Letters to the editor

Issue 

Australia role in Israel’s demolition?

Re: your report of the recent demolition of the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev (“Israel Razes Bedoun Village”, GLW #847), the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, quoting the same primary source, states that “according to Dr Yeela Ranaan of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, destruction of the villages in al-Araqib has been occurring since the 1950s. She notes that the Jewish National Fund [JNF] plans to plant a forest on the village lands, and that the current actions are part of a larger government policy to displace the indigenous Bedouin from the land.”

As an Australian Jew, and a Jewish peace activist, I find this especially disturbing, because the Australian branch of the JNF is currently appealing to Australian Jews to donate funds for projects in this area of the Negev. (See www.jnf.org.au .)

Are Australian Jews who donate to the JNF contributing to the planned Judaisation of the Negev involving the demolition of Bedouin villages, and the displacement of the Bedouin inhabitants, and thus to the unjust treatment of Bedouins, most of whom are Israeli citizens and long-time residents of the Negev?

Paul Rubner
[via email]

Cell phones and the Third World

In his article on the iPhone 4, (“That’ll be the blood phone reg”, GLW #847) Stuart Munckton points to a lot that is true — including a culture of techy fashion, where having something state-of-the-art becomes a reason to shell out money for new devices all the time. Also, the appalling conditions of Third World workers used to provide “affordable” First World tech.

However, the article overlooks the significance of telecommunication innovations in the past 20 years, especially in cell phones, and the changes that has meant across the world — especially in Asia. Munckton may not see any use for his phone other than making and taking calls and playing snake, but that’s because he surfs the web on high speed broadband, and most likely owns a home PC.

In countries like India, Indonesia and South Africa, cell phones have become the cheapest and easiest way to access the internet, with penetration far outstripping the distribution of PCs. Text messaging and phone internet have enabled communication between people who had no access otherwise, and have done far more to bridge the digital divide than any other innovation.

Smart phone penetration in South Asia was measured at 40% about a year ago — with Vietnam the lowest country measured with 22% of the population owning one. ADSL/Cable internet penetration in the same region is about 5%.

That’s not to say that all the changes with technology have been good — in either the First or Third World. Most people face a bleeding of work into home life, and a gradual erasing of private space, as well as the chance to sustain friendships and family relationships over much vaster distances. But the trend towards faster internet; better screens; and phones as relatively cheap mini-computers is far more significant than simply a new way to make devices obsolescent.

Alison Dellit
ACT
[This letter first appeared as a comment at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, www.links.org.au , where the article in question was reprinted.]

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