Gaza and the threat of world war

September 20th, 2014

Jo\n Pilger; 17/9/14

“There is a taboo,” said the visionary Edward Said, “on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free.”
For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those once intimidated into silence can’t look away now. Staring at them from their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of others, such as Canada and Australian, in this epic crime.
The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day.

When Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine “the greatest moral issue of our time”, he spoke on behalf of true civilisation, not that which empires invent. In Latin America, the governments of Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador have made their stand on Gaza. Each of these countries has known its own dark silence when immunity for mass murder was sponsored by the same godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them.
Unlike Netanyahu and his killers, Washington’s pet fascists in Latin America didn’t concern themselves with moral window dressing. They simply murdered, and left the bodies on rubbish dumps. For Zionism, the goal is the same: to dispossess and ultimately destroy an entire human society: a truth that 225 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have compared with the genesis of genocide.
Nothing has changed since the Zionists’ infamous “Plan D” in 1948 that ethnically cleansed an entire people. Recently, on the website of the Times of Israel were the words: “Genocide is Permissible”. A deputy speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Moshe Feiglin, demands a policy of mass expulsion into concentration camps. An MP, Ayelet Shaked, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, calls for the extermination of Palestinian mothers to prevent them giving birth to what she calls “little snakes”.
For years, reporters have watched Israeli soldiers bait Palestinian children by abusing them through loud-speakers. Then they shoot them dead. For years, reporters have known about Palestinian women about to give birth and refused passage through a roadblock to a hospital; and the baby has died, and sometimes the mother.
For years, reporters have known about Palestinian doctors and ambulance crews given permission by Israeli commanders to attend the wounded or remove the dead, only to be shot through the head.
For years, reporters have known about stricken people prevented from getting life-saving treatment, or shot dead when they’ve tried to reach a clinic for chemotherapy treatment. One elderly lady with a walking stick was murdered in this way – a bullet in her back.
When I put the facts of this crime to Dori Gold, a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, he said, “Unfortunately in every kind of warfare there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. But the case you cite was not terrorism. Terrorism means putting the cross-hairs of the sniper’s rifle on a civilian deliberately.”
I replied, “That’s exactly what happened.”
“No,” he said, “it did not happen.”
Such a lie or delusion is repeated unerringly by Israel’s apologists. As the former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges points out, the reporting of such an atrocity invariably ends up as “caught in the cross-fire”. For as long as I have covered the Middle East, much if not most of the Western media has colluded in this way.
In one of my films, a Palestinian cameraman, Imad Ghanem, lies helpless while soldiers from the “most moral army in the world” blew both his legs off. This atrocity was given two lines on the BBC website. Thirteen journalists were killed by Israel in its latest bloodfest in Gaza. All were Palestinian.
-Who knows their names?
Something is different now. There is a huge revulsion across the world; and the voices of sensible liberalism are worried. Their hand wringing and specious choir of “equal blame” and “Israel’s right to defend itself” will not wash any more; neither will the smear of anti-Semitism. Neither will their selective cry that “something must be done” about Islamic fanatics but nothing must be done about Zionist fanatics.
One sensible liberal voice, the novelist Ian McEwan, was being celebrated as a sage by the Guardian while the children of Gaza were blown to bits. This is the same Ian McEwan who ignored the pleading of Palestinians not to accept the Jerusalem Prize for literature. “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed,” said McEwan.
If they could speak, the dead of Gaza might say: Stay in bed, great novelist, for your very presence smoothes the bed of racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and murder – no matter the weasel words you uttered as you claimed your prize.
Understanding the sophistry and power of liberal propaganda is key to understanding why Israel’s outrages endure; why the world looks on; why sanctions are never applied to Israel; and why nothing less than a total boycott of everything Israeli is now a measure of basic human decency.
The most incessant propaganda says Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. Khaled Hroub, the Cambridge University scholar considered a world leading authority on Hamas, says this phrase is “never used or adopted by Hamas, even in its most radical statements”. The oft-quoted “anti-Jewish” 1988 Charter was the work of “one individual and made public without appropriate Hamas consensus … The author was one of the ‘old guard'”; the document is regarded as an embarrassment and never cited.
Hamas has repeatedly offered a 10-year truce with Israel and has long settled for a two-state solution. When Medea Benjamin, the fearless Jewish American activist, was in Gaza, she carried a letter from Hamas leaders to President Obama that made clear the government of Gaza wanted peace with Israel. It was ignored. I personally know of many such letters carried in good faith, ignored or dismissed.
The unforgivable crime of Hamas is a distinction almost never reported: it is the only Arab government to have been freely and democratically elected by its people. Worse, it has now formed a government of unity with the Palestinian Authority. A single, resolute Palestinian voice – in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court – is the most feared threat.
Since 2002, a pioneering media unit at Glasgow University has produced remarkable studies of reporting and propaganda in Israel/Palestine. Professor Greg Philo and his colleagues were shocked to find a public ignorance compounded by TV news reporting. The more people watched, the less they knew. Greg Philo says the problem is not “bias” as such. Reporters and producers are as moved as anyone by the suffering of Palestinians; but so imposing is the power structure of the media – as an extension of the state and its vested interests – that critical facts and historical context are routinely suppressed.
Incredibly, less than 9% of young viewers interviewed by Professor Philo’s team were aware that Israel was the occupying power, and that the illegal settlers were Jewish; many believed them to be Palestinian. The term “Occupied Territories” was seldom explained. Words such as “murder”, “atrocity”, “cold-blooded killing” were used only to describe the deaths of Israelis.
Recently, a BBC reporter, David Loyn, was critical of another British journalist, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. Snow was so moved by what he had seen in Gaza he went on YouTube to make a humanitarian appeal. What concerned the BBC man was that Snow had breached protocol and been emotional in his YouTube piece.
“Emotion,” wrote Loyn, “is the stuff of propaganda and news is against propaganda”. Did he write this with a straight face? In fact, Snow’s delivery was calm. His crime was to have strayed outside the boundaries of fake impartiality. Unforgivably, he didn’t censor himself.
In 1937, with Adolf Hitler in power, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times in London, wrote the following in his diary: “I spend my nights in taking out anything which will hurt [German] susceptibilities and in dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them.”
On July 30, the BBC offered viewers a masterclass in the Dawson Principle. The diplomatic correspondent of the program Newsnight, Mark Urban, gave five reasons why the Middle East was in turmoil. None included the historic or contemporary role of the British government. The Cameron government’s dispatch of ?8 billion worth of arms and military equipment to Israel was airbrushed. Britain’s massive arms shipment to Saudi Arabia was airbrushed. Britain’s role in the destruction of Libya was airbrushed. Britain’s support for the tyranny in Egypt was airbrushed.
As for the British invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, they didn’t happen, either.
The only expert witness on this BBC program was an academic called Toby Dodge from the London School of Economics. What viewers needed to know was that Dodge had been a special adviser to David Petraeus, the American general largely responsible for the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this, too, was airbrushed.
In matters of war and peace, BBC-style illusions of impartiality and credibility do more to limit and control public discussion than tabloid distortion. As Greg Philo pointed out, Jon Snow’s moving commentary on YouTube was limited to whether the Israeli assault on Gaza was proportionate or reasonable. What was missing – and is almost always missing – was the essential truth of the longest military occupation in modern times: a criminal enterprise backed by western governments from Washington to London to Canberra.
As for the myth that “vulnerable” and “isolated” Israel is surrounded by enemies, Israel is actually surrounded by strategic allies. The Palestinian Authority, bankrolled, armed and directed by the US, has long colluded with Tel Aviv. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu are the tyrannies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar – if the World Cup ever gets to Qatar, count on Mossad to run the security.
Resistance is humanity at its bravest and most noble. The resistance in Gaza is rightly compared with the 1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto – which also dug tunnels and deployed tactics of subterfuge and surprise against an overpowering military machine. The last surviving leader of the Warsaw uprising, Marek Edelman, wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian resistance, comparing it with the ZOB, his ghetto fighters. The letter began: “Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations – and to all soldiers [of Palestine].”
Dr Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor renowned for his heroic work in Gaza. On August 8, Dr Gilbert returned to his hometown, Tronso in Norway which, as he pointed out, the Nazis had occupied for seven years. He said, “Imagine being back in 1945 and we in Norway did not win the liberation struggle, did not throw out the occupier. Imagine the occupier remaining in our country, taking it piece by piece, for decades upon decades, and banishing us to the leanest areas, and taking the fish in the sea and the water beneath us, then bombing our hospitals, our ambulance workers, our schools, our homes.
“Would we have given up and waved the white flag? No, we would not! And this is the situation in Gaza. This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people’s will to resist. It is the Palestinian people’s dignity that they will not accept this.
“In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews Untermenschen – subhuman. Today, Palestinians are treated as a subhuman people who can be slaughtered without any in power reacting.
