Israeli Supreme Court fully adopts Israeli army’s position

The Israeli Supreme Court rejected two petitions filed by human rights groups and fully adopted the Israeli military’s position, giving a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

Three Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected the two petitions, fully accepting the military’s claims related to the use of live fire on protesters. The court ruled that the Israeli military’s firing of live ammunition at protesters was in accordance with the law because, according to the court, the protest participants constituted a real danger to Israeli soldiers and citizens.

Human rights group Adalah and Al Mezan responded late Thursday night to the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling: “The Israeli Supreme Court completely ignored the broad factual basis presented to it by the petitioners, which includes multiple testimonies of wounded and reports of international organizations involved in documenting the killing and wounding of unarmed protesters in Gaza.

“It is worth noting that the Israeli Supreme Court refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state. [The petition included 12 video clips documenting Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed protesters – including women and children – who did not endanger any lives.] The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court.”

Since 30 March 2018, 115 Palestinian residents of Gaza – including 15 children – have been killed by the Israeli military. At least 86 were killed during the protests themselves. Approximately 3,000 more were wounded by live fire during this same period. Those who were killed were mostly shot in the upper part of the body.


Urgent humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territory

The Humanitarian Fund for the occupied Palestinian territory announced the release of US$3.9 million to address urgent water, sanitation, shelter and protection needs in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

“The humanitarian response to the crisis is among the worst-funded globally this year,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick. “With this allocation, we ensure that humanitarian partners have the resources to respond to some of the most urgent needs, but this is a stop-gap measure only and much more is needed.”

The 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires $540 million in funding, is currently only 16 per cent funded.

Over 75 per cent of the allocation targets needs in the Gaza Strip, where the already-dire humanitarian situation has been exacerbated since March 30, 2018 due to a massive rise in Palestinian casualties in the context of demonstrations.

The oPt HF is an emergency pooled fund supported in 2017 and 2018 by Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. It is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and its allocation aim is to support highly vulnerable Palestinians.


US foundations have invested $50 Billion in Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the most ambitious — as well as expensive — global development framework in history. The framework sets specific targets in seventeen areas, from ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1), to combating climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), to achieving gender equality (Goal 5). But with an estimated annual price tag of $3.5 trillion, it’s clear that governments alone cannot finance the SDGs and hope to achieve the framework’s 2030 targets.

It’s not a surprise that Goal 3 (Ensure healthy lives) and Goal 4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all) have received the lion’s share of the funding to date (both more than $18 billion). In addition to regular health-related spending, foundations also have contributed significant sums in response to various health emergencies, both natural and man-made.

Though it has received considerably less funding than the other two, it’s interesting to note that Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality) ranks third  —  preliminary analysis hints at a promising scenario for gender equality-related funding — while Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies and justice for all) is close behind in the fourth spot. Indeed, a deep dive into Goal 16-related funding reveals that a lot of the grants made in support of efforts in this area overlap with Goal 5, gender equality, which suggests to us that peace and justice are strongly correlated with gender equality and that funders are well aware of the linkage.

Foundation Center data shows that foundations have contributed more than $50 billion toward achieving the SDGs since January 2016, when the SDG agenda was formally launched. In a blog post in 2016, Foundation Center president Brad Smith predicted that foundations would contribute $364 billion toward achieving the by 2030. While it’s too early to say whether Brad will be proved correct, the initial trends are favorable.

[Philanthropy News Digest]

Affordable antibiotics for antimicrobial resistance

The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the launch of the Global Research & Development (R&D) collaboration hub on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) announced at the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly.

This German-led collaboration between governments, donors, and various stakeholders aims to promote research on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and encourage the creation of new and affordable antibiotics, diagnostics, and vaccines to help combat the global resistance crisis. This hub could help ensure that investments in AMR are needs-driven rather than profit-driven.

MSF has been witnessing, with alarming regularity, the challenges caused by antimicrobial resistance in our clinics—from war-wounded Syrians undergoing reconstructive surgery in Jordan to burn patients in Haiti to newborn babies in Pakistan to patients with MDR-TB in South Africa, India, and Eastern Europe.

“We are encouraged by the launch of the Global R&D Hub on AMR, which could be an important catalyst to address the urgent need for medical tools for use by people in real-life conditions to tackle the worldwide AMR crisis. With more than half a million new cases each year and around a quarter of a million deaths, MDR-TB also needs to be a key focus of the Hub.


Israel will not co-operate with UN human rights inquiry

Israel says it won’t co-operate with the inquiry called for by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on Friday into recent violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

The body approved a commission of inquiry to investigate Israel’s handling of clashes on the Gaza border and alleged human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem. The meeting was called after 60 Palestinian protesters were shot and killed by Israeli troops on Monday, the day the US transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Twenty-nine countries voted to approve the probe, while 14 abstained. Only the United States and Australia voted against the resolution.

The United Nations human rights chief said Israel used “wholly disproportionate” force. Zeid Raad al -Hussein told the Geneva meeting that Gaza residents were effectively “caged in a toxic slum from birth to death”.

