Monthly Archives: April 2008

Martín López Calva: La mala educación

“Evaluar es hacer a otros lo que no quieres que te hagan a ti” decía irónicamente un profesor. Tenía razón, porque los procesos de evaluación en nuestro sistema educativo han sido siempre vistos como mecanismos de castigo o “ajusticiamiento” por parte de quien ejerce el poder dentro del aula, la escuela o el gobierno.

Conviene reflexionar sobre esta cultura distorsionada de la evaluación a propósito de la reciente aplicación de la prueba ENLACE.

Si bien es cierto que todo instrumento de evaluación es mejorable y que los procesos de aplicación de esta prueba necesitan irse afinando, también es verdad que la existencia de una evaluación nacional estandarizada cuyos resultados se dan a conocer públicamente es un gran avance para nuestra educación.

Porque los resultados anuales de ENLACE, revisados desde una visión positiva de la evaluación educativa, es decir, desde la concepción de la evaluación como un proceso necesario y permanente de retroalimentación para la mejora de la calidad, pueden ser de gran utilidad para que cada escuela trabaje de manera colegiada y colaborativa con sus docentes los aspectos en que sus estudiantes muestren deficiencias concretas.

Lo anterior redundaría en una cultura de mejora continua que resulta muy necesaria en nuestras escuelas.

Para lograr este objetivo, tendrían que cumplirse dos condiciones mínimas: 1. Que los directivos, profesores y padres de familia sepan exactamente qué es lo que ENLACE evalúa y no pretendan sacar conclusiones o tomar decisiones pedagógicas más allá de lo que la prueba mide y 2. Que cada escuela revise los resultados comparando con otras instituciones similares pero sobre todo, analizando los aspectos en los que la misma institución avanza o retrocede año con año en cada nivel (la competencia fundamental es respecto de sí mismos).

Por otra parte, una sociedad como la mexicana, que está luchando –con muchos problemas y contradicciones– por llegar a ser verdaderamente democrática y equitativa, tiene que construir un sistema educativo que se sustente en una “cultura de la transparencia” y la rendición de cuentas.

La construcción de una auténtica “cultura de la evaluación” a través de elementos como ENLACE, puede ser un factor que contribuya de manera gradual a una reforma educativa en nuestro país puesto que proporcionará información para una participación social más efectiva y corresponsable en la gestión escolar.

Los resultados de México en este tipo de pruebas a nivel internacional son preocupantes y el desempeño de Puebla en ENLACE no es tampoco satisfactorio.

Pero “la mala educación” no es resultado de las deficiencias de los instrumentos o de la aplicación de las pruebas. “La mala educación” es resultado de procesos de enseñanza–aprendizaje marcados por la rutina, la falta de reflexión y retroalimentación, así como de la opacidad y la falta de rendición de cuentas de nuestro sistema educativo.

Este texto se encuentra en: http://circulodeescritores.blogspot.com
Sus comentarios son bienvenidos.

*El autor es académico de la Universidad Iberoamericana
* La Jornada de Oriente
* http://www.lajornadadeoriente.com.mx/2008/04/29/puebla/c2ibe10.php

3 Comments

Filed under Blogroll, Education, Projects

Amy Goodman: Former Marine Returns to Iraq as Embedded Photographer Only to be Ordered Home

James Lee is a former Marine from California who served two tours of duty in Iraq in 2001 to 2004. He’s been back in Iraq more recently, this time as an embedded photographer. Lee is now a journalism student at San Francisco State University and filed reports from Iraq for the college newspaper, the Golden Gate XPress. But earlier this month, Lee was abruptly de-embedded. On April 2nd, just before General Petraeus was due to brief Congress on progress in Iraq, Lee was ordered to leave Basra. [includes rush transcript]
—–

AMY GOODMAN: Just a few days ago, we were in Santa Barbara, celebrating KCSB, the community radio station of the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was there that I met James Lee, a former Marine from California who served two tours of duty in Iraq in 2001 and 2004. In 2004, he was in Fallujah where he got his finger shot off in friendly fire. He has been back in Iraq more recently, this time as an embedded photographer. Lee is now a journalism student at San Francisco State University, filed reports from Iraq for the Golden Gate XPress. But earlier this month, Lee was abruptly de-embedded. On April 2, just before General Petraeus was due to brief Congress on progress in Iraq, Lee was ordered to leave Basra, just a few hours after he had gotten there. I spoke to Lee while on the road in Santa Barbara.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me your experience.

JAMES LEE: My name is James Lee. I am a photojournalist. I’m also a Marine veteran, served two combat deployments in Iraq. And after my last deployment, I was—in Fallujah back in 2004, I was shot by another Marine unit during a combat operation and ended up being evacuated after being injured during a friendly fire incident. After leaving the Marine Corps, I decided to return to Iraq as a photojournalist.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?

