Update from the Occupied Palestinian Territories

1 July 2009 - 12:00am

War on Want is currently in Palestine, visiting our grassroots partners and examining the situation on the ground.

The aim of the trip is to support and express solidarity with our partners - and to strengthen the links between the frontline struggle for justice in Palestine and our campaigns in the UK.

Our team of John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, Gemma Houldey our Conflict Zones International Programmes Officer and Yasmin Khan our Senior Campaigner on Global Justice will be sending regular updates via Twitter from Palestine.

1 July 2009

5:38pm (local time)
Now visiting our partners in alternative information centre in beit sahour and a heated debate on regional geo-politics!

Just walked into a house fire bombed by settlers recently coz internationals visited. Can still smell the smoke, childrens toys on the floor

400 settlers in hebron, 20,000 soldiers protecting them. Just seen soldier pull out a rifle & aim it at palestinians kids. Atmosphere tense

Cannot believe what we r seeing. ground littered with rubbish, glass, stones & bottles of urine thrown at palestinians by settlers

Walking thru old city of hebron. Isreali settlers have come into the city and set up israeli administration here & terrorised the population

Just getting info 4 boycotting israeli goods in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] in a local shop. barcodes which start with 729 r israeli, even jerico water bottles!

Now with popular committee which resists Wall in Bethlehem. Members discussing ways to respond to 9 house demolition orders issued yesterday

30 June 2009

11:28pm (local time)
Met Sawt el Amel 2day, amazing org workin on labour rights of Palestinians in Israel. Currently battling israeli corporations 4 gaza workers

Palestinians in Israel R not even 2nd class citizens but forgotten people, ignored by Pal Authority & classed as absentees on their own land

Just met the arab association for human rights working on palestinians rights in israel. Shocking evidence about how racism is entrenched in the israeli

just past sign 4 Jenin yet we r not in West Bank but Israel where we share a bus with young soldiers carrying rifles & there is little warmth or welcome

Jolted awake by check point. Resentment at ritual humiliation for palestinians exacerbated by unbeliveably loud shouting by IDF [Israel Defense Force] female soldier

29 June 2009

(local time)
An activist took us 2 the highest point in Ramallah 2nite where we could see Tel Aviv & the Med sea. Couldn't believe it was close, yet a different world

Just found out veolia involved in waste management from settlement farms in jordan valley. Another reason to step up the boycott campaign against them!

jordan valley most shocking part of trip so far. Palestinians live in plastic tents nxt 2 swanky israeli farms making produce 4 uk supermarkets. Sickening

Aargh! After months of efforts our attempts to get into gaza have failed at 11th hour. Gutted :( gaza prison impenetrable.

27 June 2009

11:30pm (local time)
Naomi klein speech on BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] was great. War on Want colleagues Yasmin & Gemma now taking on twitter duty for next week, hopefully from Gaza.

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Now in ramallah to hear Naomi klein speak on israel boycott. Her support for BDS as Jewish Canadian is front page news here. Hall packed.

Checkpoint between nablus & ramallah closed. Huge tailbacks, on day int'l media announces easing of restrictions. Dont believe all u read!

First a meeting with brilliant palestinian human rights group al haq. for current case v uk govt support 4 israel.

Going to conference on reunifying the left in palestine. Normal politics has been squeezed out by fatah-hamas break & israeli occupation.

26 June 2009

2:34pm (local time)
Now back in bi'lin village. Popular committee here has kept up wall demos each friday for 5 yrs, despite many casualties. So inspiring.

Calming down now. Got big mouthful of tear gas thru not paying attention. Focusing too much on photos and tweets!

Israelis now firing tear gas down at us. Palertinian kids respond with stones from home-made slings. David v goliath again.

Now at start of demo in bilin. Good mix of local villagers and int'l solidarity activists. Waiting for friday prayers to end b4 start.

Bedouin camels graze by wall. Bedouin themselves displaced by settler-only road to ben gurion airport. They are the very poorest here.

At apartheid wall in north Jerusalem. All houses within 100 metres of wall slated for demolition. Whole areas deserted. Eerily quiet.

Off today to weekly bi'lin demo with War on Want partner Stop the Wall. for must-see video of one of the demos.

Then stuck another hour in mass traffic jam at checkpoint on road back to ramallah. Perfect time to tweet but mobile had run out. Grrr...