“So I have returned to Norway, a free country, and this country is free because we had a resistance movement, because occupied nations have the right to resist, even with weapons – it’s stated in international law. And the Palestinian people’s resistance in Gaza is admirable: a struggle for us all.”
There are dangers in telling this truth, in breaching what Edward Said called “the last taboo”. My documentary, Palestine Is Still the Issue, was nominated for a Bafta, a British academy award, and praised by the Independent Television Commission for its “journalistic integrity” and the “care and thoroughness with which it was researched.” Yet, within minutes of the film’s broadcast on Britain’s ITV Network, a shock wave struck – a deluge of emails described me as a “demonic psychopath”, “a purveyor of hate and evil”, “an anti-Semite of the most dangerous kind”. Much of this was orchestrated by Zionists in the US who could not possibly have seen the film. Death threats arrived at a rate of one a day.
Something similar happened to the Australian commentator Mike Carlton last month. In his regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Carlton produced a rare piece of journalism about Israel and the Palestinians; he identified the oppressors and their victims. He was careful to limit his attack to “a new and brutal Israel dominated by the hard-line, right-wing Likud party of Netanyahu”. Those who had previously run the Zionist state, he implied, belonged to “a proud liberal tradition”.
On cue, the deluge struck. He was called “a bag of Nazi slime, a Jew-hating racist.” He was threatened repeatedly, and he emailed his attackers to “get fucked”.
The Herald demanded he apologise. When he refused, he was suspended, then he resigned. According to the Herald’s publisher, Sean Aylmer, the company “expects much higher standards from its columnists.”
The “problem” of Carlton’s acerbic, often solitary liberal voice in a country in which Rupert Murdoch controls 70% of the capital city press – Australia is the world’s first murdocracy – would be solved twice over. The Australian Human Rights Commission is to investigate complaints against Carlton under the Racial Discrimination Act, which outlaws any public act or utterance that is “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate another person or a group of people” on the basic of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
In contrast to safe, silent Australia – where the Carltons are made extinct – real journalism is alive in Gaza. I often speak on the phone with Mohammed Omer, an extraordinary young Palestinian journalist, to whom I presented, in 2008, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Whenever I called him during the assault on Gaza, I could hear the whine of drones, the explosion of missiles. He interrupted one call to attend to children huddled outside waiting for transport amidst the explosions. When I spoke to him on July 30, a single Israeli F-19 fighter had just slaughtered 19 children. On 20 August, he described how Israeli drones had effectively “rounded up” a village so that they could savagely gunned down.
Every day, at sunrise, Mohammed looks for families who have been bombed. He records their stories, standing in the rubble of their homes; he takes their pictures. He goes to the hospital. He goes to the morgue. He goes to the cemetery. He queues for hours for bread for his own family. And he watches the sky. He sends two, three, four dispatches a day. This is real journalism.
“They are trying to annihilate us,” he told me. “But the more they bomb us, the stronger we are. They will never win.”
The great crime committed in Gaza is a reminder of something wider and menacing to us all.
Since 2001, the United States and its allies have been on a rampage. In Iraq, at least 700,000 men, woman and children are dead as a result. The rise of jihadists – in a country where there was none – is the result. Known as al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments.
By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators. The attacks of 9/11 and in London in July, 2005 were the result of this blowback, as were the recent, gruesome murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. For more than a year, the Obama administration armed the killers of these two young men – then known as ISIS in Syria – in order to destroy the secular government in Damascus.
The West’s principal “ally” in this imperial mayhem is the medieval state where beheadings are routinely and judicially carried out – Saudi Arabia. Whenever a member of the British Royal Family is sent to this barbaric place, you can bet your bottom petrodollar that the British government wants to sell the sheiks more fighter planes, missiles, manacles. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls jihadists from Syria to Iraq.
Why must we live in this state of perpetual war?
The immediate answer lies in the United States, where a secret and unreported coup has taken place. A group known as the Project for a New American Century, the inspiration of Dick Cheney and others, came to power with the administration of George W Bush. Once known in Washington as the “crazies”, this extreme sect believes in what the US Space Command calls “full spectrum dominance”.
Under both Bush and Obama, a19th-century imperial mentality has infused all departments of state. Raw militarism is ascendant; diplomacy is redundant. Nations and governments are judged as useful or expendable: to be bribed or threatened or “sanctioned”.
On July 31, the National Defense Panel in Washington published a remarkable document that called for the United States to prepare to fight six major wars simultaneously. At the top of the list were Russia and China – nuclear powers.
In one sense, a war against Russia has already begun. While the world watched horrified as Israel assaulted Gaza, similar atrocities in eastern Ukraine were barely news. At the time of writing, two Ukrainian cities of Russian-speaking people – Donetsk and Luhansk – are under siege: their people and hospitals and schools blitzed by a regime in Kiev that came to power in a putsch led by neo-Nazis backed and paid for by the United States. The coup was the climax of what the Russian political observer Sergei Glaziev describes as a 20-year “grooming of Ukrainian Nazis aimed at Russia”. Actual fascism has risen again in Europe and not one European leader has spoken against it, perhaps because the rise of fascism across Europe is now a truth that dares not speak its name.
With its fascist past, and present, Ukraine is now a CIA theme park, a colony of NATO and the International Monetary Fund. The fascist coup in Kiev in February was the boast of US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, whose “coup budget” ran to US$5 billion. But there was a setback. Moscow prevented the seizure of its legitimate Black Sea naval base in Russian-speaking Crimea. A referendum and annexation quickly followed. Represented in the West as the Kremlin’s “aggression”, this serves to turn truth on its head and cover Washington’s goals: to drive a wedge between a “pariah” Russia and its principal trading partners in Europe and eventually to break up the Russian Federation. American missiles already surround Russia; Nato’s military build-up in the former Soviet republics and eastern Europe is the biggest since the second world war.
During the cold war, this would have risked a nuclear holocaust. The risk has returned as anti-Russian misinformation reaches crescendos of hysteria in the US and Europe. A textbook case is the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in July. Without a single piece of evidence, the US and its NATO allies and their media machines blamed ethnic Russian “separatists” in Ukraine and implied that Moscow was ultimately responsible. An editorial in The Economist accused Vladimir Putin of mass murder. The cover of Der Spiegel used faces of the victims and bold red type, “Stoppt Putin Jetzt!” (Stop Putin Now!) In the New York Times, Timothy Garton Ash substantiated his case for “Putin’s deadly doctrine” with personal abuse of “a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face”.
The Guardian’s role has been important. Renowned for its investigations, the newspaper has made no serious attempt to examine who shot the aeroplane down and why, even though a wealth of material from credible sources shows that Moscow was as shocked as the rest of the world, and the airliner may well have been brought down by the Ukrainian regime.
With the White House offering no verifiable evidence – even though US satellites would have observed the shooting-down – the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker stepped into the breach. “My audience with the Demon of Donetsk,” was the front-page headline over Walker’s breathless interview with one Igor Bezler. “With a walrus moustache, a fiery temper and a reputation for brutality,” he wrote, “Igor Bezler is the most feared of all the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine … nicknamed The Demon … If the Ukrainian security services, the SBU, are to be believed, the Demon and a group of his men were responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 … as well as allegedly bringing down MH17, the rebels have shot down 10 Ukrainian aircraft.” Demon Journalism requires no further evidence.
Demon Journalism makes over a fascist-contaminated junta that seized power in Kiev as a respectable “interim government”. Neo-Nazis become mere “nationalists”. “News” sourced to the Kiev junta ensures the suppression of a US-run coup and the junta’s systematic ethnic cleaning of the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine. That this should happen in the borderland through which the original Nazis invaded Russia, extinguishing some 22 million Russian lives, is of no interest. What matters is a Russian “invasion” of Ukraine that seems difficult to prove beyond familiar satellite images that evoke Colin Powell’s fictional presentation to the United Nations “proving” that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. “You need to know that accusations of a major Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence,” wrote a group of former senior US intelligence officials and analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Rather, the ‘intelligence’ seems to be of the same dubious, politically ‘fixed’ kind used 12 years ago to ‘justify’ the US-led attack on Iraq.”
The jargon is “controlling the narrative”. In his seminal Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said was more explicit: the Western media machine was now capable of penetrating deep into the consciousness of much of humanity with a “wiring” as influential as that of the imperial navies of the 19th century. Gunboat journalism, in other words. Or war by media.
Yet, a critical public intelligence and resistance to propaganda does exist; and a second superpower is emerging – the power of public opinion, fueled by the Internet and social media.
The false reality created by false news delivered by media gatekeepers may prevent some of us knowing that this new superpower is stirring in country after country: from the Americas to Europe, Asia to Africa. It is a moral insurrection, exemplified by the whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. The question begs: will we break our silence while there is time?
When I was last in Gaza, driving back to the Israeli checkpoint, I caught sight of two Palestinian flags through the razor wire. Children had made flagpoles out of sticks tied together and they’d climbed on a wall and held the flag between them.
The children do this, I was told, whenever there are foreigners around, because they want to show the world they are there – alive, and brave, and undefeated.

