Friday, February 14, 2020

Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik


by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

They may be hurt most by the UN's black list

PMW’s response to the UN’s blacklist


In response to the UN’s release of its list of blacklisted Israeli companies that have businesses across the Green Line, Palestinian Media Watch is releasing this report “Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers” – based on previous PMW releases.

The report shows that according to Palestinian workers, Palestinian lawyers, and the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, Palestinians enjoy better working conditions and prefer working for Israeli employers - including in Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line – rather than working for Palestinian employers. For example, wages are four times higher with Israeli employers than with Palestinian employers, and Palestinian workers receive health benefits, sick leave, and vacation time to the same degree as Israelis do.


By trying to harm Israeli companies that have “activities” in the West Bank, the UN is also harming the many Palestinians who work in these businesses, and who enjoy the better conditions offered by these Israeli enterprises. If the UN’s new BDS-flavored efforts lead to a larger boycott of these businesses, eventually they may have to let go of employees, among them Palestinians. Furthermore, it is likely that there will be pressure from the PA on Palestinians who work for the blacklisted businesses to leave their jobs.  


One Israeli business blacklisted by the UN is the supermarket Rami Levi, which is known for its peaceful coexistence of Palestinian and Israeli co-workers in all positions of employment.

Feb. 13, 2020

Why Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers

  • "Whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers”

[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 21, 2014]

  • "Israeli labor law is a very good law regarding workers' rights... Unfortunately… the Palestinian middleman… takes 50 percent, 60 percent, and even 70 percent of her salary. If her daily salary is 180 shekels, in the end she receives 60 shekels. The [Palestinian] middleman steals two thirds of her salary."

[Official PA TV, Workers' Affairs, March 16, 2016]

  • “The average daily wage for [Palestinian] employees in the West Bank was 98.8 shekels…  Gaza Strip 56.7 shekels… in Israel and the Israeli settlements 233.3 shekels”

[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Nov. 9, 2017]

  • "There are more than 120,000 women in Palestine whose [monthly] salaries are less than 500 shekels."

[Official PA TV News, Nov. 3, 2018] 

  • “It is inconceivable that the Palestinian worker receives his full rights from the Israeli employers, but not from the Palestinian ones.”

[Wael Nazif, CEO PA Labor Union, in official PA daily, Sept. 21, 2014]

By Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik


Introduction

During an official Palestinian Authority TV program called Workers' Affairs, which focused on internal labor issues for Palestinians, Israel was lauded for its better conditions for Palestinians. Israeli labor laws, positive working conditions, higher pay, health benefits, vacation time and more that Palestinian workers enjoy while working for Israelis were praised by Palestinian workers and their lawyers. In fact, conditions for Palestinian workers are so much better for Palestinians who work for Israelis rather than for Palestinians that the official PA daily explained that Palestinians will quit their jobs with Palestinian employers when given the opportunity to work for an Israeli employer instead. This conclusion was supported by surveys by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics

This PMW report documents the basis for these conclusions as found in interviews with Palestinian labor lawyers and workers on PA TV and in the official PA daily, and with statistics from the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics.


The Report

Palestinians prefer to work for Israelis rather than Palestinians for several reasons. Firstly, the salary is more than double, but that is not all. Palestinians working for Israelis are protected by the same laws as Israeli workers, including health benefits, sick leave, vacation time, and other workers’ rights, whereas these protections are not granted by Palestinian employers. As a result of the better treatment by Israelis, Palestinians choose to work for them rather than Palestinian employees:  

"Whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers.”
[See full article below, official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 21, 2014]

The daily salary for Palestinians working for Israelis is more than double the average West Bank salary from Palestinian employers and more than four times the average salaries in the Gaza Strip:

“The average daily wage for employees in the West Bank was 98.8 shekels compared with 56.7 shekels in the Gaza Strip… the average daily wage for the wage employees in Israel and the Israeli settlements reached 233.3 shekels in the 3rd quarter of 2017.”
[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey
(July-September, 2017), Nov. 9, 2017, English original]

“The average daily wage for wage employees in the West Bank was 106.4 shekels compared with 62.1 shekels in the Gaza Strip in the 1st quarter of 2018… The average daily wage for the wage employees in Israel and the Israeli settlements reached 242.5 shekels in the 1st quarter of 2018 compared with 232.0 shekels in the 4th quarter of 2017.”
[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey
(January-March, 2018) Round (Q1/2018), English original]

In 2018, the daily wages continued to rise for those Palestinians working for Israeli employers, increasing from the first to the second quarter of 2018:

“The  average  daily  wage  for  wage  employees in  the  West  Bank  was 107.9 shekels compared with 62.6 shekels in Gaza Strip in the 2nd quarter 2018…The average daily wage for the wage employees in Israel and the Israeli settlements reached 247.9 shekels in the 2nd quarter of 2018 compared with 242.5 shekels in the 1st quarter of 2018.”
[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey (April-June, 2018) Round (Q2/2018), English original]

The higher Israeli salaries have been consistent for years according to surveys published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (see below). In addition, Palestinian workers who work for Israelis have much better working conditions than those employed by Palestinians, and by Israeli law receive the same rights and protection that Israeli workers have.


