Housing Revolution Rocks On in Tel Aviv Tent City

The housing revolt is in full swing. The atmosphere is amazing. Finally there is a social uprising. Israel’s version of the Tahrir Square riots. Bibi will have his hands full with this one. It’s not going to just go away.

Tent city Tel-AvivWhat started as a students uprising has become a social uprising. People have had enough of the “usual suspects” running the country and making living in Israel impossible for the younger generation trying to have their own housing.

On Friday this was a show put on by the student union. Local artists have been participating and showing in Rothschild Blvd. Similar tent cities have been popping up in other cities. This goes beyond the students.

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Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Bashar al-Assad’s cabinet has approved a bill to allow independent political parties other than the Baath Party, which has been in control since 1963.

SANA a Syrian news agency reported that the bill prohibits parties founded on the basis of “religion, tribal affiliation, regions, and professional organizations as well as those which discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or color.” This suggests the Kurdish nationalist parties may not be recognized, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist party currently banned in Syria, but snowballing in popularity in Egypt where disillusioned citizens lack leadership they can believe in and trust.
It is hard to imagine however, that Assad’s intentions can be in anyway, good. He is, after all, a murderer.

Under the new law the government will retain control over the formation of parties that must apply for a license in order to operate. All new parties are also obliged to respect the constitution, which protects the dominance of the Baath party as the “leading party in state and society” despite Assad’s promises to look at altering it.

According to human rights groups, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed and more than 12,000 detained since the uprising started in March of 2011. Activists have reported ongoing detentions throughout the country and a persistent clampdown in the neighborhood of Bab Sbaa in Homs.

As predicted, protests have intensified in the week leading up to Ramadan when diplomats and analysts say they expect demonstrations to grow in size and frequency.

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Can Tent City Revolutionize Social Standings?

Wow. Just wow. I mean, there are protests and then there are pro-tests, testing the professionalism of the political demonstration industry. Saturday Sunday and Monday was that. 1,000 Israelis, who have been living it up in a tent city in Zion’s IDF Square, marched through the holy city of Jerusalem and blocked the entrance to Knesset. En route to Knesset, the protesters protesting formidably high and raising housing prices attempted to block a street nearby the residence of one Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Slogans and banners read “The People Demand Social Justice” and “Welfare State Now.”
But don’t lay all the blame on Bibi who rebuked Likud ministers for not doing enough to solve the housing crisis. The Prime Minister said, “Even before I became prime minister,” Netanyahu said, “I asked the 100-day team [a committee focused on economic transition] headed by [Finance Minister] Steinitz to create a plan for the housing problem.”

As a reaction to disgruntled citizens, Bibi cancelled his scheduled visit to Warsaw, where he was off to in order to get the Polish Prime Minister to vote no on a new UN resolution to recognize a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile on Monday, dozens of activists blocked major roads in Haifa, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva as part of the housing crisis protests. In central Haifa, scuffles broke out between activists and drivers who were forced to stop. Eight activists were arrested in Paris Square in Jerusalem after refusing to clear the road.
Earlier Monday, dozens of activists blocked a road at the entrance to the Knesset. Five were arrested and one police officer was lightly injured.

Meanwhile, a new Facebook protest page went up Monday calling for a general strike on August 1. So far more than 3,700 people said they will participate. The page was created by social activist Zvika Basor, a 36-year-old Givatayim resident and father of a one-year-old baby.
Another Facebook protest page created Monday called for a “tent city strollers march.” The organizers called on fathers, mothers and single parents to march in central Tel Aviv on Thursday with their children and strollers.

Bibi’s response has been responsive though. Quoth Bibi at a Hebrew University graduation ceremony:

“We will lower prices for social solidarity…Our economic situation is in many ways better than in Europe. People make a living but at the end of the month nothing is left. Why don’t they have anything left? Because things cost more here…Where there is no competition prices go up…One of our aims is not only to improve the economy but also to lower prices…We will have to open up a government cartel,” he warned. “It’s important in order to give the people social solidarity, so they know they can make a living, that they have something to aspire to.”

Bradley burst-out-laughing Burston has a nice article on the tent city protests.

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Republican Bill to Curtail Middle East Spending

Last Wednesday, United States Republicans moved to cut aid to “several of Israel’s neighbors” and to stiffen control of assistance to Pakistan, swearing to go medieval on militant Islamism and curtail US spending.

The Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee pushed a slew of concerns in a spending bill for the fiscal year commencing in October, including cutting US contributions to the United Nations and putting a restriction on funding for abortion.

Aid to Egypt in TroubleThe new House spending bill will end decades of security aid to Egypt – that is unless the new leaders implement a peace treaty with Israel, destroyed along with the ousting Mubarak and of course forbid the Muslim Brotherhood any influence over cultural infrastructure.