This article is adapted from John Pilger’s Edward Said Memorial Lecture, delivered in Adelaide, Australia, on September 11.

The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, Cardinal Pell (3)

September 20th, 2014

19/9/14 Fr Peter Day

I understand that in the lead up to next month’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, you and a number of your confreres are re-asserting the Church’s longstanding exclusion of divorced and remarried people from Communion.
Your foreword to the soon to be published The Gospel of the Family (Professor Stephan Kampowski and Fr Juan Perez-Soba), appears to leave us with little doubt: outsiders are not welcome.
As you say, “The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated.”
Respectfully, I have a number of questions I’d like to thrash out with you, conscious, of course, that neither of us in our grappling can claim to really know the mind of Christ.
– What did our Lord have in mind when he instituted the Eucharist with these self-emptying words, “This is my body … this is my blood”?
– Whose hunger was he responding to? Scripture records the Pharisees complaining that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them”.
He said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: ‘Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.” I could go on.
– If we believe Jesus – called a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners by his enemies – is real and present in our Breaking of Bread, are we not also compelled to look beyond the in-crowd and welcome outsiders?
– Are we not compelled to take risks such as being pilloried for sharing our table with those we are not supposed to?
I am concerned for those who are hungry for love and long to share even the crumbs from the table.
– Cardinal, can any of us look our Lord and Master in the eye and say: “Yes, I am a follower; but you must understand there are rules …”?
If the Eucharist is an encounter with the real presence, rather than an institutional-cum-cultic sacrifice, then surely the Master’s interactions make it clear: hunger, not worthiness underpins Table Fellowship.
To allow the law, cultic statutes, and theology to take precedence over mercy and love and encounter is tantamount to perpetuating the hardline rigour of those Pharisees who complained and moralised about so many things. Theirs tended towards a cold, superficial, Temple-based faith.
I do not presume to know the mind of Pope Francis but his musings on spiritual worldliness seem apt:
[There] are those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism… (Evangelii Gaudium, 94)
In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few … The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present … (Evangelii Gaudium, 95)
It prompts the question: has a simple, inclusive and profound “family” meal been overwhelmed by an impersonal and, often times, sterile institutional sacrifice; one that tends towards mass exclusion? Fr Peter Day, priest of Corpus Christi parish, Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia;;