JAMES LEE: I was with the military for about five months total. My last assignment was in the city of Basra. I had become aware of a declining security situation in some neighborhoods around Baghdad and in Basra and decided that I wanted to go down and photograph to document the Iraqi army’s ability or inability to conduct independent combat operations in Iraq.

I arrived in Basra after a three-day convoy with Iraqi soldiers from Baghdad down to Basra. I was only in Basra about four hours, when I was notified by the public affairs office assigned to Basra that they didn’t want any Western media in Basra covering the fighting and that an aircraft was been dispatched down to Basra to pick me up to fly me back to Baghdad.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the reason they gave?

JAMES LEE: Originally I was told that an order came directly from the office of General Petraeus, that they didn’t want any Western media covering the events and—

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

JAMES LEE: Because Petraeus was in Washington at the time, and they were concerned about images coming out from Basra that didn’t support their mission at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Is that what you speculate, or that’s what they said?

JAMES LEE: That’s what I was told by the public affairs officer; that’s what he thought the reason was. I thought that it contradicted some guidelines that General Petraeus had published to his subordinate command directly relating to the media. And I obtained Petraeus’s personal phone number a few weeks earlier from a French reporter who had interviewed him. So I called that number, and he had already left for Washington, but one of his adjutants that answered the phone said that that order didn’t come from Petraeus and that I had every right to remain in Basra.

I notified the unit that I was with about that fact, and they changed their story and said, “Well, you’re now able to stay.” But about two hours later, they reversed their position and said now a new authority was ordering me out of Basra and that it wasn’t Petraeus. I was told that it was a two-star Marine general; they would not identify who he was. And later, once I arrived back in Baghdad after being forced to leave Basra, I was told that the order now came from the Iraqi army themselves. So, they had quite a few reasons why I couldn’t be there doing my job.

AMY GOODMAN: Why didn’t they want you to see what—or what was the reality on the ground?

JAMES LEE: The reality on the ground was, more than a thousand Iraqi soldiers refused to fight the Mahdi Army, whether they were afraid that they didn’t have the ability to do it or they didn’t believe that they should be fighting the Mahdi Army. For whatever reason, many of them put down their weapons and refused to go into Basra and fight the Mahdi Army. And I think those images would have been very powerful, and I think it would have created a lot of doubt on the part of the American public about the Iraqis army’s commitment to coalition missions in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: What was Fallujah like when you were there as a soldier?

JAMES LEE: Extremely chaotic. We had surrounded the city of Fallujah—

AMY GOODMAN: What month was this in 2004?

JAMES LEE: April.

AMY GOODMAN: The first siege.

JAMES LEE: The first siege. The city had basically been evacuated by most people, but there were still pockets of some civilians who decided to remain behind and safeguard their homes and shops.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long were you there then before you were shot?

JAMES LEE: I was only in Fallujah for about a week when I was shot by another Marine unit that was operating in the same area that I was in.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did they shoot you?

JAMES LEE: They misidentified my position as an enemy position, and I was targeted by my own troops. And I ended up—I was shot through the left hand.

AMY GOODMAN: Where you seriously injured? You lost the top of your finger?

JAMES LEE: I’ve lost some use of two fingers. They reattached the middle finger, and it remained attached for about a year. And then they decided that it would be best to remove it, so they amputated it after about a year.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the difference between being a soldier and an embedded journalist?

JAMES LEE: The ability to ask questions and to interact, I think, on a more intimate level with Iraqi civilians. I mean, I had no interaction, really, with Iraqis while I was wearing a uniform. It wasn’t until I returned as a civilian journalist that I had the chance to sit down and speak with Iraqi interpreters and those Iraqis that did speak English.

AMY GOODMAN: Did your view of Iraq change?

JAMES LEE: Uh—

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking to Iraqis?

JAMES LEE: I think it did. It was my first opportunity, I think, to meet Iraqis. I mean, I’d been to Iraq twice before, once for the invasion and once for the battle of Fallujah during my second deployment, and never had the chance to interact with an Iraqi. And it wasn’t until the end of 2006, when I returned to Iraq, that I had the chance to sit down and speak with Iraqis for the first time.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did the soldiers treat you as a journalist?

JAMES LEE: You know, I had thought returning back to Iraq as a former Marine veteran and now as a civilian photographer, that I’d have greater access. And I realized that once you take the uniform off and you pick up a camera, they no longer view you as a Marine veteran. You’re now a journalist. And I wasn’t always welcome. I had some problems trying to tell the stories that I wanted to tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Like what?

JAMES LEE: One of my embeds when I was in Afghanistan, I was embedded with an Army unit, and I was forced to remain on a forward operating base for ten days and was never allowed to leave the base with a patrol or to go out into the community where the real stories were. So, my only access to any of the locals was an Iraqi army unit that was housed in the same forward operating base.

