26 April 2012

Call for action from AToS workers in France

Atos Healthcare in Britain: a shameful scandal known in France.

The British government eager for a small economy in crisis uses a variety of techniques. One of the most scandalous is likely that for which Atos won the tender for the Department of Work and Pensions. Indeed, in order to flush out "profiteers" and "valid to work" Atos has developed a system: an electronic form to evaluate the disabled, terminally ill cancer patients, disabled, injured workers. If they do not meet the criteria or if they do not go to the interview: their benefits are deleted.
The design of this form is a scandal because of people with profound disabilities can be considered capable of work and mental illness are not taken into account.
Associations of disabled are outraged to see Atos serve on the Board of Directors of Para Olympic Games and they ask the boycott.
According to the Daily Mail, 103 suicides have occurred since the implementation of this evaluation.

( 1 ) Atos Healthcare is a division of Atos Consulting who officiates in the health sector in the UK where it employs over 3,000 people. Its largest contract is with the Department of Work and Pensions, under which it conducts evaluations of disability for people receiving disability benefits, including the allocation of supported employment, compensation disability ("DLA") and disability benefits and industrial injury.

The capacity assessment work (WCA) is very controversial. It continues to be criticized in the UK, both through parliamentary inquiries by MPs, the judiciary, as well as advocacy groups for the ights of people with disabilities such as Citizens Advice.

( 2 ) These groups have highlighted many examples of terminally ill and severely disabled persons deemed fit for work and ineligible for benefits as a result of an evaluation conducted by computer by Atos Healthcare, which is paid 100 million pounds per year by the government for testing. Charities finally described the system as improper and remain concerned about its reliability, despite the government's commitment to improve it .

( 3 )Atos competence and its employees is challenged by health professionals. Atos has set up an automated medical examinations called "LIMA". Such examinations are widely criticized by those being evaluated.

( 4 )The system is automated with a number of yes / no answers, not allowing to take into account the progressive diseases, mental illness etc.., But also evaluating the functionality of biased criteria.
A particular question is: do you watch "Eastenders" and "Coronation Street"? (Two very popular television series in Britain). If the answer is yes, that means for the software that the person is able to remain seated 30 minutes, even though it noted that it looks at these programs lie.

Multiple errors in the records, some very coarse, were found.
There is also a refusal to accept other medical documents, including specialists.
A score of 55 examination centers Atos have no disabled access, and some are over 5 minutes to 15 minutes from the nearest station.

A significant number of disabled or sick, who were receiving welfare benefits formerly, are considered employable or able to integrate a vocational rehabilitation program. This means when the judgment of the perception of their allocations.
If they do not attend a job interview (but if they are disabled and this is made ​​impossible) their unemployment benefits are then arrested.

( 5 )Qualification or competence of examiners is questioned: 17 hours of training for nurses, a few days for doctors, and attractive salaries: £ 32,000 for nurses for a job from September to May hours without penalty, no work on weekends, etc.. ( 6 )

The type of people considered employable includes terminally ill cancer patients, people suffering from Parkinson's disease, chronic and debilitating illnesses for which there is no hope of improvement, but will next year ironing review each year.
The list is endless.
The Guardian newspaper in an article in March 19 (8) quotes Peter, a computer analyst officially registered blind in 2009 which was denied with the allocation and obligation to return to work. ( 11 )

Atos is expected to make recommendations that are reviewed by a panel that makes the decision. What is called in the text JCP decision-makers, which means the decision of JCP. JCP means more Job Centres, a glorified ANPE. It does not appear that there are members of the medical profession in this panel.
The recommendations are accepted at Atos 99.78% at the expense of those of general practitioners and specialists who follow their patients for years. ( 10 )

Many demonstrations of associations and activists have been held since the scandal erupted across the Channel to the point that we are surprised it is known in France. Protesters brandished banners that reads "Atos does not give a lot" and "Atos kills". A reference to the small but growing number of applicants who are killed after finding that benefits were eliminated. ( 12 ) ( 13 ) ( 14 )
If you read this Wikipedia article on Atos, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atos , you will see that the French version is completely expunged from the English version which alludes to the controversy of the withdrawal of benefits Based on reviews conducted by Atos.
The omerta of the French press does not make us doubt the leverage of multinational Atos Mr BRETON. This same person who already has a history rife for at France Telecom, the company famous for numerous suicides.