Met last night with amazing women's cooperative in qalqilya, producing organic olive oil & honey under banner 'women can do everything'.

25 June 2009

3:01pm (local time)
Weird and totally new problem is settlers apparently breeding pigs which are sent onto palestinian land to destroy crops. Farmers furious.

Just heard from farmers' co-op in anin village. Major problem is water as israelis dig deep boreholes from behind the Wall & take all of it.

Coming into Jenin, site of 2003 massacre when israeli forces invaded the refugee camp. Many homes demolished. Over 70 killed

Just passed thru nablus on way to meet olive farmers in jenin. Nablus coffee good, sweet & big on cardamom. 4th checkpoint just gone....

24 June 2009

4:22pm (local time)
Just passed thru checkpoint on bus to ramallah. More watchtowers, army, guns, walls. Strange how insecure the 'security' makes you feel.

Bullet holes on many houses. 30 to 40 israeli soldiers drove thru aida camp in jeeps last friday, shooting indiscriminately. Why?

Check out for youth magazine from the camps of the west bank.

Aida refugee camp is home to almost 5k people. Size of just 2 football pitches. No health facilities at all.

Now in bethlehem at aida refugee camp. Over 7 million palestinians are now refugees or IDPs [Internally Displaced People]

23 June 2009

6:59pm (local time)
Jerusalem is Arab city of culture 2009. Israel tried to stop it from happening, but failed. Mabrouk! [Congratulations in Arabic]

Hearing again & again how int'l pressure is now having impact on israel. Both govt & business afraid of becoming next apartheid. BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] works!

Amazing to see scale of tramway being built to link jerusalem to jewish settlements in west bank. But no stops in palestinian areas of city.

22 June 2009

5:05pm (local time)
Just been told that US aid to israel has increased under obama, from $3bn to $3.5bn a year. So much for political pressure.

Ma'ale Adumim, one of the biggest settlements, is an unreal luxury island built on occupied land. Just shocking.

Now standing under the separation wall in east jerusalem. No pretence here that it's for security. Just to cut palestinian area in two.

Jerusalem municipality is meant to serve all areas in east city. But there's no sewerage for palestinian areas, only for jewish settlers.

On tour of israeli settlements around jerusalem. All barred to palestinians, guarded by private security and police.

War on Want launches Sri Lanka appeal

30 June 2009 - 2:49pm

You will have no doubt seen the recent media coverage of devastation in northern Sri Lanka following the massive offensive which left thousands dead. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and communities.

We need your help today to help people rebuild their lives following this conflict.

‘Rich countries snub poor'

25 June 2009 - 4:56pm

NEWS HOOK: Friday, 26 June 2009 UN summit on world financial crisis ends in New York

UK helps block radical UN response to finance crisis

Millions of people in developing and developed countries face growing hardship after Britain with other rich European countries and the US blocked a radical UN response to the global financial crisis.

This warning comes today from the anti-poverty charity War on Want amid the UN summit on the crisis in New York.

The charity said the summit communiqué expected to be adopted in full tomorrow made significant references to fundamental issues such as debt, tax, aid conditionality and regulation.

It added that the document would also include the important recognition that poor countries are not to blame for a crisis which is hitting them hardest.

But the communiqué fails to agree action on the urgent progressive changes needed to transform the global economy. Instead it declares a commitment to more of the same policies that War on Want argues led to the crisis.

The document calls for the conclusion of the Doha round of trade negotiations - a move that War on Want says would deepen unemployment already soaring due to the crisis.

The charity says that conclusion of the Doha round threatens 7.5 million workers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia and Uruguay, and millions more in other countries.

In a report to the conference, a UN commission led by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz cited the role trade has played as a cause of the crisis.

Among his proposals, Stiglitz argued the need for the world economic system to undergo a major transformation.

Yet the communiqué ignores the report's key proposal - a powerful global economic coordination council within the UN to bring more just and sustainable change than offered by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Wealthy countries like Britain have tried to block UN proposals for radical action on the global economy and used the summit to reaffirm support for a failed free market agenda. Millions of the world's poor people face worse hardship so long as rich nations dictate the rules of the global economy."