Tagle: Responses to synod on family survey reveal ‘much work’ left to do (2)

September 20th, 2014

N.J. Viehland; 17/9/14

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has invited schools of theology and theologians to research questions emerging from preparations for the Synod of Bishops on the family to help resolve the debate on situations confronting families around the world. The issues culled from the pre-synod survey sent to dioceses in October and discussions of the council of the Synod of Bishops show these situations are “so complex,” Tagle told professors, students and guests Sept. 3 in the chapel of Loyola House of Studies.
During the lecture at the Jesuit seminary, Tagle said the situation of families presents “an invitation to institutes of higher learning to contribute through research and pastoral creativity to resolve our debate.” “[Synod survey] responses show that the level of knowledge and acceptance varies from place to place,” he said. “Generally speaking, biblical teaching regarding the family is quite widespread, but there is much work that remains to be done in terms of appreciation of church teaching on marriage, parenting and family, and other statements of bishops’ conferences and papal homilies.”
While survey responses show that generally, family is “good news,” several reported on families who live in poverty and amid war and who face migration, separation and domestic violence. The synodal council also reflected on same-sex marriages, mixed-faith marriages, divorced spouses, grandparents acting as parents to children left behind, and other situations.
He summarized over the synod’s working document and said: “The big question for us is when people come to us for sacramental marriage, is faith a motivation? In the context of a world where faith is considered as superfluous, even irrelevant, does faith still influence people’s choice about marriage and staying in marriage, or is marriage simply a social or cultural event?”
Tagle said he does not know of any viable post-sacramental program in parishes and dioceses in the Philippines. “We spend so much time in the preparation, and afterward, there’s no sustaining guidance.” Another question for theologians is, “What are sacraments?” Are they “rewards to the righteous or punishment?” he asked. Tagle said he wants to find out how to blend formation in Christian teaching, yet “show the hope that God offers to people in painful situations.”
He said couples in irregular marital situations said they feel shamed — even condemned — by the church, which “does not have room for them, so they distance themselves.” Some pastors have refused to baptize children of parents who are not married in the church. Francis “was deeply touched by this,” Tagle said. He then asked his audience, “How do we reach out to them, assure them that in the church, they still find a community and home?”
Respondents to the survey also cited difficulties with communication within the family. “This is not new, but I think what is lamented here is that we have many means of communicating … But have these means and gadgets really taught us how to communicate, or are they merely means of transferring information swiftly?” the cardinal asked.
Communication problems impact the transmission of the faith in the family and society. One “big concern” that emerged in the “Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World” section of the document is related to Catholics’ knowledge and acceptance of the teaching of the church and the Bible regarding the family. Schools of theology could also address the need for formation of priests, religious, and lay pastoral workers, Tagle said.
Language of church documents is another concern that needs to “shift as cultures and mindsets shift,” Tagle said. He cited misunderstanding of the philosophical concept of natural law. “We did a survey in the council: What do people think these days when they hear the word ‘natural?’ ” For some people, natural is the same as spontaneity, he said.
A review of the church’s language is called for, Tagle said. “We experts presume that our language, which is clear to us, is absorbed by others in the same way that we understand it. Not anymore,” he said. Using a more biblical approach, such as resorting to narratives and symbols in communicating church teaching, has been proposed. That way, “we speak also to people of other faiths and cultures,” Tagle said.
Tagle, a member of the 15-man council of the Synod of Bishops since 2012, has been appointed one of three presidents of the synod to be held Oct. 5-19 at the Vatican. It is focused on the theme “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Both sides fire shots over Communion for remarried as ‘doctrinal war’ breaks out (1)

September 20th, 2014

Francis X Rocca; 19/9/14

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will not open until October 5, but some of its most prominent members are already publicly debating what is bound to be one of its most controversial topics: the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
In an interview published this week, a proponent of changing Church practice to allow such Catholics to receive Communion answered criticism from some of his fellow cardinals, suggesting they are seeking a “doctrinal war” whose ultimate target is Pope Francis. “They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops,” German Cardinal Walter Kasper told the Italian daily Il Mattino. “They want to crystallise the truth in certain formulas … the formulas of tradition.”
“None of my brother cardinals has ever spoken with me,” the cardinal said. “I, on the other hand, have spoken twice with the Holy Father. I arranged everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do but stand with the Pope? I am not the target, the target is another.” Asked if the target was Pope Francis, the cardinal replied: “Probably yes.”
Cardinal Kasper, who will participate in the upcoming synod by personal appointment of the Pope, was responding to a new book featuring contributions by five cardinals, including three of his fellow synod fathers, who criticise his proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
According to Church teaching, Catholics who remarry civilly without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriage may not receive Communion unless they abstain from sexual relations, living with their new partners “as brother and sister”.
Pope Francis has said the predicament of such Catholics exemplifies a general need for mercy in the Church today, and has indicated that their predicament will be a major topic of discussion at the synod. In February, at the Pope’s invitation, Cardinal Kasper addressed the world’s cardinals at the Vatican and argued for allowing some Catholics in that situation to receive Communion.
The October synod is not supposed to reach any definitive conclusions but instead set the agenda for a larger synod on the family in October 2015, which will make recommendations to the Pope, who will make any final decisions on change.
Remaining in the Truth of Christ, published on October 1 (in the UK it becomes available on November 1), includes essays in response to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal by three synod fathers: Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature; and Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, Italy.
On the same day, Ignatius Press will also publish two other books in which synod fathers respond to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal: The Hope of the Family, an extended interview with Cardinal Muller; and The Gospel of the Family, which features a foreword by Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. (Cardinal Kasper’s address, published by Paulist Press, is also entitled The Gospel of the Family.)
Cardinal Pell calls for a clear restatement of the traditional ban on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, to avoid the sort of widespread protests that greeted Pope Paul VI’s affirmation of Catholic teaching against contraception in 1968.
“The sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realise that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated,” writes Cardinal Pell, who sits on the nine-member Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on Vatican reform and governance of the universal Church.
Cardinal Muller’s essay, previously published in the Vatican newspaper, reaffirms the traditional ban. However, the cardinal notes that many Catholics’ first marriages might be invalid, and thus eligible for annulment, if the parties have been influenced by prevailing contemporary conceptions of marriage as a temporary arrangement.
In the book-length interview, Cardinal Muller, whom Pope Francis made a cardinal in February, makes an apparent reference to Cardinal Kasper’s argument, which underscores the importance of mercy. “I observe with a certain amazement the use by some theologians, once again, of the same reasoning about mercy as an excuse for promoting the admission of divorced and civilly remarried persons to the sacraments,” Cardinal Muller is quoted as saying. “The scriptural evidence shows us that, besides mercy, holiness and justice are also part of the mystery of God.”
Cardinal Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, warns that any reform of the process for annulling marriages – something both Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper have said is necessary – should not oversimplify the judicial process at the cost of justice, since Catholics seeking an annulment deserve a decision that “respects fully the truth and, therefore, charity”.
Cardinal Caffara, whom Pope Francis personally named to participate in the synod, argues that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics may not receive Communion because their situation “is in objective contradiction with that bond of love that unites Christ and the church, which is signified and actualised by the Eucharist”. To lift the ban, Cardinal Caffarra argues, would be to legitimise extramarital sexual relations and effectively deny the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage.