The Republicans would also like to jettison security assistance to Lebanon where the Hezbollah rules, as well as the Palestinian Authority (partly ruled by the wicked Hamas) and yes, even Yemen.

The bill would also see the United States move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The United States government still does not see Jerusalem as the official capitol of the Jewish State.

In 1995, Congress pushed to move the embassy to Jerusalem, from its beach front location in Tel Aviv, but three presidents have deferred the shift. Under the new House bill, the president would lose the waiver right come 2014.

The Republican bill on foreign affairs would cut $6.4b from Obama’s requests. The bill would also impose tighter restrictions on assistance to Pakistan; after Obama suspended one-third of its $2.7b annual defense aid to the country that probably aided and abetted Osama bin Laden.

Obama assures Pakistan that the United States is committed to a five-year, $7.5b civilian package that was originally approved in 2009 aiming to infrastructure, build schools and “democratic” institutions. The new Republican bill would make the civilian aid “contingent on measurable progress by Pakistan in fighting Islamic militants.” writes Shaun Tandon.

The committee voted along party lines to curtail the $44m in US funding for the Organization of American States, a regional bloc of some 35 nations.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the bill didn’t go far enough to halt cost overruns on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and contains “unrequested pork-barrel projects…”

“This nation is at a critical juncture of decisions concerning our conduct of three wars, our record deficit spending, and the dynamic state of world affairs…I cannot, as it is currently drafted, give it my full support, but I will continue my efforts to improve the bill as it moves through the process of consideration by the Senate and conference negotiations with the House.”

He continued:

“This bill uses a similar ruse — putting hundreds of millions of dollars into what amounts to slush funds of undesignated spending to be steered by powerful members to their pet projects and special interests as a means to back door earmarks…To avoid this predictable result, I offered a series of amendments to strike all unrequested funding increases that ignored and contradicted the President’s budget request. I regret I was not more successful.”

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As Bibi Jettisons Oil Spike, Coal Prices To Shoot Up and more…

Coming soon, a spike in coal taxation will lift the sum to NIS 1b in 2012. The excise hike at NIS 66 per ton of coal will see the electricity rate raised 4 percent.

In article in Globes compares the tax excise to a recent Bibi gas price spike earlier this year, when gas prices were raised in the 2011-12 budget, sending many an irate gas pumper pointing their finger at the Likud government. As a result, Bibi cancelled the excise hike. No boycott necessary. An example of democracy and a government who cares about her citizens.

A government that really cares.

According to research done by Globes, the only company in the land to use coal is Israel Electric Corporation. They burn 12 million tons per year at their plants in Hadera and Ashkelon. The IEC will not protest as they do not pay the price for coal. The coal price spike will be paid for by consumers who regularly refund utility through their electricity bills. The IEC currently owns 26% of the National Coal Supply Corporation.

The Ministry of Finance’s request to raise the excise on coal went to Knesset Finance Committee December 27, 2010, along with the request to raise the excise on gasoline and diesel.

On August 1, Israelis will pay the new fee beginning with the annual electricity rate update.

At this point, Israel meets roughly 25% of its energy demand from coal. The National Coal Supply Corporation is the mostly government-owned (74%) firm solely responsible for securing the country’s coal imports.

All of Israel’s coal supplies are imported. About half come from South Africa, the rest from Colombia, the United States, Indonesia, Australia, and Poland.

Israel imports some 10 million short tons of coal per year. Growth in coal demand is obviously driven by growth in electricity demand.

Greenpeace Organization activists climbed the Jerusalem Chords Bridge on Sunday protesting against the planned opening of a third coal plant in Ashkelon.

Last week, Greenpeace activists went to Jerusalem to protest the opening of a third coal plant in Ashkelon. They hung posters and a 60 foot banner from the Chord Bridge saying, “Bibi stop the coal plant.”

The project to build the new plant, called ‘Project D’, was promoted by Israel Electric Corporation and by the Ministry of National Infrastructures. The Environmental Protection Ministry claims that a coal plant will harm the air quality in Ashkelon.
They demand that the Ministry of National Infrastructures invests in more energy-efficient and cleaner options to produce electricity.

On Sunday, Greenpeace said that they

“hope [the government] took under consideration the disastrous outcomes of another polluting plant, hurting the Ashkelon residents’ health, as well as it’s ‘contribution’ to over a 10% increase in Israeli greenhouse gas.”

Greenpeace also said that the discovery of natural gas by both the Tamar and Leviathan drilling firms makes the coal plant increasingly superfluous.
 
Greenpeace Spokeswoman Hila Krupsky said:

“We are here today, on the Chords Bridge, to call on Netanyahu and remind him that coal burning is the major cause of pollution, morbidity and an increase in climate change…Just this past year we’ve witnessed a drastic change in the weather, a tough drought and barley any rain. We experienced the horrible Carmel fire in December. Today one can no longer ignore the climate change and the responsibility to stop this phenomenon. Benjamin Netanyahu, you are the head of this State and the responsibility rests on your shoulders.”

