23 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


Despite UNESCO resolution: Israeli settlers continue entering Al-Aqsa, daily

PNN/ Jerusalem/
Some 135 Israeli settlers on Sunday morning have entered the yards of Al-Aqsa mosque compound even with the UNESCO announcing it a purely Islamic site.

The settlers, going into the mosque in small groups and heavily guarded by special Israeli forces, entered it from the Mughrabi gate.

Right-wing Israeli organizations called by intensification of settler break-ins into Al-Aqsa, especially during Jewish holidays, to “confirm” the Jewishness of the place, especially after the UNESCO resolution, which called the proclaimed Temple Mount with its Islamic name, Al-Aqsa mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

 According to Israeli narrative, the site is considered Judaism’s holiest site. In Islam, it counts as the first Qiblah (direction) and third holiest place.

The initial vote was held one week ago, where 26 countries abstained from the vote, including Serbia and Turkmenistan, while 24 countries supported the initiative and six voted against it.

Three days later, UNESCO said it might hold a new vote after Mexico had changed its position. However, upon receiving heavy criticism, UNESCO decided to call off the new vote while Mexico made an official statement announcing its changed position.

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For decades, children from Réunion island in the Indian Ocean were removed to repopulate rural areas of France

Jessie Moenner

Jessie Moenner, pictured in the Réunion capital, was one of many hundreds of children taken from their families to live in France. Photograph: Vidhi Doshi

Jean-Thierry Cheyroux, 56, doesn’t remember his mother’s face or the name of the road he lived on as a child, but when he sees the volcanoes from the aircraft window, for the first time in decades he feels at home. The last time he made this journey was in 1967; he was seven years old and flying in the opposite direction – from Réunion Island, where he was born, to France, where he now lives.

“I remember being on that plane as a child, and being so scared that I was crying. The stewardess had to take me to see the cockpit to calm me down,” he recalls now in a park in the capital, Saint-Denis, less than an hour’s drive from his childhood home.

His older sister, Jessie Moenner, sitting next to him, adds: “He was crying and screaming because he wanted to jump off the plane. He didn’t want to go to France.”

Cheyroux and his two sisters were among more than 2,000 children removed from the tropical island between 1963 and 1982 as part of a French government programme to repopulate increasingly deserted areas of rural postwar France. Cheyroux now believes he was forcibly taken from his mother, Marie-Thérese Abrousse, who had three children out of wedlock and was trying to raise them alone in the impoverished neighbourhood of Coeur-Saignant.

“She cleaned houses for white people on the island,” Moenner recalls. “She had dark skin and almond eyes. She was very secretive. She was a woman who had suffered a lot.”

The people of Réunion are descendants of slaves brought there by French colonisers to work on sugar plantations. The island is a departement, essentially an overseas territory of France. In the 1960s, the MP for Réunion, Michel Debré, set up a scheme to move children from the island to mainland France. His government promised islanders that their children would be sent to the best schools and be adopted by loving, rich French parents who could provide for them in a way that most creole people could not. Residents of Réunion spoke of the red government trucks that would roam the streets after school picking up children; and parents being forced to initial or fingerprint papers that they couldn’t read.

Cheyroux’s return to the island last week and his search for answers coincided with the first meeting of a committee appointed by the French government to document the stories of Réunion’s lost generation, almost 15 years after the scandal was brought to light by Jean-Jacques Martial, who tried to sue the French government for €1bn in 2002 for “kidnapping and sequestration of minors, roundup and deportation”.

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Thousands of leaflets are distributed in camp telling people to leave as charities warn of danger to children there

French police post the official document that announces the dismantling of the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais. Closing the camp is expected to take a week.

French police post the official document that announces the dismantling of the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais. Closing the camp is expected to take a week. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

French authorities are expected to start demolishing the refugee camp at Calais early on Monday despite concerns about the safety of children and vulnerable adults living there.

Sixty buses are due to remove 3,000 people to accommodation centres across France, with the exercise to be repeated again on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thousands of leaflets are being distributed in the camp this weekend, telling those living there that they must leave.

The planned demolition comes despite British charities and MPs telling the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, they have “very serious worries” about the security and wellbeing of many of the thousands of people – including an estimated 1,300 unaccompanied children – living in the camp.