An Israeli Arab labor attorney who represents Palestinian laborers explained why it is preferable to work for Israelis, in two different interviews on the official PA TV program Workers' Affairs.


Israeli Arab labor lawyer Khaled Dukhi, who works with the Israeli NGO Workers' Hotline, says that Israeli labor law is "very good" because it does not differentiate between men and women, Israelis and Palestinians, or Muslims and Jews. However, he explained that Palestinian workers who work for Israelis still suffer because Palestinian middlemen "steal" a significant part of their salaries, especially those of women:

Attorney Khaled Dukhi of Workers’ Hotline: "Israeli labor law is a very good law regarding workers' rights, for both men and women. Israeli law does not differentiate between a worker who has entered Israel illegally or legally... Unfortunately, even though it is very good, in practice, the law has become very bad for female Palestinian workers. For instance, the Palestinian female workers in the agricultural sector enjoy many rights, like any Israeli worker in the agricultural sector: The salary is higher than the minimum wage, 14 vacation days a year in the first four years, 2,000 shekels convalescence pay [yearly] in the first year and 2,200 shekels in the second and third year for every worker in Israel, payment for holidays, whether Islamic or Jewish. It is a matter of choice."
TV host: "But in practice, do they enjoy these rights provided by law?"
Attorney Khaled Dukhi of Workers’ Hotline: "In reality, Palestinian workers - and especially the female Palestinian workers - do not receive these things. Why? You said: "The Palestinian middleman deducts from her [salary]." No, he does not deduct, he shares her salary. In practice, he takes 50 percent, 60 percent, and even 70 percent of her salary. If her daily salary is 180 shekels, in the end she receives 60 shekels. The middleman steals two thirds of her salary. Excuse the word ["steals"], but that is the exact word."
TV host: "Yes, it reflects the reality."    
 [Official PA TV, Workers' Affairs, March 16, 2016]

Qassem Abu Hadwan, a laborer from Hebron, explained that Palestinian employers often exploit their workers and pay less than half the wages, causing many Palestinians to prefer to work for Israeli employers:

Laborer from Hebron, Qassem Abu Hadwan: "The lack of monitoring of [Palestinian] owners of companies and factories and their exploitation of workers is what has forced people to Israel, to work and build in Israel. If only [a salary in the PA] was at least half of the salary [in Israel]... no one would work in Israel. However, workers have to go to Israel, because no one [in the PA] gives them what they deserve for their work, whether in factories or in companies, and even in municipalities..." 
Official PA TV host: "Do you think that the low income and exploitation by [Palestinian] factory and workshop owners are what force people to go within the Green Line [in Israel] or in the [West Bank] settlements?" 
Qassem Abu Hadwan: "It is what forces the workers to Israel. Even though the Israelis exploit them, they give them what they are entitled to. In the end, when a worker goes to Israel and earns 200 or 180 shekels [a day] as opposed to what he earns here [in the PA], 50, 70, or 100 shekels, then he says: A month's work here equals a week's work there [in Israel]. How can it be compared?" 
PA TV host: "We need investments and for workers' rights to be honored. What motivates the workers, as we said, to go [to work in] the interior (i.e., Israel) or to the settlements is the exploitation that takes place [in the PA] and the low income... They [the workers] spoke about 12 hour days in construction work in the Palestinian market, as opposed to 8 hours in the Israeli interior."                
[Official PA TV, Feb. 4 and 16, 2016]

An article in the official PA daily lauded Israel and Israeli employers of Palestinians for their positive employment ethics towards their Palestinian workers, while condemning Palestinian employers for taking advantage of their workers.

As opposed to the good treatment and wages Palestinians enjoy while working for Israeli employers, there is continuous criticism about their treatment by Palestinian employers. For example, more than 120,000 Palestinian women receive monthly salaries of under 500 shekels:

Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Shaher Sa'ad: "We are talking about decent work and the right of unionization for working women at their work places, as we know that there are more than 120,000 women in Palestine whose salaries are less than 500 Israeli shekels. They need support… so that they will demand at least minimum wage, and their rights."
[Official PA TV News, Nov. 3, 2018]

The following chart shows statements of Palestinian workers comparing conditions working for Israeli and Palestinian employers in similar fields of employment:

Palestinian workers praise business ethics of their Israeli employers

The official PA daily quoted Palestinian workers employed by Palestinians and by Israelis, in order to compare the conditions.  

Employed by Palestinians
Employed by Israelis

Construction

"Muhammad Al-Hinnawi, a construction worker, says: 'I receive a daily salary of 70 shekels without pension, and I have no other choice.'”
“Thaer Al-Louzi, who used to work for an Israeli concrete factory, notes: 'I received a salary of 140 shekels a day. Now, after I was injured, I receive a salary through the insurance.'"