AMY GOODMAN: An Afghan?

JAMES LEE: In Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: An Afghan army unit?

JAMES LEE: An Afghan army unit. So I had the opportunity to speak with them about their feelings about us being in Afghanistan and about the changes in their country, but if it wasn’t for those soldiers being on the same base, I would have basically been locked out of any access with the Afghanis.

AMY GOODMAN: And why were they trying to stop you from meeting them?

JAMES LEE: I was told that earlier in the year they had had some problems with German reporters, and they weren’t happy with the story that was told, and they were no longer going to support media missions. And they were just going to wait me out.

AMY GOODMAN: What did the Afghan soldiers tell you?

JAMES LEE: That there’s really limited opportunities for them in Afghanistan, and by joining the Afghan military, at least it’s an option for some credibility, some income, some stability. But most of them, I thought, would rather be doing other things with their time. They were really separated from their families and from their communities. And they’re pretty isolated when they’re out serving in these forward operating bases.

AMY GOODMAN: Ultimately in Basra, they got a plane to get you?

JAMES LEE: They did. They originally wanted me out that day when I was first notified, but the weather wouldn’t permit them to land. So I had to remain over for about another ten hours before they were able to get a flight the following morning. During that period of time, I was able to go out and take some photographs and interview some of the Iraqi soldiers that were getting ready to move into Basra.

AMY GOODMAN: A thousand refused to fight?

JAMES LEE: Over—I think it was 1,300 was the last report that I heard.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the embedded reporter James Lee, actually a former Marine, before he was injured in Fallujah in 2004. After he was injured, he went back to Camp Pendleton. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and he and a fellow Marine wanted to go to Katrina, to New Orleans. They were told they couldn’t go, so they took vacation, and they went down to New Orleans anyway. This is what James Lee described happened when he went to New Orleans.

AMY GOODMAN: You were shipped back to the United States. Can you talk about that time period and what you did?

JAMES LEE: Sure. After being injured, I was pulled out of my role as a rifleman, and I was assigned as an instructor running a facility at Camp Pendleton that taught Marines water survival. During that timeframe, Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans, and I contacted my command about letting a group of Marines travel to New Orleans to assist with the rescue operations, and I was told by my command that that’s not possible, that unless we’re requested, we can’t go.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what did you do?

JAMES LEE: Myself and one other Marine had put in a request for vacation time, and we both took two weeks off, and without our command knowing, we grabbed some equipment and drove all the way to New Orleans to help out.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did they say you couldn’t go?

JAMES LEE: Because the Marines hadn’t been formally tasked to go down there and assist with recovery operations or rescue operations, we weren’t able to go as small unit. The Marine Corps also identified New Orleans as a no-travel zone, which meant no one in the military was allowed to go there for any reason.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened when you got there?

JAMES LEE: As myself and the other Marine drove to New Orleans, we contacted FEMA on our cell phone and coordinated getting a duty assignment with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. And once we arrived in downtown New Orleans, we were paired up with other rescuers, and we began to conduct search and rescue operations in the city.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long did you do that for?

JAMES LEE: We were there for about ten days. And I think on day six or seven, an Associated Press photographer happened to take our photographs, and those photographs ran across the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: What do they show you doing?

JAMES LEE: The photograph showed me talking to a displaced resident from the Lower Ninth Ward. He was trying to argue that he wanted to remain in his neighborhood, and I was explaining to him that we were evacuating everybody out of the area. So it was basically us having some dialogue inside of a boat.

AMY GOODMAN: And were you dressed as a Marine?

JAMES LEE: I was not. We attempted to conceal our identities by just wearing green flight suits. And I think the caption identified me and the other Marine as police officers.

AMY GOODMAN: Which you’re not.

JAMES LEE: Which we’re not.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happened when those pictures ran?

JAMES LEE: Those pictures ran nationwide. They were in the New York Times, LA Times. And our command ended up seeing the photograph, and they placed a phone call and ordered us to return back to Camp Pendleton.

AMY GOODMAN: How fast?

JAMES LEE: They wanted us there immediately. I think we drove nonstop, and we got back in about two days.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you punished?

JAMES LEE: We weren’t. We were told as long as we didn’t let people know what we were down there doing, that we would be reimbursed for the days that we took off and that there wouldn’t be any punitive action taken against us.

AMY GOODMAN: Why not?

JAMES LEE: I was told that at that point so many people in the United States were questioning why the military wasn’t there that they thought that it would be inappropriate to punish us for what we should have been doing in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: That is former Marine, James Lee. I met him in Santa Barbara, as we continue to be on the road. James Lee then went on to be an embedded reporter and was pulled out of Basra. He’s at San Francisco State University in California.

