Unemployment, Social Contract, Modi in Israel

Submitted by admin on Fri, 07/07/2017 - 23:48
Antonio Berni


Dear Friends,

Traveling from one side of the Mediterranean Sea back to the other - from Spain to Morocco and back - provides a vivid appreciation of the way the histories of these countries are intertwined. Not merely during the time of the Nasrid sultans of Andalusia, but also during the Spanish occupation of Morocco and during the military coup led by Franco in 1936 that began in Spanish occupied Morocco and came northward to inaugurate the Spanish Civil War. Even so now, when unemployment racks both sides of the sea - from Barcelona to Fez. That is the heart of the story which I am sharing with you today.

At Alternet, I have a meandering essay that starts with unemployment across the Mediterranean and then drifts slowly further south into the caravanserais of the Sahara - Gao (Mali) and Agadez (Niger). Here one uncovers the other side of unemployment, those employed in the trades that thrive in chaos. This is an uneasy story of damaged futures and of impossible conditions. It is a pair with the story I sent out last week on the Refugees as the 21st largest country on the earth.

You can read this story here. Please let me know what you think of this series.

The painting above is by one of my favorite artists, the Argentine painter Antonio Berni (1905-1981) who was one of the key figures in the Nuevo Realismo style. The picture is Manifestacion, from 1934. The sign at the back of the protest reads 'Pan y Trabajo' - Bread and Work, a simple gesture that remains with us today.




There is mischief in Banksy's stencil from some years ago - 'The lifestyle you ordered is current out of stock'. He has a crafty sense. It puts consumerism at the heart of our civilization, and of course its negation. It is as the American comic George Carlin said of the American Dream, 'You have to be asleep to believe it'. This is of course not only an American dream, but the illusion of capitalism: the belief that somehow unemployment and poverty can be willed to disappear and consumer goods can - through credit or not - be available to everyone. It is this Dream, this ideology, that allows millions of people to continue to hope that the system will welcome them into the plutocracy.

And then comes the harsh face of austerity. The most recent variant of this austerity is the Trump health care battle in the United States. At Frontline, I have a report on the current fight over this Republican health care bill, which essentially cuts whatever minimal social protections are available to the most vulnerable parts of the US population in order to finance tax cuts to the very wealthiest Americans. There is vulgarity here. That is why the unrest around this bill is quite fierce. You can read my report here.

It is important to underline that in the United States, one in five children live at the risk of hunger, with the ratio higher - one in three - for African American and Latino children. Food insecurity is a serious problem in Trump's America, but it is not one that detains Trump or his billionaire colleagues. This is class warfare in an unadulterated fashion. 


Israel cut the power supply to Gaza


This week, Israel cut the power supply to Gaza by 65 megawatts - about the power needs for 1.5 million lightbulbs. Gaza normally functions on 140 megawatts, much less than the optimum 500 MW that it requires. Israel simply has not allowed more power in and now has cut it further. There is also a dispute here between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Children came onto the streets to protest. It is hard for them to study.

The picture above is of Faraa Teem (age 12), who lives in Gaza's Jabaliyya refugee camp. She reads by candlelight.

During this crisis, India's Narendra Modi visited Israel. He is the first Indian head of government to do so. It is a major shift in policy. Arms deals have been cut as have deals from agriculture to space. But there is a great deal of hype in this visit. India's trade volume with Israel is about a third of India's trade with Iran. Matters are more complex than are made out by a media exultant in this new orientation. Few mentioned the powercuts in Gaza or the miserable state of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Modi did not visit Palestine, nor meet with any Palestinian leader. This is a serious error. Has India shifted its position on Palestine so fundamentally? Not so, say Indian diplomats, eager to separate India-Israel policy from India-Palestine policy. This will be hard to do.

I spent fourteen minutes talking to Aaron Mate of the Real News Network about Modi's visit. Some of these themes are covered in the interview. You can watch it here.

Finally, a story from my friend P. Sainath - a moving story about forgotten Indian freedom fighters. This is a must read, and if you have time, a must view. It tells the story of the Indian freedom fighters who made the Prati Sarkar in 1943-46, how they have been forgotten and how they have now been remembered. You can read his story here.

Warmly, Vijay.