Agriculture

“A female worker 'Nadia,' says: 'For over five years, I have been receiving a daily salary of 50 shekels for my work in agriculture, and the salary has stayed the same. That's how it is for those working for Palestinians in agriculture.'”

“Muhammad Hassan, a resident of a village in the Jordan Valley who works in the agriculture sector in the settlements, says: 'I receive a daily salary of over 100 shekels for picking vegetables, and every day a bus takes us to work and back.'”

Factory

“A worker at one of the Palestinian factories in the district of Jericho, who asked to remain anonymous, says: 'I receive a salary of 1,800 shekels, without overtime pay, even though I work late every week. There is no such thing as yearly vacations.’”

“Khalil Qteit says: 'I work in an Israeli aluminum factory in Mishor Adumim (in the West Bank) and receive 23 shekels an hour. We receive our salaries with increasing pay for overtime… We have yearly vacations and unlimited sick leave of up to 99 days a year… in addition to yearly physical checkups by doctors.”

Restaurant

“Fuad Qahawish, who works as a waiter in a [Palestinian] restaurant, says: 'I work 10 hours a day and receive a monthly salary of not more than 1,900 shekels ($450), and we have no additional rights like yearly vacations, travel expenses and so on.'”

“Saleh Al-Haj Musa: 'I work eight hours in an Israeli restaurant near the Dead Sea and receive a salary of over 4,000 shekels ($1,000). My salary will increase because they are required to pay minimum wage... They treat us well, and we receive our pensions easily.’”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 21, 2014]


Despite its neglect of its own workers, PA attacks Israel

The great conditions that Palestinian workers experience working for Israeli employers, and the preference amongst Palestinians to work for them, do not stop the Palestinian Authority leadership from libeling Israel in international forums, claiming Israel denies Palestinian workers their rights and promoting BDS - the boycotting of Israeli businesses, even those that employ Palestinians. This often creates a negative image for Israel in the international community that is a complete distortion of Palestinian workers’ reality. It is possible that the UN preparing a blacklist was in part a result of the incessant libels and lies of the PA to the international community.


The following is one example of a PA labor leader falsely libeling Israel at the UN headquarters in Geneva, which is where the blacklist was prepared.

“[PA] Minister of Labor Ma'moun Abu Shahla yesterday [May 31, 2018] called on the International Labour Organization to obligate Israel to abide by the international organization’s regulations and criteria, and to stop its violations against the Palestinian workers and the denial of their rights.

Abu Shahla said this as part of his statements during the meetings of the International Labour Organization’s 107th session at the UN headquarters in Geneva, which he participated in at the head of a delegation of the [PA] Ministry [of Labor].

Abu Shahla said that Palestinian workers are still suffering from the most horrible actions by the occupation government, which are expressed by the continued employment of workers through a middleman, inhumane treatment at the military checkpoints, non-implementation of the health and occupational safety regulations and appropriate work regulations at the Israeli places of employment, and the continued hiding of information regarding the extent of the Palestinian workers’ financial rights that have accumulated [in Israel] since 1970 as individual rights, which contradicts the basic principles of the International Labour Organization.

He also added that all of these violations appeared in a report of the International Labour Organization’s director-general regarding the condition of the workers in the occupied Arab territories.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 1, 2018]

It should also be noted that the PA itself enjoys the benefits of Palestinians working for Israeli employers. 75% of the income tax paid by Palestinians working in Israel is transferred to the PA. In 2017 alone, this provision provided the PA with no less than 135,000,000 shekels. In 2018 through October 2019 Israel transferred to the PA 277,740,024 shekels.


Conclusion

As is seen from official Palestinian Authority media, and statistics, Palestinian workers – whether working in Israel within the Green Line, or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank - are paid more than double by Israeli employers as they would receive if working for a Palestinian one. They also enjoy rights and benefits equal to others when working for Israelis, with no gender or religious discrimination. When working for Israelis, the only situation in which Palestinian workers, especially women, would not receive their full wages paid by the Israeli employer is when a Palestinian middleman may “steal” it. When looking at the work experience for Palestinians who work for Israelis and Palestinians, according to the testimonies in this report, it is clear why the official PA daily wrote that Palestinian workers, when given the opportunity, will prefer working for Israelis.


The following are longer excerpts of some of the sources cited above:

The article explained that Palestinian workers get their full rights when employed by Israelis directly and that the only time they don't get their full rights is when there is a Palestinian middleman:

"Whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers - for reasons having to do with salaries and other rights.

An interview conducted by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida with a representative group of Palestinian workers revealed that those working for Israelis receive much higher salaries than their colleagues employed by Palestinians. In addition, those working for Israelis receive their pensions directly or through the lawyer representing the union of professional organizations in their region, while Palestinians working for Palestinian employers receive their pensions [only] after negotiating with them, and after many deductions, or through a personal appeal to court...