* Amy Goodman
* Democracy Now!
* http://www.democracynow.org/2008/4/28/former_marine_returns_to_iraq_as

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll, Politics, Projects

Marcos Roitman Rosenmann: Huelgas de inmigrantes sin papeles

La crisis actual del capitalismo tiene sus peculiaridades. Mientras los empresarios, grandes capitalistas, banqueros y patronal piden a gritos la intervención salvadora del Estado por medio de subvenciones, exenciones tributarias, mayor flexibilización del mercado laboral y bajar el salario mínimo, los trabajadores inmigrantes sin papeles van a la huelga. Eso sucede en Francia y en el sur de España. Algo está cambiando. Se trata de una circunstancia novedosa. La contradicción de un neocapitalismo de corte oligárquico, cuya organización laboral se fundamenta en la concentración del poder, la descentralización de la producción y la discontinuidad del tiempo de trabajo, facilita el nacimiento de un empleo precario cuya figura es el inmigrante sin papeles. Personas abocadas a no escatimar en las ofertas de trabajo y aceptar cualquier opción. Si bien es una seña de identidad del capitalismo trasnacional, lo específico de la flexibilización del mercado laboral y de los inmigrantes sin papeles es su ubicación en los sectores de la construcción, la hostelería, la maquila, la agricultura y el servicio doméstico.

Si se quiere una garantía de éxito y continuidad en la contratación de ilegales es necesaria una complicidad entre las organizaciones empresariales, las instituciones estatales y los empleados. Nada parece alterar este equilibrio. Unos a otros se cubren las espaldas, asumiendo los riesgos de la ilegalidad. Cuando hay una inspección son alertados, se retiran o simplemente se hace la vista gorda. En momentos de auge y euforia del capitalismo, donde el dinero circula y hay para todos, nadie se queja. Unos explotan y otros son explotados. Las ganancias se reparten desigualmente, pero cubren las expectativas. Incluso se negocia al alza y se pagan sueldos aceptables, según la benevolencia del patrón. Si se producen accidentes en el trabajo, en España y en Francia, la seguridad social sigue siendo uno de las pocos servicios públicos no privatizados por la acción del liberalismo, y cubre todos los costes médicos. Todo está atado y bien atado. Además, los costes de la baja laboral se pagan bajo cuerda. Nadie sale perjudicado. Incluso, según sea el alcance del daño, pérdida de una mano, del ojo o traumatismo, se puede negociar la regularización de la residencia y la incorporación a la empresa. Aun así, los sin papeles, para convertirse en inmigrantes de primera, cuando acuden a las instancias legales lo hacen a título individual y tutelados por abogados y especialistas. No se asocian, no se plantean una acción colectiva frente a la patronal, ni solicitan de sus empleadores el cumplimiento de la ley. Soportan colas de pernocta y vigilia en las puertas de comisarias y ministerios esperando obtener un número para acceder a una ventanilla donde un funcionario abrirá un expediente sin garantía de éxito. Pero no les importa, dan por seguro que el sufrimiento es el aliado para lograr la compasión del sistema y acceder a los papeles.

Con el euro por las nubes y el dólar por los suelos, el discurso del liberalismo económico se viene al traste. El libre mercado es una falacia. El capitalista gana todo lo que puede sin pensar en el futuro. Amasa su riqueza y cuando sus arcas se vacían pone el grito en el cielo evocando los males de un orden dislocado sin planificación económica y la dejadez de gobernantes en su deber de controlar la inflación, los salarios y los índices macroeconómicos. Implora una solución. El recetario es siempre el mismo. Ellos, los capitalistas, deben ser los receptores de las ayudas. Si alguien tiene que ajustarse el cinturón deben ser los trabajadores. Están acostumbrados a pasar hambre y sufrir penurias, forma parte de su naturaleza. No crean riqueza y en tiempos de crisis son prescindibles. Ni qué decir de los inmigrantes; pueden ser repatriados de manera inmediata. Basta con reprimir sus demandas y desarticular sus organizaciones. El Estado debe actuar en consecuencia.

Sin embargo, en medio de este discurso ramplón se levanta otra realidad. El capitalismo realmente existente en Francia y en España, en sectores que dan lustre a la imagen turística, está en manos de trabajadores inmigrantes ilegales. En otras palabras, son los sin papeles quienes les sacan las castañas del fuego. Y ahora, este colectivo se ha puesto en huelga. En la hostelería, por ejemplo, se inicia un movimiento de gran alcance. Lo cual es un punto de inflexión. La reivindicación de derechos pone en cuestión por un lado, la política de inmigración y, por otro, los tópicos sobre quiénes son y cómo se comportan los inmigrantes. Los sin papeles ya no son los negros africanos, los amarillos asiáticos, los latinos narcotraficantes, delincuentes, mafiosos marginales: son trabajadores cuya dignidad no se arrebata desde el discurso xenófobo o racista del gobierno de Nicolas Sarkozy, en Francia, o Silvio Berlusconi, en Italia, o en la España incluso del Partido Socialista Obrero Español.

