08 Aug

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Peking Press

Attack on World Vision raises more questions than answers

(Op-ed) Ali Abunimah – The Electronic Intifada

attack on world vision raises more questions than answers

• Well respected Australian CEO of World Vision Tim Costello says Israeli claims don’t add up

• “If every cent has been diverted, it doesn’t add up to $50 million,” Costello, whose brother Peter Costello was and is Australia’s longest serving Treasurer, said Friday

• “I’ve been there, the [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs has been there, PwC [professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers] audit our books,” Costello added

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel grabbed global headlines on Thursday with sensational allegations that tens of millions of dollars from the Christian relief and advocacy organization World Vision had been diverted to the military wing of the resistance group Hamas in Gaza.

But a day later, the Israeli claims look more than ever like sloppy propaganda. A World Vision official says Israel’s sums don’t add up and it has also emerged that a Mossad-linked Israeli group has been stoking allegations against the charity for years.

An Israeli general has said that Israel is relying on a “confession” extracted by an intelligence agency which is notorious for using torture.

Israel has also instructed its diplomats to smear World Vision, especially among Christian communities around the world.

But if Israel’s intention was to damage international humanitarian efforts in Gaza, it can chalk up a success, at least for now.

Australia, which has given World Vision about $5 million in the last three years for projects in Gaza, said it was suspending contributions pending an investigation.

Indeed, ending humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, or at least bringing it under even tighter Israeli control, looks like the purpose of the allegations.

In June, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency arrested World Vision’s Gaza director Mohammad El Halabi (pictued right) and interrogated him for more than 50 days, a fact that only came to light this week.

Israel claims Halabi had diverted up to $50 million to Hamas over the last six years.

But on Friday, the CEO of World Vision Australia said this could not be the case.

Tim Costello told Australia’s SBS public broadcaster that World Vision’s program in Gaza amounts to only around $2 to $3 million a year.

“If every cent has been diverted, it doesn’t add up to $50 million,” he said.

“I’ve been there, the [Australian] Department of Foreign Affairs has been there, PwC [professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers] audit our books,” Costello added………….

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Lebanon accused of going against spirit of Games amid dispute over why Israeli athletes were barred from vehicle

Neta Rivkin of Israel carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games at Maracanã stadium on Friday.

Neta Rivkin of Israel carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games at Maracanã stadium on Friday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Israeli Olympians have criticised the Lebanese delegation for an altercation over transport to the opening ceremony, saying it went against the spirit of the Games.

Israeli athletes were blocked from boarding a bus packed with Lebanese athletes in Rio de Janeiro on Friday in what the head of the Israeli delegation, Gili Lusting, construed as an aggressive gesture.

Lusting said organisers had told them to take the bus to the Maracanã stadium, and that alternative transport was arranged only in response to antagonism from Salim al-Haj Nakoula, the Lebanon chef de mission.

“The organising committee saw the blunt behaviour of the head of the Lebanese delegation and immediately arranged a different bus for us,” Lusting said in a statements to the Associated Press. “The behaviour of the head of the Lebanese delegation contradicts the Olympic charter.”

Lebanon and Israel are officially at war and have no diplomatic relations……..

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A march planned by young people in East Oakland draws passionate supporters – but no television crews arrive to document call for peace

The East Oakland protesters

The East Oakland protesters get their message across. Photograph: Lois Beckett for the Guardian

The banner was draped over a sports car parked at an Oakland street corner. “We want change,” it read. “We need peace.”

It was early on Friday evening at 84th and Bancroft, the corner where a young father, Twon Shavers, had been shot dead just a few weeks before. Joseph Church Truehill had markers and was encouraging people to sign the banner with the names of those they had lost to gun violence. It was the first peace march the 30-year-old had organized.

“Stuff like this used to be corny to me,” he said. “I used to be on the other side of the road. I was one of the people helping with the violence and egging on the negativity.”

Truehill and his friends were gathered in East Oakland, the center of the city’s gun violence epidemic. The blocks around them have seen shooting after shooting, including people injured or killed as they mourned previous victims. Truehill and fellow organizer Lauren Richardson sent round a flier, advertising their march as “a cry for an end to the senseless violence”…………

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UN says 80% of the Nigerian women who came to Italy by boat in the first half of 2016 will be trafficked into prostitution

Thousands of women and girls are being trafficked to Italy from Nigeria, into a life of forced prostitution. Abused and desperately vulnerable, they have a champion in Princess Okokon, who was herself trafficked from Nigeria in 1999. Okokon fled her captors, and, with her husband, Alberto, set up the NGO Piam Onlus. Together they have helped hundreds of women in Asti and Sicily to escape their traffickers, giving them refuge and support

The trafficking of Nigerian women from Libya to Italy by boat is reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe, the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM) warns.

About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of this year, almost double the number who were registered in the same time period last year, according to the IOM.

More than 80% of these women will be trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe, it says.

“What we have seen this year is a crisis, it is absolutely unprecedented and is the most significant increase in the number of Nigerian women arriving in Italy for 10 years,” said Simona Moscarelli, anti-trafficking expert at the IOM.

“Our indicators are the majority of these women are being deliberately brought in for sexual exploitation purposes. There has been a big enhancement of criminal gangs and trafficking networks engaging in the sexual exploitation of younger and younger Nigerian girls.”

Although a thriving sex trafficking industry has been operating between Nigeria and Italy for over three decades, there has been a marked increase in the numbers of unaccompanied Nigerian women arriving in Italy on migrant boats from Libya. In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived by sea. In 2015 this figure had increased to 5,633.

“Already we have seen nearly 4,000 women come in the first six months of this year,” said Moscarelli. “We are expecting the numbers to have increased again by the end of this year.”……….

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Poor and homeless San Franciscans rely on income earned by trading cans for cash, but their subsistence is under threat as hundreds of centers close down

Canners wait in line at One Planet Recycling in San Francisco.

Canners wait in line at One Planet Recycling in San Francisco. Photograph: Julia Carrie Wong for the Guardian

Mr Wong was fourth in line to pay his bus fare when the driver spotted the black garbage bag he was carrying.

“Off! Off!” the driver shouted. “Nobody wants to smell your cans.”

The middle-aged man, who did not want to give his first name, complied. He stepped back onto the sidewalk near San Francisco’s Civic Center.

When the next bus arrived, he sneaked on through the rear door.

The streets in California may not be paved with gold, but the trash cans that line them are full of money. Industrious scavengers can redeem aluminum cans, plastic containers, and glass bottles for hard cash (5 or 10 cents apiece), thanks to the state’s 30-year-old container deposit program.

Canners are a common sight in the city with one of the highest rates of inequality in the country. Elderly Chinese men and women sort through trash cans in downtown San Francisco, wearing aprons, gloves, and protective sleeves to keep their arms clean, pulling neatly sorted carts behind them…….

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