According to War on Want, before the conference the UK and other western governments tried to water down proposals with moves including threats of a boycott and publicly rubbishing the summit. The charity also pointed to signs that the UK had pressed developing countries to downgrade their own support for the conference. British premier Gordon Brown refused to send a cabinet minister to the event, but will attend the G8 summit in July, which War on Want brands outdated and elitist.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

A radical alternative to the G20

22 June 2009 - 4:11pm

The UN summit on the global economic crisis took place in New York at the end of June. Yet wealthy countries like Britain have tried to block UN proposals for radical action on the global economy and used the summit to reaffirm support for a failed free market agenda.

Brown told: ‘Rich don't have the answers to the crisis'

22 June 2009 - 11:44am


UN summit, 24-26 June, New York

G8 summit, 8-10 July, Italy

Criticism of prime minister's commitment to a ‘new politics' as he shuns the UN but attends the G8

Campaigners today criticised Gordon Brown for refusing to send a cabinet minister to the United Nations summit on the economic crisis (1), but personally attending the 'outdated and elitist' G8 meeting in July.

War on Want, Jubilee Debt Campaign and the World Development Movement argue that as the vast majority of the world's countries are not invited to the G20 or G8 meetings, the UN summit is vital in enabling those least responsible for the crisis to make fair and effective decisions on the future of the world economy.

A commission, chaired by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, has already devised a series of radical recommendations for global economic reform. But the three organisations claim the UK and other western governments have been trying to water down proposals, including threats of boycott and public rubbishing of the summit. They say there are signs that Britain has been putting pressure on developing countries to downgrade their own support for the summit. And UN diplomats have revealed that UK government officials have been visiting developing country capitals in order to "persuade" them not to send high ranking officials to the UN conference.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Brown is determined to see off calls for regulation and continue on the path of free market fundamentalism at all costs. The UK government has made no secret of its efforts to rubbish the UN process. Alarmingly, it now looks like the government is also going out of its way to undermine the involvement of developing countries as well."

Nick Dearden, the Jubilee Debt Campaign director, said: "If we're ever going to see a more just economy, the prime minister and other western leaders need to start listening to the majority of the world. It's surely become apparent over the last 12 months that the rich don't have the answers. If we need to clean up politics in the UK, it's needed even more internationally, where the rule of the richest is still taken for granted."

Vicky Cann, campaigns officer at the World Development Movement, said: "The G8 is an outdated and elitist forum. The G20 is still unrepresentative and did not generate the radical ideas needed to make the global economy work for people and the planet. The focus on pushing free trade and rushing through the WTO Doha trade deal is a smokescreen behind which rich governments are hiding to keep big business happy. The World Bank, IMF and WTO need to be radically reformed and ideally replaced - not given more power over those countries which did nothing to create this crisis, but which are suffering most from it."

Campaigners are particularly anxious that the summit agrees that transformative, structural change to the global economy is needed, not simply tinkering at the edges. Particular support is given to professor Stiglitz's proposals for:

  • a powerful global economic coordination council within the UN, which would bring a more just and sustainable form of global economic coordination than is currently offered by the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation.
  • a debt restructuring mechanism, leading to cancellation of unpayable and illegitimate developing country debt.
  • an end to the practice of forcing economic policies on developing countries, and radical reform of international financial institutions and the WTO.
  • new arrangements for a global reserve currency to replace the dollar.

Campaigners are also calling for climate change to be tackled through the UN and fear the G8 will pre-empt an international discussion at Copenhagen in December.


Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)7983 550728

Nick Dearden, Jubilee Debt Campaign (+44) (0)7932 335464

Kate Blagojevic, World Development Movement media office (+44) (0)7711 875345


1. United Nations Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development on 24-26 June in New York City.


    Downsizing where it's not needed

    22 June 2009 - 12:00am

    » Original article at The Morning Star

    The much-heralded UN summit on the global economic crisis kicks off in New York tomorrow. The conference has been tasked with building consensus on how to deal with the crisis and its impact on international development.

    With an additional 200 million people now facing extreme poverty as a result of the worldwide recession, the need could not be more urgent.

    Yet the summit is fast turning into a showdown between developing and developed nations over an even more fundamental question.

    Do we want to see key issues of global economic governance opened up to the full membership of the UN, or are we happy to leave such issues in the hands of self-appointed groups such as the G8 and G20? In a nutshell, who should run the world?

    The first-ever meeting of the G8 was held back in 1975, and actually involved only six countries - France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and Britain.

    Even with the subsequent addition of Canada and Russia, the group laid no claim to legitimacy.