Ha sido la recesión del capitalismo especulativo, donde el despido se avizora como el horizonte probable lo que levanta la reivindicación del colectivo de los sin papeles. Han dicho basta. En París y en Andalucía se inicia la restauración. Las pérdidas no dejan indiferentes a la patronal. En algunos restaurantes llegan a 7 mil euros diarios. Los camareros, los cocineros, los dependientes no se presentan a trabajar. No hay quien lleve los platos a la mesa. Y por primera vez la huelga cuenta con voces de apoyo entre empresarios, que exigen un cambio en la política de inmigración. Hay que legalizar. Contratar a los sin papeles. En la agricultura está sucediendo algo similar. Las cosechas de temporada sufren los avatares de la unidad de acción de los sin papeles, trabajadores cuya dignidad se levanta y su voz se escucha alta y clara. El miedo se pierde y se rompe la dinámica del capitalismo trasnacional fundada en la mano de obra de ilegales explotados como mano de obra semiesclava. Son nuevos tiempos. Los inmigrantes transforman el proyecto de sociedad democrática con sus nuevas organizaciones y reivindicaciones. Esperemos que no sea flor de un día.

* La Jornada
* http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2008/04/29/index.php?section=opinion&article=015a1pol

1 Comment

Filed under Blogroll

Robert Fisk: ‘You become accustomed to the smell of blood during war’

I was in the occupied Palestinian city of Hebron once, in 2001, and the Palestinians had lynched three supposed collaborators. And they were hanging so terribly, almost naked, on the electricity pylons out of town, that I could not write in my notebook. Instead, I drew pictures of their bodies hanging from the pylons. Young boys – Palestinian boys – were stubbing out cigarettes on their near-naked bodies and they reminded me of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, all arrows and pain and forgiveness, and so all I could do was draw. I still have the pictures. They are ridiculous, stupid, the work of a reporter who suddenly couldn’t bring himself to write the details on the page.

But I understand Hoyland’s picture, even if it is not my picture. After I saw the oil fires burning in Kuwait in 1991, an Irish artist painted Fisk’s Fires – a title I could have done without – in which she very accurately portrayed the bleached desert with the rich, thick, chocolate-tasting oil we tasted in the aftermath of the war. Sometimes, I wish these painters were with us when we saw the war with our own eyes – and which they could then see with theirs.

But John Hoyland’s Blood and Flowers quite scrupulously directs our eyesight on to the bright, glittering centre of gore that we – be we photographers or writers – look at immediately we enter the centre of that little Golgotha which we wish to visit and of which we never wish to be a part: the hospital. Blood is not essentially terrible. It is about life. But it smells. Stay in a hospital during a war and you will become accustomed to the chemical smell of blood. It is quite normal. Doctors and nurses are used to it. So am I. But when I smell it in war, it becomes an obscenity.

I remember how Condoleezza Rice, when she was Secretary of State, visited Lebanon at the height of the war – at the apogee of the casualties – and said that the birth of democracy could be bloody. Well, yes indeed. The midwifery was a fearful business. Lots of blood. Huge amid the hospitals. God spare us Ms Rice’s hospital delivery rooms…

I’m not sure how sincerely we should lock on to art to portray history (or war). I have to admit that Tolstoy’s Battle of Borodino in War and Peace tells me as much about human conflict as Anna Karenina tells me about love. I am more moved by the music of Cecil Coles – one of only two well-known British composers killed in the 1914-1918 war – than I am by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. But this does not reduce the comprehensive, unstoppable power of great art to convince – just as a brilliantly made movie can do in the cinema.

I have to admit that I have a few worries about art and war. Can a painter who has never experienced war really understand the nature of the vile beast? Most of Britain’s First World War artists were in France, but that does not apply to Iraq. When I saw wild beasts – the desert dogs – tearing apart the corpses of men, women and children in southern Iraq (killed by the United States Air Force and, yes, by the RAF, whose pilots – God bless them – refused to go on killing the innocent) and running off across the sand with fingers and arms and legs, there was no art form to convey this horror. Film would have been a horror movie, paintings an obscenity. Maybe only photographs – undoctored – can tell you what we see.

Goya got it right. I went to see an exhibition of his sketches in Lille a few years ago – the irony of my father’s trenches a few miles away (he was a 19-year-old soldier in the third battle of the Somme) not lost on me – and was almost overwhelmed by the cruelty that he transmits. The collaborators hanging, near-naked, from the pylons seemed so close to the raped and impaled guerrilla fighters of Spain that art seemed almost pointless. What is the point of intellect when the brain will always be crushed by the body?