Furthermore, those working for Palestinian employers stated unanimously that they work without medical insurance, as [insurance] is not required by the Palestinian Labor Law, and that they receive no compensation for their travel expenses, while the Israeli employers, in most cases, pay their workers' travel expenses in both directions.

A female worker in the agriculture sector, who asked to go by the name 'Nadia,' says: 'For over five years, I have been receiving a daily salary of 50 shekels for my work in agriculture, and the salary has stayed the same. That's how it is for those working for Palestinians in agriculture.'

By contrast, Muhammad Hassan, a resident of a village in the Jordan Valley who works in the agriculture sector in the settlements, says: 'I receive a daily salary of over 100 shekels for picking vegetables, and every day a bus takes us to work and back.' He explains: 'The only cases in which a Palestinian worker does not receive the salary his Israeli [employer] determined for him are those cases in which the middleman is Palestinian. This is because he employs the workers at his own expense, and he is the one who pays their salaries, which puts the worker at risk of being exploited or having his wages withheld.'

Fuad Qahawish, who works as a waiter in a restaurant, says: 'I work 10 hours a day and receive a monthly salary of not more than 1,900 shekels, and we have no additional rights like yearly vacations, travel expenses and so on.' He reveals that 'my colleagues who do the same work for Israelis receive 4,000 shekels a month for the same number of hours.'

Saleh Al-Haj Musa notes: 'I work eight hours in an Israeli restaurant near the Dead Sea and receive a salary of over 4,000 shekels [a month], and my salary will increase because they are required [set by Israeli law] to pay minimum wage.' He added: 'They treat us well, and we receive our pensions easily - if not directly through an agreement with the employer, then through the lawyer of the union.'

Muhammad Al-Hinnawi, a construction worker, says: 'I receive a daily salary of 70 shekels, without pension, and I have no other choice.' By contrast, Thaer Al-Louzi, who used to work for an Israeli concrete factory, notes: 'I received a salary of 140 shekels a day. Now, after I was injured, I receive a salary through the insurance.' He adds: 'The work conditions are very good, and include transportation, medical insurance, and pensions. These things do not exist with Palestinian employers.'

Khalil Qteit says: 'I work in an Israeli aluminum factory in Mishor Adumim (industrial zone in the West Bank) and receive 23 shekels an hour. We receive our salaries according to an increasing gradual payment system for additional hours. In addition, we have a savings fund, which deducts 200 shekels a month from our salaries, to which the factory adds 400 shekels. All this accumulates in the workers' fund and is added to the pension we receive when we leave.' He adds: 'We have yearly vacations and unlimited sick leave of up to 99 days a year. Furthermore, the factory and the Israeli Workers' Union strictly adhere to the safety guidelines in addition to the yearly physical checkups carried out by doctors. Our travel expenses are paid in both directions, and workers have insurance for injuries incurred during shifts.' By contrast, a worker at one of the Palestinian factories in the district of Jericho, who asked to remain anonymous, says: 'I receive a salary of 1,800 shekels [a month], without [bonuses for] extra hours, even though I work late every week. There is no such thing as yearly vacations, but our travel expenses are paid...'

'[the PA] Minimum wage is in itself unjust to the Palestinian worker in any workplace, and is only enough to pay for falafel for one family for a month. This in itself constitutes a crime against the Palestinian worker,' says Wael Nazif, CEO of the Union of Palestinian Workers' Organizations in the Jericho district. Nazif emphasizes: 'It is inconceivable that the Palestinian worker receives his full rights from the Israeli employers, but not from the Palestinian ones.' He adds: 'When the [Palestinian] workers' unions agreed on the issue of minimum wage, it was for a one-year trial period. Two years have passed, yet this issue has still not been reexamined...’

Surveys and interviews conducted by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida clarify that the salaries of workers employed by Palestinians amount to less than half the salaries of those who work for Israeli employers in the areas of the Israel-occupied West Bank, which house factories, tourist facilities and agricultural lands.

In addition, Israel has forced its employers in the West Bank to pay [Israeli] minimum wage, which is 23 shekels an hour, to Palestinian workers. However, the PA passed a law, but does not force the employers in the PA areas to implement it, thereby exposing the worker to potential exploitation. In addition, the Palestinian worker receives nearly all of his rights from his Israeli employers - even if through the courts of law - [and he] is entitled to yearly vacations, sick leave, [bonuses for] additional work hours and is paid for his travel expenses, while the majority of Palestinian employers do not provide these benefits to their workers, except for a few institutions which have begun implementing them without pressure from official parties."

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 21, 2014]

From the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey 3nd Quarter 2018:



From the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey 2nd Quarter 2018:



From the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey 1nd Quarter 2018:



The following are additional statistics published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics comparing salaries for Palestinians who worked for Israelis to those they received from Palestinian employers in the PA.

“35.8% of wage employees in the private sector received less than the minimum wage (1,450 shekels) [a month] in Palestine. In the West Bank 15.5% of wage employees in the private sector received less than minimum monthly wage, about 36,300 wage employees with average monthly wage 1,074 shekels.
In the Gaza Strip the percentage of wage employees in the private sector who received less than minimum monthly wage was 80.1% about 86,300 wage employees with average monthly wage 693 shekels.”

