Summary

Over 1m Palestinians under poverty line in besieged Gaza: UN

Nov 25, 2020 | 🚀 Fathership

A man rides his bicycle cart past closed shops as Palestinians call for a general strike to protest against Bahrain's economic workshop for US's Middle East 'peace plan', in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, June 25, 2019 [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Geneva, Switzerland – The Israel-led blockade of the Gaza Strip cost the Palestinian enclave more than $16bn and pushed more than one million people below the poverty line in just more than 10 years, according to a new United Nations report.

The document issued on Wednesday by the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to the General Assembly covered the years between 2007 and 2018.

It called for an immediate stop to the continuing siege that has caused a near-collapse of economic activities in Gaza and a poverty rate of 56 percent.

“The situation is going to get worse if the blockade continues,” said Mahmoud Elkhafif, coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People of UNCTAD.

“This unfair blockade in which two million Palestinians are kept inside Gaza should be lifted immediately. They should be allowed to move freely, do business, trade with the outside world and reconnect with their families outside of the Strip,” Elkhafif added.

Since June 2007, people of Gaza have been confined to the 365 square kilometres enclave of the Strip and subject to a land, air and sea embargo. The entry of goods has been reduced to a minimum, while external trade and exports have been stopped. Meanwhile, the population has very limited access to safe water and lack regular electricity supply or even a proper sewage system.

“Unless Palestinians in the Strip get access to the outside world, it is difficult to see anything but underdevelopment being the fate of the Gaza Palestinian society,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies at UNCTAD. “It is really shocking that in the 21st century, two million people can be left in that kind of condition.”

In addition to the prolonged blockade and restrictions by neighbouring Egypt, the Hamas-run enclave endured three Israeli military operations in 2007, 2012 and 2014 that severely damaged civilian infrastructure and caused heavy casualties.

At least 3,793 Palestinians were killed, some 18,000 were wounded and more than half of Gaza’s population was displaced, according to the UNCTAD’s report.

More than 1,500 commercial and industrial enterprises were damaged, along with some 150,000 household units and public infrastructure including energy, water, sanitation, health and educational facilities and government buildings.

As a result of the siege and the wars on Gaza, the poverty rate jumped from 40 in 2007 to 56 percent in 2017, meaning that more than 1 million Palestinians have no survival means. The report estimates that bringing these segment of the population above the poverty line would require an injection of funds amounting to $838m, four times the amount needed in 2007.

Between 2007 and 2018, tge economy in Gaza grew by less than 5 percent, and its share in the Palestinian economy decreased from 31 percent to 18 percent in 2018. As a result, GDP per capita shrank by 27 percent.

Meanwhile, the isolation of the Strip has not prevented the coronavirus pandemic from reaching Gaza, worsening an already critical situation. As of Monday, 14,768 people had contracted COVID-19, with 65 deaths.

On Monday, health authorities in Gaza warned of an imminent catastrophe if Israel continued to block humanitarian access as well as the entry of necessary health equipment and medical supplies. Hospitals and healthcare staff are in need of protective clothing, ventilators and beds.

“The health crisis is exposing the underlying conditions that have been worsening over a decade,” said Kozul-Wright.

Addressing UN reporters in Geneva, the UNCTAD official said he was hopeful there would be a change in Israeli-Palestinian relations under the new US administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew its funding of UNRWA, the UN agency that supports five million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

“The $200m cut was a huge hit to the Palestinian economy. It will be interesting to see if the new administration will go back to its decision towards UNRWA,” said Kozul-Wright. “However, even before 2016, the human rights of Palestinians and the international law as codified in the UN resolution were ignored and political tensions were high.”

The report called for the end of the blockade in the context of Security Council resolution 1860 (January 8, 2009) to allow Gaza’s economy to reintegrate with the rest of the world and the reconstruction of all essential infrastructure.

