kind that has a mystical way of invoking action from the political echelon. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the message is arriving loud and clear: It’s time for Israel to end its nearly 50-year occupation and allow Palestinians to live in freedom in an independent state.

The latest thoughtful criticism of Israel’s actions is a 162-page report titled “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights.” Issued by the reputable, international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), the report documents how settlement businesses facilitate the growth and operations of Israel’s settlement enterprise, an enterprise deemed illegal by every country in the world, except Israel. These settlement businesses depend on and contribute to the Israeli authorities’ unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources.

Human Rights Watch’s director of the Business and Human Rights Division, Arvind Ganesan, noted that “Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources. The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements.”
Speaking of the stone and marble industry, Ganesan said, “Every dollar of stone that settlement businesses extract and sell from the West Bank is a dollar taken from Palestinians. The bottom line is no settlement business should be operating and profiting from land and resources illegally taken from the Palestinian people.”

In light of the clear illegality of doing business with Israeli settlements, multinational companies will need to face clear legal and moral liabilities in continuing to do business as usual. However, for those firms that have been operating in the settlements, there is another option they can pursue to compensate for their past wrongdoings; they can redirect their business investments to the Palestinian economy and become a constructive element in helping Palestinians recover from the real economic damage caused by nearly half a century of military occupation.

Making such investment and business options materialize is exactly why we co-founded Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE) as a tax-deductible organization based in Chicago, Illinois. As two Americans, one a retired Chicagoan and the other a Palestinian American from Youngstown, Ohio now based in Ramallah, we have witnessed firsthand the damage on the ground caused by Israel’s deliberate battering of Palestine’s economy. But we also have visited Palestinians’ firms, those keeping their businesses’ doors open despite all odds, and want to connect them to the U.S. market. After a year of operations, AVPE documented serious interest from Palestinian businesspersons interested in linking to American business partners.

Large-scale projects that global firms can surely relate to are taking shape. The first planned Palestinian city, Rawabi, is now witnessing its first tenants taking up residence and offers international high-tech firms the opportunity to locate their operations in the new Rawabi Tech Hub. From Dead Sea products that compete head on with similar products produced in illegal Israeli settlements to olive oil soap and Bethlehem greeting cards, Palestinians have products and services worthy of note.

This new HRW report is actually the second vital criticism that calls into question business as usual for Israel. The first was issued by the European Council on Foreign Relations and titled EU Differentiation and Israeli settlements (July 22, 2015). In this past report, Israeli banks, among other businesses, were a main target, given most have branches in settlements. The Israeli business community took note. With this new HRW report, they will take note again, and all indications are that the reports and actions against illegal business practices will continue until occupation comes to an end.

The World Bank estimated in 2013 that Israeli restrictions in Area C (the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control) cost the Palestinian economy $3.4 billion annually, approximately equal to 33 percent of Palestine’s GDP. Settlement businesses contribute to and benefit from unlawful and discriminatory policies that leave many Palestinians with no alternative but to work in Israel or settlements. As multinationals divest from illegal settlements, redirected economic activity can be a key component to further advance the Palestinian economy, while putting more Palestinians in jobs and giving them hope for a day when they will live in freedom and occupation-free.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian American businessman originally from Youngstown now living in Ramallah, where he is managing partner at Applied Information Management. He is a policy adviser at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and chairman of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. Edward E. Thompson, a retired consulting psychologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, is the co-founder and president of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy.

 

Originally found AT

ISRAELI RESTRICTIONS ON PALESTINE’S TELECOM INDUSTRY

“Without full Palestinian control over the ICT infrastructure, any investment in the sector risks becoming a project to “manage” the occupation, rather than a catalyst for Palestinian economic growth.”
39c14be4-4bd4-48b3-b9f7-ff54de548757

Let Palestinians control their ICT resources

Israeli restrictions on the telecom industry have hobbled Palestine’s already beleaguered economy

 

At least 140 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in the latest flare-up of violence that began on Oct. 1. While the world’s attention is fixated on the crisis, Israel and the Palestinian Authority quietly signed a long-awaited agreement on Nov. 19, allowing Palestinian telecom companies to provide 3G mobile services in the occupied territories. It is unclear whether or how the intensified violence will affect this implementation, but Israel should urgently lift the many technological barriers that are still in place.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an important tool for the social, economic and political development of the occupied territories. There are an estimated 250 Palestinian ICT operators and approximately 10,000 qualified ICT workers. And at least 1,000 Palestinian students graduate in ICT-related vocations each year. In 2012 the ICT sector accounted for 5.6 percent of the Palestinian Gross Domestic Product, helping drive some development despite the prolonged military occupation. But Israeli control and restrictions over the sector have limited its potential for the beleaguered Palestinian economy.

Since signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel has maintained a tight grip over the ICT sector to the detriment of the Palestinian economy. As part of the deal, Israel gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) limited control over its telecommunication infrastructure in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while excluding Jerusalem, and ensuring that all incoming and outgoing communication to and from Palestine goes through an Israeli switch.

In other words, Israel has retained complete control, constraining access to the electro-magnetic spectrum and imports of equipment. The lack of 3G mobile services has cost Palestinian operators an estimated $80 to $100 million annually. Whereas Palestinian mobile operators have struggled with limited 2G technologies for years, in January Israel released 4G mobile broadband radio frequencies to six Israeli companies.

Israel’s restrictions are not limited to the Palestinian telecom network and the ICT industry. Israel has also built 3G towers in its settlements across the West Bank and, in some cases, on privately owned Palestinian land in violation of the international law and previous agreements which prohibit Israel from using the Palestinian spectrum for its economic benefit. By contrast, Palestinian operators are prohibited from building ICT towers and switches in most of the West Bank, including areas that are supposed to be under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Without full Palestinian control over the ICT infrastructure, any investment in the sector risks becoming a project to ‘manage’ the occupation, rather than a catalyst for Palestinian economic growth.

As for Gaza, its telecom infrastructure is wholly dependent on Israel. The fiber optic cable that connects Gaza with the world is located in Israel. Gaza’s telecom structure has thus become a space of control and surveillance, as reflected in the calls and text messages that the Israeli military sent to Palestinians in Gaza during its military assault in 2014.

Palestinian investors are further restricted by an onerous process to import ICT equipment, including approval from the Israeli Ministry of Communications for each shipment, up to 30-day waits and delays for products listed as “dual-use items.”

The U.S. government and major American companies have made significant investments in recent years and remain key partners for ICT growth in Palestine. For example, from 2008 to 2012 Cisco invested $15 million to boost the Palestinian ICT industry, drawing the interests of other American companies, including Google, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. The U.S. State Department has also sought to support this growing sector by facilitating partnership between U.S. companies and Palestinian ICT operators. However, such efforts will be wasted if basic ICT infrastructure is not unbound and expanded across the country.

But removing barriers to ICT growth should not be limited to simply greasing the wheels of the ICT sector to recoup lost revenue. Without full Palestinian control over the ICT infrastructure, any investment in the sector risks becoming a project to “manage” the occupation, rather than a catalyst for Palestinian economic growth.

The ICT sector is a key engine of development. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly touts the vitality of his country’s high-tech sector in positioning Israel as a major economic power and high-tech corridor. But in occupied Palestine, the ICT industry serves as an example of the effect of Israel’s military occupation and asymmetrical relationship with the territories under its occupation.