[Labour Force Survey (January-March, 2018) Round (Q1/2018),
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, DATE, English original]

“The labour force participation rate of individuals aged 15 years and above was 46.5%.
The number of individuals participating in the labour force in Palestine was 1,413,000 in the 3rd quarter 2017; 890,200 in the West Bank and 522,800 in Gaza Strip.
The labour force participation rate in the West Bank was 46.5% and 46.7% in Gaza Strip…
The average daily wage for employees in the West Bank was 98.8 shekels compared with 56.7 shekels in Gaza Strip…
The number of [Palestinians] employed in Israel and Israeli settlements was 128,700 in the 3rd quarter of 2017 compared with 128,400 in the 2nd quarter of 2017.
The number of employees in the Israeli settlements increased to 23,400 in the 3rd quarter of 2017 from 18,300 in the 2nd quarter of 2017.
63.3% of the employed in Israel and the Israeli settlements worked in the construction sector. The average daily wage for the wage employees in Israel and the Israeli settlements reached 233.3 shekels in the 3rd quarter of 2017 compared with 222.6 shekels in the 2nd quarter of 2017.”

[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey
(July– September, 2017), Nov. 9, 2017, English original]



"The [PA] Central Bureau of Statistics publicized yesterday [Feb. 25, 2016] that... the number of workers in the local market reached 846,000 in 2015, as the number of workers in the West Bank reached 570,000, and 276,000 in the Gaza Strip....

11.7 percent of the workers work in Israel and the settlements. The number of workers from the West Bank [that work] in Israel and the settlements reached 112,300 in 2015... and the number of workers in Israeli settlements reached 22,400 in 2015.

The average daily wage for employees was 103.9 shekels in 2015... the average [daily] wage for employees in the West Bank was 94.1 shekels, and 61.9 shekels in the Gaza strip, while the average for employees in Israel and the settlements was 198.9 shekels."

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 26, 2016]

"The labour force participation rate of persons aged 15 years and above was 45.6%
The number of persons participating in the labour force in Palestine was about 1,276,000 in the 1st quarter 2015; about 810,300 in the West Bank and about 465,700 in Gaza Strip.
The labour force participation rate in the West Bank was 45.6% and 45.5% in Gaza Strip…
The unemployment rate among labour force participants was 26.5%... The average daily wage for wage employees in the West Bank was 94.2 shekels compared with 61.3 shekels in the Gaza Strip. 
The number of employed persons from the West Bank employed in Israel and Israeli settlements was 110,300 in the 1st quarter 2015 compared with 105,200 in the 4th quarter 2014… The number of employees in the Israeli settlements increased from 20,200 in 4th quarter 2014 to 20,900 in 1st quarter 2015… The average daily wage for the wage employees in Israel and the Israeli settlements reached 196.4 shekels in the 1st quarter 2015 compared with 194.2 shekels in the 4th quarter 2014.”

[Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey, DATE, English originial]


Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Source: https://palwatch.org/page/17409

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Secretary Pompeo: 'US will operate with anti-Israel blacklists' - Gary Willig


by Gary Willig

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says decision by UN Human Rights Commissioner to publish list of 112 companies shows 'unrelenting bias.'


Mike Pompeo
Mike Pompeo                                                                                                                                       Reuters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the decision yesterday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish a list of 112 companies which do business in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

"It is outrageous that the @UNHumanRights Commissioner @mbachelet would release the database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories. Its publication confirms the unrelenting anti-#Israel bias so prevalent at the @UN," Pompeo tweeted Thursday.

"The U.S. has not and will never provide any information to support the compilation of these lists. We call on @UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort. Attempts to isolate #Israel damage momentum toward Israeli-Palestinian negotiations," he added.


Gary Willig

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/275962

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Mullahs at War With Each Other - Michael Ledeen


by Michael Ledeen

The mad rush to the bottom.





I don’t know Struan Stevenson, but I’d sure like to. He has laid out a clear-eyed picture of the collapsing Islamic Republic of Iran that is as good as anything you’ll read. It’s in The Scotsman February 4th and it begins, “After a murderous crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests in Iran, infighting has broken out between different factions of the ruling elite as they try desperately to cling to power.”

So it’s a civil war, fought between the different elements of the ruling class. Since the spoils of this war will be measured in terms of government posts and bank accounts around the world, it’s a very intense struggle. As Stevenson puts it,
The slightest spark will ignite a revolution, which will drive the theocratic regime from office and restore freedom to Iran’s 80 million enraged citizens. It is the lull before the inevitable storm.
Under the leadership of President Rouhani, the Islamic Republic of Iran has executed more than four thousand persons, including women and children, thereby making the IRI the leading per capita executioner in the world. Contrary to the myth of Rouhani’s “moderation,” he has made Alireza Avaei the Minister of Justice. Avaei has been singled out as a leading terrorist for his role as the killer of political prisoners in 1988, when more than thirty thousand followers of the MEK opposition movement and their friends were slaughtered.