Israeli occupation forces destroy water networks and launch assault on farmers (7)

September 20th, 2014


He explained that the occupation forces have already confiscated tractors and agricultural equipment belonging to farmers and threatened to confiscate other agricultural equipment working in the area – [File Photo]
Israeli occupation forces issued on Wednesday a decree banning farmers from irrigating agriculture on their stepped lands in Atov, located in eastern Tubas city in the occupied West Bank, threatening to arrest any citizen who cultivates his or her land.
Palestine’s Safa news agency reported that occupation forces destroyed the water system three days ago that the farmers of the area had connected to their lands, in continuation of a policy that deprives the Atov area of all kinds of infrastructure.
The president of the Atov Council told Safa that, “Arresting and threatening the farmers today is the second step following the destruction of the water network,” pointing out that the goal of the occupation forces is to exercise full control over Atov and Al-Bakya’a.
He added that dozens of people were taken to Tyaseer camp today after their identity cards had been confiscated merely because they were working in the agricultural lands of the region.
He explained that the occupation forces have already confiscated tractors and agricultural equipment belonging to farmers Mustafa Beni Ouda and Jamal Mohammed Qasim Ouda Tammoun and threatened to confiscate other agricultural equipment working in the area.

Israeli analyst: army used massive, wasteful firepower in Gaza (6)

September 20th, 2014

Harel claims that Hamas ‘inflicted many casualties’ on IDF forces through ‘explosive devices and long-distance sharpshooting’, as opposed to ‘face-to-face battles’ or ‘antitank missiles’
The Israeli army used disproportionately huge amounts of firepower in Gaza, according to leading security and military affairs analyst Amos Harel, writing in today’s Haaretz newspaper.
Examining the Israeli military’s request for $2.35 billion to cover the war’s “direct expenses”, Harel claims that “the management of the war displayed wastefulness, both in the use of firepower and in the number of reservists called up”.
Harel cites the findings of the Brodet Committee, established after the 2006 Lebanon War, which found that the IDF had used “a large surplus of firepower” and fired at “a great many targets… with little to show for it”. Harel notes that the IDF fired more than 170,000 artillery shells at suspected rocket-launching sites in Lebanon – without killing “a single Hezbollah combatant”.
This summer in Gaza, Harel writes, “the general approach was unchanged”.
Most of the information about this is classified, though defense establishment sources do confirm that intensive use was made of vital stocks of firepower and munitions. And this, we should remember, was in a conflict with Hamas, Israel’s weakest regional enemy…
Harel claims that Hamas “inflicted many casualties” on IDF forces through “explosive devices and long-distance sharpshooting”, as opposed to “face-to-face battles” or “antitank missiles”. In the face of this threat, the army used massive firepower, from artillery to hand grenades and light arms, not to mention tanks and, of course, precise aerial munitions.
Veteran army people who perused the final data were surprised at what they saw.
The article also cites an anonymous senior officer in the Israeli military’s General Staff on the army’s need for substantial levels of munitions. In Gaza, the high-ranking official said, “you have to fire at every window that is overlooking and threatening your forces”.
Such comments will add to the evidence that the Israeli army committed war crimes in Gaza through the deliberate use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force.

Israeli forces enter Gaza for third time since the truce (5)

September 20th, 2014

The incursion is the third on the borders of the Gaza Strip since the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Palestinians and Israel on August 26, brokered by Egypt, after the Israeli war which lasted 51 days
Israeli forces entered the outskirts of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, this morning to complete what they called “security activity” at the barrier around the Strip, eye witnesses reported. Witnesses said: “Four Israeli bulldozers set off this morning from Kissufim military base, and penetrated 100 meters east of the town of Al-Qarara, north of Khan Yunis.” According to witnesses, the bulldozers dredged agricultural land near the town before leaving.
Israeli Army Radio quoted unnamed military sources as saying that the Israeli army this morning carried out “security activity” by examining the border area with Khan Yunis.
The incursion is the third on the borders of the Gaza Strip since the signing of the ceasefire agreement between the Palestinians and Israel on August 26, brokered by Egypt, after the Israeli war which lasted 51 days.Over the past two weeks, Israel has carried out similar activities on the outskirts of the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

‘Palestinian prisoner tortured to death in Israeli jail’ (4)

September 20th, 2014

Raed Abdel-Salam Al-Jabari, a Palestinian prisoner held in an Israeli jail has died as a result of severe torture at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces, the head of Prisoners and Freed Prisoners Affairs in Ramallah Issa Qaraqe said.
Qaraqe accused Israel of committing two crimes against Jabari, 35, when the Israeli authorities claimed that he had hanged himself in prison in an attempt to hide the real reason for his death, torture. Al-Jabari was imprisoned on July 26 in Eshel prison.
Speaking during a press conference in Hebron, Qaraqe said: “Jabari’s autopsy report, which was conducted at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Dis, revealed that he had been subjected to severe torture which resulted in internal bleeding and severe concussion that led to his death.”
He stressed that “Jabari’s autopsy results did not reveal any marks around the neck which refutes the Israeli claim that he had hanged himself.” Qaraqe had previously said that several prisoners who were imprisoned with Al-Jabari testified that he was severely beaten by the Nahshon forces when he was transferred to Eshel prison

US bishops plan to be stronger advocates for Israeli-Palestinian peace (3)