By introducing 3G connections in Palestine, Netanyahu might be planning to revive his long-standing efforts to promote “economic peace” in lieu of a political settlement that would respect Palestinian rights. One thing is certain: the Palestinian economy has already paid a high cost trying to harness the country’s economic resources. Israel must immediately lift its restrictions on Palestine’s communications infrastructure and allow Palestinians to utilize their resources to their full potential.

Nur Arafeh is a policy fellow at the Palestinian policy network, Al-Shabaka.

Sam Bahour is a policy advisor at the Palestinian policy network, Al-Shabaka.

Wassim Abdullah is a policy member at the Palestinian policy network, Al-Shabaka.

Written FOR

 

HOW CAN AMERICANS HELP MAKE A VIBRANT ECONOMY IN PALESTINE

​ACT NOW – Support Palestinians’ economic steadfastness

Prepared by Sam Bahour

unnamed (2)

While President Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House today, there is no need to hold your breath for results, rather, there is a need to act. One way to make your actions heard is to support Palestinians’ economic steadfastness by helping us link Palestinian businesses to American businesses by making a U.S. tax-deductible donation and sending this request to your friends. We all have a role to play to end this occupation.

Here is a short (less than 4 min) video that was made last week when the AVPE Board met in Ramallah, despite the current volatile situation on the ground:

Here is my part of the campaign, help me reach my goal

Also see THIS related post by Nur Arafeh, Wassim F. Abdullah, Sam Bahour

IN PHOTOS ~~ FINANCIAL FREEDOM FOR PUERTO RICO

DEMO AGAINST VULTURE HEDGE FUND CORPORATIONS FORCING AUSTERITY ON PUERTO RICO TO PAY ITS INTERNATIONAL DEBT

unnamed (6)

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

*

SONY DSC

GREECE ~~ LOOKING TO THE FUTURE WITH OPTIMISM

Image by Vladamir Kremkov

Image by Vladamir Kremkov

First a very fitting joke ….

“It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveler will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with optimism.

Now the real story …. (Click on link to see report)

Greek finance minister steps down after overwhelming ‘No’ referendum

61% reject European bailout offer, leaving Greece in risk of financial and political isolation within the euro zone, and a banking collapse.

 

DESPITE THE ODDS, BDS IS WORKING!

Foreign investment in Israel plummeted almost 50 percent in 2014, a fact attributed to last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of boycotts.

How zion sees us

How zion sees us

Foreign investment in Israel plummets by half since Gaza massacre

Foreign investment in Israel plummeted almost 50 percent in 2014, a fact attributed to last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of boycotts.

This week the UN’s trade and development agency UNCTAD released its annual World Investment Report on foreign direct investment (FDI) – a measure of money that investors from overseas put into a country to invest in businesses, build factories or start other economic projects.

According to the report, FDI into Israel in 2014 plummeted to just $6.4 billion from almost $12 billion in 2013.

The 2014 figure appears to be the lowest in more than a decade. Foreign direct investment into Israel averaged around $9 billion per year from 2005 to 2012.

“We believe that what led to the drop in investment in Israel are Operation Protective Edge and the boycotts Israel is facing,” Roni Manos, an Israeli economist who co-authored the report, told Israel’s Ynet.

“Operation Protective Edge” is the name Israel gave its 51-day assault last summer that devastated much of Gaza and killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 chidren.

In line with global trends, FDI fell in other regional countries, but nowhere near as sharply as in Israel. FDI fell 1.7 percent in Turkey, 6.8 percent in Iraq, 4 percent in the United Arab Emirates and 9.6 percent in Saudi Arabia. But it actually rose by 6.6 percent in Lebanon.

Iran, which has been under brutal international sanctions, saw inward investment decline by about a third to just over $2 billion.

“The tourists have stopped coming”

The news that investors are fleeing is only the latest economic blow to Israel as a result of its attack on Gaza.

In May, Ynet revealed a dramatic plunge in visits to the country in an article headlined “Tourists have stopped coming to Israel.”

During the Gaza assault, Palestinian resistance organizations considered it a significant strategic achievement that they managed to force a shutdown of Israel’s main international airport for several days, dealing Israel a severe economic and reputational blow.

But it appears the damage may have lasted far longer than the airport shutdown.

“Despite the hopes for a recovery two or three months after last summer’s operation in Gaza, it seems the crisis is only getting worse,” Ynet reported, “the number of tourists is dropping, the number of hotel stays is declining and the number of organized tours has been significantly cut.”

Ynet cited figures from the Israel Hotel Association for the first quarter of this year pointing to a 28 percent drop in tourist stays, with some areas including the Red Sea resort of Eilat – heavily marketed as a seaside destination for Europeans – seeing a 51 percent decline.

The report quoted one tour operator saying he didn’t expect matters to improve next year. “We are only left with the pilgrims and Jewish tourists,” the tour operator complained, adding that Christian religious tourists spent most of their time in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Economic damage

This week, the UN Human Rights Council issued its independent report into the Gaza assault, and on Israel’s simultaneous violent crackdown in the occupied West Bank, finding evidence of numerous war crimes likely authorized at the “highest level” of the Israeli government.

The UN inquiry, citing Bank of Israel figures, also noted that “Operation Protective Edge caused a contraction of output in the tourism and manufacturing sectors” in Israel of about $900 million and caused “indirect damage” of another $440 million.

The economic damage Israel is doing to itself by continuing its regime of occupation, apartheid, siege and massacres of Palestinians may be mounting faster than previously thought.

This might also help explain why Israel is dramatically escalating its efforts to try to halt the momentum of the growing BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement.

SUPPORT PALESTINIAN FARMERS ~~ EAT AN OSTRICH ON A BED OF MUSHROOMS THIS EASTER

Instead of the traditional ham or turkey, why not try something new. At the same time you will supporting Palestinian farmers.

A small farm in the southern West Bank might seem unremarkable at first, but this specific farm is unique. Instead of the sheep traditional to the area, its livestock are ostriches.

Cooked Steak Texture Ostrich has a great texture

Cooked Steak Texture Ostrich has a great texture

Palestinian farms break new ground with ostrich and mushrooms

Growing number of ventures in Palestinian agriculture seek to fill gaps in market, both for business purposes and to cut reliance on the Jewish state for food.

AFP AT

A small farm in the southern West Bank might seem unremarkable at first, but this specific farm is unique. Instead of the sheep traditional to the area, its livestock are ostriches.

Fifty-year-old farmer Abdelrahman Abu Tir, whose name coincidentally translates as “father of the bird”, has for the last three years been farming ostriches for meat as part of a unique project in the Palestinian Territories.

In another corner of the West Bank in Jericho, a separate group of agricultural entrepreneurs have begun the first Palestinian mushroom farm since 1967.

Ostriches have been farmed for meat for the last three years near the West Bank city of Bethlehem (Photo: AFP)
Ostriches have been farmed for meat for the last three years near the West Bank city of Bethlehem (Photo: AFP)

 

The two projects are among a growing number of ventures in Palestinian agriculture that seek to fill gaps in the market, both for business purposes and to cut reliance on the Jewish state for food.

Picking at tufts of coarse grass, Abu Tir’s giant birds – normally spotted on the plains of Africa – look out of place in the village of Dar Salah, where he keeps 200 of them on around two hectares (five acres) of land.

