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Egypt: Independent Union Federation Announced, Calls for General Strike

According to a Jan. 30 press release, "representatives of... the independent Egyptian trade unions of workers... agreed to hold a press conference at 3:30pm this afternoon in Tahrir Square next to Omar Effendi Company store in downtown Cairo to announce the organization of the new Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions and to announce the formation of committees in all factories and enterprises to protect, defend them and to set a date for a general strike. And to emphasize that the labor movement is in the heart and soul of the Egyptian Peoples’ revolution." Read the press release here (also contains link to the new federation's website).

 

Imperialist Canada -- Interview with Todd Gordon

Read an interview with the author of the recently-published book Imperialist Canada here.

Egypt: Interview with Hossam el-Hamalawy

A fine interview from Al Jazeera with Egyptian journalist and blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, which should serve as a useful companion piece to the previous blog post on the revolution occuring at present in Tunisia. These two interviews, read together, offer very thoughtful insight into the deep-seeded political, economic, and social grievances underlying these concurrent Middle East uprisings as weill as identifying key linkages between them. Let the dominoes fall!

Tunisia: Interview with UGTT Deputy Secretary General Hacine El Abassi

On January 14, 2011, Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, was forced to flee the country as a result of the revolutionary mobilizations of an entire people.

No sooner had Ben Ali fled than all the reactionary forces -- both inside Tunisia and on a world scale -- rushed to form a government of national unity structured around Ben Ali's party, the RDC, but also incorporating liberal "opponents" to the old regime. Key to this attempt to put a halt to the revolution under way in Tunisia, and to rescue the old regime, was the effort to co-opt the leadership of the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) trade union federation into joining the government of national unity.

Initially the UGTT accepted this proposal from Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi. But as soon as it was announced that three representatives of the UGTT had joined the government, a revolt took place at all levels of the UGTT federation against this decision. The UGTT had been a backbone of the revolution; its local and regional leaders and activists were central leaders of the revolution, its headquarters had been used widely as the organizing centers and launching pads for the mass mobilizations.

Under huge pressure from the members and officers of the union federation, the National Administrative Council of the UGTT convened an emergency meeting 12 hours after its initial decision and voted a resolution announcing that it was withdrawing its representatives from the national unity government and from all elected positions on a national, regional level and local level.

This opened a new chapter in the unfolding Tunisian Revolution.

We are publishing below an interview with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT. it is reprinted from the Jan. 26, 2011, issue of Informations Ouvrieres, the weekly newspaper of the Independent Workers Party (POI) of France. The interview was conducted on January 24 by the Informations Ouvrieres correspondent in Tunisia. -- Alan Benjamin

* * * * *

 

INTERVIEW with Hacine El Abassi, Deputy Secretary General of the UGTT:

"If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call a general strike."

Question: What is the position of the UGTT in the current political situation?

Response: I remind you that on January 18, the UGTT adopted a resolution that states:

"Considering that the coalition government does not correspond to our ideas, that it does not express the demands we have put forward and that it does not represent the aspirations of the people and workers, [the UGTT] decides to withdraw our representatives from the coalition government; to have our elected union officials resign from the National Assembly, from the Assembly of the Council, and from the local councils; and to suspend the participation of the UGTT in the Economic and Social Council."

The UGTT also demanded, "[t]he dissolution of the RCD ... and the rejection of any foreign intervention in the internal affairs of our people, as they were the ones who overthrew a president that repress[ed] the people; the people therefore should be the ones to determine their destiny without outside interference."

The trade union federation also called for the "nationalization" of the Ben Ali clan's property, that is, the takeover by the Republic of Tunisia of a large portion of the economy. In this vein, the UGTT called for a "Constituent Assembly through free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people."

It is in this sense that the Secretary General of the UGTT and three members of the National Executive Committee, of which I am one, will meet tomorrow [Tuesday, Jan. 25 -- Ed.] with the political forces that want to end the RCD regime and its government. The goal is to discuss with them the conditions for the formation of a Government of Public Salvation, as per the January 18 resolution adopted by the UGTT's National Administrative Council.

The UGTT will play its role as a catalyst until a solution is found that is consistent with the interests of the people and their revolution. It will help ensure that opposition political parties will become part of the Government of National Public Salvation, constituting thereby a transitional political alternative to the RCD government, which has been rejected by the Tunisian people.

The only goal we pursue is the fulfillment of the goals of our revolution.

The UGTT will play its role to help gather and unite all opposition political forces in this direction. On this basis, we will be an obstacle to all internal and external enemies, who are able to weave their webs only to the extent that they are in our midst and are still willing to collaborate with our enemies.

Question: What are the objectives of the Tunisian revolution?

Response: Economic development, democracy, social justice, and a constitution. The first spark that will indicate that our country has changed course is the development of the interior regions, regions that have been totally abandoned by the RCD regime.

During 2010, we had undertaken an economic study of the Sidi Bouzid region and had warned the government of the risk of social explosion because of the alarming unemployment rate and the total lack of economic projects and job prospects. Development projects were implemented only along the coast.

Numerous studies show that the Ben Ali government's policy of privatization since he came to power has been responsible for the destruction of the economy.

They did not even know how to administer their own privatization policies. Workers in many privatized sectors are now demanding the nationalization of their companies. I cite, as an example, the public transport company, Tunis Air -- and there are many others.

In the face of the failure of the privatization policies, we had demanded a halt to the process to see if the privatized enterprises were functioning or not. We have always demanded a halt to privatization and the conservation of our companies as public enterprises.

Today, we ask that all of our companies are restored to the State because they must serve the objective of development and employment in our country. More specifically, we are calling for the the restoration of all privatized public enterprises into the hands of the State. This is imperative.

The French people have suffered for many years from this damaging privatization policy, dictated by the European Union (unemployment, the dismantling of public enterprises, the blows to social rights, etc.)

We are aware of this situation and know the harmful social effects that privatizations are causing in Europe as well. In each of our union battles against privatization, the government told us: "Even Europe is compelled to privatize."

The union federation in basic education has called today [January 24] for an indefinite strike. The strike has been followed massively, according to the reports we have received. But faced with the deafness of Ghannouchi and the RCD government, what can be done?

For our part, we will use all legal means to ensure that the demands of the Tunisian people are carried out -- for the departure of the Ghannouchi government and the dissolution of the RCD. Strikes are taking place in many sectors, as are marches and demonstrations.

If there is no other way to get the Ghannouchi government to step down, we will call a general strike. But we believe that the pressure of the street and that of workers in their workplaces, schools, etc. is in the process of making the government tremble.

Reduce Your Risk of Tunisia Fever: A Warning from the Dept. of Political Health

"Tunisia Fever is a new epidemic sweeping rapidly across North Africa and West Asia. The symptoms include a severe loss of appetite for the lies of the corrupt regime, violent reactions to state security forces, a sharp hunger for freedom, and massive outbreaks of insurgence in the streets drawing in new political forces." Read the "warning" document posted below as an attachment.

Attachments:
Download this file (Department of Political Health.pdf)Department of Political Health.pdf[ ]58 Kb

Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt Challenge Israel Too

One unexpected casualty of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere may be Israel's image abroad. One of the key pillars of the Zionist ideology is that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

Let's break that statement down. Is Israel a democracy? Formally, yes -- but the Palestinians who live in Israeli don't have equal rights, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, whose lives are dictated by the Occupation, have no rights at all. But even granting Israel's formal democracy for those it calls citizens, what about the rest of the Middle East? This was always a hypocritical statement as well: for all their anti-Israeli, and sometimes outright anti-Semitic vitriol, the Arab dictatorships have done Israel a great service, keeping a lid on their own citizens' empathy with Palestine. If these regimes were overthrown by popular pressure -- and, better yet, if workers' and community councils started running everyday affairs -- this would pose a much greater threat to Israel, because workers' governments would start reflecting popular pressure.

That would mean three things: first, an end to peaceful acceptance of Israel's borders and a stunning shift in foreign policy. As the latest Wikileaks cables have revealed, those Arab dictatorships have marched lockstep with Israel in wanting to bomb Iran and ignite a regional war. Socialists want to see workers run society themselves; but even liberal democracies in the Middle East, ones that enforced capitalist property but granted the freedom to organize, speak and vote, would change the balance of power. The U.S. and Israel might not find the Arab people, nursing decades of resentment, so pliant.

Second, the popular uprisings could inspire the Palestinians. These revolutionary impulses couldn't come at a better time. The transformation of Gaza into a starving, armed camp, continuing annexation of more of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and now the revelation that Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiators have offered major concessions to Israel, have shown the Palestinians have been abandoned by the world at large and their own leaders. The latter, in particular, appear to have been desperate to abandon the right of return and much of East Jerusalem, in return for setting up a mangled statelet headquartered in Ramallah, while donor funds lined the pockets of a parasitic bourgeoisie. But the people of the Middle East have longer memories: democratic movements spreading throughout the region could give the Palestinians hope for a just peace and inspire them to similar collective action. Israel, in turn, might have to act with more restraint, if it felt its neighbours would do more than cluck disapprovingly.

Third, the Zionist cause receives moral and financial support from abroad. Palestinian activists have been successful in framing the issue of Palestine through human rights, indigenous people's rights and colonialism -- helped, it has to be said, by the ever more murderous Israeli occupation, which has turned its killing and maiming of from Palestinians to their international supporters as well. The Zionist lobby has been on the counter-attack for some time, touting the formal benefits of Israeli democracy. What would happen if plucky Israel, surrounded by dictatorial Arab regimes, was surrounded by democracies far more vital and grassroots than its own? The Zionists overseas would have to argue for a racist, exclusionary "democracy" on its own merits, not by comparing it to the corrupt regimes around it.

This might be too much hope to place on democratic movements that are in their infancy. But people's movements can upset decades of carefully planned repression. In a time of darkness, the aspirations of the Arab masses in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere are a spark of light for the Palestinians.

Daniel Serge

Statement from Tunisian Left Front

Eight left-wing organizations in Tunisia have formed an alliance, the January 14 Front. Read its founding statement here.

"The Palestine Papers"

The British newspaper The Guardian is reporting on a large leak of papers from the negotiations between the official Palestinian leadership, Israel and the US. They reveal just how much the wretched Palestinian leaders were prepared to capitulate -- and that this still wasn't enough for Israel and the US.  As one writer in The Guardian puts it, "what these documents reveal is the extent of undemocratic, authoritarian, colonial and, frankly, terrifying coercion the US, Britain and other western governments have been imposing upon Palestinians through this unaccountable leadership."

For thoughts on the "Palestine Papers" see this article on the New Left Project site and this report on the Electronic Intifada.

Four Union Struggles Today

This video of a Jan 18 forum in Toronto profiles the current struggles of workers at US Steel (formerly Stelco) in Hamilton, Canada Post workers across the country and the outside workers of the City of Toronto.

In Manitoba, provincial government workers have rejected the poor tentative agreement recommended by their official leadership. This must be a big surprise for the timid MGEU leadership (which is very tight with the Blairite provincial NDP government) -- most of the MGEU membership has no tradition of militancy or independent action.

Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance

Listen to a radio interview on "Equal Time Radio" on WDEV in Vermont with David McNally about issues he tackles in his new book Global Slump.

Night in Tunisia: Riots, Strikes and a Spreading Insurgency

"Popular upheavals always carry a distinct sonic resonance. The cascading chants that reverberate through the streets, the roar of the crowd as it drives back the riot police and seizes the city square – all this and more produces an unmistakable acoustic effect. The rhythm of revolt pulsates through society, freedom music fills the air." Read the rest of David McNally's blog post here.

Revolt in Tunisia -- UPDATED

US historian Juan Cole calls it "The First Middle Eastern Revolution Since 1979." It's having an inspirational effect on people in other countries in the region too, as reported in this article in French.

The Jan. 16 and 17 articles about the revolution at Lenin's Tomb are recommended, as are these articles from socialistworker.org and this piece by a Tunisian global justice activist.

Is Canada Imperialist?

Listen to an audio recording of a talk in Regina by Todd Gordon, author of the new book Imperialist Canada, here.

The Global Slump is Not Over

"The business media have no idea what really makes the economy tick. They slavishly report a hodgepodge of undigested data linked to declarations by economists and financial consultants who utterly failed to see either the financial crisis or the recession coming. What drives the operation is pure and simple feel-goodism," argues David McNally. Read his blog post here.

The Shootings in Arizona

"Whether or not Loughner was a Tea Party follower, it's not unreasonable to think that the virulent tone and actions of the right shaped the climate in which he acted," argues Nicole Colson here.

US socialist sports writer Dave Zirin looks at Sarah Palin's "brazen use of violent language and symbols" here.

"Assassination is as American as the hackneyed patriotic schtick that often seems to motivate it," argues Richard Seymour. "The problem is not whether and how to domesticate political language, as some have wrongly assumed, but how to fight back against the political forces that are fomenting this bilious filth." More here.

 

Change Requires a Path

"I think part of the evil genius of neoliberalism is that it has created a situation in which potentially effective paths are rendered implausible and the only plausible paths are ones that are never going to be effective." This insight is part of some thoughtful reflections about society today and what radicals should do by Scott Neigh. Read the post on his blog here.

Banning IAW -- A Reply to David Matas

Banning Israel apartheid weeks at universities, A Reply to David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel, B'nai Brith

By Howard S. Davidson

"If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
Ehud Barak, Israel's Minister of Defence, February 2010


"There is no apartheid in Israel," writes David Matas, senior legal counsel for B'nai Brith. Those who claim otherwise are propagandists, anti-Semites and their fellow travelers who organize events like Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) on campuses in order to advance a malicious "fantasy" contrived to vilify Israel and intimidate Jewish students.

Last year, attempts to ban IAW were rebuked when university presidents asserted the right of students to organize IAWs as long as these events did not violate university policy on maintaining a respectful environment on campuses. Following IAW at the University of Manitoba, President David Barnard reported to the university's Board of Governors that IAW proceeded without incident. Nonetheless, Matas insists that student forums on Israel and apartheid are intended to foster anti-Semitism and must be banned. 

In a presentation to the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba, on 21 October 2010, subsequently published by the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties [1], Matas argues that the "charge of apartheid against Israel is one of a barrage of anti-Zionist accusations levied against Israel. Anti-Zionism by definition is rejection of the existence of the Jewish state. That rejection is the denial of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people." He goes on to state, "The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is connected to anti-Semitism both in substance and in form."

These are serious accusations made in defence of a dangerous undertaking. If they are false, they represent a threat to a democratic society that cherishes freedom of expression and the right to peaceful dissent. The matter comes down to this: Is discussion of Israel and apartheid a legitimate topic of political and academic discourse or is it, as Matas claims, a "fantasy" perpetuated to incite hatred against  Israel? For Matas Israel and the Jewish people are one, therefore, any unfounded criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

Given the gravity of his argument and his rich legal experience, one should expect a thoughtful presentation of his position. Instead, he offers up a ruse: hiding from view the legitimate discourse on Israel and apartheid.  In fact, far from being a malicious "fantasy," the subject is a matter of discussion and grave concern for Israeli leaders and academics in and outside Israel.

Because apartheid regimes have proven to be untenable, to say nothing of immoral, the threat of becoming an apartheid state invites disaster. Oren Yiftachel, professor of Political Geography, Ben Gurion University, has called this "creeping apartheid." 

"The [Gaza] disengagement has indeed made a significant difference to the political geography of Israel/Palestine, but a close examination reveals not a crossing of the watershed toward ending Israeli colonialism in favour of a two state solution but, rather, an Israeli policy of  'oppressive consolidation,' a 'politics of suspension,' and a perpetual probability of mutual violence. These have combined to create a political geographic order best described as 'creeping apartheid.'" [2]

Israel's current minister of defence and former prime minister, Ehud Barak, has warned Israelis, "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic…. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state." [3]

Barak's fears were also expressed by Israel's  previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished." [4]

This view was stated by John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Distinguished Service Professor, Political Science, University of Chicago. Mearsheimer co-authored with Stephen Walt The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. I am certain that Matas vehemently disagree with Mearsheimer's analysis of the lobby; however, he cannot paint Mearsheimer as an anti-Zionist, anti-Semite, or someone seeking to incite intimidation and hatred. If Matas read reviews of The Israel Lobby in Foreign Affairs (e.g., L. Carl Brown, September/October 2006) or Dmitri K. Simes' article in the National Interest [5], he knows about Mearsheimer's pro-Israeli credentials. Mearsheimer wrote in the American Conservative:

"...there is not going to be a two-state solution. Gaza and the West Bank will become part of a greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Israelis and their American supporters invariably bristle at this comparison, but that is the future if they create a greater Israel while denying full political rights to an Arab population that will soon outnumber the Jewish population in the entirety of the land." [6]

Others claim that Israel has already become an apartheid state, the position taken by organizers of Israel Apartheid Week and shared by Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli Minister of Education under Yitzhak Rabin. Aloni wrote, "The US Jewish Establishment's onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies." [7]

I could quote others who agree. For the sake of brevity I'll leave it with this comment by Baruch Kimmerling (deceased), formerly Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto and George S. Wise Professor of Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem:

"... Israel ceased being a true democratic state and became a Herrenvolk democracy. This term, coined to describe South Africa under Apartheid, describes a regime in which one group of its subjects (the citizens) enjoys full rights and another group (the non-citizens) enjoys none. The laws of Israel have become the laws of a master people and the morality that of lords of the land." [8]

A search of the University of Manitoba library catalogue brings up 17 titles on Israel and apartheid. It is reasonable to assume this would be true of other university libraries. Thus, students are free to research the subject but presidents are being asked to prevent students from organizing discussions on the topic. Or would Matas seek to have these books removed from the libraries on the ground that they are not on a legitimate topic but are propagating a malicious fantasy?

In a democracy Matas is welcomed to express a different opinion (a freedom he would deny to others).  That said, he should think twice about claiming that those who believe apartheid in Israel is a clear and present danger are nothing more than anti-Semites.

The only evidence he offers to prove there is no apartheid in Israel is to dismiss any comparison with South African apartheid. As we have seen in the statements quoted here, the South African comparison is frighteningly valid. 

Matas contrives his proof by defining apartheid in the narrowest possible terms (i.e., "the denationalization of blacks"). Since Palestinians have not been denationalized there is no apartheid. He neglects to mention a more authoritative definition of apartheid than his own, one provided by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The ICC defined apartheid as a crime against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime." [9]  Do South Africans think this describes the situation in the occupied territories?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu thinks it does. Other leading South Africans expressing the same opinion are Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Mahmood Mamdani, and Barney Pityana. It is the conclusion of a report on Israel's practices in the occupied territories by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, South Africa's statutory research agency:

"[D]iscriminatory treatment cannot be explained or excused on grounds of citizenship, both because it goes beyond what is permitted by ICERD [The Apartheid Convention] and because certain provisions in Israeli civil and military law provide that Jews present in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] who are not citizens of Israel also enjoy privileges conferred on Jewish-Israeli citizens in the OPT by virtue of being Jews. Consequently, this study finds that the State of Israel exercises control in the OPT with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid." [10]

Stating that Israel is (or is becoming) an apartheid state names an impending/horrific state-of-affairs that calls for the immediate end of occupation and respect for Palestinians' right for self-determination. It is clear from the range of statements cited here that an extensive discourse has emerged on Israel and apartheid. 

It is my hope you will become familiar with this discourse and use that knowledge to challenge the ruse being used to convince university presidents to ban Israel Apartheid Week. Freedom of expression and the tradition of dissent make up the life blood of a democratic society.


Howard S. Davidson is Associate Professor, Extended Education, University of Manitoba and member of Independent Jewish Voices (Canada). He can be reached at ijvwinnipeg [at] gmail.com

 


NOTES

1. The article by David Matas my be seen at http://www.marl.mb.ca/content/hate-speech/banning-israel-anti-apartheid-weeks-universities-david-matas

2. Yiftachel, O. ( 2005). Neither two states nor one: The disengagement and "Creeping Apartheid" in Israel/Palestine. The Arab World Geographer/Le Géographe du monde arabe Vol. 8, No 3, 125-129.  Retrieved 16 November 2010 http://www.geog.bgu.ac.il/members/yiftachel/new_papers_eng/Yiftachel%20in%20Arab%20World%20Geographer.pdf

3. Quoted in "Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid," Guardian, 03 February 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/barak-apartheid-palestine-peace

4. Quoted in "The two state solution, or Israel is done for," Haaretz, 09 November 2007. Retrieved 17 November 2010. http://www.haaretz.com/news/olmert-to-haaretz-two-state-solution-or-israel-is-done-for-1.234201

5. Simes, D. K. (2006).  Unrealists. The National Interest, 84(Summer),  pp. 5 - 10.

6. Mearsheimer, J.  (01 August 2010). Sinking Ship. American Conservative. Retrieved 17 November 2010. http://www.amconmag.com/article/2010/aug/01/00010/

7.  Article appearing in Yediot Acharonot, cited and translated from Hebrew in The Scoop, from Middle East News. Retrieved 15 December 2010 Servicehttp://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0701/S00070/shulamit-aloni-there-is-apartheid-in-israel.htm

8. Kimmerling, B. (2006). Politicide: The real legacy of Ariel Sharon. London: Verso, p. 39.

9.  Quoted from the Wikipedia web page. Retrieved 24 December 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_of_apartheid

10.  Middle East Project of the Democracy and Governance Programme, Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. (May 2009). Occupation, colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law, p. 22 . Retrieved 16 November 2010 http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Document-3227.phtml

Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance

That's the title of David McNally's latest book, which is now out -- highly recommended reading for anyone who wants to understand the world today.

It can be ordered in Canada from Fernwood, in the US from PM and it will be published in the UK in March by Merlin.

Gaza Open Letter: Two Years after the Massacre, a Demand for Justice

"We the Palestinians of the Besieged Gaza Strip, on this day, two years on from Israel's genocidal attack on our families, our houses, our roads, our factories and our schools,  are saying enough inaction, enough discussion, enough waiting – the time is now to hold Israel to account for its ongoing crimes against us. On the 27th of December 2008, Israel began an indiscriminate bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The assault lasted 22 days, killing 1,417 Palestinians, 352 of them children, according to main-stream Human Rights Organizations.  For a staggering 528 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces let loose their US-supplied F15s, F16s, Merkava Tanks, internationally prohibited White Phosphorous, and bombed and invaded the small Palestinian coastal enclave that is home to 1.5 million, of whom 800,000 are children and over 80 percent UN registered refugees. Around 5,300 remain permanently wounded." Read the rest of the open letter on the PACBI website here 

The Austerity Downward Spiral

"Still, though global ruling classes have always been divided on the details of this strategy, and have every reason to worry about years of stagnation and low profits, the major voices of capital such as the IMF have not ceased to demand further austerity, privatization and deregulation." Read Richard Seymour's short article on the neoliberal response to deficits and debt, its impact and prospects for a change in ruling-class strategy.

 

 

"We Want You Out" -- Afghanistan Open Letter

"We will no longer be passive prey to your disrespectful systems of oligarchic, plutocratic war against the people... We refuse to prostitute our hearts and minds. We refuse you. Not you the human person, but you the greedy system of self-interested power." Read the whole letter from Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Afghans for Peace here.

The Elections in Haiti

Listen to an interview with Roger Annis of Haiti Solidarity BC on Vancouver's Co-Op Radio show "Redeye" by clicking this link and then going to the first hour of the show (beginning at 9AM). The interview begins just over 45 minutes into the first hour.

A recent article by Kim Ives looks at the election and its aftermath, drawing on information gleaned from US State Department documents released by WikiLeaks.

 

Three Filipino Men in Manitoba Facing Deportation

The case of these three men is yet another illustration of the cruel and oppressive nature of the TFWP, which has been so favoured by the federal government in recent years. Exposing the reality of the TFWP to citizens, especially to people born in Canada, is an important part of building support for the demand that everyone on the left should raise: Status for All!

 

Overseas Filipino workers campaign for justice
By Diwa Marcelino

Winnipeg -- When Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie left their families in the Philippines to escape poverty and come to Canada in 2007, they never expected they would be jailed and face deportation three years later.

The three fathers came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to work in a gas station in High Prairie, Alberta.  Although it is illegal in Alberta for recruiters to charge workers a fee for finding employment, the three were charged $3,000 each to land the low-wage job.

Like many other foreign workers, Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie came to this country to provide a better life and opportunity for their families. “I am the bread winner, not only of my own family, but also my mother, 62, and my brother and sisters,” said Arnisito Gaviola, 42.

As of 2009, over 280,000 foreign workers were in Canada (Citizen and Immigration Canada, 2010).  From 2007 to 2009 alone, almost 50,000 foreign workers from the Philippines entered Canada via the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  The chronic unemployment and lack of opportunities in the Philippines has resulted in the daily exodus of approximately 3,900 Filipinos workers who find jobs outside the country (IBON, 2009). Many of these university-educated workers find employment in remote communities doing jobs which locals are unwilling to do. Just last year, 3,649 foreign workers entered Manitoba to work in service sector and agricultural jobs to fill the labour shortages in these industries.

After almost two years of working, Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie were laid off from the gas station. They obtained another work permit and employment at a restaurant in Peace River, Alberta where they lived together in a mobile home. As their third year in Canada (2009) approached, the three fathers knew their time under the TFWP was drawing near because the program allows workers to stay for only four years, after which they must leave the country and not return to the program until after another four years.  They asked their restaurant employer if they could be sponsored under Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program but unfortunately the employer could not and the three fathers, once again, found themselves looking for another job.

Because of the success of the Provincial Nominee Program of Manitoba the three were attracted to the province since the program gives skilled TFWs the opportunity to apply for permanent residence after six months of work. After a friend found positions at a gas station in Thompson, Manitoba, the three packed their belongings and headed to the distant town with the promise of new work permit and another low-wage job.  Their new employer insisted they start working at once and promised that the work permits would soon follow. Unfortunately after waiting for three months, the employer still failed to obtain the new work permits as promised.  Even after asking their employer repeatedly about the status of their papers, the work permits never came. This caused the workers to be "out of status." It was at this time, June 24, 2010 the trio were arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and jailed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for not having proper work permits.  When they were released, all their identification cards were confiscated including their Philippine passports.

Since their arrest the three have not been allowed to work, which has caused great distress for their family. “I’m also depressed because my daughter stopped studying she’s a smart girl, she did not want to stop but what can I do?” said Antonio Laroya, 45, a career overseas worker who worked in Israel for almost three years prior to coming to Canada.  The three tried to seek legal advice in Thompson after their release but the Legal Aid Manitoba office said the were not eligible.  After seeking the advice of a Philippine consular official, they applied for another job with the help of an immigration consultant who charged $4500 to process permits for all three men.  However, because of their arrest and pending court hearing, the work permit, which they paid the consultant to process, could not be granted.

Among foreign workers, cases like these are common and little is done to recruiters and employers who defraud or deceive workers.  If found guilty, businesses can be barred from using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for two years but the TFWs who find themselves victimized by recruitment agencies and employers are almost always deported.

Migrante Canada is assisting Antonio, Arnisito and Ermie in Winnipeg with their campaign to stay in Canada and is asking for support from the Filipino and wider community. 100% of the proceeds from their campaign will go to help the three. Migrante Canada and the three fathers are also asking Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, to consider their appeal to stay in Canada after their trial on December 23rd in Winnipeg.  “We never had any intent to violate any laws. Our only wish has always been to work to provide for our families and one day be reunited,” said Ermie Zotomayor, 45.

Reproduced from migrante.ca

Hockey Fans For Peace

Millions of Canadians enjoy hockey - and we also oppose the war in Afghanistan. A new Facebook group, "Hockey Fans For Peace", urges the NHL and the mass media to recognize this reality, by ending the practice of using hockey games and broadcasts to promote the view that full support for the war is the only acceptable position for any genuine hockey fan. Failing this, we call upon the NHL and the mass media to provide equal access to hockey fans who oppose the war and want to bring the troops home immediately. We also encourage other sports to refrain from promoting support for the war in Afghanistan. Within a few days, Hockey Fans For Peace will have "Cherry" pink t-shirts on sale, featuring our logo (crossed hockey sticks with a "peace sign" puck). We invite you to join our Facebook group, to ask others to join, and to help spread the word: hockey, not war!

http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_181250731886894&ap=1


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