Reports from our Correspondents

Los Angeles        Two reports are in from our far-flung correspondents around the globe.
    
    Rick Hall, who has intermittingly given us insights into the ground level realities of the Middle East from his vantage point in Amman, Jordan, sent me this letter in the wake of President Bush’s recent visit to his neighborhood:
    
Greetings all –

As you watch the news following Bush’s visit to Israel (with a brief stopover in the West Bank), I wanted to pass along a couple of points to offset the overly optimistic assessments for a peace deal before the end of Bush’s presidency.

1)  Body count.  Based on recently released figures the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths in the period between 2000 (the beginning of the second Intifada) and 2005 was 5:1.  In 2006, that number rose dramatically to 30:1 (that’s 30 Palestinians killed to every Israel death).  In 2007, another significant increase to 40:1  (note:   of the Israeli deaths were soldiers conducting military operations in Palestinian cities).  Given all the rhetoric by Bush and Olmert on the need to protect Israeli "security", the body count paints a starkly different picture of who is suffering more.  At their joint press conference, Olmert made a point for thanking Bush for the 30 Billion for weapons and ammunition the US had just committed to Israel.

2)  Outpost vs. settlements – Again the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.  The political spinners talk about a halt to the building of "illegal outpost" (which I think means settlements that Israel has not officially authorized).  However, settlement statistics tell a different story.  "While there is much talk about Israel’s 105 illegal outposts, with a combined population of 3,000 settlers, it also maintains 133 settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) which have population of 447,500, and which are equally illegal under international law. Moreover, Israel continues to build in 88 of these
settlements." (Maan News Service)

A Cold Night in a Warm City.  I am in Jericho for a meeting with our “Job Creation with Worker Rights” team.  After our meeting, we were invited to Hasan’s home, a PGFTU activist and farmer.  Sitting under the trees in his courtyard, we roasted fresh corn from his field and warmed cheese-filled pastries over the charcoal fire.  His wife and two year old son joined our circle around the fire.  After some time, the stories turned to prison life (particularly the interaction between Hamas and Fatah prisoners) since most of those present had served at least 6 months each in Israeli jails.  On Bush’s visit, comments were made on how Bush snubbed Abbas by spending more time with the Western oriented Prime Minister than the president and how the Mayor of Bethlehem was denied entrance to the Church of the Nativity since he is a Muslim (the Tourism Minister joined the visit since she is a Christian).  After several rounds of tea, coffee, and other treats, we said our goodbyes and returned to the hotel, still warm from the good company and small fire.

Later, rick

    The other report is from the elusive Liza Vladeck, who faithful blog readers will remember was a ghost we followed in Russia last fall.  She reports that she is now in the Ukraine and her fascinating, and important, organizing journey continues:

I have relocated, temporarily, to Kyiv, Ukraine, where I will be working with member organizations of the International Union of Foodworkers to develop an organizing training course that can be used by unions in the region to launch their own organizing programs.

The trade union movement in Russia continues to struggle forward; many of you probably read about the unprecedented strike at the Ford Plant outside of St. Petersbur, that lasted for several weeks this past November/December. There are more and more spontaneous strikes and protest actions of worker collectives, and in at least one of the port
towns where we organized, the workers continue to use active organizing strategies in their fight with the boss. Here in Ukraine, the climate is much more hospitable to union organizing, and the labor movement itself is somewhat more dynamic, and diverse. I am looking forward to working with the unions here.

As for the Kaliningrad dockworkers, and the Kaliningrad Port, the situation there continues to be quite severe. Port management, and the
regional authorities are totally hostile to the law, and to workers’ efforts to organize, and the port’s aggressive repression of union members continues. The union is continuing its fight, and hopes to take
a more proactive position following the presidential elections this spring. There have been some hints that the European Court may issue its decision in the dockworkers’ case this year, which would certainly have an impact, but it’s also important to keep up the level of awareness and concern for this fight, regionally, nationally, and around the world. I
will keep you all informed of any and all important developments, as I try to continue my work with the union from afar.