He said the idea for the farm came to him when Israel banned ostrich farming several years ago because it considers the animals a “protected wild species”.

“I began buying the ostriches from Israeli farms when I saw that those farms were being closed” Abu Tir said.

Since then he has been selling meat, feathers and eggs to Palestinian and Israeli buyers, but also to customers in the Gulf and neighboring Jordan.

Fifty-year old Palestinian farmer Abdulrahman Abu Tir keeps 200 ostriches on his land and hopes to increase the number (Photo: AFP)
Fifty-year old Palestinian farmer Abdulrahman Abu Tir keeps 200 ostriches on his land and hopes to increase the number (Photo: AFP)

 

Given ostrich meat is not a common delicacy among Israelis or Palestinians, for now Abu Tir sells only on demand, but he is optimistic the business can grow.

“It will take a while for the idea of eating ostrich to gain traction in the local market. For Palestinians it’s a strange meat and it’s also fairly expensive,” he said.

“Even turkey took a while to catch on. Palestinians prefer to eat fattier meat such as lamb.”

Abu Tir has an arsenal of arguments to promote his product.

“Ostrich meat is better for your health, and the way they are farmed is much less damaging to the environment than with sheep or cattle,” he said.

 

The ostrich farm is one of a growing number of ventures in Palestinian agriculture (Photo: AFP)
The ostrich farm is one of a growing number of ventures in Palestinian agriculture (Photo: AFP)

 

Confident his business will grow, Abu Tir is negotiating with the Palestinian agriculture ministry to expand the farm.

“I’d like to have maybe 1,000 or 2,000 ostriches within the next two years, and eventually 10,000.”

‘100% Palestinian mushroom’

Palestinian agriculture has been suffering, with its share of GDP dropping from 77 percent 20 years ago to just five percent today – largely because of Israel’s control of areas of the West Bank through settlements and accompanying restrictions on access for Palestinian farmers.

It is unclear to what extent ostrich farming can help a revival, but another venture in Jericho in the Jordan Valley is making inroads.

A group of young Palestinians are growing and selling the “first 100 percent Palestinian mushroom”, with packets appearing in supermarkets in the Palestinian administrative center in Ramallah.

Four young Palestinian high-tech workers – Mahmud Kahil, Samir Khreisheh, Tayeb Aql and Wadie Nassar – quit their jobs so they could pursue the “Amoro” project, named after the type of mushroom they grow.

Based since October at a farm in Jericho, they now produce some four or five tonnes of mushrooms every month, which sell at an average of $2 for 250 grams, against $2.50 for Israeli mushrooms.

“Ramallah itself consumes 2.5 to 3 tonnes of mushrooms each month,” Kahil said.

“The goal is to sell 15 tonnes per month,” eventually expanding sales to the Gaza Strip and neighboring countries, he said.

ISRAELIS HOLD 10 BILLION DOLLAR$ IN SECRET OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS

Uncle Sam should deduct the evaded taxes when he gives the next handout to Israel

Israel's favourite uncle

Israel’s favourite uncle

Israel is ranked sixth on a list of nations whose citizens held the largest amounts of funds in secret offshore Swiss bank accounts belonging to HSBC, with Israelis holding a total of 10 billion dollars in combined accounts.

Israelis held 10 billion dollars in secret HSBC offshore accounts

Leaked documents gathered by whistleblower and released Sunday show that Israel ranked sixth on list of nations whose citizens held largest amounts of funds in secret offshore Swiss bank accounts.

Israel is ranked sixth on a list of nations whose citizens held the largest amounts of funds in secret offshore Swiss bank accounts belonging to HSBC, with Israelis holding a total of 10 billion dollars in combined accounts.

Documents stolen by a whistleblower in 2007 were leaked on Sunday and detailed how HSBC helped cheat the United Kingdom out of millions of pounds in tax.

Switzerland, Britain, Venezuela, the United States, and France where the top five countries on the list of countries whose citizens held offshore bank accounts with HSBC, Britain’s largest and the world’s second largest bank.

The largest amount of money kept in the banks by a single Israeli was 1.5 billion dollars.

 Of the offshore accounts, 9,769 bank accounts belonged to Israelis, and 6,554 clients had connections to Israel, 49% of having an Israeli passport or nationality. Among the names of wealthy clients on the list that was leaked was the diamond merchant Beny Steinmetz and his family.

A whistleblower, a computer expert working for HSBC in Geneva, stole and leaked documents containing details of more than 100,000 clients from around the world, according to a report by the BBC.

The thousands of pages of information were obtained by French newspaper Le Monde and were shared with other news outlets, the Guardian and the BBC, in order to conduct a joint investigation. The documents were passed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICJ) as well as 50 media outlets around the world.

The documents reveal how HSBC bankers helped their clients evade tax and offered special deals to help tax dodgers help escape the law.

HSBC says that it has “fundamentally changed” since the documented tax evasion took place in 2007. The bank admitted that some clients took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts.

Offshore accounts are not against the law but many people use them to deliberately hide funds from tax authorities, which is illegal.

The leaked documents revealed that HSBC served individuals close to discredited regimes such as that of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian president Ben Ali and current Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, according to information published by the ICJ.

Other Middle East leaders and high ranking officials included on the list of clients with secret offshore bank accounts were King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prince Bandar (who served as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US from 1983-2005), Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Egyptian politician R.M. Rachid and King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

Actors and actresses were also some of HSBC’s clients who held secret offshore accounts, among them Christian Slater and Joan Collins.

The list also included famous fashion designers Diane Von Furstenburg and Valentino Garavani. Model Elle MacPherson was also on the list, as was Australian media mogul Kerry Packer.

The documents also revealed that HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) continued to offer services to clients who had been unfavorably named by the United Nations, in court documents and in the media as connected to arms trafficking, blood diamonds and bribery.

Stephen Green, HSBC’s global chief executive at the time of the Swiss operations, has not released a comment in response the leaked documents. Green is now a Conservative peer in the House of Lords and was trade minister in David Cameron’s government from 2011-2013 – he took up his post eight months after HMRC had been given the leaked documents from the whistleblower.

 

Source

ON LABOUR DAY, AND EVERY OTHER DAY, LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL

*

Don’t Just Look for Union Label

On Labor Day, Time To Rethink Old Progressive Mantra

By Ari Paul*

Labor Day has arrived, and families across the country will be getting their backyards ready for barbecues. In progressive circles, a familiar message is making the rounds: Buy union. Make sure your grill is a Weber or Thermador, made by union hands. Eat Butterball and Hebrew National franks. A list of brands has been circulating on social media sites with the goal of urging pro-labor consumers to support members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and other food sector and manufacturing unions.

Trade unionists encourage each other to “buy union” not only to show solidarity, but also to prop up unionized businesses. After all, nonunion competitors can afford to mark down their products, so it is up to us to keep union jobs alive. And we can punish anti-union companies by not giving them our business. The idea of letting your social conscience guide your purchases — whether it be boycotting or gorging on Chick-fil-A — is a familiar and popular American concept.

But at a time when a movement like Occupy Wall Street is proposing a new economic approach that isn’t based simply on stimulating consumer spending, perhaps this is the wrong approach. At the very least, we should examine at it a bit more critically.