Atos won the contract with the British government in an economic recession and a cost reduction program in the public sector. With the right-wing government of Mr Cameron, a real witch hunt was triggered against welfare recipients. A highly virulent campaign of the British government has portrayed the disabled as parasites who take advantage of the system, while fraud represents only 0.5%. In this context, the specification of Atos is clearly identified. The result is a reduction in the number of persons entitled to disability benefits because the criteria have changed.

Since the system was tested in late 2009, about 390,000 people have litigated in the courts of appeal against a decision on suitability for employment. The courts have been forced to open on Saturday and to increase their workforce by 30% since January 2010, the cost of these calls should reach 50 million pounds per year by the end of this month. ( 7 )
About 38% of all court appeals in favor of the applicant, and the benefit is subsequently granted. If an applicant is supported in his appeal by a person from an advocacy group, such as Citizens Advice, it is a success rate much higher for these calls, approximately 68%. ( 8 )

This shameful scandal should not stay in the shadows. Our duty as employees of Atos members and trade unionists, is to inform you about these events that affect disabled workers for whom we have special attention on this side of the Channel.
Your duty now is to participate in the outbreak of the scandal by informing your colleagues, friends and families.

French version here: http://sudatosorigin.blogspot.co.uk/201 ... ne-un.html


16 March 2012

Jimmy Reid’s s inauguration speech 1972

Jimmy Reid’s s inauguration speech 1972

Independent 13:08:10

Jimmy Reid, the Clydeside trade union activist who died this week, was an inspiring orator. This speech, delivered on his inauguration as rector of Glasgow University in 1972, was compared at the time to the Gettysburg Address. It has lost little of its relevance.

Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today. People feel alienated by society. In some intellectual circles it is treated almost as a new phenomenon. It has, however, been with us for years. What I believe is true is that today it is more widespread, more pervasive than ever before. Let me right at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It's the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision-making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

Many may not have rationalised it. May not even understand, may not be able to articulate it. But they feel it. It therefore conditions and colours their social attitudes. Alienation expresses itself in different ways in different people. It is to be found in what our courts often describe as the criminal antisocial behaviour of a section of the community. It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics. Of course, it would be wrong to say it was the sole reason for these things. But it is a much greater factor in all of them than is generally recognised.

Society and its prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially de-humanises some people, makes them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings, self-centred and grasping. The irony is, they are often considered normal and well-adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else. They remind me of the character in the novel, Catch 22, the father of Major Major. He was a farmer in the American Mid-West. He hated suggestions for things like medi-care, social services, unemployment benefits or civil rights. He was, however, an enthusiast for the agricultural policies that paid farmers for not bringing their fields under cultivation. From the money he got for not growing alfalfa he bought more land in order not to grow alfalfa. He became rich. Pilgrims came from all over the state to sit at his feet and learn how to be a successful non-grower of alfalfa. . His philosophy was simple. The poor didn't work hard enough and so they were poor. He believed that the good Lord gave him two strong hands to grab as much as he could for himself. He is a comic figure. But think – have you not met his like here in Britain? Here in Scotland? I have.

It is easy and tempting to hate such people. However, it is wrong. They are as much products of society, and of a consequence of that society, human alienation, as the poor drop-out. They are losers. They have lost the essential elements of our common humanity. Man is a social being. Real fulfilment for any person lies in service to his fellow men and women. The big challenge to our civilisation is not Oz, a magazine I haven't seen, let alone read. Nor is it permissiveness, although I agree our society is too permissive. Any society which, for example, permits over one million people to be unemployed is far too permissive for my liking. Nor is it moral laxity in the narrow sense that this word is generally employed – although in a sense here we come nearer to the problem. It does involve morality, ethics, and our concept of human values. The challenge we face is that of rooting out anything and everything that distorts and devalues human relations.

Let me give two examples from contemporary experience to illustrate the point.