It also called for the restoration of the basic human rights of people in Gaza, their right to free movement, healthcare, study and work, and recommended that the state of Palestine be enabled to develop offshore natural gasfields discovered in the 1990s in the Palestinian territorial waters off the Gaza coast.

These revenues would allow some financial respite and funding for the reconstruction of essential infrastructure.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

PAP members call on party to embrace diversity and be open to opposing views

Nov 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership
Two People’s Action Party (PAP) members have called on the ruling party to embrace diversity and listen to opposing views, with one Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, going as far as to say that PAP has to fix its "empathy deficit and grow more comfortable with understanding views we disagree with".

The MP for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was among some party activists who spoke at the annual PAP convention on Sunday (Nov 28). There were about 2,000 party activists as well as members from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) who attended the event both physically at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre and online.

Ms Gho Sze Kee, branch secretary of the party’s Bukit Timah branch, also talked about how the party needed to introduce a diversity of perspectives to avoid the dangers of groupthink and being part of an echo chamber.

Addressing fellow party activists in her speech, Ms Nadia acknowledged that there is a tendency for people to live in “bubbles”, which refer to how individuals are often surrounded by others who look or think the same way as them, and that these “bubbles” have led to social divisions.

And these differences have played out online in the way party members have responded to opposing views as if they were threats.

However, she urged party members to be conscious of their own inherent biases and not view these differences as a threat, but as opportunities to have hard conversations.

“I hope we have them, and in listening, be at least open to the possibility of changing our minds,” she added.

“More than any trait during this time, I call for empathy that goes two ways. Empathy should drive us to amplify voices of others, to join forces for a shared cause, for our future.

“We have always been a party of action, and empathy is how we will continue to stay relevant, and continue to take meaningful action for our fellow Singaporeans.”

Recounting her own experience as a party activist since 2012, Ms Gho, 42, said PAP’s biggest pressing need is to ensure that it renews its members at every level of the party’s hierarchy, and not only in the candidates it fields during a general election.

Citing some branch-level statistics, she said that there are only 12 branch secretaries who are female, compared with 81 who are male.

“We need to ensure our party’s membership at the branch level truly reflects the diversity of Singapore. And we have to make sure that diversity counts when anticipating ground needs, giving inputs to policy formulation, and communicating our messages to our voters,” said Ms Gho.

When asked by reporters later if her point about PAP needing to embrace people from diverse backgrounds extends to people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Ms Gho agreed.

Recurring theme

The need to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints was a recurring theme at Sunday’s party convention.

PAP’s secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Singapore’s Prime Minister, made similar points in his speech.

He had said that the party must show that it is not afraid of opposing views or being challenged, and that voters today want to see more debate, contestation and questioning of established ideas.

“We welcome good ideas, regardless of who proposed them… We also have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly,” said Mr Lee.

Speaking to reporters after the event, MP for MacPherson ward Tin Pei Ling said that embracing diverse viewpoints would strengthen trust.

“It’s not just me pushing things to you and you have to accept it, or I just say things that you like to listen. But I explain to you so that even if we may not see eye-to-eye 100 per cent on everything, you know where I am coming from, that it’s not self-serving,” she added.

“And so, it comes back to what are we in politics for? It’s about serving people. And if that’s the case, then, having that empathy, bridging those differences, listening to people and to willingly engage and see whether we can have a midpoint perhaps, and letting you know where I come from. I think that’s important.”

Also speaking at Sunday’s convention was Mr Ling Weihong, 40, branch secretary of Sengkang Central, which is currently under the Workers’ Party.

He talked about the difficulties operating in an opposition ward, but said that his team would continue to work to win back Sengkang GRC, though he acknowledged that it would be an uphill task.

Representing the trade unions, Mr Sanjeev Tiwari, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, talked about the need to reinforce the strong ties between NTUC and PAP.

He said the collaboration between both organisations is mostly happening within the leadership level and that it needs to be extended to all members of both organisations.