The internal struggle reminds one of the bloodthirsty struggles among the Sicilian Mafia families half a century ago, in which both family members and their friends and neighbors were compelled to choose up sides. This is evident in the maneuvering leading up to the forthcoming elections in March. The Guardian Council has already banned 90 members of Parliament from running, enabling Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his cronies to stack the deck with their own candidates, locking out the Rouhani crowd. As Stevenson summarizes the situation, this is “a sure sign that the teetering regime is on its last legs.”

Similar conclusions are found in an essay by John Rossomando for the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
The median age of Iran's population is 31, so most people have no memory of the 1979 revolution. Many want the regime gone because it has only brought them misery, said Iranian-American activist Saghar Erica Kasraie.
"The regime gave them an economy that's plummeting, a government that has invaded every aspect of their lives, whether that's your private life, your religious rights, your everything," Kasraie said. "You've had a chess player defect. You've had an Olympian defect. You have celebrities defecting. This is a really strong signal to show that people are no longer buying in."
The clock is ticking on the regime, according to Rossomando. Any one of several factors could throw the country into turmoil. Khamenei is eighty years old, and his death could be a precipitating event.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to eliminate key allies of the Iranian regime. The most recent events have involved al Qaeda leaders, such as Qasim al-Rimi (or al-Raymi), the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The White House confirmed rumors that Rimi was “successfully eliminated” in a “counterterrorism operation in Yemen.”

Rimi was on the “most wanted” list of terrorists, and there was an American public reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture or death. He was the most recent victim of violent action against the forces of repression. His predecessor was killed in a drone strike in 2015.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, at least two acts of resistance against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other security forces that led the crackdown against the recent protests were launched by the protestors. First came the firebombing of a Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran on January 19th, and the following day a similar attack on the Headquarters of State Security Forces in Mashad on Jan. 20. 

Within a few days, a close associate of General Soleimani, Abdolhossein Maidam, was killed in Khuzestan by two men on a motorcycle. Maidam was involved in the repression of the protestors, which was notably intense in the southwestern province. Khuzestan is in the heart of the oil-producing region and is largely populated with Arabs.

In the past, such attacks have been blamed on the Israelis, prompting me to say that if Israel was capable of operating in the midst of Iranian cities that are under near-total military occupation, whether to kill high-ranking IRI officials or to steal secret IRI files about its nuclear weapons program, they are capable of most anything.

Faster, please.


Michael Ledeen

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2020/02/iranians-war-each-other-michael-ledeen/

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Coronavirus: Death of Dr. Li Wenliang Rocks China - Gordon G. Chang


by Gordon G. Chang

The boldness of recent demands shows that, due to the outbreak, the Chinese people are starting to lose their fear of Xi and the Communist Party.

  • [T]he disease ravaging the country could be, as is now said, China's "Chernobyl," the cover up of a disaster eventually leading to the downfall of the regime.
  • Many analysts expect Beijing to stimulate the economy, but stimulus works only if there is underlying economic activity. With much of the economy shut down, there is not much to stimulate. A dead economy is an existential crisis for a regime whose primary basis of legitimacy is the continual delivery of prosperity.
  • The boldness of recent demands shows that, due to the outbreak, the Chinese people are starting to lose their fear of Xi and the Communist Party. Rudd and Chinese propagandists are saying the Party will weather this crisis, but when people are no longer afraid, anything can happen.
  • "If they do not give us an explanation, we will not give up," said Lu Shuyun, the mother of Dr. Li Wenliang, demanding to know why Wuhan police harassed him while he was trying to save patients.
  • In this contest, bet on the mother. After all, she has about 1.4 billion angry people on her side.

Dr. Li Wenliang, who died from the coronavirus on January 31, had been reprimanded by the Chinese government, with seven other doctors, for warning of the outbreak in December. He was accused of "spreading false rumors" and "disrupting social order" and, for his brave efforts, was briefly detained and interrogated. Pictured: A vigil to mourn Wenliang on February 7 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

On hearing the news that Dr. Li Wenliang had died from the coronavirus on January 31, people in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, under strict quarantine, opened their windows and cried. Others took to the streets to blow whistles for the whistleblower. Grief and anger, expressed from China's streets and balconies and social media platforms, has reached almost unprecedented levels in recent days.

Li, reprimanded with seven other doctors for warning of the outbreak in December, was accused of "spreading false rumors" and "disrupting social order" and, for his brave efforts, was briefly detained, interrogated, and forced to sign an "admonishment notice." Li undoubtedly contracted the virus treating patients at Wuhan Central Hospital.

The first official announcement of his death, on Thursday night, sparked online outrage. State media, perhaps to mollify public opinion, then said he was alive but critically ill. When he was pronounced dead for a second time, the announcement was followed by a white-hot uproar. Chinese censors scrubbed millions of social media postings supporting the young doctor. Li was 34 years old.

Some say that as memory of the disease wilts in the heat of the upcoming summer, the Chinese political system will be able to resist change. On the contrary, the disease ravaging the country could be, as is now said, China's "Chernobyl," the cover up of a disaster eventually leading to the downfall of the regime.

Firmly in the no-Chernobyl camp is former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. "Xi wields near-absolute political power over China's Marxist-Leninist state," he wrote in a February 8 column. It is "certain," he assures us, "that the crisis, once resolved, will not change how China is governed in the future."

Rudd's argument is that Xi's priorities, which he calls "ten sets of concentric circles emanating from the party center," will remain the same. Foremost among those priorities is maintaining the country's political system. As Rudd, now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, notes, "Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has strengthened the Communist Party's hold on power and developed a comprehensive national agenda from which all else — including domestic crisis management — must follow."

Is Xi that strong? He has defied expectations and accumulated power not seen since the days of Deng Xiaoping, Mao's crafty successor. Some analysts compare his position to that of Mao himself. Politically, Xi seems to have "nine lives."

He is almost certainly laying the groundwork for having his adversary, Premier Li Keqiang, take the blame when things go wrong. Li, most notably, has been put in charge of coordinating Beijing's response to the disease.

On January 26, the Communist Party announced that Li would be chairing China's task force, the Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the New Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic. Xi has also borrowed a tactic from Mao and retreated from the spotlight by largely disappearing from the official media during the last week of January.

Yet, as clever as Xi has been, there are reasons why he cannot escape responsibility. First, his great power brings with it accountability, and he seems to realize there are occasions when he must acknowledge his primacy. In the fight against the epidemic, Xi said in a January 28 meeting in Beijing with World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, "I, myself have been directing and arranging the work."

Second, the Chinese economy, due to the epidemic and other reasons, looks as if it is contracting, not only quarter-to-quarter but year-to-year. Chinese oil demand is now down 20% from this time last year. Many factories and stores remain shut, long after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. The spring session of the Canton Fair, scheduled for April, has been cancelled. Airlines have cut flights to China; many routes have been indefinitely suspended.

This emergency comes as the economy was already slowing, in reality growing about 2% before the epidemic, and while defaults were taking place.


Many analysts expect Beijing to stimulate the economy, but stimulus works only if there is underlying economic activity. With much of the economy shut down, there is not much to stimulate. A dead economy is an existential crisis for a regime whose primary basis of legitimacy is the continual delivery of prosperity.

Third, the Chinese people, as evident from the reaction to the death of Li Wenliang, are not going to be swayed by Xi's internal Communist Party maneuverings. For one thing, local officials have blown Beijing's cover. On January 27, Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, publicly said he could not disclose the coronavirus epidemic to the public because he was waiting for authorization from higher-ups. That charge made no one in Beijing look good.

The Chinese people, partly as a result of Zhou's finger-pointing, are furious, and unlike earlier episodes of Beijing malfeasance, they are now talking about fundamental issues and demanding basic rights. The refrain now heard across China is, "We want freedom of speech!" People in that stricken society, like those seeking freedom in Hong Kong, have adopted as their anthem the politically impactful song from Les Miserables, "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

The death of Dr. Li comes after a Tsinghua University law professor, Xu Zhangrun, last week publicly called Xi Jinping "not very smart" and asked him to step down. At about the same time, Xu and eight others signed an open letter to the National People's Congress, titled "The Right to Freedom of Speech Starts Today."

The boldness of recent demands shows that, due to the outbreak, the Chinese people are starting to lose their fear of Xi and the Communist Party. Rudd and Chinese propagandists are saying the Party will weather this crisis, but when people are no longer afraid, anything can happen.

When people lose fear, they either think they can do anything or they simply do not care about the consequences. That is often the moment when mighty-looking political systems crumble.

Xi must be bracing himself for the early summer, after the virus peaks in April and May in major population centers outside Hubei province, the current epicenter. Then, the Chinese people will in earnest talk about who is to blame.

Right now, Xi is focused more on controlling the national narrative than in ending the disease. The composition of the nine-member Central Leading Small Group, described above, is particularly disturbing. There is only one public health official on the roster, which is heavy with political hacks and propaganda officials. The Party propaganda czar, Wang Huning, is vice chair. "Maintaining the integrity of Xi Jinping's dictatorial rule is evidently the Leading Group's primary focus," China watcher Charles Burton of Ottawa's Macdonald-Laurier Institute told Gatestone.

Xi Jinping, however, has already lost the battle over the narrative. His waging a propaganda effort hinders his ability to eradicate the disease. Secrecy and the suppression of information never help.

In any event, one woman is not going to allow the authorities to suppress information for long. "If they do not give us an explanation, we will not give up," said Lu Shuyun, the mother of Dr. Li Wenliang, demanding to know why Wuhan police harassed him while he was trying to save patients.

Can one woman stand against strongman Xi Jinping? In this contest, bet on the mother. After all, she has about 1.4 billion angry people on her side.
  • Follow Gordon G. Chang on Twitter

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and a Gatestone Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/15576/china-coronavirus-li-wenliang

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Free Speech in the Time of the Coronavirus - J. B. Shurk


by J. B. Shurk

Dr. Li Wenliang is a hero, and not just for spreading news of the virus.


There is nothing more powerful than an idea. That is why governments insist on controlling who can have them. Freedom of speech is both an idea and an idea-generator. That is why governments work so hard to control who can be heard. 

In the early hours of February 7, the Wuhan Central Hospital released a short statement online that Dr. Li Wenliang was in critical condition. Within a half hour, over a half-million Chinese had replied to the hospital's social media account with anguish. "We are not going to bed," wrote one. "We are here waiting for a miracle." When he succumbed to his illness a short time later, the reaction was immediate and immense. Within hours, Dr. Li's death became the most read and discussed story in China, with over 1.5 billion views alone on Weibo, the heavily monitored and censored Chinese social media platform. A highly liked post mourned his passing: "Light a candle and pay tribute to the hero. You were the beam of light in the night."

How did a thirty-four-year-old ophthalmologist who was unknown outside his hospital before January become one of the most important public figures in China and a national hero whose death is grieved across his country? In a closed socialist dictatorship, Dr. Li was "willing to speak the truth." At the end of December, he sounded the alarm over the emerging coronavirus pandemic by revealing on social media that his hospital was battling an acute respiratory illness that seemed similar to SARS in lethality. By January 3, the Wuhan police bureau summoned Dr. Li in the middle of the night and threatened him with criminal charges for "severely disrupting social order," demanding that he sign a statement promising his future compliance with politically correct thought. On January 12, he felt unwell and was taken to an isolation ward. On February 1, he tested positive for the new coronavirus. Within the week, he was gone. 

Whether he meant to take up the mantle or not, his name is now a rallying cry for freedom in his country. In those final hours before his passing, "We Want Free Speech" trended at the top of Weibo. Proving the truth of the Chinese people's demand, the communist government censored the "We Want Free Speech" hashtag from all social media platforms by the time Dr. Li took his final breaths. In response, social media users began to post links to the song "Do You Hear the People Sing" from Les Misérables, an anthem against tyranny commonly sung by freedom-fighters in Hong Kong. They also turned the Chinese national anthem against the Communist Party by successfully pushing its first line to trend across social media: "Arise! All those who don't want to be slaves!"

There is a lesson here for the West, if we only have the wisdom to see it. While international governments and multinational corporations continue to seek more effective ways of controlling the people they wish to rule, they are missing a profound development in the world. The devastation of WWII so shocked the survivors that we have been building international networks imposing order ever since. After seventy-five years of creating powerful acronyms to control our lives, however, people are finally asking whether trading freedom for peace betrayed both. Dr. Li's tragic death is a reminder both that the desire for human freedom is universal and that Western governments ignore its importance to their own future detriment. 

The powerful establishment in the United States refuses to understand why Americans voted for Donald Trump. The powerful establishment in the United Kingdom refuses to understand why Britains voted for Brexit. The European Union refuses to understand why Poland and Hungary wish to protect their own cultures from mass immigration. While the U.S. and U.K. and E.U. all work to curb speech by making more and more things illegal to say out loud, halfway around the world, Chinese nationals are fighting daily for the very freedom the West so cavalierly diminishes. What the protesters in Hong Kong and the mourners throughout China know is that there can be no freedom without the ability to stand up and express the thoughts their government denies them having. The more that any government demands that some idea must not be spoken, the more imperative it is that what is trapped inside the mind be released. And any Western government that wraps itself in the tradition of freedom but forbids its citizens from expressing their thoughts is neither free nor permanent. 

While we forget how difficult the struggle for freedom is, the Chinese mourning Dr. Li and the Hong Kong freedom-fighters surely do not. And while Western governments emulate the Chinese communists by erecting new barriers to free speech, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the world is divided not between despots and free republics, but rather by those who would subsume the individual to the collective aims of the State and those who understand that individual freedom is the only guarantor of legitimate power.

Dr. Li may have changed the course of this emerging coronavirus pandemic by bringing the world's attention to it before it was too late. Only time will tell. But he certainly has helped spread a growing awareness among his countrymen that they are not free just because Xi Jinping says it is so. Likewise, in the West, his fearlessness in the face of governmental force should be one more reminder to those who insist on controlling how we think that they will not be in control forever. 

Days before his death, Dr. Li took a selfie wearing an oxygen respirator and holding up his Chinese identification card in order to prevent the Chinese government from engaging in further propaganda and disinformation regarding his condition. In a final interview, he said, "I think there should be more than one voice in a healthy society, and I don't approve of using public power for excessive interference." How true. May we be wise enough to listen. 

Image: 云中君 via Wikimedia Commons (cropped).

J. B. Shurk

Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2020/02/free_speech_in_the_time_of_the_coronavirus.html

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