September 20th, 2014

Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service 19/9/14

American bishops were returning to their dioceses after a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a stronger resolve to advocate for peace and to urge the U.S. government to take a leadership role in ushering Israelis and Palestinians toward peace, a member of the delegation said.
“Framed by Pope Francis’ encouragement of encounters in Christ with the poor and suffering, [we have encountered] in the Holy Land Palestinians and Israelis who live sometimes with fear, sometimes with hate,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, N.M., told Catholic News Service on Thursday. “In Gaza, we have witnessed the destruction, death and loss of family. We feel an urgent need to bring attention to this,” he said.
Representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the clerics met with Israeli and Palestinian religious and political leaders, spent time meeting local residents and prayed at holy sites during the pilgrimage that began Sept. 11. Cantu was among five bishops who also visited Gaza a month after the recent 50-day Gaza war ended.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger, of Salina, Kan., who had served as a chaplain in Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing of a federal building there, said he had never expected to see such destruction and suffering again.
He described what he saw in Gaza as “painful to see.” Electrical service remained sporadic and school was suspended while children healed from the trauma.
“All this makes us realize that there is no price too high to pay for peace,” Weisenburger told CNS. “[We need] the international community to coalesce to help both parties to come together for the sake of justice for both sides who have known suffering. Both sides have the right to have stability and peace.” Just a few short years ago, the bishop noted, he had thought there would never be peace in Northern Ireland, but now peace has come. “Hope makes it possible to envision a new future,” he said.
Bishop Bernard Harrington of Winona, Minn., said he was struck by the difficult situation in East Jerusalem in terms of building restrictions and lack of freedom of movement for residents. “We met some wonderful Israelis who are truly interested in peace and also some who talk about peace but say there are too many restrictions, namely the issue of security,” he said of some Israeli leaders.
At the same time, explained retired Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran, both Israeli and Palestinian leadership has failed their people, with Palestinians lacking “sincere leadership” while Israeli leaders have become increasingly more aggressive.
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, N.Y., noted the intensity of the experience, and admitted that he was returning home with a greater sense of the situation’s complexity because of its parallel narratives. “I am going to have a lot more learning and thinking and praying to do,” he said. “People on both sides need to open their ears to the other side, especially the ears of their hearts.”
While calling for the removal of the Israeli separation barrier, which he said serves only as a sign of exclusion, retired Bishop Michael Pfeifer of San Angelo, Texas, said the warm relations shared by Christian and Muslim students in Catholic schools was inspiring. He suggested their cooperation could serve as a model for further grass-roots encounters between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I think promoting [encounters] like this could promote change on the grass-roots level while we do work on the higher levels within the USBCC,” he said. “I think youth can bring about change.”

Gaza: Renewed Urgency in West Bank (2)

September 20th, 2014

16/9/14, UN News
In the aftermath of the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, a fundamental change is needed in the dynamics in the enclave, the United Nations today reported, calling also for renewed urgency in addressing the situation in the West Bank.
“This is the only path that can lay the basis for a dignified civilian life and a renewed effort at Israeli-Palestinian peace,” according to the report, issued by the office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.
Mr. Serry is due to brief the UN Security Council tomorrow on the situation in Gaza, including efforts to finalize a mechanism to kick-start shelter rehabilitation and reconstruction.
According to the report released today, the major escalation in Gaza has taken a “devastating toll on civilian lives” and resulted in an “unprecedented amount of destruction” which brought into stark relief the need for fundamental change.
Although largely eclipsed by events in Gaza, circumstances on the ground in the West Bank deteriorated, with a rise in violence, continued settlement expansion, land expropriation, and a high number of reported confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces and settlers, the report states.
“Neither Israeli closure nor militant smuggling of weapons or material for tunnels nor the continued division of the Palestinians can offer anything beyond setting the stage for another, even more catastrophic war,” the report reads.
It also highlights that in spite of the continued pressures on the Palestinians and fiscal difficulties affecting the Palestinian Authority (PA) during the past year, further progress has been made in enhancing Palestinian institutions, including advances in national planning, budget management and service delivery. However, the report explains how the deteriorating socio-economic trends in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip indicate that the status quo is not sustainable and that real progress needs to be made.
The authors wrote that reconstruction, recovery, governance and security in Gaza must take place in the context of the return of one legitimate Palestinian authority, which will have the support of the UN and partners. The report will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) to be hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters in New York on 22 September.
The AHLC serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Committee is chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and United States.
In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank (Secretariat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel.

Detention Conditions of Palestinians Arrested by Israelis

September 20th, 2014

18/9/14: Palestinian Centre For Human Rights

PCHR Follows up Detention Conditions of Palestinians Arrested by Israeli Forces in Latest Offensive on the Gaza Strip
The lawyers of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) have visited 4 of Palestinians detainees in Ashkelon Prison who were arrested in the latest 51-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.
The lawyers confirmed that the prisoners were subjected to various forms of torture during their detention period, including beating and shackling between two chairs for long hours (Shabeh).
According to PCHR’s documentation, Israeli forces arrested dozens of Palestinian civilians during the offensive on the Gaza Strip; 31 of whom were transferred to Israeli prisons.Later, 4 of the aforementioned detainees were released while 27 remained in custody and were charged of being members of armed groups, except for one, Samir al-Najjar, who was charged of being an “illegitimate combatant.”
It should be noted that the members of armed resistance groups are considered prisoners of war against whom no bills of indictment can be presented according to the international law. PCHR continues its efforts to pursue Israeli war criminals through international courts based on the principle of universal jurisdiction to bring them before justice since torture is an international crime.

Indigenous child removal in Victoria ‘highest since white settlement’ (2)