Recently on television I saw an advert. The scene is a banquet. A gentleman is on his feet proposing a toast. His speech is full of phrases like "this full-bodied specimen". Sitting beside him is a young, buxom woman. The image she projects is not pompous but foolish. She is visibly preening herself, believing that she is the object of the bloke's eulogy. Then he concludes – "and now I give...", then a brand name of what used to be described as Empire sherry. Then the laughter. Derisive and cruel laughter. The real point, of course, is this. In this charade, the viewers were obviously expected to identify not with the victim but with her tormentors.

The other illustration is the widespread, implicit acceptance of the concept and term "the rat race". The picture it conjures up is one where we are scurrying around scrambling for position, trampling on others, back-stabbing, all in pursuit of personal success. Even genuinely intended, friendly advice can sometimes take the form of someone saying to you, "Listen, you look after number one." Or as they say in London, "Bang the bell, Jack, I'm on the bus."

To the students [of Glasgow University] I address this appeal. Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We're not rats. We're human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts, and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?"

Profit is the sole criterion used by the establishment to evaluate economic activity. From the rat race to lame ducks. The vocabulary in vogue is a give-away. It's more reminiscent of a human menagerie than human society. The power structures that have inevitably emerged from this approach threaten and undermine our hard-won democratic rights. The whole process is towards the centralisation and concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. The facts are there for all who want to see. Giant monopoly companies and consortia dominate almost every branch of our economy. The men who wield effective control within these giants exercise a power over their fellow men which is frightening and is a negation of democracy.

Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision-making by the people for the people. This is not simply an economic matter. In essence it is an ethical and moral question, for whoever takes the important economic decisions in society ipso facto determines the social priorities of that society

From the Olympian heights of an executive suite, in an atmosphere where your success is judged by the extent to which you can maximise profits, the overwhelming tendency must be to see people as units of production, as indices in your accountants' books. To appreciate fully the inhumanity of this situation, you have to see the hurt and despair in the eyes of a man suddenly told he is redundant, without provision made for suitable alternative employment, with the prospect in the West of Scotland, if he is in his late forties or fifties, of spending the rest of his life in the Labour Exchange. Someone, somewhere has decided he is unwanted, unneeded, and is to be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. From the very depth of my being, I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable.

The concentration of power in the economic field is matched by the centralisation of decision-making in the political institutions of society. The power of Parliament has undoubtedly been eroded over past decades, with more and more authority being invested in the Executive. The power of local authorities has been and is being systematically undermined. The only justification I can see for local government is as a counter- balance to the centralised character of national government.

Local government is to be restructured. What an opportunity, one would think, for de-centralising as much power as possible back to the local communities. Instead, the proposals are for centralising local government. It's once again a blue-print for bureaucracy, not democracy. If these proposals are implemented, in a few years when asked "Where do you come from?" I can reply: "The Western Region." It even sounds like a hospital board.

It stretches from Oban to Girvan and eastwards to include most of the Glasgow conurbation. As in other matters, I must ask the politicians who favour these proposals – where and how in your calculations did you quantify the value of a community? Of community life? Of a sense of belonging? Of the feeling of identification? These are rhetorical questions. I know the answer. Such human considerations do not feature in their thought processes.

Everything that is proposed from the establishment seems almost calculated to minimise the role of the people, to miniaturise man. I can understand how attractive this prospect must be to those at the top. Those of us who refuse to be pawns in their power game can be picked up by their bureaucratic tweezers and dropped in a filing cabinet under "M" for malcontent or maladjusted. When you think of some of the high flats around us, it can hardly be an accident that they are as near as one could get to an architectural representation of a filing cabinet.

If modern technology requires greater and larger productive units, let's make our wealth-producing resources and potential subject to public control and to social accountability. Let's gear our society to social need, not personal greed. Given such creative re-orientation of society, there is no doubt in my mind that in a few years we could eradicate in our country the scourge of poverty, the underprivileged, slums, and insecurity.

Even this is not enough. To measure social progress purely by material advance is not enough. Our aim must be the enrichment of the whole quality of life. It requires a social and cultural, or if you wish, a spiritual transformation of our country. A necessary part of this must be the restructuring of the institutions of government and, where necessary, the evolution of additional structures so as to involve the people in the decision-making processes of our society. The so-called experts will tell you that this would be cumbersome or marginally inefficient. I am prepared to sacrifice a margin of efficiency for the value of the people's participation. Anyway, in the longer term, I reject this argument.

