Israel/Palestine: Struggle continues over E. Jerusalem

Last week Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered the Sharon government not to seize East Jerusalem property owned by Palestinians living in the West Bank. A measure approved last summer would have let the Israeli government take over such land under the 1950 Absentee Property Law that allowed the government to seize the land of thousands of Palestinian families driven out following Israel’s founding.

The law theoretically applied to East Jerusalem after its annexation in 1967, but previous governments did not implement the measure.

Palestinians were encouraged by Mazuz’ decision. But they are cautioning that many East Jerusalem residents will soon be affected by a ban on traveling to their jobs in Ramallah — the West Bank’s economic hub. “A concerted media and diplomatic campaign on the international level must be set in motion to stop efforts to turn Jerusalem into an exclusive city, where the Palestinian residents become an ever-shrinking minority with no rights and few employment prospects,” the Palestinian organization Miftah said.

Germany: 5 million unemployed

The German Federal Labor Agency said last week that unemployment topped the 5 million mark, or 12.1 percent, last month — a level not reached since before Hitler took power in the 1930s. In the formerly socialist eastern Germany, the rate was 20.5 percent, while in the west it was just under 10 percent.

The government said part of the rise was due to including among the unemployed 230,000 able-bodied recipients of social welfare benefits who are not currently working.

Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroder made cutting unemployment a campaign plank in his 1998 election campaign. But following his 2003 re-election, he spearheaded sharp social benefit cuts and instituted compulsory municipal work programs for recipients.

S. Africa: ‘Victory’ over layoffs

The trade union Solidarity is calling Telekom’s agreement to a two-year moratorium on layoffs a victory not just for workers at the telecommunications giant but for all South Africa, Business Day said last week.

The union said community involvement in a powerful labor campaign won the Jan. 31 moratorium pact between Telkom and three unions representing workers there.

“Our campaign against the planned Telkom retrenchments was one of the largest labor campaigns every organized in South Africa,” said Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann.

The campaign’s next phase will focus on building new job opportunities within the company, Hermann said. “It is unacceptable that a company such as Telkom, which posts profits amounting to billions of rands, cannot expand and create new posts, while 40 percent of South Africans are currently unemployed,” he said.

Telkom had originally planned to reduce its staff by 7,600 over three years, which the union said would have resulted in over 4,300 layoffs.

Cuba/Venezuela: Working to end illiteracy

Cuba and Venezuela will work together and with other Latin American countries to eliminate illiteracy, using Cuban methods already proven in Venezuela, Granma reported last week.

Cuba’s Education Minister Luis Ignacio Gomez outlined the program Feb. 1 to more than 5,000 conference delegates from 46 nations. He also said Cuba is offering 2,000 scholarships each year to young Venezuelans for advanced studies in any subject of interest to their country, including scientific research and training of physicians.

Gomez spoke of the huge problems confronted by a world where over 860 million adults are submerged in ignorance, and 120 million do not attend primary school. By contrast, Cuba eliminated illiteracy 43 years ago. Now education is universal, and heads the budget for 2005.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (
Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s notes.