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Building in Judea and Samaria; Petitioning at the Security Council

Israel is reportedly looking to build 336 new apartments in Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. That is 42 apartments in Karnei Shomron and 294 apartments in Betar Illit. More than a thousand units are to be built in northern Israeli towns, including Nahariya, Tiberias and Afula.

Building settlementsSpokesman for the Ministry of Construction and Housing, Ariel Rosenberg, estimated construction will commence within a year and be completed sometime in the next three years. There is a shortage of workers to work on new construction sited, especially in Judea and Samaria. The Associated Press falsely asserted, “Jewish settlement construction has stymied peacemaking for months.”

“While it is very easy to say that Palestine needs its own state with defined borders and Israel needs to be recognized by Palestine as a sovereign nation, leaders of both countries are forgetting the power of empathy.” wrote Anaam Butt, project coordinator for the non-profit, non-partisan organization, The Common Good. “It is easy to sympathize with the Palestinian plight for their own country, and it is equally understandable as to why Israel is afraid of defining borders and dismantling settlements. At this point, both nations need to take a walk in the other’s shoes. The solution lies in the emotional psychology of the situation.”

Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator insists that the Palestinian Authority will ask the Security Council in September to become a full member of the United Nations, while Hamas opposes the bid and says it has not been consulted about it. Contractors will be able to bid on the sites within 60 days.

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Brush Fire in Zion

“The dry heat combined with a light wind” caused the Jerusalem forest “blaze to spread quickly as eight firefighting crews along with two planes attempted to gain control over the blaze.” wrote Israeli reporter Sharon Udasin.

Yad Vashem was evacuated as the inferno that broke out in the Mount Herzl area began to spread towards Har Nof, Bayit Vegan and the Pi Glilot oil refinery.

Jerusalem fire 2011Haaretz reported that “one worker suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital.” The Fire Department spokesman said on Channel 10, “large teams of firefighters have been deployed in the entire area, and curious onlookers should clear out. Firefighting planes are flying above us in an attempt to put out the fire.”

Director of Yad Vashem said:

“The firefighters took an hour from the moment we notified them. They arrived very tardily. Our maintenance teams stopped the fire at the last minute…The fire reached a distance of just 40 meters from the Yad Vashem archives. We stopped it just before it could destroy our most precious treasures. I don’t know and don’t want to think what would have happened if we hadn’t stopped it.”

Last Saturday, a fire broke out near the Church of Capernaum on Lake Kinneret’s northern shore, causing damage to banana groves. The fire started in a brush-field near Route 87.

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Obama and Cantor Trying to Work Together on Budget Cuts

US President Obama is pushing congress to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to get hip to major Social Security and Medicare changes in exchange for Republican support of fresh tax revenue.

Obama argues that a rare consensus is rearing its ugly head concerning the size and scope of the America’s budget woes and that now is the time for policymakers to implement changes.

golfing with ObamaObama is proposing reductions in Medicare spending and looking to curb the rising cost of Social Security. Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the war on government spending are at odds with a slight diplomatic flip-flop by the prezo.

Instead of $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan to slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next ten years. But last week President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginian Republican got nowhere during their session to exchange ideas.
At the fifth straight day of talks, Cantor recounted that Obama stormed out of the room, ending the two-hour discussion. He was pissed about Cantor’s insistent push for a short-term resolution.
Obama said, off the record:

“Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people on this…This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems.”

Cantor told reporters:

“I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated…”

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Candle in the Wind

On Sunday, the final witness, then-commanding officer in the region, Colonel Pinhas Zuaretz, was heard in the trial surrounding the death of poor Rachel Corrie, crushed by an IDF bulldozer in 2003, Aza.

Corrie, a 23-year-old pro-Palestinian activist from Seattle, Washington, was killed when she stood in front of the bulldozer on the Egypt border.

When the IDF cleared the soldier who crushed Rachel, claiming it was an accident, Corrie’s parents filed a civil suit against the army in 2005.

The trial opened in 2010 with 15 hearings and 22 witnesses. The verdict will be announced April 23, 2012.

Corrie was a member of the pro-Palestinian group, the International Solidarity Movement, different than the Muslim Brotherhood, members enter conflict zones in spite of Israeli bans and attempt to interfere with military activity.

While in the strip, Rachel sent a series of e-mails to her mother, four of which were later published by The Guardian and in January 2008 in a book called Let Me Stand Alone by W. W. Norton & Company.

A dramatic play was also based on her letters called, My Name is Rachel Corrie.

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Jewish News Week in Review: July 15, 2011

newsdesk.tjctv.com This week’s top stories the tragic murder of a young boy in Brooklyn; Israel passes an controversial anti-boycott bill; a historic synagogue goes up in flames; old Jews telling jokes, and more.