To unleash the latent potential of our people requires that we give them responsibility. The untapped resources of the North Sea are as nothing compared to the untapped resources of our people. I am convinced that the great mass of our people go through life without even a glimmer of what they could have contributed to their fellow human beings. This is a personal tragedy. It's a social crime. The flowering of each individual's personality and talents is the pre-condition for everyone's development.

In this context education has a vital role to play. If automation and technology is accompanied as it must be with a full employment, then the leisure time available to man will be enormously increased. If that is so, then our whole concept of education must change. The whole object must be to equip and educate people for life, not solely for work or a profession. The creative use of leisure, in communion with and in service to our fellow human beings, can and must become an important element in self-fulfilment.

Universities must be in the forefront of development, must meet social needs and not lag behind them. It is my earnest desire that this great University of Glasgow should be in the vanguard, initiating changes and setting the example for others to follow. Part of our educational process must be the involvement of all sections of the university on the governing bodies. The case for student representation is unanswerable. It is inevitable.

My conclusion is to re-affirm what I hope and certainly intend to be the spirit permeating this address. It's an affirmation of faith in humanity. All that is good in man's heritage involves recognition of our common humanity, an unashamed acknowledgement that man is good by nature. Burns expressed it in a poem that technically was not his best, yet captured the spirit. In "Why should we idly waste our prime...":

"The golden age, we'll then revive, each man shall be a brother,

In harmony we all shall live and till the earth together,

In virtue trained, enlightened youth shall move each fellow creature,

And time shall surely prove the truth that man is good by nature."

It's my belief that all the factors to make a practical reality of such a world are maturing now. I would like to think that our generation took mankind some way along the road towards this goal. It's a goal worth fighting for.

Reproduced with permission from the archive of the University of Glasgow

02 October 2011

Why Israel can't be a 'Jewish State'  
by Prof Sari Nusseibeh   -  Al Quds University, Jerusalem        
30 September 2011

The Israeli demand to be recognised as a "Jewish state" by the Palestinians is an inherently problematic concept

