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One Year on from ‘Operation Protective Edge’ Gaza is Teetering on the Brink of Economic Collapse

Time has stood still in Gaza over the past year.  Since the end of Israel’s third war on the territory in six years – dubbed Operation ‘Protective Edge’ – the people of Gaza have seen precious little of the $3.5bn pledged in aid to rebuild Gaza’s civilian and commercial infrastructure.  Chris Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in April that eight months after the conflict ended ‘not a single home has been rebuilt’ (Global Research, 25 August 2015).  A total of 12,400 housing units were destroyed in the conflict and more than 100,000 people internally displaced.  

From MDGs to SDGs: We Need A Critical Awakening To Succeed

This is an important year for international development with big implications for how we approach future efforts toward poverty eradication.  An Oxfam report published in January 2015 showed that a small elite (1 percent) controls nearly as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population. After 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the eight targets agreed in 2000 to harness global efforts toward reducing extreme poverty – appear to have done very little to arrest inequalities in wealth accumulation and distribution.  Around one billion people still live on less than a $1.25 a day and more than 800 million people don’t have enough food to eat.  

SWAT Teams, Stereotypes and Solidarity: Dealing with Ebola

You can probably best judge a country by its response to a crisis.  In the case of Ebola, President Obama has called for the deployment of SWAT Teams within 24 hours to any hospital in the United States reporting a new case of Ebola.  Is this the best way to respond to a medical crisis?  As The Observer has suggested: ‘western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in west Africa’.  Britain, for example, has set up enhanced screening for Ebola at its main airports but these measures appear unlikely to stop the spread of the disease which can be carried for up to three weeks before symptoms are exhibited. 

Gaza: who is really paying the “heavy price” of Israel’s war?

There is a new mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast dedicated to the children of Gaza who have been subjected to their third Israeli onslaught in six years.  The mural draws upon what is possibly the most iconic and powerful image from the Vietnam War; that of a heavily burnt naked child (Kim Phúc) running down a road after a napalm attack on her village.  It captures in an instant the effects of lethal, indiscriminately applied force on defenceless civilians which is something we have witnessed repeatedly in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its ‘Operation Protective Edge’ on 8 July.

Food Bank Ireland

Two conflicting narratives have dominated the aftermath of the financial crisis, particularly over the past year.  On the one hand, the Irish and British governments are suggesting that we are over the worst and on the path to a more prosperous future and, on the other, frontline care providers speak of people cut adrift by the state and left in highly vulnerable, dangerous and impoverished conditions.  Barometers of this impoverishment include rising homelessness, the distribution of food parcels and hot meals to those on the poverty threshold, and the use of foodbanks.  Statistics on foodbank use in the UK released by the Trussell Trust for 2013-14 showed over 900,000 people in crisis being provided with emergency food.  This total represented a 163 percent increase on usage compared to the previous year with the number of new foodbanks (45 percent increase) unable to keep pace with demand.  

Food banks in the north of Ireland

Development and Film: Are we getting the bigger picture?

Philip French, who recently retired as film critic for The Observer after 50 years of insightful and informative reviews, described cinema as ‘the great art form of the 20th century’ and suggested that ‘this century is continuing the same way’.  Cinema continues to enjoy a popular status in our cultural lives despite the multitude of digital and online access points for movies and television at home.  We still enjoy the social activity of cinema-going and the opportunity to view films on the big screen.  Given its capacity as a conveyor of knowledge, images, messages and issues to a large, international audience, film has immense importance to development practitioners yet according to Lewis et al remains an ‘under-studied medium for development knowledge’ (2013: 20).  In an interesting research working paper, Lewis et al consider the role that film has played in considering ‘key themes within the landscape of global inequalities and power relationships’ (ibid).  They contrast how a range of movies from popular entertainments to more serious-minded fare represent the global South and convey development issues.  