September 19th, 2014

Report also shows Indigenous children in Victoria 16 times more likely than other children to be in out-of-home care More than one in six of the 6,500 children placed away from their parents in Victoria are Indigenous Australians. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP Image
Indigenous Australian children in Victoria are 16 times more likely than the state’s other children to be in out-of-home care, a report from the state’s Commission for Children and Young People tabled in parliament says.
“At current levels, the rate of Aboriginal child removal in Victoria exceeds that at any time since white settlement,” the report tabled on Thursday says.
“The Victorian rate of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care is now among the highest in Australia, and is significantly higher than comparable international jurisdictions.”
Of 6,500 children and young people placed away from their parents in Victoria, more than one in six were Indigenous Australians, with the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care increasing by 9.5% a year compared with 5.3% a year for all children.
Aboriginal children make up just over 1% of the state’s children.
The Victorian commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people, Andrew Jackomos, is co-chair of a taskforce aimed at addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care.
He wrote in the report that there was “no greater curse” on the Victorian Indigenous community than criminal violence perpetrated on women and children within the family home.
“Unfortunately, family violence has become an evil and unacceptable part of our culture, with more than two-thirds of our children in child protection there as a result of this curse,” he wrote.
“Two-thirds of Aboriginal children in the youth justice system have graduated from out-of-home care.”
Principal commissioner, Bernie Geary, said the commission had launched an inquiry into Indigenous child placement.
Key to that inquiry would be ensuring children were being placed into care cognisant to their culture, he said, with decisions made on their behalf not often being made by Indigenous people.
“It’s important for children to keep with them the context of their culture; it’s important to their emotional, mental, physical and overall wellbeing,” Geary said.
“Young Aboriginal children are finding themselves for a whole range of reasons in vulnerable circumstances and the government struggles to connect them properly with culturally appropriate services. That’s been a challenge for many years.”
In response to the high number of children in out-of-home care across Australia, the Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) is holding a series of “family matters” forums across the country to discuss solutions with Indigenous community members, practitioners and service providers.
At a forum held in Adelaide on 27 August, Sharron Williams, chair of SNAICC, described the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care as “alarming and totally unacceptable”.
“We need to take urgent action and consider different approaches – based on greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation – to arrest this worrying escalation in numbers and ensure the best outcomes for our children and families,” she said.
“We are still burdened with a system that is not meeting the needs of our vulnerable children and families, is not doing enough to keep families together, nor enough to keep children in care connected with their family and culture.”
“At present, governments across Australia are spending huge sums on child protection and out-of-home care — these totalled $3.2bn in 2013 — and about a fifth of that amount on prevention and early intervention programs and intensive family support services.”
According to SNAIC, since Kevin Rudd’s national apology to stolen generations in 2008, the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care has increased by 53.8%. By comparison, the number of non-Indigenous children in out-of-home care has increased by 22.6%.
Muriel Bamblett, the chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, said Indigenous children were also less likely to be reunited with their family once entering the system.
“All the data suggests reunification of children and keeping them connected with family members and culture has been very poor,” she said.
“The system is failing Aboriginal children and we must look at why.”
All Indigenous children had a right to know about their culture, she said, and were often left feeling disconnected and traumatised by the time they hit their teenage years if cut off from that.

“If we don’t keep them connected to their culture, we’re missing a vital element of what’s in their best interests,” she said.

Tony Abbott in Arnhem Land: a display of farce and cynicism

September 19th, 2014

John Pilger;, 19/9/14

There are times when farce and living caricature almost consume the cynicism and mendacity in the daily life of Australia’s rulers. Across the front pages is a photograph of a resolute Tony Abbott with Indigenous children in Arnhem Land. “Domestic policy one day,” says the caption, “focus on war the next.”
Reminiscent of a vintage anthropologist, the prime minister grasps the head of an Indigenous child trying to shake his hand. He beams, as if incredulous at the success of his twin stunts: “running the nation” from a bushland tent on the Gove Peninsula while “taking the nation to war”. Like any “reality” show, he is surrounded by cameras and manic attendants, who alert the nation to his principled and decisive acts.
But wait; the leader of all Australians must fly south to farewell the SAS, off on its latest heroic mission since its triumph in the civilian bloodfest of Afghanistan. “Pursuing sheer evil” sounds familiar. Of course, an historic mercenary role is unmentionable, this time backing the latest US installed sectarian regime in Baghdad and re-branded ex-Kurdish “terrorists”, now guarding Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Oil, Hunt Oil et al.
No parliamentary debate is allowed; no fabricated invitation from foreigners in distress is necessary, as it was in Vietnam. Speed is the essence. What with US intelligence insisting there is no threat from Islamic State to the US and presumably Australia, truth may deter the mission if time is lost. If yesterday’s police and media show of “anti-terror” arrests in “the plot against Sydney” fails to arouse the suspicions of the nation, nothing will. That the unpopular Abbott’s various wars are likely to be self-fulfilling, making Australians less safe, ought to be in the headlines, too. Remember the blowback from Blair’s wars.
But what of the beheadings? During the 21 months between James Foley’s abduction and his beheading, 113 people were reportedly beheaded by Saudi Arabia, one of Barack Obama’s and Abbott’s closest allies in their current “moral” and “idealistic” enterprise. Indeed, Abbott’s war will no doubt rate a plaque in the Australian War Memorial alongside all the other colonial invasions acknowledged in that great emporium of white nationalism – except, of course, the colonial invasion of Australia during which the beheading of the Indigenous Australian defenders was not considered sheer evil.
This returns us to the show in Arnhem Land. Abbott says the reason he and the media are camped there is that he can consult with Indigenous “leaders” and “gain a better understanding of the needs of people living and working in these areas”.
Australia is awash with knowledge of the “needs” of its First Peoples. Every week, it seems, yet another study adds to the torrent of information about the imposed impoverishment of and vicious discrimination against Indigenous people: apartheid in all but name. The facts, which can no longer be spun, ought to be engraved in the national consciousness, if not the prime minister’s. Australia has a rate of Indigenous incarceration higher than that of apartheid South Africa; deaths in custody occur as if to a terrible drumbeat; preventable Dickensian diseases are rampant, including among those who live in the midst of a mining boom that has made profits of a billion dollars a week. Rheumatic heart disease kills Indigenous people in their 30s and 40s, and their children go deaf and suffer trachoma, which causes blindness.
When, as shadow Indigenous health minister in 2009, Abbott was reminded by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous people that the Howard government’s fraudulent “intervention” was racist, he told Professor James Anaya to “get a life” and “stop listening to the old victim brigade”. The distinguished Anaya had just been to Utopia, a vast region in the Northern Territory, where I filmed the evidence of the racism and forced deprivation that had so shocked him and millions of viewers around the world. “Malnutrition”, a GP in central Australia told me, “is common.”
Today, as Abbott poses for the camera with children in Arnhem Land, the children of Utopia are being denied access to safe and clean drinking water. For 10 weeks, communities have had no running water. A new bore would cost just $35,000. Scabies and more trachoma are the result. (For perspective, consider that Labor’s last Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, spent $331,144 refurbishing her office in Canberra).
In 2012, Olga Havnen, a senior Northern Territory government official, revealed that more than $80m was spent on the surveillance of families and the removal of children compared with just $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. Her warning of a second Stolen Generation led to her sacking. This week in Sydney, Amnesty and a group known as Grandmothers Against Removals presented further evidence that the number of Indigenous children being taken from their families, often violently, was greater than at any time in Australia’s colonial history.
Will Abbott, self-proclaimed friend of Indigenous people, step in and defend these families? On the contrary, in his May budget, Abbott cut $534m from the “needs” of Indigenous people over the next five years, a quarter of which was for health provision. Far from being an Indigenous friend, Abbott’s government is continuing the theft of Indigenous land with a confidence trick called “99-year leases”. In return for surrendering their country – the essence of Aboriginality – communities will receive morsels of rent, which the government will take from Indigenous mining royalties. Perhaps only in Australia can such deceit masquerade as policy.
Similarly, Abbott appears to be supporting constitutional reform that will “recognise” Indigenous people in a proposed referendum. The “Recognise” campaign consists of familiar gestures and tokenism, promoted by a PR campaign “around which the nation can rally”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald – meaning the majority, or those who care, can feel they are doing something while doing nothing.
During all the years I have been reporting and filming Indigenous Australia, one “need” has struck me as paramount. A treaty. By that I mean an effective Indigenous bill of rights: land rights, resources rights, health rights, education rights, housing rights, and more. None of the “advances” of recent years, such as Native Title, has delivered the rights and services most Australians take for granted.
As Arrente/Amatjere leader Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says: “We never ceded ownership of this land. This remains our land, and we need to negotiate a lawful treaty with those who seized our land.” A great many if not most Indigenous Australians agree with her; and a campaign for a treaty – all but ignored by the media – is growing fast, especially among the savvy Indigenous young unrepresented by co-opted “leaders” who tell white society what it wants to hear.
That Australia has a prime minister who described this country as “unsettled” until the British came indicates the urgency of true reform – the end of paternalism and the enactment of a treaty negotiated between equals. For until we, who came later, give back to the first Australians their nationhood, we can never claim our own.

Dead Vic kids had protection involvement (2)

September 19th, 2014

Melissa Iaria and Phil Johnson; 18/9/14
Victorian children are being abused in out-of-home care, as protection workers deal with a big jump in notifications.
There were 64 cases of child abuse substantiated for children under protection in out-of-home care – living with foster carers, in the care of a family member or friend or in a residential care facility – in 2013/14.
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said the government had ramped up its identification of where abuse might be occurring.
“There are thousands of carers in the system who do an amazing job every day, but there are a small number that have unacceptable behaviour and we’re dealing with them,” Ms Wooldridge told reporters on Thursday. “We don’t want any children abused, particularly by their carers in the out-of-home care system.”
Ms Wooldridge said there had been a significant jump of almost 50 per cent in reports to the child protection system since the coalition came to power in 2010, which was driven by an increase in family violence reports.
More than 82,000 reports were made to child protection services about children’s safety and wellbeing in 2013/14, according to the Department of Human Services annual report released on Thursday.
Of the 38 child deaths probed by Victoria’s child advocate in 2013/14, most of the children were known to child protection authorities.
Sixty one per cent were the subject of child protection investigations or a protection order process at the time of their death, the Commission for Children and Young People says in its annual report.
Ms Wooldridge said government reforms to protect vulnerable children was backed by hundreds of millions of dollars to work early with families to reduce neglect and abuse and to respond to keep children safe. In 2013/14, the daily average number of children in out-of-home care placements was 7283.

Sex abuse inquiry into Hillsong ‘father’ (1)

September 19th, 2014


Child sex abuse allegations against the man who founded the pentecostal movement which became the Hillsong Church will be examined by a national inquiry.
The sex abuse royal commission will examine how the Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre, (now Hillsong Church) and the Assemblies of God in Australia, (now Australian Christian Churches) treated allegations against the Pentecostal christian pastor Frank Houston and two other men.
Houston, who died in 2004 aged 82, was considered the father of Sydney’s Pentecostal churches. He was a Salvation Army officer in his native New Zealand and founded his first Assemblies of God ministry at Lower Hutt in 1960. He later became superintendent of the New Zealand Assemblies of God before moving to Sydney in 1977.
His son Brian Houston fired him from the Hillsong ministry in 2000 when he admitted to pedophilia in New Zealand. Fairfax reported in 2007 there were further allegations against Frank Houston in Australia. The church he built at Waterloo merged with his son’s church at Baulkham Hills to become Hillsong – which is now a multi-million dollar mega-church with congregations worldwide.
The public hearing in Sydney starts on October 7 and will also examine the response of the Northside Christian College and the Northside Christian Centre (now Encompass Church) in Bundoora, Victoria and Assemblies of God in Australia to allegations of child sexual abuse made against former teacher Kenneth Sandilands. The royal commission will also look at the response of the Australian Christian Churches to allegations against Jonathan Baldwin.
Both men are still alive.

Deal reached to rebuild shattered Gaza

September 19th, 2014


The United Nations, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a stopgap deal to allow recon-struction work to begin in the war-torn Gaza Strip, U.N. Middle East envoy Robert Serry said on Tuesday. The deal came as a World Bank report outlined dire economic prospects for Palestinians after the July-August conflict with Israel. The U.N.-sponsored reconstruction agreement could help curb Palestinian economic deterioration in Gaza, which since 2007 has been controlled by Hamas.
Serry described the U.N. deal with Israel and the Palestinian Authority as temporary, and urged its speedy implementation. “[This] must get up and running without delay, as an important step towards the objective of lifting all remaining closures, and a signal of hope to the people of Gaza,” he said, predicting that donor confidence would also be boosted.
Serry said the U.N. brokered the deal “to enable work at the scale required in the Strip, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a lead role to the Palestinian Authority in the reconstruction effort.”
The agreement would provide “security assurances through U.N. monitoring that these materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose,” Serry added, apparently alluding to Israeli demands that cement and other imports not be used to build Hamas command bunkers or cross-border attack tunnels.
Fifty days of conflict between Hamas and Israel saw 2,100 Palestinians killed, most of them civilians, including hundreds of children, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians. Israeli bombing turned large areas of the Mediterranean enclave of 1.8 million people to rubble.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a recent report that reconstruction work would cost $7.8 billion — two and a half times Gaza’s gross domestic product — including $2.5 billion for the reconstruction of homes.
The World Bank said on Tuesday that the war would contribute to a reversal of seven years of growth in the Palestinian economy, now expected to shrink by nearly 4 percent this year. The bank also said the downturn was also a result of restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza by Israel and neighboring Egypt, and a drop in foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Gaza’s economic growth, spurred largely by international donor funds, has been decelerating since 2012 and slowed to less than 2 percent in 2013 but could rebound strongly in 2015 if Gaza reconstruction gets under way, the bank said.
“The conflict and humanitarian tragedy in Gaza has made an already struggling Palestinian economy worse and put further stress on the fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority (PA),” the report said.
Egypt will host a donors’ conference on Oct. 12 to raise reconstruction funds, and donor nations to the Palestinian Authority are due to convene on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week in New York.
A sustainable Palestinian economic future, according to the World Bank report, depends on international budget support for the Palestinian Authority and “sincere efforts” by Israel “to allow better and faster movement of people of goods,” while taking into account its “legitimate security concerns.”