I should make it known that I avoid anti-union FedEx. I don’t set foot in a Walmart unless I’m stranded in the middle of a highway in America with no other option. On more than one occasion, I’ve defended my preference for plebeian Budweiser or Miller High Life over more sophisticated micro-brews by pointing to the union label.

But this assumes that the benefits union workers have at these companies are the result not of collective action, which forced the employer to comply with worker demands, but of consumers lining the pockets of the bosses. Through active consumerism, the “buy union” narrative shifts the power to driving change from worker struggle. Furthermore, there is something terribly Reagan-istic about assuming that making bosses at unionized firms even richer will allow the wealth to trickle down to Joe Sixpack.

In fact, it often doesn’t. Many of the major strikes and lockouts in this country over the past several years — at Verizon, Sotheby’s, Mott’s (which is on the Labor Day BBQ list) and Caterpillar — involved companies demanding draconian wage and benefit concessions from workers not because of increased competition or falling revenues, but despite whopping profits.

Think of it this way: If I send a package via UPS (where workers are represented by the Teamsters) and my patronage helps keep the parcel company in the black, how can I expect the surplus to be used? Will it be voluntarily invested in a new safety program for workers or through increased pension contributions? Or will it go to corporate lawyers and public relations hacks to help fight the union in the next round of contract talks?

Also, if you look at the list of Labor Day “union” items, you see a lot of odious actors. Though its workers are unionized, Smithfield has been condemned by both labor groups and by animal rights activists for its atrocious slaughterhouse conditions. The list urges people to buy Coca-Cola products even though many unionists are boycotting the company for its connection to violence against labor organizers in Colombia. Hormel Red Franks is also on the list; in the mid-80s the company fought against its meatpackers and were successful in the campaign, which, along with Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers. marked the decline of the American labor movement.

Of course, when it is feasible and ethical to buy union, there’s not a problem with that. And there’s a sense that buying union proves to free-market advocates that it is possible for companies to invest more in employees and remain competitive. But the fact is, buying union is a kind of “least I can do” approach. It isn’t clear that shopping at Costco, which has union-represented locations and pays its employees above the industry standards according to labor groups, will change Walmart’s ways anytime soon. America can’t buy its way to labor reform; that will take massive legal changes and, most of all, grassroots organizing among workers, not patting employers on the back for not having broken the union at their place of business.

Things such as green products thrive because a lot of people demand them. Sadly, union membership is at less than 15% in the United States, and that’s not enough people to move markets — or company ethics.

*Ari Paul has written for The Nation, the Guardian, Z Magazine and Al Jazeera English. He is a dues-paying member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Written FOR

 The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

BITCOIN COMES TO ISRAEL

Israel was in a state of panic when the concept of Bitcoin was introduced …. How would they continue to receive the BILLION$ of Dollars they get annually from the US Taxpayer….

Those fears were alleviated this week when Bitcoin was activated here.

First, What is Bitcoin?

*

Bitcoin’s regulatory status remains unclear. The Internal Revenue Service in the United States taxes Bitcoin profits as a capital gain, but Israel only taxes income made from Bitcoin once it is transferred into shekels. In February, the Bank of Israel issued a warning regarding Bitcoin, noting that it isn’t backed by any state, is unsupervised, and could be susceptible to manipulation and criminal use. (Probably why it is gaining popularity in a criminal led state)

Bitcoin Makes Aliyah as Virtual Currency Gains Favor in Israel

ATMs Spit Out Scanable Cash in Tel Aviv

 

Virtual Cash Machine: Customer obtains bitcoins from an ATM in Tel Aviv.

GETTY IMAGES
Virtual Cash Machine: Customer obtains bitcoins from an ATM in Tel Aviv.
*

By Ben Sales FOR

(JTA) — Blocks away from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the headquarters of two major banks, in the corner of the lobby of a boutique hotel, Nimrod Gruber sticks his hand into an ATM.

A few seconds later, a QR code prints out. Gruber takes the slip of paper and walks away, no cash in hand.

He’s not worried. He owns the ATM, and there’s nothing like it in the Middle East. It identifies users by scanning their palms, and instead of dispensing dollars, euros or shekels, it dispenses Bitcoin.

“It shows up in your account in 30 seconds, a minute,” he said.

Bitcoin, a digital currency invented in 2008, has spread across the world, and made a hefty profit for its holders, without printing a single bill. As Bitcoin has gained value over the years, an ecosystem of startups and organizations has taken shape in Tel Aviv to promote its use in Israel’s tech scene.

“Here we adopt new technology earlier than other places,” said Gruber, 28, a former model who became involved in Bitcoin technology during a stint living in New York City. “It makes sense that this would be a Bitcoin center. We’re at the heart of the high-tech area and the Tel Aviv financial district.”

Called a “cryptocurrency” because it is secured by encrypted data, Bitcoin itself could be best described as cryptic. Its reputed inventor, who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, has communicated only by email. Unlike mainstream currencies, Bitcoin isn’t backed by a government or central bank and has no physical form.

Instead, it exists in computer code, and its value is determined purely through supply and demand in online exchanges where Bitcoin holders buy and sell it for other currencies. People can “mine” new Bitcoins by performing complex calculations on their computers.

Bitcoin has encountered a host of issues in its development, from the question of government regulation to use for illegal activities to a volatile growth pattern. According to a digital currency tracker, one Bitcoin was worth about $100 a year ago and had spiked to nearly $1,000 by last November. Three weeks later, though, its value dropped to about $600 after China banned its use. It’s worth roughly $630 now, with $8 billion of total Bitcoins on the market.

The ups and downs haven’t deterred Israeli Bitcoin believers, who expect growth ahead and say the currency will stabilize as more people adopt it. Dozens of startups have proliferated around Bitcoin use in Israel, and more than 120 Israeli businesses, from restaurants to real estate firms, accept Bitcoin as payment.

“I hope we can make Israel a lab for Bitcoin,” said Ayal Yona Segev, an “ambassador” at Bitcoin Embassy, which provides guidance and acts as a meeting spot for Israeli Bitcoin entrepreneurs a few blocks from Gruber’s ATM. “We have the flexibility to become a place where we test and develop everything.”

The ATM in the hotel hooks up to an online exchange. Users can log in to their accounts and either deposit cash to buy Bitcoin or sell Bitcoin and receive cash. Similar ATMs already exist in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Gruber hopes the ATM will be one of many in Israel. He jokes about placing one in the middle of the divider between men and women at the Western Wall.

Another Israeli startup, Colored Coins, allows users the opportunity to trade other currencies online using the Bitcoin code. BitcoinBox offers Bitcoin holders insurance for their “digital wallets.” Coin Commerce offers businesses a service to accept Bitcoin as payment.

“We have a good community here,” said Aaron Aguillard, founder and CEO of Coin Commerce. “What Coin Commerce is trying to do is set up Tel Aviv for the tourist season so people can buy Bitcoin and travel around Israel, and book hotels and use Bitcoin on the beach.”

Israeli Bitcoin entrepreneurs see the currency as a practical tool as well as an ideological dimension to their work. Segev’s office sells Bitcoin-themed T-shirts and bumper stickers, one of which writes out Nakamoto’s name in a style of chant traditionally used to celebrate the Hasidic sage Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Segev says that in addition to Bitcoin’s startup nature, it appeals to Israelis who took to the streets three years ago in massive numbers to protest income inequality. He calls it an alternative for people who are mistrustful of their banks and tired of high credit card fees.