When the Americans entered Baghdad in April 2003, I ran into the main teaching hospital in Baghdad to find a scene of Crimean war proportions. Men holding amputated hands, soldiers screaming for their mothers as their skin burned, a man without an eye, a ribbon of bandage allowing a trail of blood to run from his empty socket. Blood overflowed my shoes. I guess it’s at times like this that we need John Hoyland.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll, Columns, Politics

Johann Hari: Israel is suppressing a secret it must face

When you hit your 60th birthday, most of you will guzzle down your hormone replacement therapy with a glass of champagne and wonder if you have become everything you dreamed of in your youth. In a few weeks, the state of Israel is going to have that hangover.

She will look in the mirror and think – I have a sore back, rickety knees and a gun at my waist, but I’m still standing. Yet somewhere, she will know she is suppressing an old secret she has to face. I would love to be able to crash the birthday party with words of reassurance. Israel has given us great novelists like Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, great film-makers like Joseph Cedar, great scientific research into Alzheimer’s, and great dissident journalists like Amira Hass, Tom Segev and Gideon Levy to expose her own crimes.

She has provided the one lonely spot in the Middle East where gay people are not hounded and hanged, and where women can approach equality.

But I can’t do it. Whenever I try to mouth these words, a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit. Across the occupied West Bank, raw untreated sewage is pumped every day out of the Jewish settlements, along large metal pipes, straight onto Palestinian land. From there, it can enter the groundwater and the reservoirs, and become a poison.

Standing near one of these long, stinking brown-and-yellow rivers of waste recently, the local chief medical officer, Dr Bassam Said Nadi, explained to me: “Recently there were very heavy rains, and the shit started to flow into the reservoir that provides water for this whole area. I knew that if we didn’t act, people would die. We had to alert everyone not to drink the water for over a week, and distribute bottles. We were lucky it was spotted. Next time…” He shook his head in fear. This is no freak: a 2004 report by Friends of the Earth found that only six per cent of Israeli settlements adequately treat their sewage.

Meanwhile, in order to punish the population of Gaza for voting “the wrong way”, the Israeli army are not allowing past the checkpoints any replacements for the pipes and cement needed to keep the sewage system working. The result? Vast stagnant pools of waste are being held within fragile dykes across the strip, and rotting. Last March, one of them burst, drowning a nine-month-old baby and his elderly grandmother in a tsunami of human waste. The Centre on Housing Rights warns that one heavy rainfall could send 1.5m cubic metres of faeces flowing all over Gaza, causing “a humanitarian and environmental disaster of epic proportions”.

So how did it come to this? How did a Jewish state founded 60 years ago with a promise to be “a light unto the nations” end up flinging its filth at a cowering Palestinian population?

The beginnings of an answer lie in the secret Israel has known, and suppressed, all these years. Even now, can we describe what happened 60 years ago honestly and unhysterically? The Jews who arrived in Palestine throughout the twentieth century did not come because they were cruel people who wanted to snuffle out Arabs to persecute. No: they came because they were running for their lives from a genocidal European anti-Semitism that was soon to slaughter six million of their sisters and their sons.

They convinced themselves that Palestine was “a land without people for a people without land”. I desperately wish this dream had been true. You can see traces of what might have been in Tel Aviv, a city that really was built on empty sand dunes. But most of Palestine was not empty. It was already inhabited by people who loved the land, and saw it as theirs. They were completely innocent of the long, hellish crimes against the Jews.

When it became clear these Palestinians would not welcome becoming a minority in somebody else’s country, darker plans were drawn up. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, wrote in 1937: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

So, for when the moment arrived, he helped draw up Plan Dalit. It was – as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it – “a detailed description of the methods to be used to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; and laying siege to and bombarding population centres”. In 1948, before the Arab armies invaded, this began to be implemented: some 800,000 people were ethnically cleansed, and Israel was built on the ruins. The people who ask angrily why the Palestinians keep longing for their old land should imagine an English version of this story. How would we react if the 30m stateless, persecuted Kurds in the world sent armies and settlers into this country to seize everything in England below Leeds, and swiftly established a free Kurdistan from which we were expelled? Wouldn’t we long forever for our children to return to Cornwall and Devon and London? Would it take us only 40 years to compromise and offer to settle for just 22 per cent of what we had?

If we are not going to be endlessly banging our heads against history, the Middle East needs to excavate 1948, and seek a solution. Any peace deal – even one where Israel dismantled the wall and agreed to return to the 1967 borders – tends to crumple on this issue. The Israelis say: if we let all three million come back, we will be outnumbered by Palestinians even within the 1967 borders, so Israel would be voted out of existence. But the Palestinians reply: if we don’t have an acknowledgement of the Naqba (catastrophe), and our right under international law to the land our grandfathers fled, how can we move on?

