Shut Up! From the Wall Street Journal of March 22, 1990: “More than half of Cairo’s 12 million residents use sleeping pills and other sedatives to escape the city’s deafening noise, the semi-official al-Ahram newspaper said. The incessant blare of car horns and loudspeakers at mosques has forced 62 percent of the population to use pills to get to sleep, the paper quoted an official survey as saying. The noise has inflicted high blood pressure on a further 33 percent of the residents, it said. In one central city square, noise levels are ten times higher than those acceptable by international health standards, the newspaper added.”

More Than Enough Guilt to Go Around The Amsterdam-based Shipping Research Bureau, which monitors violations of the oil embargo imposed on South Africa, has published considerable evidence that in 1987-1988 — and presumably in other years before and after, too — several Middle Eastern oil-exporting countries (including Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt) were secretly shipping oil to South Africa despite explicit commitments to abide by the embargo. This confirms allegations that Israeli propagandists have been making for years, though we may be forgiven for doubting their sincerity in light of Israel’s own notorious record of close political, military and intelligence collaboration with Pretoria.

Murmuring in the Desert Israel’s attorney-general has ruled that religious political parties who promise voters a rabbi’s blessing in return for their ballots — a common practice in the 1988 elections — may be liable to prosecution for violation of election laws. Just before Passover, which celebrates the exodus of the Jews from Pharaoh’s bondage, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, then Israel’s immigration absorption minister, annoyed a group of recent Soviet Jewish immigrants by insisting that freedom was more important than jobs. “When the Jews left Egypt,” the rabbi said, “they didn’t ask if there would be work in the desert, if there would be jobs for doctors, if they would be able to make a living. Their hatred of oppression, and their love of freedom, was so great that they didn’t even ask, ’What will we eat there?’” One recent arrival from Leningrad responded that “you have people sitting here without jobs and without apartments. Life is fluid, we live in the here and now. You can’t look back thousands of years and say, ’That’s the way it should be now.’” In any case, a look at the Book of Exodus suggests that the learned rabbi got it wrong: After departing Egypt, the Israelites seem to have spent a lot of time “murmuring” about conditions in the desert into which Moses had led them.

Job Creation According to the Financial Times, residents of villages in the Israeli-controlled “security zone” in southern Lebanon have been responding to a new kind of employment opportunity. To discourage the Lebanese resistance from using suicide car bombers against Israeli army convoys and installations as well as those of Israel’s mercenary South Lebanon Army, the Israeli authorities have banned cars without passengers from entering their zone. Poor villagers have seized the opportunity to earn some income by standing by the roadsides with handmade signs, offering to ride along as passengers in return for a fee.

Your Tax Dollars (Continued) At the end of 1989, the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet published a ten-year balance sheet of official repression in Turkey. Since the military coup of September 1980, 50 people convicted of political offenses were executed, while another 6,500 death sentences were handed down by military tribunals; at least 171 people died under torture, with the number of deaths in custody exceeding 300; many thousands more suffered torture at the hands of the police or army; at least 5,000 political prisoners remain in Turkish jails; 650,000 people were detained for varying periods; 388,000 were prohibited from traveling abroad; some 34,000 civil servants (including 2,000 judges and prosecutors and 5,000 schoolteachers) were dismissed or forced to resign; 23,667 organizations were disbanded or suspended; and over 30,000 Turkish citizens were forced into exile. Among the cultural achievements of post-1980 Turkish governments: 2,792 writers, journalists and translators have been indicted in political cases, 937 films have been banned, huge fines have been levied on the country’s largest newspapers and magazines (some of which were shut down for short periods), and large numbers of books have been burned. Turkey, a member of NATO, received several billion dollars in US military aid during the 1980s; the allocation for 1990 is $550 million.

Saving Children or Saving Your Butt? Last May, Swedish Save the Children released a report that strongly criticized Israeli practices affecting Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza. The report was in large part researched and written by Anne Nixon, who until May 1989 had worked in the West Bank/Gaza field office of Save the Children United States. The US organization, apparently terrified that it might be associated with criticism of Israel, rushed to distance itself from the Swedish-sponsored report even before its release. While piously declaring that children should never become “either the target or the instrument of organized violence” or be “made to suffer in furtherance of political objectives,” a memo from US headquarters to North American offices of Save the Children-US stressed that Swedish Save the Children was a separate organization and disassociated itself from Nixon’s work by suggesting that it had gone beyond the “primary development objectives” pursued by Save the Children-US in the West Bank and Gaza. It also emphasized that the organization had projects in Israel as well. “There will be circumstances where we cannot and will not remain silent if children are suffering,” the organization’s “apolitical policy” states, “but speaking out requires in every case discussion with the appropriate regional director, vice president and president, and subsequent written authorization to act.” Where Palestinian children are concerned, it seems, both bureaucratic procedure and political expediency work to make silence the order of the day.

How to cite this article:

Al Miskin "Al Miskin," Middle East Report 166 (September/October 1990).

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