Death by Remote Control: The Deadly use of Drones

On 12 December 2013, a wedding party in Radda, capital of Yemen’s al-Bayda province was struck by an American drone.  The media reported fatalities ranged from 10 to 17 with an additional 30 people wounded in the attack.  The drone struck a convoy of vehicles returning from a wedding when it seems the intended targets were members of al Qaeda.  This deadly attack came seven months after a speech by President Obama in which he pledged to ‘extend oversight of lethal actions’ and raise the threshold for the use of drones toward ensuring the protection of civilians.  He said ‘my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists - insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.’  He added that ‘before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured - the highest standard we can set.’  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) which closely monitors the use of drones has found that covert drone strikes have killed more people in the six months following President Obama’s speech than the six months be

Drones are remotely piloted unmanned aircraft and were initially deployed in the gathering of intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance.  Since 1999, however, they have been used in a more deadly role in ‘extraterritorial lethal counter-terrorism operations’ which the Guardian’s Seumas Milne describes as double speak for extrajudicial summary executions and ‘a wanton and criminal killing spree’.  The chief advantage of drones to the US military says Milne is that they ‘can continue to demonstrate global authority and impunity without boots on the ground and loss of US life.’  

Why governments are blaming the poor for their own poverty

We are living through the severest economic depression since the 1920s with accelerating unemployment, flat-lining growth and a sharp rise in poverty levels across Europe.  That much seems indisputable.  But two questions that have created societal discord and, in some cases like Greece, severe upheaval are: who is to blame for this crisis and how do we get out of it?  A worrying trend in the public debate on these questions is the increasing use of stereotypes that are designed very specifically to blame the poor for their own poverty.  ‘Shirkers’, ‘skivers’ and ‘scroungers’ have all too evidently  and readily entered public parlance to denote the idle working-class, content to coast on benefits rather than do a day’s work.  A graph capturing the number of times the word ‘scrounger’ is used by UK newspapers (excluding The Times and Financial Times) from 1994 to 2012 shows a spike in usage from just over 500 at the start of the 2008 recession to 3,500 in 2012 (Edwards, 2013). 

The press in Britain may be taking its cue from the government with the British Chancellor, George Osborne, in a speech to the 2012 Conservative party conference asking ‘where’s the fairness for the shift worker leaving home in the dark hours of the morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of the next door neighbour sleeping off a life in benefits?’ (Guardian, 11 April 2013).  Anna Coote and Sarah Lyall from the New Economics Foundation regard Osborne’s contrasting of the ‘strivers’ as hard working, reliable and socially responsible with the jobless ‘skivers’ as unreliable and unproductive as ‘pure fiction’.  Coote and Lyall suggest that ‘people hardly ever choose to be in or out of work’, something determined by the wider economy.  They add that Osborne’s comments ignore the legion of unpaid carers at home and in the community without whom ‘the economy would grind to a halt’ (Ibid). 

Call for Irish Ban on Imports from Israeli Settlements

An Irish parliamentary committee is to call for a ban on imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories following a presentation by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade unanimously agreed to write to the Irish Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, ‘calling for a national ban on imports from illegal Israeli settlements’. In its presentation to the committee, EAPPI described the settlements as the ‘biggest barrier to peace’ in the region. 

According to the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, there are 124 settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) with 501,856 settlers living in the West Bank and 190,425 in East Jerusalem. In a Parliamentary Briefing in June this year, the Quakers described settlements as ’illegal under international law, a major cause of poverty amongst Palestinians and an obstacle to peace’. Like the EAPPI in Ireland, the Quakers in Britain have called for a ban on imports from settlements saying that ‘it is the role of governments to protect the consumer from purchasing goods from an illegal source and so is calling on the UK Government to impose a ban’. 

Haneen Zoabi: A politician worth voting for

In this part of the world we have become accustomed to politicians rushing to the aid of ailing bankers or filing expense claims for fictitious second mortgages. In the case of MP Douglas Hogg, this was taken to the extreme of procuring public funds for the maintenance of his moat. In the wake of the expenses scandal at Westminster, Transparency International, the body that fights corruption in public life around the world, found that it had ‘grievously undermined the legitimacy of parliament’ and severely dented public confidence in their representatives. In Ireland, the recently published Mahon Tribunal (March 2012) established to investigate corruption in the planning process found that corruption was ‘endemic and systemic’ and ‘affected every level of Irish political life’ (Irish Times, 24 March 2012).