It seemed like an intractable problem – until, two years ago, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducted the first study of the Palestinian Diaspora’s desires. They found that only 10 per cent – around 300,000 people – want to return to Israel proper. Israel can accept that many (and compensate the rest) without even enduring much pain. But there has always been a strain of Israeli society that preferred violently setting its own borders, on its own terms, to talk and compromise. This weekend, the elected Hamas government offered a six-month truce that could have led to talks. The Israeli government responded within hours by blowing up a senior Hamas leader and killing a 14-year-old girl.

Perhaps Hamas’ proposals are a con; perhaps all the Arab states are lying too when they offer Israel full recognition in exchange for a roll-back to the 1967 borders; but isn’t it a good idea to find out? Israel, as she gazes at her grey hairs and discreetly ignores the smell of her own stale shit pumped across Palestine, needs to ask what kind of country she wants to be in the next 60 years.

* The Independent
* http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-israel-is-suppressing-a-secret-it-must-face-816661.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll, Politics, Resistance

Carolina: Países del ALBA firman acuerdo alimentario

¿Qué están haciendo los países de Ámerica Latina respecto a la inminente crisis alimentaria? Curiosamente buscando información me he encontrado un artículo que muestra los esfuerzos de algunos países latinoamericanos que nos dan una muestra de que es posible hacer frente a las políticas neoliberales.
Recordemos: primero es la especulación sobre el petroleo, y ahora sobre los alimentos. Espero que esta información nos ayude a pensar en que pasará cuando el futuro nos alcance y nos encuentre sin recursos naturales.

CARACAS, 23 abr (Xinhua) — Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia y Nicaragua suscribieron hoy un acuerdo para garantizar su seguridad alimentaria ante las recientes alertas sobre una futura escasez global de alimentos.

Firmaron el documento los mandatarios Hugo Chávez, de Venezuela; Evo Morales, de Bolivia, y Daniel Ortega, de Nicaragua, así como el vicepresidente de Cuba, Carlos Lage, en el Palacio de Miraflores (presidencial), en Caracas.

El compromiso fue suscrito durante una cumbre extraordinaria de países de la Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA) y la cual fue convocada por el gobernante venezolano.

Carlos Lage asistió a la cumbre en representación del mandatario cubano Raúl Castro, quien sucedió a Fidel Castro en el poder en Cuba.

El acuerdo suscrito este miércoles buscará aumentar la producción de arroz, maíz, leguminosas, oleaginosas, carnes y leche en los países de la ALBA, afirmó Chávez.

Otros elementos del convenio incluyen mayor desarrollo en agua potable y sistemas de riego, una mejora en la distribución de los alimentos y un fondo por 100 millones de dólares para afrontar alguna escasez, agregó.

En el discurso inaugural de la cumbre, Chavez envió un saludo al ex presidente de Cuba, Fidel Castro, quien se encuentra convaleciente, así como al próximo mandatario izquierdista de Paraguay, Fernando Lugo.

El jefe de estado venezolano dijo que la problematica alimentaria es un tema urgente regional y mundial.

La cumbre se efectuó en momentos en que diversas organizaciones internacionales han alertado sobre el encarecimiento mundial de los alimentos y una posible escasez global de comida.

En su intervención, Ortega dijo que la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO) advirtió sobre la carestía de los alimentos en un fenomeno que causará mayores estragos entre los más pobres del planeta.

Ortega dijo que la FAO, el Banco Mundial y el Fondo Monetario Internacional han alertado que el alza de los alimentos ha hecho retroceder los avances de los programas de lucha contra la pobreza.

La intenciones de convertir los alimentos en combustibles es uno de los factores que los encarecieron y amenazan causar una escasez a nivel global, apuntó.

Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba y Nicaragua (todos con gobiernos socialistas) están integrados en la Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de América (ALBA), un mecanismo de integración económica y política creado en 2004.

El vicepresidente de Cuba, Carlos Lage, dijo que los especuladores han suscitado escasez de arroz en el mercado internacional pues lo han comenzado a esconder a la espera de mejores precios.

El alza de los alimentos afecta en especial a los habitantes de los países en desarrollo, afirmó Lage.

Morales dijo que su gobierno ha dado preferencia al mercado interno, aunque es exportador de alimentos.

El presidente venezolano convocó la cumbre con carácter de urgente para la firma del acuerdo de cooperación alimentaria y el análisis de la crisis en Bolivia que –dijo– ‘está a punto de estallar’.

Chávez impulsó la creación de la ALBA en rechazó al Area de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA) promovido por Estados Unidos para la liberalización de las mercancías en el continente.