“We fear that the resources currently being deployed and the proposed responses are insufficient to ensure the effective protection of the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children,” said a letter from signatories including Save the Children, the Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee UK, as well as 60 MPs and several peers. The letter said there was a lack of clear information from French authorities about the future of the camp’s inhabitants.

The letter asks for all unaccompanied minors to be found shelter before the demolition starts, for a designated “safe zone” to be created in the camp during the dismantlement, and that anyone eligible to join family in Britain be identified.

Unicef UK’s deputy executive director Lily Caprani said: “Once the demolition starts there are no second chances. If it results in a single child going missing, or forces them into the hands of smugglers and traffickers, then we will have failed them.”

Closing the camp is expected to take a week.

Cazeneuve has pledged that all remaining migrants at the site will be given “dignified” shelter after the camp is cleared.

The first child refugees from Calais arrived in the UK on Saturday night under a government promise to help unaccompanied minors announced in May, and more are expected to follow on Sunday.

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Donald Trump is a vile misogynist – but he’s not the only one

Victory for Hillary Clinton will not be enough to defeat the torrent of sexism unleashed by this US presidential campaign
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on 21 October.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on 21 October. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

By Jonathan Freedland

Four years ago Mitt Romney became a global laughing stock when he talked proudly about “binders full of women”. It was a funny phrase, no doubt about it. But watch the clip now, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the hapless Romney. He was recalling his spell as governor of Massachusetts and his discovery on taking office that too many senior posts were filled by men. He told his aides to encourage more female applicants, and they duly returned with “binders full of women”, a move that eventually led Romney to have the most gender-balanced senior team of all 50 US state governors. But he worded it badly, so he became an object of derision.

How long ago that seems now. While the 2012 campaign’s idea of a sexist outrage was a poor turn of phrase hinting at tokenism and condescension, 2016 has seen the nominee of a major party exposed as a perpetrator of sexual assault. Recorded on tape admitting that his modus operandi is to force himself on women, push his tongue down their throats without their consent and to “grab them by the pussy”, Donald Trump has since been confronted by at least 10 women who have testified that this was indeed his method – and that what he said into that hot mic in 2005 was the truth.

But we didn’t need to hear that recording to know Trump is an aggressive misogynist. His serial outrages are well known.He has called women dogs and pigs; he humiliated the winner of his Miss Universe beauty pageant for gaining weight, forcing her to exercise in front of the cameras; he rates women’s bodies out of 10; he dismissed Republican rival Carla Fiorina on the grounds that no one would vote for “that face”; he suggested TV anchor Megyn Kelly was hostile because “she had blood coming out of her wherever”. Even when seeking to rebut the charges of sexual assault, he couldn’t help himself. His defence amounted to: “Have you seen what these women look like? I don’t think so.”

This is such a swift degeneration from the public mores that America and the wider world had arrived at – and which had seemed steady and settled – that it can be hard to take in. It’s not that long ago that George W Bush received a global, and deserved, scolding for the unsolicited shoulder massage he fleetingly administered to Angela Merkel, which triggered a recoil reflex she could not conceal. Now you have a succession of credible accusers saying a would-be president thinks nothing of seizing women by the genitals.

As Michelle Obama put it in perhaps the most powerful speech of the presidential campaign: “We thought all of that was ancient history, didn’t we?”

Of course, that was a comforting delusion. You only have to read a fraction of the accusations of appalling sexual harassment and abuse of power levelled at Roger Ailes – the former overlord of Fox News, now reborn as an adviser to (who else?) Donald Trump – to know that such behaviour never stopped. Glance at the experiences shared online by EverydaySexism or under the notokay hashtag, and you know that men abusing women did not end in the 1970s.

Nevertheless the standard society set for itself aimed higher. Publicly, it deemed certain behaviour and attitudes unacceptable. Of course, the new standard was not always respected. But the line was drawn in a new place.

This is what Trump threatens. The way he both talks and acts seeks to roll back those 25 years of progress, sanctioning language and conduct that many had hoped was banished. The hope is that, if the polls are right and Trump is crushed next month, this will come to be seen as an aberration, allowing America to return to the more civil, more respectful habits it thought it had entrenched. The gloomier prospect is that the painstaking work of the last generation will have to be done all over again.

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