Kuwait has circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israel’s actions and calling for the deployment of an international force to protect civilians. Kuwait is urging the Security Council to condemn Israel’s use of force against Palestinian civilians “in the strongest terms”, especially in the Gaza Strip.

[The Irish Times]

Will climate change cause more migrants than wars?

Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even have a more significant role in the displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause major refugee crises.

This was the warning sounded by Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Sarmad is a specialist in commerce and financial management, and has worked for 27 years at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

While the Syrian conflict resulted in a million migrants seeking refuge in Europe, “the climate change impact will make one million look like a small number. Because a hundred or four hundred million people live in developing countries in low-lying areas, in cities which are very close to the sea. If sea level rises, then people will have to move.”

Can one speak in a strict sense of climate refugees? The international community has not yet validated that definition, but Sarmad believes that the issue must be considered, due to realities such as the sea level rise, increasingly destructive hurricanes or persistent droughts.

The issue of climate change is particularly controversial in the G20, because last year, under the German presidency, the United States did not adhere to the Action Plan on Climate and Energy Growth, which was endorsed by the rest of the member countries, leading many to conclude that the G20 had become the Group of 19+1.

 [Read full IPS article]

Taxing the world’s poor to give to the bureaucrat

The 10 percent of the world’s population still consuming $1.90 or less a day are subsisting on a small fraction of the resources available to people at the US poverty line.

In the rich world, even in the United States, government tax and transfer systems like welfare payments reduce the gap between rich and poor. But in the world’s poorest countries, taxes are less progressive, financial transfers are much smaller, and—with the bulk of social spending soaked up by broken health and education systems—the net effect is often to leave people poorer than they started.

Tax regime in many developing countries isn’t very progressive—taxing the rich a similar percentage of their income as the poor. That’s because the revenue authorities tend to rely on indirect taxes like VAT—which fall on all consumers—rather than direct taxes on high personal or corporate incomes. So poor people lose a similar proportion of their income to the government as do rich people. The impact of government can thus be to increase poverty rates.

In four of the five sub-Saharan African countries where CEQ data is available, the net effect of taxes and transfers is to increase the number of people living below the World Bank’s extreme poverty line. (In Tanzania, for example, poverty is nearly 20 percent higher due to taxes and transfers.)

Eradicating global poverty will require decades of sustained economic growth, and a state capable of delivering high-quality education and health services to all. But in the short term, just making the current system of taxes and transfers slightly more progressive would be—on a technical level—a pretty easy fix for poverty and inequality in many countries.

[Center for Global Development]

Rising mental health issues among humanitarian workers

Post-graduates from King’s College London, Laura Samira Naude and Esther ten Zitjhoff, left Britain and headed to Greece’s refugee camps. Armed with compassion and educational books in Arabic, English and Farsi, the duo travelled from camp to camp in their library on wheels, attempting to bring the hope and resources to the refugees as they prepared for their future in Europe. But as winter came, facing the many pressure that all NGOs in Greece face, Laura and Esther began to lose hope themselves: “Everything you try and do is met with obstacles, we didn’t have a huge support group and so after a while we just couldn’t cope, physically or mentally”.

Aid workers and volunteers in the humanitarian sector face traumatizing situations that have been proven to cause them to experience anxiety, burnout, secondary traumatic stress, depression or PTSD, explains Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A report conducted by the Antares foundation in 2013, found that 30% of aid workers had experienced PTSD, compared to 11% of US veterans who participated in the war in Afghanistan according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Brendan McDonald, former aid worker at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), recalls how when asking his staff councilor for advice after a particularly traumatic experience in Syria, he was only sent a pamphlet on yoga. At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, McDonald, along with other colleagues, attempted to petition the summit, calling on the UN to “prioritize staff well-being”. He said, “I was told by UNOCHA senior management not to pursue the matter; it was basically not seen as an issue”.


Impact on Iranian people from Trump sanctions

In the years prior to the nuclear deal, when Iran was under broad international sanctions, the country saw shortages in key foodstuffs and life-saving medicines.

According to Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, during that sanctions period, the list of medicines subject to shortages in Iran extended to 350 drugs. After the lifting of international sanctions as part of the Iran nuclear deal, the situation improved dramatically.

With U.S. sanctions poised to return, much suffering for Iranians seems to be on the horizon. In fact, what the Trump administration is seeking to do could prove much more dangerous than anything Iran has been subjected to before.

[Bourse & Bazaar]

UN calls for ‘immediate end to use of disproportionate force’ in Israel

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured on Monday amid reports of Israeli forces firing live ammunition at protesters protesting against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli forces faced accusations of using “disproportionate force” against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.” In an earlier statement, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “gravely concerned” that many of those killed or injured during weeks of protests were reportedly posing no imminent threat when they were shot.

The statement also called on Israel to “fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip”, and to “put an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza strip, refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and ensure prompt and unimpeded access to medical treatment to injured Palestinians”.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Israeli authorities’ policy of firing at protesters irrespective of whether there was an immediate threat to life had resulted in a “bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen”.

Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: “This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.”

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that firing live ammunition at protesters showed “appalling indifference to human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials” and called for an immediate halt to the killing of protesters.