* Fuente http://www.xinhuanet.com
* Link:http://www.spanish.xinhuanet.com/spanish/2008-04/24/content_620719.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll, economy, Politics

Aurelio Suárez Montoya: Commodities, una nueva arma para matar de hambre

En 2004, el Institute of Development Studies, en una investigación sobre las secuelas de la implantación del modelo de “libre comercio” para los productos agrícolas desde 1990, incluidos los alimentos, encontró, teniendo en cuenta las importaciones agrícolas como porcentaje del PIB, el nivel de dependencia de la agricultura y el suministro diario de calorías por habitante, que al menos 43 países tenían valores muy altos de vulnerabilidad y que otros 23 suministraban menos de 2.500 calorías al día por habitante, conformando un numeroso grupo de “países en desarrollo importadores netos de alimentos”.

Entre 1994 y 2004, la producción de alimentos de todos los países en desarrollo cayó 10% respecto a la década anterior, mientras sus compras alimenticias externas crecieron 33%. Los países del Norte, encabezados por Estados Unidos, tomaron el control mundial de los alimentos merced a los mil millones de dólares diarios de subsidios estatales que les permite exportar sus excedentes a precios por debajo del costo y quebrar las producciones domésticas del Sur, al cual, para facilitar el asalto, se le obligó a eliminar o reducir los aranceles. El hambre que sufre el mundo tiene como primera causa ese perverso modelo comercial.

Coincidiendo con las crisis financieras, desde 2001 se inició un alza continua en el precio internacional de los alimentos. Los linces de las finanzas apuntaron a los mercados especulativos de los contratos a futuro de los bienes básicos, que se transan en las bolsas de valores con el nombre de commodities, como medio para resarcirse de las pérdidas en otras inversiones, como alternativa frente a las bajas tasas de interés, a la caída de las acciones de las firmas o a la devaluación del dólar. La cabalgata especulativa empezó por el oro y el petróleo y, gracias a la superioridad ganada por los países poderosos en la década anterior, aunada a la desaparición de toda forma de intervención estatal en el mercado alimenticio, se incluyeron cereales y oleaginosas en la ruleta de las transacciones bursátiles, donde los precios presentes se fijan mediante la expectativa agiotista de la cotización futura. En las lonjas de Chicago y Sao Paulo es el retorno del capital invertido en este tipo de operaciones, por encima de las interacciones entre oferta y demanda, el que define los precios. Las malas noticias sirven a la voracidad financiera; si sube el petróleo, si abundan cereales u oleaginosas para agro-combustibles, si el clima daña cosechas en Australia o Argentina, si China e India piden más alimentos, si bajan los inventarios mundiales, todo se pone a su favor.

En el maíz, por ejemplo, no resulta explicable que, si los inventarios mundiales entre la cosecha 2003-2004 y la de 2007-2008 cayeron un 11%, aunque todavía sean más de un 10% del consumo mundial y estén por encima de las 90 millones de toneladas, el precio internacional haya subido en ese mismo lapso un 125%, de 105 dólares la tonelada (FAO, 2003) a casi 240 (Illinois, abril 2008). Lo de la soya es peor: la oferta mundial ha subido 28% para esos mismos cuatro años, los inventarios mundiales crecieron 40% y éstos como proporción al consumo global también se agrandaron (USDA, 208); no obstante, la cotización mundial por tonelada alzó de 300 dólares (FAO, 2003) a cerca de 500 (Chicago, abril 2008).

Lo del arroz es insólito. El déficit mundial de la producción frente al consumo en 2003 fue de 20 millones de toneladas y en 2007-2008 hubo un superávit de un millón de toneladas. No valió la recuperación; el que los inventarios mundiales hayan caído un 8,5% para este cuatrienio sirvió para que los precios se hayan más que duplicado, al pasar la tonelada de origen tailandés de 200 dólares (FAO, 2003) a 499 (Chicago, abril 2008). Finalmente, lo del trigo es injustificable. En 2003 el consumo mundial fue 50 millones de toneladas mayor que la oferta total; para 2007-2008, la diferencia se redujo a 13 millones; sin embargo, como los inventarios mundiales bajaron de 166 millones de toneladas a 110 millones (USDA, 2007), al mundo se le cobra la mayor demanda de pan incrementando los precios internacionales de 150 dólares por tonelada (FAO, 2003) a 499 (Chicago, abril 2008). ¡Un crimen!

Por los afanes de las crisis financieras, la comida, que ya se había convertido en mercancía, se transformó ahora en commodity, nueva arma para matar de hambre a desnutridos de los cinco continentes. Mortal como las siete plagas de Egipto, devastadora como la roya que atacó los cultivos de papa en Irlanda en 1845, vandálica como las hambrunas en la naciente Europa urbana del siglo XVII. Por ende, el hambre actual no es un problema de “estabilidad política” en decenas de países, como dijo el Director de la FAO, Jacques Diouf. Que no se aproveche la hecatombe además para invadir países tras la disculpa de “paz y ayuda alimentaria”, aunque parece que todo fuera para allá…como en Haití.

* Argenpress
* http://www.argenpress.info/nota.asp?num=054421&Parte=0

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogroll