Wednesday, February 23, 2005


They don't recommend that the Palestinian Arabs stop the building of the wall by stopping their attacks!

Almost a third of West Bank Palestinian villages will be denied free and open access to healthcare facilities once the Israeli government has completed constructing the West Bank barrier, says a report by the French non-governmental organisation M‚decins du Monde.

In June 2002 the Israeli government began to build a barrier around the West Bank that, according to the Israel Defence Forces, will "lessen the impact and scope of terrorism on the citizens of Israel." Already 185 km long, it will eventually be 622 km long and consist of fences, ditches, patrol roads, and a concrete wall 8-9 m high costing an estimated $4.7m (2.5m pounds) per km.

Worst hit will be the villages confined within the "seam zone," the territory between the green line (the 1949 armistice line that delineates Israel's pre-1967 border with the West Bank) and the barrier, according to the report. Villages situated in the enclaves formed by the route of the barrier will also be badly affected, it says. Palestinians wanting to leave these areas to travel to another town in the West Bank will have to apply for a permit and pass through a checkpoint or gate guarded by a soldier.

People requiring emergency health treatment in Palestinian hospitals in other parts of the West Bank face an even longer journey than at present and may not be able to access emergency care at all during the night, according to Regis Garrigue, head of Medecins du Monde's Palestinian projects. He said: "The people inside the enclaves are in a big jail. Sometimes the passage into the enclaves is shut for a day or a night or even a week."

In Abu Dis and Aizaria, two Palestinian towns where the barrier has already been completed, the average time for an ambulance to travel to the nearest hospitals in Jerusalem has increased from about 10 minutes to over one hour and 50 minutes, according to the report. Mr Garrigue says that once the barrier is completed this problem will affect many more villages. "If patients don't have access to their medical facilities or if medical staff cannot reach the facilities to provide medical services the healthcare system is bound to deteriorate," the report warns.

Dr Yitzhak Sever, director of the Department of International Relations in the Ministry of Health, said that all the inhabitants on the west of the barrier, located within the seam zone, are given permits to travel to other Palestinian hospitals. More than 45 000 permits for patients were issued over the past year. He also stressed that Israeli doctors treat Palestinian patients and train health professionals, despite the former Palestinian Health Minister's refusal to sit on joint Palestinian-Israeli health committees after the second intifada in 2000. "Maybe the barrier will not be continued, we don't know. It's there for security reasons as determined by the Ministry of Defence. I know in the majority of places in the West Bank, building is frozen and the barrier will be under debate in the negotiations about disengagement and peace. We hope the new era will being peace for the two peoples," he told the BMJ.


Rod Liddle: Things I shouldn't say about black people

There are some things that you can say and there are some things that you can't say. Paradoxically, they are sometimes the same things. "For example, did you know that black and Asian women commit far more crime than their white counterparts? Almost one third of the total female British prison population is drawn from black and Asian communities. "Now, that's one of the things you can't say, or shouldn't say, unless you're the British National party. Indeed, you may already be twitching at your breakfast table. Those who point out that black people commit more crime than white people tend to be racists, don't they? To highlight the apparently greater propensity of black and Asian people to commit crime is what we call "playing the race card". It foments resentment and antagonism, true or not.

Last week an organisation called the Fawcett Society said just this, however. The Fawcett Society is not a descendant of the League of St George or an ally of Migrationwatch UK or Robert Kilroy-Silk. It is an impeccably liberal pressure group. "Our vision is of a society in which women and men are equal partners in the home, at work and in public life," it proclaims, and its latest report is about how women from ethnic minority backgrounds are having a rough time. "They are far more likely to be put in prison, for example. Now, that is one of the things you can say. Black and Asian women make up 8% of the general population and 29% of the female prison population, ergo they are the victims of an institutionally racist society.

But you can't say that black and Asian women commit more crime. Just as you can say that our schools are failing male pupils from a Caribbean background, but not that boys from a Caribbean background are, for whatever reason, academically not up to scratch. It would seem to me to follow that if children from most other ethnic minority backgrounds do well in school, and that girls from a Caribbean background do very well in school, then the problem might lie with some facet of Caribbean male culture, rather than with the education system.

The Fawcett Society report is a perfect model of its kind; disingenuous, simplistic and quick to draw fatuous conclusions from selective data. We are told that British women from ethnic backgrounds (BMEs, as they charmingly put it, for black and minority ethnic) are subject to "systematic discrimination" and that they are "powerless, poor and passed over" and, worse still, "almost entirely absent from the rank of decision makers in the UK". The report's conclusions ignore entirely the enormous and complex differences between the various British ethnic minorities: the implication is that all women from an ethnic minority background are discriminated against by the white male hegemony - and it's bloody well got to stop.

The truth is rather different. In terms of employment and income (and education), British people from Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian backgrounds easily outperform their white counterparts, both male and female. In terms of earnings, women from ethnic minority backgrounds (excepting those from Pakistan and Bangladesh but including, for example, African and Caribbean women) easily outperform white women. The average weekly wage of a white British woman in 2002 was œ180, compared with œ187 for all black and Asian women, œ199 for African women and œ210 for Caribbean women. These figures come from the Cabinet Office.

One year later the Downing Street policy unit concluded, in a report entitled Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market, that "the old picture of white success and ethnic underachievement is now out of date". So exactly who is being discriminated against here? Should we not be manning the barricades in defence of white women and calling for positive discrimination against those women from our African or Asian communities? And how do we explain the poor performance of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women (who earn only œ140 per week)? Does the problem lie solely with the racist and sexist white hegemony or might there be something within the indigenous culture that is holding these women back? Does our Muslim community, for example, share the Fawcett Society's aspirations of "a society in which women and men are equal partners in the home, at work and in public life"? Humera Khan is a co-founder of An-Nisa, the Muslim welfare organisation. I don't think she is quite in accord with the Fawcett Society, for a start: "Most women of colour come from both religious and cultural backgrounds that appreciate a healthy separation of roles . . . this can be a problem when facing white feminism, which has a completely different starting point".

So when the Fawcett Society complains that there is not a single female Muslim MP, who should we blame? Recently in The Guardian newspaper, Joseph Harker, an excellent journalist, attacked the Labour party's policy of adopting all-women shortlists for selecting MPs. He pointed out that only 12 Labour MPs will be standing down at the next election and in seven of those seats there will be all-women shortlists: this necessarily limits the opportunity to select a black or Asian candidate, he argued.

The obvious question, if prejudice and discrimination were solely the preserve of a white male power elite, is: why should it? Is it not a tacit admission that some of our ethnic minority communities are suffused with more sexism than the rest of us? Harker then went on to demolish the case for "quotas" for selecting MPs before concluding, mystifyingly, that Labour must ensure that all shortlists contain not just women but also people from a black or Asian background, disabled people and of course gays and lesbians. That's a hell of a shortlist, Joseph. And what if they don't want to be Labour MPs - should we round them up anyway? These attempts to level the playing field through crude social engineering do not work. The reason why women, as a rule, earn less than men and occupy fewer positions of power may be put down partly to vestigial institutionalised sexism; but it is also down to individual choice. In other words, often women do not earn as much as men because they wish to make child-caring their primary role. And this preference is more marked in our Pakistani and Bangladeshi community.

And black and Asian women have a greater propensity to commit crime than their white counterparts. There may well be strong socio-economic reasons for why all this is the case; but nonetheless it is the case. Certainly it is not down to genetic predisposition, as your true racist would aver. But neither is it all down to institutionalised racism and sexism, which we might banish with the sweep of a hand and the passing of a law."

(From "The Times")

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