    The decision to turn to the G20 for its London summit in April was a realistic acknowledgement that no solutions would be meaningful without involving countries such as China, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. The American century is now behind us, and European hegemony a very distant memory.

    But even this expanded grouping still leaves 172 countries without a seat at the table.

    South Africa is the only African member of the G20, the Saudis are the lone representative of the Middle East and both Latin America and Asia are restricted to a tiny number of seats.

    The issue at stake is nothing less than the future of the world economic order. It is no surprise that most countries want the debate opened up to the G192 - the full UN membership.

    Yet developed country governments have poured scorn on the UN summit, and many have chosen to vote with their feet.

    Gordon Brown hosted the G20 summit and is preparing to fly over to Italy for the G8 in July. Yet he has no intention of gracing the UN with his presence. Although the summit is supposed to be held "at the highest level" of world leaders, Britain is planning to snub the event by sending a junior minister.

    Worse still, there are now signs that Britain has been putting pressure on developing countries to downgrade their own support for the summit. Diplomats at the UN have revealed that British government officials have been visiting developing country capitals in order to "persuade" them not to send high-ranking officials to the UN conference.

    Such strong-arm tactics have been widely condemned.

    Britain has made no secret of its opposition to the UN process, including the recommendation by the commission chaired by professor Joseph Stiglitz of a new global economic council under the UN's auspices to co-ordinate responses to the crisis.

    This is all part of Brown's campaign to fight off calls for greater regulation of the City of London and to press for more liberalisation of the financial markets through a swift conclusion to the Doha round of world trade talks.

    Rather than pandering to the interests of transnational capital, Brown would do better to heed the calls for economic justice.

    The people of the developing world have done nothing to cause the global crisis, but they are suffering its worst effects.

    The UN is the only forum which allows their voices to be heard. So it must serve as the forum for negotiations about our common economic future.

    John Hilary is executive director of War on Want

    John Hilary speech at Compass conference can now be viewed online

    19 June 2009 - 11:23am

    The Compass conference was held in London on 13 June 2009 under the title 'No Turning Back'. John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, addressed the opening plenary alongside Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, Caroline Lucas MEP and CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes.

    ‘UK must end sweatshops exploitation'

    17 June 2009 - 3:59pm


    London, 6.30 pm, Wednesday 17 June 2009

    Bangladeshi garment workers leader attacks Primark, Tesco and Asda over exploitation

    7p an hour workers spark unions call

    British prime minister Gordon Brown tonight (Wednesday) faces mounting pressure to stop UK retailers exploiting people who make their clothing overseas.

    Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, a Bangladeshi trade union, will speak out in London over Primark, Tesco and Asda employees paid as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks.

    Haque will tell a public meeting: "British companies demand factories produce their cheap, good-quality clothes to meet fast fashion deadlines. But they ignore the lack of a living wage, proper overtime rates, paid maternity leave and union rights. The UK government must act to halt this abuse."

    The meeting has been organised by the federation's partner, anti-poverty charity War on Want.

    Its latest sweatshops report attacked Primark, Tesco and Asda over growing hardship for their garment workers. All of the employees interviewed earned far below the living wage of £44.82 (5333 taka) a month.

    War on Want says British ministers should regulate UK retailers as the charity publishes new evidence that the Bangladeshi government is failing to enforce labour regulations on issues such as pay and trade union rights.

    The evidence,  in a briefing containing new research , including interviews with over 1200 garment workers, has been produced by the charity, the federation and the Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom Society.

    In addition, the briefing shows how the Bangladeshi government fails to implement employees' rights. These include pay, overtime wages, working hours, days off, paid holidays, health and safety, union rights and freedom from bosses' abuse.

    Hana Begum, a Bangladeshi garment worker blacklisted by employers with other activists after a strike over layoffs and reduced benefit, will also address the meeting. Begum's decade in the garment industry still leaves her too poor to raise her six-year-old son Mehemedi, who lives with his grandmother 60 miles away.

    NOTE TO EDITORS: The meeting will take place from 6.30-7.45 pm today (Wednesday 17 June) at Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT. Besides Amin and Begum, other speakers will be War on Want executive director John Hilary, Graciela Romero, the charity's international programmes dir ector, and Niaz Alam, from London Pensions and Unite. Admission is free.

    CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)207 549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728





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