“It will make people aware of the current situation” in Israeli banking, Segev said. “This is an alternative that will make service providers – banks, the state, insurance companies – compete for customers.”

Bitcoin’s regulatory status remains unclear. The Internal Revenue Service in the United States taxes Bitcoin profits as a capital gain, but Israel only taxes income made from Bitcoin once it is transferred into shekels. In February, the Bank of Israel issued a warning regarding Bitcoin, noting that it isn’t backed by any state, is unsupervised, and could be susceptible to manipulation and criminal use.

But Avi Nov, an Israeli international tax law expert, says the legal concerns will fade as Bitcoin expands and that regular currencies also carry risk.

“The risks are greater in the regular world than in the digital world,” he said, adding that “nobody knows if tomorrow a state or a bank will fail.”

A NEW ISRAELI WAR ~~ AGAINST PALESTINIAN BANKS THIS TIME

One such measure is that Israel informed the Palestinian side that it would no longer allow Palestinian banks to transport their surplus Israeli currency to the Israeli Central Bank, an act that is unheard of in the world of banking. Israel is refusing to serve its own currency. In effect, Israel is declaring war on the Palestinian economy, risking the collapse of the thriving Palestinian banking sector, and disrupting the flow of basic goods such as electricity, petroleum, and natural gas into Palestine.

*

Israel Declares War On Palestinian Banks

*

Scourzkzopjnebbnbwa8

AP Photo / MURAD SEZER
SAM BAHOUR  FOR

Given the Palestinian economy is an extension of the Israeli one, due to the prolonged state of military occupation, Palestinians import over 85 percent of their goods and services from Israel and sell over 80 percent of their exports to Israel. From a purely economic perspective, given Palestine is still a state in the making and, as such, lacks its own currency, using the Israeli currency is expected.

The Palestinian economy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was purposely made structurally dependent on Israel ever since the Israel military occupied the area in 1967. This Israeli-crafted structural dependency took many shapes and forms, starting with Israel creating a captive Palestinian consumer base for its products and services by militarily controlling all the borders between the occupied territory and the outside world, all the way to installing the Israeli currency, the Israeli Shekel, as the daily currency among Palestinians. Before the Oslo Peace Accords, within the Accords itself, and all the way through today, this forced dependency has been maintained.

The Israeli currency enters Palestine from multiple sources, primary among them being the salaries received from Palestinian workers who receive Israeli military permits to seek employment in Israel. There are 47,350 Palestinian workers who enter Israel legally (quota as of March 2014) with an estimated additional 15,000-20,000 who enter illegally without permits. Prior to the era of the Oslo peace process, which introduced a physical separation barrier between the two economies, the total number of Palestinian workers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who used to work in Israel reached 120,000. These workers are paid in New Israeli Shekels and usually return home to the occupied territory every night where they spend their money in the Palestinian economy.

When Palestinians purchase the goods and services they consume, such as electricity, petroleum, natural gas, foodstuffs, medical care at Israeli hospitals, etc., they are required to pay Israeli suppliers in their home currency, the New Israeli Shekel (NIS). These payments are made on behalf of Palestinian clients from the Palestinian banking system to Israeli suppliers via the Israeli banking system. For example, the Palestinian Authority (PA) consumes 70-80 million NIS every month from the Israeli electric company for the electricity that is purchased for the occupied territory, including Gaza; 500-600 million NIS is purchased from the Israeli petroleum refineries every month to cover all the petroleum products consumed; and 25 million NIS is paid monthly to Israeli health care providers. As can be seen, the magnitude of these purchases is enormous given the $6 billion Palestinian economy purchases over 85% of its goods and services from Israel.

As these Israeli-supplied goods and services are sold in the Palestinian market, retailers collect and accumulate New Israeli Shekels and then deposit them in their bank accounts. Subsequently, either the Palestinian retailers or their Palestinian suppliers (the PA in the case of electricity and petroleum since these are centrally bought by the PA government and resold to Palestinian retailers), request their banks to make payments to their Israeli suppliers.

When Palestinian banks make an electronic transfer to Israeli banks they must back up such a transfer with actual cash, New Israeli Shekels. It is common practice in the world of banking that countries respect their own currency. Actually, not only is it common practice that a country respect its own currency but the norm is for it to actually pay what is called seignorage to other counties who adopt their currency to compensate for the profits the home country makes from others using their currency, thus increasing its value. Israel has always refused to pay seignorage to Palestinians and now has gone one step further and has declared that Palestinians cannot physically transfer their surplus Israeli currency to the Israeli Central Bank.

The expected results of this punitive measure are many. First, given the Palestinian bank safes are now overflowing with their clients’ Shekels the banks will need to stop accepting deposits. Secondly, as Palestinian businesses will not be able to make electronic transfers, they will be forced to move large sums of cash directly to their Israeli suppliers. Given most Palestinians do not have access to cross the illegal Israeli separation wall, they will need to look for intermediaries to transfer the cash to their Israeli suppliers, causing not only the creation of a black market, but a dangerous security situation.

The equivalent of a central bank in the Palestinian Authority is the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) and they are not accepting this Israeli administrative punishment sitting down. The PMA Governor, Dr. Jihad Al-Wazir, has made it public that he is looking to use this regrettable situation to further advance structural changes in the Palestinian monetary system. One such immediate change is the possibility to “dollarize” the Palestinian economy and stop using Israeli currency altogether Another possibility is the issuing of an independent Palestinian currency, which is a much larger project that has been in the works for quite some time and may be accelerated in response to these latest Israeli measures.

In the meantime, the Israeli “Civil” Administration (the branch of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, which is responsible for managing the occupied territory) is negotiating with Palestinian authorities and bankers to restart, incrementally, the flow of Shekels to the Israeli Central Bank. Sadly, Palestinians are all too familiar with having to negotiate these administrative issues just in order to survive.

It is not a secret that Israel and Israeli banks have used Israel’s occupation to not only reap huge financial benefits, but also to allow Israeli banks to further advance the occupation itself. The Coalition of Women for Peace, an Israeli organization of women activists which created the Who Profits from the Occupation website, has addressed this Israeli banking complicity with the occupation in their report, Financing the Israeli Occupation (October 2010). Since this report was issued many things have changed, mainly, the Palestinian side has since been recognized as a member state in the United Nations, which places at its disposal many more diplomatic tools to hold Israelis directly accountable for its illegal practices.

Many believe that the Israeli military occupation is comprised only of tangible items, like settlements, walls, checkpoints, warplanes and the like, whereas the reality is that the weight of the occupation is actually comprised of myriad administrative rules and restrictions. These administrative elements of the occupation are ones that cannot be photographed, things like a permit system, which dictates Palestinian movement and access; control of Palestine’s electromagnetic spectrum, which deprives Palestinians of 3G mobile services; prohibitions on the ability to dig wells, which limits not only our ability to build a proper agricultural sector, but deprives many of us of drinking water; and, of course, military dictates that have the power to collapse an entire banking sector.

The international community is starting to wake up to the three-dimensional reality of the Israeli military occupation. For those who prefer to remain in their deep slumber, Palestinians, acting in their capacity as a state, will be reminding them of their obligations under international law to not allow Israel to continue to act in the rogue fashion that has become commonplace. Israel’s ongoing actions are jeopardizing any possibility for a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis.