All the best in the New Year,
Liz Vladeck
Los Angeles        Two reports are in from our far-flung correspondents around the globe.
   
    Rick Hall, who has intermittingly given us insights into the ground level realities of the Middle East from his vantage point in Amman, Jordan, sent me this letter in the wake of President Bush’s recent visit to his neighborhood:
   
Greetings all –

As you watch the news following Bush’s visit to Israel (with a brief stopover in the West Bank), I wanted to pass along a couple of points to offset the overly optimistic assessments for a peace deal before the end of Bush’s presidency.

1)  Body count.  Based on recently released figures the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths in the period between 2000 (the beginning of the second Intifada) and 2005 was 5:1.  In 2006, that number rose dramatically to 30:1 (that’s 30 Palestinians killed to every Israel death).  In 2007, another significant increase to 40:1  (note:   of the Israeli deaths were soldiers conducting military operations in Palestinian cities).  Given all the rhetoric by Bush and Olmert on the need to protect Israeli "security", the body count paints a starkly different picture of who is suffering more.  At their joint press conference, Olmert made a point for thanking Bush for the 30 Billion for weapons and ammunition the US had just committed to Israel.

2)  Outpost vs. settlements – Again the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.  The political spinners talk about a halt to the building of "illegal outpost" (which I think means settlements that Israel has not officially authorized).  However, settlement statistics tell a different story.  "While there is much talk about Israel’s 105 illegal outposts, with a combined population of 3,000 settlers, it also maintains 133 settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) which have population of 447,500, and which are equally illegal under international law. Moreover, Israel continues to build in 88 of these
settlements." (Maan News Service)

A Cold Night in a Warm City.  I am in Jericho for a meeting with our “Job Creation with Worker Rights” team.  After our meeting, we were invited to Hasan’s home, a PGFTU activist and farmer.  Sitting under the trees in his courtyard, we roasted fresh corn from his field and warmed cheese-filled pastries over the charcoal fire.  His wife and two year old son joined our circle around the fire.  After some time, the stories turned to prison life (particularly the interaction between Hamas and Fatah prisoners) since most of those present had served at least 6 months each in Israeli jails.  On Bush’s visit, comments were made on how Bush snubbed Abbas by spending more time with the Western oriented Prime Minister than the president and how the Mayor of Bethlehem was denied entrance to the Church of the Nativity since he is a Muslim (the Tourism Minister joined the visit since she is a Christian).  After several rounds of tea, coffee, and other treats, we said our goodbyes and returned to the hotel, still warm from the good company and small fire.

Later, rick

    The other report is from the elusive Liza Vladeck, who faithful blog readers will remember was a ghost we followed in Russia last fall.  She reports that she is now in the Ukraine and her fascinating, and important, organizing journey continues:

I have relocated, temporarily, to Kyiv, Ukraine, where I will be working with member organizations of the International Union of Foodworkers to develop an organizing training course that can be used by unions in the region to launch their own organizing programs.

The trade union movement in Russia continues to struggle forward; many of you probably read about the unprecedented strike at the Ford Plant
outside of St. Petersbur, that lasted for several weeks this past November/December. There are more and more spontaneous strikes and protest actions of worker collectives, and in at least one of the port
towns where we organized, the workers continue to use active organizing strategies in their fight with the boss. Here in Ukraine, the climate is much more hospitable to union organizing, and the labor movement itself is somewhat more dynamic, and diverse. I am looking forward to working
with the unions here.

As for the Kaliningrad dockworkers, and the Kaliningrad Port, the situation there continues to be quite severe. Port management, and the
regional authorities are totally hostile to the law, and to workers’ efforts to organize, and the port’s aggressive repression of union members continues. The union is continuing its fight, and hopes to take
a more proactive position following the presidential elections this spring. There have been some hints that the European Court may issue its decision in the dockworkers’ case this year, which would certainly have an impact, but it’s also important to keep up the level of awareness and concern for this fight, regionally, nationally, and around the world. I
will keep you all informed of any and all important developments, as I try to continue my work with the union from afar.

All the best in the New Year,
Liz Vladeck

Church of St. Andre, Kiev, Ukraine
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