The Israeli government's current mantra is that the Palestinians must recognise a "Jewish State". Of course, the Palestinians have clearly and repeatedly recognised the State of Israel as such in the 1993 Oslo Accords (which were based on an Israeli promise to establish a Palestinian state within five years - a promise now shattered) and many times since. Recently, however, Israeli leaders have dramatically and unilaterally moved the goal-posts and are now clamouring that Palestinians must recognise Israel as a "Jewish State".
In 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry concluded that the demand for a "Jewish State" was not part of the obligations of the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate. Even in the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, when Zionists sought to "establish a home for the Jewish people", there was no reference of a "Jewish State". The Zionist Organisation preferred at first to use the description "Jewish homeland" or "Jewish Commonwealth". Many pioneering Zionist leaders, such as Judah Magnes and Martin Buber also avoided the clear and explicit term "Jewish State" for their project of a homeland for Jews, and preferred instead the concept of a democratic bi-national state.
Today, however, demands for a "Jewish State" from Israeli politicians are growing without giving thought to what this might mean, and its supporters claim that it would be as natural as calling France a French State. However, if we consider the subject dispassionately, the idea of a "Jewish State" is logically and morally problematic because of its legal, religious, historical and social implications. The implications of this term therefore need to be spelled out, and we are sure that once they are, most people - and most Israeli citizens, we trust - will not accept these implications.
Many implications
First, let us say that confusion immediately arises here because the term "Jewish" can be applied both to the ancient race of Israelites and their descendants, as well as to those who believe in and practice the religion of Judaism. These generally overlap, but not always. For example, some ethnic Jews are atheists and there are converts to Judaism (leaving aside the question of whether these are accepted as such by Ultra-Orthodox Jews) who are not ethnic Jews.
Second, let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself - if not inherently self-contradictory - because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution, and because no state in the world is - or can be in practice - ethnically or religiously homogenous.
Third, recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy - something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country's founding in 1948.
Fourth, at least one in five Israelis - 20 per cent of the population, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics - is ethnically Arab (and are mostly either Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai), and recognising Israel as a "Jewish State" as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them, most undemocratically, to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights) - something that no-one, much less a Palestinian leader, has a right to do.
Fifth, recognising a "Jewish State" as such in Israel would mean legally that while Palestinians no longer have citizens' rights there, any member of world Jewry outside of Israel (up to 10 million people perhaps), should be entitled to full citizens' rights there, no matter wherever they may be in the world today and regardless of their current nationality. Indeed, Israel publicly admits that it does not hold the land for the benefit of its citizens but holds it, in trust, on behalf of the Jews of the world for all time. This is something that happens in practice, but that obviously Palestinians in the occupied territories - including Jerusalem - do not see as fair, especially as they are constantly forcibly evicted off their ancestral homeland by Israel to make way for foreign Jewish settlers, and because Palestinians in their diaspora are denied the same right to come and live.
Sixth, it means, before final status negotiations have even started, that Palestinians would have then given up the rights of about 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora to repatriation or compensation; 7 million Palestinians descended from the Palestinians who in 1900 lived in historical Palestine (ie what is now Israel, the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza) and at that time made up 800,000 of its 840,000 inhabitants; and who were driven off their land through war, violent eviction or fear.
Seventh, recognising a "Jewish state" in Israel - a state which purports to annex the whole of Jerusalem, East and West, and calls Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided capital" (as if the city, or even the world itself, were eternal; as if it were really undivided, and as if it actually were legally recognised by the international community as Israel's capital) - means completely ignoring the fact that Jerusalem is as holy to 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims, as it is to 15-20 million Jews worldwide.
In other words, this would be to privilege Judaism above the religions of Christianity and Islam, whose adherents together comprise 55 per cent of the world's population. Regrettably this is a narrative propagated even by renowned Jewish author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who, on April 15, 2010, took out full page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post and claimed that Jerusalem "is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Qur'an". Now we do not propose to speak for native Palestinian Arab Christians - except to say the that Jerusalem is quite obviously the city of Jesus Christ the Messiah - but as Muslims, we believe that Jerusalem is not the "third holiest city of Islam" as is sometimes claimed, but simply one of Islam's three holy cities. And, of course, despite what Mr Wiesel seems to believe, Jerusalem is indeed clearly referred to in the Holy Qur'an in Surat al-Isra' (17:1):
"Glorified be He Who transported His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Aqsa Place of Worship whose precincts We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer."
Moreover, Muslims wanting to take a similar, religiously exclusive narrative, could point out that while Jerusalem is mentioned 600 times in the Bible, it is not mentioned once in the Torah as such - a fact that any Biblical Concordance will easily confirm. Of course we do, however, recognise the importance of the land of Israel in the religion of Judaism - this is even mentioned in the Qur'an, 5:21 - we only ask that the Israeli government reciprocate this courtesy and allow Muslims to speak for themselves in expressing what they consider, and have always considered, as holy to them.
There is another reason, more serious than all of the seven mentioned above, why Palestinian leaders - and indeed no responsible person - can morally recognise Israel as a "Jewish State" as such. It has to do with the very Covenant of God in the Bible with Ancient Israelites of the promise of a homeland for Jews. God says to Abraham in the Bible:
On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying:
"To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates - the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites." (Genesis, 15:18-21; NKJ)
The ancient Israelites then go on to possess this land in the time of Moses, upon God's command, as follows:
"When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. (Deuteronomy, 7:1-2; NKJ)
"Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said: 'Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?' Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you." (Deuteronomy, 9:1-4; NKJ)
The fate of many of the original inhabitants is then as follows:
And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua, 6:21; NKJ)
And this continues even later on in time, as follows:
Samuel also said to Saul: "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" (1 Samuel, 15:1-3; NKJ)
Now it is very easy to cherry-pick quotes from scripture permitting or enjoining violence. One could cite, out of context, verses such as the "sword verse" in the Holy Qur'an:
Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and establish prayer and pay the alms, then leave their way free. God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Tawbah, 9:5)
One could even cite verses - again out of context - from Jesus Christ's own words in the Gospel, as follows:
"But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'" (Luke, 19:27; NKJ)

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword." (Matthew, 10:34; NKJ)
Democracy or a Jewish State?
Nevertheless, it remains true that, in the Old Testament, God commands the Jewish state in the land of Israel to come into being through warfare and violent dispossession of the original inhabitants. Moreover, this command has its roots in the very Covenant of God with Abraham (or rather "Abram" at that time) in the Bible and it thus forms one of the core tenets of Judaism as such, at least as we understand it. No one then can blame Palestinians and descendents of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites (as seen in the Bible itself) for a little trepidation as regards what recognising Israel as a "Jewish State" means for them, particularly to certain Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews. No one then can blame Palestinians for asking if recognising Israel as a "Jewish State" means recognising the legitimacy of offensive warfare or violence against them by Israel to take what remains of Palestine from them.
We need hardly say that this comes against a background where every day the Israeli settler movement is grabbing more land in the West Bank and Jerusalem (there are now 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank alone) - aided, abetted, funded and empowered by the current Israeli government - and throwing or forcing more and more Palestinians out, in so many different ways that it would take volumes to describe. Moreover, there are credible reports that despite the almost universal agreement in Rabbinical texts throughout the ages that the divine command to kill the Amalekites was a unique and isolated historical incident that applied only to the race of the Ancient Amalekites, there are now, in certain religious schools in Israel, people who draw parallels between the Palestinians of today and the ancient Amalekites and their like (this was apparently the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Rabbi of Israel; see also, for example: Shulamit Aloni's article 'Murder Under the Cover of Righteousness', CounterPunch, March, 8-9, 2003).
In short, recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State" in Israel is not the same as, say, recognition of Greece today as a "Christian State". It entails, in the Old Testament itself, a Covenant between God and a Chosen People regarding a Promised Land that should be taken by force at the expense of the other inhabitants of the land and of non-Jews. This idea is not present as such in other religions that we know of. Moreover, even secular and progressive voices in Israel, such as former president of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak, understand the concept of a "Jewish State" as follows:
"[The] Jewish State is the state of the Jewish people … it is a state in which every Jew has the right to return … a Jewish state derives its values from its religious heritage, the Bible is the basic of its books and Israel's prophets are the basis of its morality … a Jewish state is a state in which the values of Israel, Torah, Jewish heritage and the values of the Jewish halacha [religious law] are the bases of its values." ('A State in Emergency', Ha'aretz, 19 June, 2005.)
So, rather than demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish State" as such - adding "beyond chutzpah" to insult and injury - we offer the suggestion that Israeli leaders ask instead that Palestinians recognise Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish. Many states (including Israel's neighbours Jordan and Egypt, and countries such as Greece) have their official religion as Christianity or Islam (but grant equal civil rights to all citizens) and there is no reason why Israeli Jews should not want the religion of their state to be officially Jewish. This is a reasonable demand, and it may allay the fears of Jewish Israelis about becoming a minority in Israel, and at the same time not arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine. Demanding the recognition of Israel's official religion as Judaism, rather than the recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State", would also mean Israel continuing to be a democracy.
Sari Nusseibeh is a professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

19 September 2011

Mohammed and Ibrahim

please help give wings to this posting. it is long, it is graphic, and it is not likely to reach pulblic through mainstream media.
thanks, tal

dear all,

this afternoon, Ibrahim's heart stopped beating. We don't have words
right now. Allahu yirhamu, may he rest in peace.

Mohammed is 15 year old. He is Ibrahim’s cousin. Mohammad is very tall
for his age. He has big hands, large feet, and beautiful dark eyes.
Today, his head is shaven. In a few years, he will grow into a handsome
young man.

When we first met him, Mohammad’s face was rigid and tense. He didn’t
speak. His eyes only appeared to take notice of us. His eyes moved and
stared at us in a way that made me wonder whether he was still terrified
and in shock or whether he’s able to speak.

His father Atef moved to the end of the bed to show us Mohammad’s
bandaged legs. Before he even touched the blanket, Mohammad’s body
turned more rigid, and he started screaming. It was a terrible sound, a
sound I have never heard before, a sound that made me doubt whether I
was strong enough to witness this.

Like a chilling alarm-bell, the sound ebbs off, only to start again
whenever Mohammad suspects anyone might be about to touch him, when he
hears an airplane, during his sleep when he has nightmares.

Again and again he screams without any external triggers, from
unbearable attacks of pain. Mohammad cries that he wants to die, he
cries that he wants to go back to school, that he wants to see his
friends, that he wants to go home, he cries when he talks to his mother
on the phone.

Again and again, he begs his father to make sure he is given pain killer
injections before his bandages are changed, but his doctor has ordered
to cut back on injections, Mohammad could get addicted to them.

Where it is not covered in bandages – along his arms, on his fingers,
toes and his face – Mohammad’s skin is layered in various colors. The
oldest layer is dark brown, the next layer appears very pale and soft,
and the last layer is the angry, bright pink of his flesh. On his nails,
there are the rests of Henna, from a wedding he went to recently. On his
long fingers and toes, there are several rough, black spots. It is hard
to grasp that these are patches of scorched flesh.

When we talked to him, when we told him that people are asking about
Ibrahim and him, Mohammad briefly calmed down. With visible effort, he
tries to tell us things, he wants to tell us what happened and how it
happened, and he wants to tell it on his own.

About an hour before the Iftar on August 19, Mohammad got bored. He goes
out to play with his 12 year old cousin Ibrahim on the street in front
of his family home and the Wafa hospital in Sija’iya, in Gaza. The boys
are hungry and try to distract themselves until it is time to eat.
Mohammad’s uncle tells him to bring his baby brother Khamis (1 year and
a half old) inside. Mohammad does so and goes back out to play with
Ibrahim. He doesn’t remember hearing something out of the ordinary, he
only remembers playing, and then his memory gets blurred. He keeps
shutting his eyes and his speech cuts off, he has difficulties
concentrating. He remembers his cousin Ibrahim lying on top of him, and
he remembers a burning feeling like fire inside his chest. And above
all, he remembers pain, he is still feeling pain, sometimes all he can
say is pain.

Atef is Mohammed’s father. Atef didn’t see the single missile from the
unmanned drone that hit his son and his nephew. That single targeted
both children specifically. That single missile from the unmanned drone
was not mistakenly fired amidst a barrage of attacks but was the sole
attack in the entire area at that time. Atef remembers being called and
seeing both boys covered in blood. Since that day, his life has turned
upside down.

He was told the boys were lucky that the missile exploded on soft
ground; had it been on asphalt, they would have been killed, like the
seven others that were killed in air strikes that day. Instead, they are
two of five people that survived and were left injured.

After 10 days at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, Atef and his brother Adnan
accompanied their sons to the Israeli Kaplan hospital in Rehovot. Both
men received permission to move inside the hospital compound only. Their
ID’s have been taken away from them. They were granted a little room in
the hospital building, where they can sleep and take a shower. But the
brothers spend most of their time with their sons. When they first
arrived at Kaplan hospital, Mohammad underwent an eight-hour surgery,Ibrahim a five-hour surgery.

Atef translates for Mohammad and functions as his son’s nurse. Every few hours, he helps four nurses amid pained screams of his son to change his position and spare him bedsores.

Atef explained to us about his son’s condition. ( All medical
information are according to the information given by Adnan and ‘Atef,
we were unable to speak to the medics ). His son sustained burns of
various degrees on his face, along his left arm and hand, and on both
lower legs. The missile blew off the flesh of his right hand, abdomen
and both thighs. The medical team at Kaplan hospital replaced these
parts with flesh taken from the back of Mohammad’s thighs. The thighbone on one of his legs is fractured four times and was pushed out of the leg. The medics reset it. It is now fixed with a splinter and screws.

Both legs are twisted with his swollen feet pointing sharply to the
right. At Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, the medical staff had performed a
horizontal incision along the lower end of his abdomen to check for
shrapnel and other injuries. At Kaplan hospital, the procedure was
repeated with two vertical incisions along his lower abdomen. Mohammad doesn’t know this yet, but one testicle had to be removed.

Until a few days ago, Mohammad was mostly sedated, but now, he remains awake until he gets more painkillers. Atef spends most of his time in the small room with his son, feeding him cold water whenever Mohammad asks for it, adjusting pillows, blankets, and a fan, calling for the nurse, and mostly watching helplessly as his son screams in pain. At
night, he barely sleeps. Mohammad has nightmares of missiles attacking him again, he thinks he is burning up from the inside, and the pain becomes intolerable. This morning, Atef finally shaved off Mohammad’s thick hair to prevent him from tearing out more chunks in bouts of pain. Gradually, Mohammad makes attempts to eat, so Atef feeds him soft white bread dunked in cold milk.

Atef would like to install a TV above Mohammad’s bed to distract him
from his pain and fears, but he cannot afford the 700NIS the hospital
asks. Sometimes, he calls in random visitors of other patients just so
Mohammad can see other people beside his father, uncle and the medical team. And indeed, when we got up to leave the room in order to visitnIbrahim, Mohammad got anxious, and he begged his father to tell us to stay, to not leave him alone. He calmed down only when we left our bags with him to guarantee him that we will return.

Like his brother Adnan, Atef looks worn out, exhausted. On top of the
daily turmoil at the hospital that has become his life, he worries about
his 11 children and his wife back in Gaza. He knows that, like Ibrahim’s
siblings, the younger ones have nightmares, too. They have seen their
brothers covered in blood.

Days ago, Atef ran out of credit on his mobile phone, and he hasn’t been
able to talk to his family – or anyone else – since. When we gave him a
telephone card, he immediately called his wife and passed the phone to

When we asked Atef and Adnan what they need, they replied “money”. Like the majority of the adults in Gaza, Adnan and ‘Atef are unemployed and have been living off the meager Gazan equivalent of social security
(wakala). The medical care of their sons is fortunately covered by some
agreement between the PA and Israeli authorities, both men can sleep at the hospital and eat the food prepared for the patients, but after 11
days, they cannot bring themselves to touch it any more. They cannot
afford to refill their mobiles phones to call their wifes and children
back in Gaza, they cannnot afford the sandwiches or drinks at the
Hospital cafeteria, and even if they could pay the considerably higher
prices of Israeli supermarkets, they are not allowed to leave the
hospital to shop. When we met them, they have run out of essentials,
such as soap (which they use in lieu of shampoo/shower gel). They worry how they can possibly sustain their extremely difficult lives and
conditions at the Israeli hospital for the next few months.

We first heard about 12 year old Ibrahim in an article that detailed
that he lost both of his hands while playing football due to a missile
attack. It turns out Ibrahim’s condition is much more severe than that.

After eight days in coma at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, where medical
staff were unable to treat his hands due to lack of adequate equipment,
so they had to cut them off to avoid gangrene, Ibrahim finally regained
consciousness. He was still awake when he passed through Erez crossing two days later together with his cousin (Mohammed who suffered from the same attack) his father and uncle. When they arrived at Kaplan hospital, he had fallen back into a coma. He immediately underwent a five-hour surgery. Since then, Ibrahim has not regained consciousness.

Ibrahim sustained various degrees of burns all over his body. The bones
in both of his legs are fractured, and an alarming portion of his flesh
was blown off in the explosion. After seven days at Kaplan hospital, he
needed blood transfusions due to internal bleeding. Ibhrahim’s liver is
damaged, his lungs are punctured, he has shrapnel in one eye, he is deaf in one ear, he sustained burns of various degrees all over his body.

When we went to see Ibrahim at the intensive care, his condition was
very critical. We were not allowed into the room to avoid infection,
although only a few days earlier, a visitor had been able to see him.
Ibrahim’s doctor explained: “you don’t want to see him, he looks worse
than what you could imagine”. The doctor also said it was unclear
whether Ibrahim will come through in the end.

Adnan is the father of seven children. Adnan is Ibrahim’s father. Adnan
disclosed that the physical condition and the smell of Ibrahim were so
shocking and distressing it cut off anyone’s appetite for days. He said
the doctors encouraged him to talk to his son, and so he tries. He tells his son that he is there with him, but most of the time he doesn’t
know what to say anymore.Adnan is traumatized and physically and mentally exhausted. He is just waiting and hoping.