INTEL INSIDE …

… THE OCCUPATION!

*

“These investments will directly create an additional 1,000, and tens of thousands of jobs indirectly, all for the Israeli middle class.”

What about creating tens of thousands of jobs for unemployed workers in the U.S.A.???

*

evil-inside-752871

*

Israel, Intel announce $6B deal set to create over 1,000 jobs 

A $6 billion investment from Intel will expand Kiryat Gat factory; government to provide 300-600 million dollars for project. Lapid: This is a vote of confidence for the Israeli economy.

Avital Lahav FOR

*

American technology giant Intel announced its intentions on Wednesday to invest six billion dollars in upgrading its plant in Kiryat Gat where the company plans to add 1,000 employees to its workforce.

Representatives from Intel informed Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the plans. Israel in turn agreed to cover 5-10 percent of the costs of renovation, amounting to anywhere from 300 to 600 million dollars.

Intel didn’t confirm the statements made by the Israeli government, which put the full cost of the project at six billion dollars. The final business plan is set to be delivered to the ministers on Thursday.

The company has spent the last two years examining which of their factories should be upgraded with the latest and most advanced technologies. Its choice of renovation in Israel means that it sees its future of production in Israel which could lead to additional factories.

According to Israeli sources, if Intel had chosen to invest in a country other than Israel, the Israel factory would likely be closed in the near future due to ageing facilities and all the jobs it currently holds would be lost.

“This is excellent news for Israel and an excellent gift for its 66th birthday,” Bennett told Ynet. “This is one of the biggest investments that have ever been made in Israel and the significance for the periphery and technological education is tremendous.”

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Bennett, who lead negotiations on the deal with Intel said: “There are also demands for industrial cooperation. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Yair Lapid who took this journey with me.”

Lapid also welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations, saying: “We will continue to promote investments in advanced industries in Israel. This is a vote of confidence for the Israeli economy.”

“These investments will directly create an additional 1,000, and tens of thousands of jobs indirectly, all for the Israeli middle class,” said Lapid.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the investment and said, “the plans for this investment are the result of a process that we’ve been working on for a few years already. Israel is a world center of technology and investing in it yields profits both for the investors and for the citizens of Israel.

“I call on additional international companies to expand their investment in Israel, and for those who still haven’t taken advantage of the benefits of the Israeli market to come and invest here,” said the Prime Minister.

Director of Intel in Israel and Vice President of Intel Maxine Fassberg, said, “Over the last 40 years, Intel’s exports added up to 35 billion dollars and most of that came from Intel’s production factories in Kiryat Gat.”

“During 2013, Intel’s factory in Kiryat Gat won Intel’s prize for prestigious quality, the Intel Quality Award (IQA)… Intel is committed to continuing the sequence of achievements in qualitative results of operations in Kiryat Gat,” said Fassberg.

The Fab28 Intel factory in Kiryat Gat produces 22 nanometer technology chips and the company is interested in beginning to produce the more advance 10 nanometer chips in Israel.

Intel’s first factory in Israel was built in 1996 at the cost of 1.7 billion dollars of which the government paid 680 million or 40 percent of the cost. The second Intel factory built in 2011 came at a cost of 2.7 billion and the government paid 200 million or seven percent of the investment.

 

 

 

CHUTZPAH OF THE YEAR AWARD GOES TO …

walmartcannedfooddrive111913
*
Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees
The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage.
*

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Indeed, Lundberg is correct that it’s commendable to make an effort to help out those who are in need, especially during the holidays.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

But the need for a food drive illustrates how difficult it is for Walmart workers to get by on its notoriously low pay. The company has long been plagued by charges that it doesn’t pay its employees a real living wage. In fact, Walmart’s President and CEO, Bill Simon, recently estimated that the majority of its one million associates make less than $25,000 per year, just above the federal poverty line of $23,550 for a family of four. When the Washington DC city council passed a living wage bill requiring Walmart to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 per hour, the chain threatened to shut down its new stores if Mayor Vincent Gray didn’t veto the bill. Gray vetoed the bill.

Walmart’s low wages come at a public cost. Because low-income workers still need housing and health care, taxpayers end up doling out millions in benefits to bridge the gap faced by many of the store’s retail workers. They have also led to strikes at Walmart stores from Seattle to Chicago to Los Angeles in recent weeks.

Even if the canned food drive successfully gathers enough to help out the Canton store’s low-income workers, many of them might not even be able to have the food on Thanksgiving. That’s because Walmart is one of a group of retailers that will open its stores for Black Friday sales beginning at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Source

*

Runner-Up for the Award this year goes to …

*

McDonaldsTellUnderpaidWorkerstoSellTheirXmasPresents112013

*

McDonald’s Advice to Underpaid Employees: Sell Your Christmas Presents For Cash

Their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

*

Tis the season for holiday spirit: Yule logs, egg nog, festive lights and exchanging gifts with loved ones. If you work for McDonald’s, though, be sure to save those receipts.

McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

McDonald’s corporate officers have a history of offering questionable advice to their low-wage workers. Four months ago, the company partnered with Visa to distribute a sample “budget.” In it, the chain suggested that workers needn’t pay for such frivolous expenses like their heating bills, and factored in a monthly rent of $600. To workers living in New York City (home of 350+ stores) and other expensive metropolises, that number is almost comical.

McDonald’s employees are some of the most underpaid workers in the country. The company’s cashiers and “team members” earn, on average, $7.75 an hour, just 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage. Responding to rising living costs, many stores have staged walk-outsstrikes and protests, demanding a living wage. In Europe, where the minimum wage for employees is $12, customers pay just pennies more than their American counterparts for the same menu items, while the stores themselves typically bring in higher profit margins than ones in the United States.

Of course, McDonalds has shown little willingness to negotiate higher salaries for their poorest workers even as labor rights groups up the pressure. Instead, their website has another piece of advice for people who are stressed about their meager paychecks: “Quit complaining,” the site suggests. “Stress hormones levels rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.”

Also FROM

*

chutzpah_1

MILLION MASK MARCH FOR JUSTICE

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
million-mask-march
*
“Remember who your enemies are: billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians who enslave the people in injustice.”
*

Protesters gather around the world for Million Mask March

Demonstrations in more than 400 cities were planned to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day, with Russell Brand at a London protest

  • Ben Quinn
  • *

IN PALESTINE: WORK SEARCH CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

“You leave your family shortly before dawn, but you never know for sure if you will return home at the end of the day. Nothing is certain and we live in a constant state of anxiety.”
*

Palestinians risking their lives for a job

West Bankers trying to find work in Israel face prison, injury, and even death.

Khalid Amayreh
**
2013102894610197734_20 (1)
As many as 70,000 Palestinians commute each day between the West Bank and Israel [Khalid Amayreh/Al Jazeera]
*

Every week, Muhammad Ibrahim Hantash puts his life at risk in order to find a day’s work. The 23-year-old from Khursa, a village in the West Bank about 15 kilometres south of Hebron, often crosses illegally into Israel in search of a job to sustain his family.

Because Hantash is unmarried, he is not eligible to obtain a work permit from the Israeli Civil Administration, the government department responsible for entry into Israel. Israeli security agencies believe that married Palestinian workers, especially those with children, are less likely to be involved in “acts of terror” inside Israel.

Unlawful border crossings into Israel are rife with peril, and often end in injury or even death. “Ours is a piece of bread soaked in blood,” said Hantash. “You leave your family shortly before dawn, but you never know for sure if you will return home at the end of the day. Nothing is certain and we live in a constant state of anxiety.”

He is just one of thousands of young Palestinians who endanger their lives in order to find work, helping them and their families withstand the bleak economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. As many as 70,000 Palestinians are thought to commute each day between the West Bank and Israel. According to the Palestinian Labour Ministry, between 35-40 percent of them are unlicensed workers.

Israeli authorities insist that the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is responsible for providing jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank. But the PA has no sovereignty of its own, and no control over border crossings with Israel or the outside world. 

The PA’s Labour Ministry does not have exact figures on how many unlicensed Palestinian workers have been shot by the Israeli army and border police as they attempt to enter Israel.

According to the Palestinian Labour Ministry’s Manpower Department, between five to ten workers lose their lives this way every year. Dozens of others are injured, some seriously, when the vehicles they travel in crash while trying to elude Israeli army jeeps.

This January, Uday Kamel Darawish, from the town of Dura, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as he tried to enter through a small gap in the border barrier near the town of Dahirriya. Relatives said Darawish was shot in the chest with “dum-dum bullets” – ammunition designed to expand on impact in order to produce a wound of larger diameter. Fellow workers reportedly tried to save his life, but as they approached his body, Israeli soliders fired at them.

On October 21, eight Palestinian workers – also from Dura – were injured when an Israeli army vehicle rammed their car. Two days earlier, two other workers were seriously injured near Jerusalem after they fell into a pit during a chase.

Yousef Suleiman, 38, is an unlicensed Palestinian worker who says he has “been through it all”.

“Israel treats Palestinian workers as pieces of trash,” he said. “When they catch us, they beat us severely. Beating unlicensed workers is against the Israeli law. However, for the Israeli justice system, entering Israel illegally nullifies any complaints of mistreatment at the hands of the police or soldiers.”

“They often tell us: ‘Go to Abbas to feed you and cater for your families,'” he continued, referring to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. “We retort that Abbas himself and his authority are under the Israeli occupation. But, of course, the logic of power – not the power of logic – is what prevails at the end.”

According to Suleiman, caught workers are taken to an Israeli police station where they are forced to sign documents that allow the Israeli authorities to indict them if they enter Israel again without a valid entry permit. The document is reportedly only written in Hebrew, and very few workers understand what their signatures entail. Before the workers are released, they are given a suspended prison sentence from six months to three years if they are caught again in Israel.

Despite the security risk, Palestinian workers are often preferred over foreign workers, said Suleiman. He said they are more skilled, work harder and don’t cost the Israeli employer additional expenses such as airline tickets, housing arrangements and medical insurance. “Besides,” he said, “the Palestinian workers get their work done and return to their homes in the West Bank at the end of the day.”

The Israeli Civil Administration in Hebron did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the issue of unlicensed Palestinian workers in Israel.

However, Egal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said Palestinian workers trying to enter Israel illegally were “infiltrators very much like foreign workers from Africa reaching Israel via the Egyptian borders”.

Palmor said Palestinians were able to enter Israel to work because Israel’s separation wall with the West Bank is not yet complete. “The barrier was not built to prevent Palestinian workers from entering Israel for work,” he emphasised. “It was built to prevent terrorist infiltration.” He also denied that Israeli soldiers were given instructions to shoot workers.

When asked whether a long-term solution to the problem exists, Palmor said only creating more jobs in the West Bank would significantly decrease the number of Palestinians seeking work in Israel. 

Written FOR

YOU WOULD THINK A 30 BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR HANDOUT WAS ENOUGH …

Not in the case of Israel!
*
dsc00002 (1)
*
You would think that the 30 Billion Dollar$ GIVEN to Israel by the US Government annually (from YOUR tax dollars) was enough …. NOT SO! Most private donations via various zionist organisations to Israel are ALSO tax deductible  Worse yet, these organisations maintain a Tax-Exempt Status, leaving even less in the US coffers that could and should be used for Social Welfare Programmes at home….
&
Just how long will this injustice be tolerated?
*
And What happens if they lose that status? Donations intended for the ZOA given between February 2012 and May 2013 went to a donor advised fund maintained by an outside organization. The money still poured in via a ‘back door’.
*

ZOA Regains Tax-Exempt Status After Yearlong Hiatus

Pro-Israel Group Skipped Federal Disclosure Filings

*
Back in Business: ZOA National President Morton Klein chats with Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala in 2011.
NAOMI ZEVELOFF
Back in Business: ZOA National President Morton Klein chats with Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala in 2011.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

The Zionist Organization of America has regained its tax exemption more than a year after its failure to file financial disclosures led the Internal Revenue Service to revoke its nonprofit status.

The 116-year-old Jewish group’s tax exemption was reinstated on May 15, according to a statement from the ZOA.

“We’re delighted and gratified,” said ZOA National President Morton Klein in an interview with the Forward. “Now we can be raising money directly for ZOA.”

Donations intended for the ZOA given between February 2012 and May 2013 went to a donor advised fund maintained by an outside organization.

The ZOA, which occupies a decidedly hawkish slot on the pro-Israel Jewish spectrum, faced deep internal strife following the loss of its tax exemption in February 2012. ZOA National Vice Chairman Steven Goldberg emerged as a strident critic of the organization’s professional leadership, criticizing Klein for what Goldberg alleged was an effort to keep the loss of the tax exemption from the public.

The ZOA also fired Orit Arfa, the Los Angeles-based executive director of the ZOA’s Western Region, who had complained internally that the group was not doing enough to inform donors that the group’s tax exemption had been revoked. A ZOA spokesman said at the time that Arfa’s firing was not retaliatory. Arfa has sued the ZOA for wrongful termination in federal court in California. The ZOA has filed a motion to dismiss the case. Klein declined to comment on Arfa’s suit, though he called it “without merit.”

The ZOA’s loss of its tax exemption was not revealed until the publication of a Forward exposé in September, eight months the revocation occurred. A March email from ZOA national executive director David Drimer, submitted as an exhibit in Arfa’s lawsuit, asked ZOA staffers to keep the revocation quiet.

“In general, please do not broach this subject with donors unless it is absolutely necessary or they ask about it specifically,” Drimer wrote. “We firmly believe we can turn this around quickly through retroactive reinstatement so that assertively publicizing the current state of affairs will not be advantageous for the short and long-term interests of the ZOA.” An attached set of talking points prepared staffers to answer questions raised by donors.

The revocation came after the ZOA failed to file three years’ worth of Form 990s, required financial disclosures filed annually with the IRS by not-for-profit organizations. Subsequent filings revealed that Klein received a 38% bump in his base compensation for the period during which ZOA failed to file its tax reports.

Klein told the Forward that ZOA has now instituted organizational protections to prevent such filing errors from recurring, including the creation of a board committee to oversee the organization’s accounting operations.

As of May 15, the ZOA is again able to accept donations itself.

“There’s been zero impact, zero, on our work,” Klein said. “Our campus work, our work on [Capitol] Hill, our Title XI [civil rights] work, my speaking, my writing, my doing TV and radio. Nothing organizationally changed.”

The ZOA canceled its annual gala in 2012, citing the loss of the group’s tax-exempt status and a serious illness from which Klein was recovering at that time. The group says its 2013 gala will now go forward. The keynote speaker will be Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate and Fox News host. Loews Corp. CEO James Tisch will also be honored.

“We’re coming back with major people,” Klein said.

Source

MAY DAY! MAY DAY!! MAY DAY!!!

maydaycartoon-lg3
*

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m’aider, meaning “come help me“.[1]

It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators, but in some countries local organisations such as police forces, firefighters, and transportation organizations also use the term. The call is always given three times in a row (“Mayday Mayday Mayday”) to prevent mistaking it for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual Mayday call from a message about a Mayday call. (From)

*

Yes, the entire world is in distress…. Here’s how YOU can help ….

*

Wed
May. 1
12:00 AM
May Day Events
Wed
May. 1
10:00 AM
Occupy Guitarmy May Day Education and Actions
Wed
May. 1
10:30 AM
Young Workers: March with TWU on May Day!
Wed
May. 1
11:00 AM
Wed
May. 1
12:00 PM
Immigrant Worker Justice Tour
Wed
May. 1
12:00 PM

Rally for Worker & Immigrant Rights

Union Square, Union Square Park, New York
Rally for Worker & Immigrant Rights
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM

99 Pickets Solidarity Swarm

Union Square, Union Square Park, New York
99 Pickets Solidarity Swarm
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM
NYC Student May Day Convergence and Dance Party
Wed
May. 1
3:00 PM
Resistance Is Fertile: Love Bomb Seed Bombs
Wed
May. 1
7:00 PM

May Day People’s Assembly

Foley Square, Foley Square, New York
May Day People's Assembly
Wed
May. 1
7:45 PM
Kimani Gray Memorial Citywide May Day Assembly
Fri
May. 3
1:00 PM

Screen: Occupy Love (Film)

Cinema Village, 22 E 12th Street, New York
Screen: Occupy Love (Film)
Sat
May. 4
1:00 PM
Occupy Against attacks on the 99% Through Austerity!
Tue
May. 7
6:30 PM
After May Day-Occupy Wall Street in Action/Open House

WHY WE WON’T MOURN FOR MARGARET THATCHER

*
Among other things … She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.
*
Why we Won’t Mourn for Margaret Thatcher
Written by Liverpool Trades Union Council   

Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 and the vast majority of ordinary people greeted her passing with undisguised joy.

The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.

During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.

And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.

Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.

In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.

Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.

After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.

Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim – to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.

And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.

During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality? She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes; she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.

She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.

There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.

Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world. 

Source

 

*

WHO SAID PALESTINE HAS NO OIL?

*

Palestine’s Golden Oil

BY SAM BAHOUR

Underneath much of the Middle East lies the world’s oil supply, which is pumped year-round to keep the global economy humming along. In one special place in the Middle East—better known as the Holy Land—a different type of oil reigns supreme: olive oil. In this strategic region in the Levant, Palestine has a large amount of land devoted to the olive tree; about 45% of agricultural land in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) is planted with twelve million olive trees, the vast majority of which are in the West Bank, and its valuable, healthy fruits take center stage in the political conflict between Palestinians and Israelis every harvesting season.

Land is at the core of this conflict. Israel’s military has confiscated land for illegal Israeli settlements, erected an illegal “Separation Barrier” that separates Palestinian farmers from their plantations, and has not spared Palestinian olive groves: it has uprooted olive trees as a way of punishing the population. The vast majority of Palestinian olive trees are in the West Bank, which has 739,500 dunams (184,875 acres), or 98.6% of the total, whereas, the Gaza Strip had only 11,200 dunams (2,800 acres) of olive trees, which is 1.4%. However, in the Gaza Strip, over 7,300 dunums (1,825 acres) of land along the perimeter fence with Israel, previously cultivated with olive trees, were leveled during Israeli incursions in recent years. An olive seedling can take several decades to fully mature and many of Palestine’s olive trees are hundreds of years old. The horrifying reality is that Israel has added olive trees to their campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and the result is that Palestine’s golden oil is becoming scarcer and much more dangerous to harvest.

olives on branches, Palestine

Photo credit: Vivien Sansour

Cultivating olive trees and harvesting this murky, tangy, golden liquid is the livelihood for approximately 100,000 Palestinian families. Olive picking is more than a seasonal chore—it is a way of life. Families tend to their olive trees all year round to harvest them in October and November. Family members, young and old, gather in the fields from early morning to sunset to share in the hard work of hand picking the olives, collecting them in large nylon bags, then hauling them to the nearest olive press to extract the valuable yield of olive oil. For the thousands of families who have harvested olives for generations, the value of land means little if not cultivated, hence the olive tree, being a lifelong investment in the land, takes on special meaning. It is not uncommon to find inheritances that distribute olive trees among descendants, thus one can understand how the Israeli destruction of trees is viewed as a direct, deliberate, and violent provocation.

Palestinian olive oil is sold locally this year for 400 NIS ($114) for a 16-kilogram jug. A recent Oxfam briefing paper, “The Road To Olive Farming,” notes that “in a good year, the [Palestinian] olive oil sector contributes over $100 million of income annually to some of the poorest communities.” This figure amounts to one quarter of the gross agricultural income in the OPT.

Olive oil cultivation is a core sector in Palestine’s economic mix. The Oxfam paper notes that “in 2006, 21,000 tons of olive oil remained [for export] once the needs of the domestic market had been met.” The global olive production industry is valued at over $10 billion; the export potential for Palestinian olives and olive oil has not even begun to be tapped.

olives on branches, Palestine

Photo credit: Vivien Sansour

When the Israeli occupation is not making its presence felt, the season of the olive harvest is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately, the Israeli occupation cannot be ignored. The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the OPT issued an “Olive Harvest Factsheet” in October 2011 lists the threats facing Palestine’s olive sector:

  • 44 out of 66 [Separation] Barrier gates are only open during the harvest season, impeding the regular maintenance of the groves and undermining their productivity.
  • Some 40% of applications for “visitor permits” to access [Palestinian] olive groves behind the Barrier, submitted by Palestinians on the eve of the 2010 harvest season, were rejected.
  • In the vicinity of 55 Israeli settlements, Palestinian access to olive groves is limited to certain times during the harvest season, when Israeli forces are deployed on the ground.
  • Between January and September 2011, more than 7,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were uprooted, set on fire or otherwise vandalized by Israeli settlers.
  • Of 97 complaints about settler attacks against Palestinian trees, followed up by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, none (zero) has so far led to the indictment of a suspect.

These facts speak for themselves. It is not enough that Israel has confiscated and illegally annexed Palestinian lands by constructing the Separation Barrier; Israel is determined to make sure that even those Palestinian lands that remain will be inaccessible for Palestinians to earn a dignified livelihood. But Palestinians are not known to give up so easily. Rural communities everywhere feel a deep attachment to their land, trees, and crops, more so than those who live in urban societies. It is this attachment that accounts in part for the Palestinian determination to carry on, focused on our right to work our lands.

The international solidarity that has been expressed by volunteers coming from all corners of the world to join in planting saplings in February and harvesting the olives in October is a tremendous source of strength. Whether you actually participate along side Palestinian farmers, buy Palestinian olives, olive oil and olive soap from anywhere in the world, or you are helping to get the word out to hold Israel accountable for its actions, together we are standing on the side of humanity in a conflict that seems to have none.

Written FOR

« Older entries