Japan: Strong vote against U.S. bases

When a referendum on a government plan to transfer 57 additional U.S. aircraft and another 1,600 U.S. troops to the Iwakuni Air Station was held last month, an overwhelming 90 percent of local voters turned out to say “no.”

The Iwakuni airbase, situated on land that was formerly used for farming and dwellings, was seized by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1945 and since been used for waging U.S. wars abroad.

The Japanese Communist Party worked with a broad alliance to organize voter turnout for the referendum, despite attempts by some officials to discourage voters by saying the expansion was a done deal.

Akahata, the Japanese Communist Party’s newspaper, quoted JCP leader Ichida Tadayoshi as saying, “The Iwakuni City referendum was a landmark in that such a large number of residents expressed their opposition to the strengthening of the U.S. base functions in defiance of interferences. The government should heed their voice and retract the plan.”

Iraq: Students’ initiative for peace

In southern Iraq, a group of university students initiated an educational campaign to promote awareness on the dangers of sectarian violence and to promote peace.

Ali Haydar, an engineering student, told the UN-related news agency IRIN, “We’re more than 200 students from different colleges in Basra working with the same aim … to open the hearts of the population and ease feelings of revolt and revenge.”

Half of the students spend time in Internet chat room discussions promoting peace and coexistence; the other half visit schools and universities with leaflets promoting the same goals.

Originally the idea of a Sunni student whose family was killed in sectarian violence, the students hope their initiative will spread throughout the country.

Adel Abdel-Rasoul, a student at a Baghdad university, said, “If each person, in his own way, does something that can lessen the violence, a better country will surely emerge in the end.”

Venezuela: New program aids women

Dozens of projects to alleviate poverty have been launched in Venezuela since 2003. The programs are geared toward support for Venezuela’s poorest population by offering better access to heath care, low-cost food, education and cultural activities.

The newest social program, Mission Mothers of the Shantytowns (Misión Madres del Barrio), will focus on three major issues considered critical to neighborhoods: combating drug use among young people, fighting unwanted pregnancies in girls and giving assistance to mothers living in extreme poverty.

On announcing the program, President Hugo Chávez said, “With this mission, we want to give a hand to mothers who are in need and homemakers without a fixed income.”

According to venezuelanalysis.com, part of the government’s program is to pay 80 percent of the minimum wage to mothers living in extreme poverty.

Zambia: S. African Communist honored

Last week in Lusaka, The Press Freedom Committee of The Post (Lusaka) hosted a dinner honoring Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party. In his address, Nzimande called for a continuation of people-to-people solidarity and said the greatest challenge facing southern Africa is to regain the values of the national liberation struggles.

“Our biggest single problem is poverty eradication and developing our economy to serve our people. That is the vision and value of the national liberation movements,” he said.

Commenting on the U.S. government’s latest national security document, Nzimande said the world is a more dangerous place. “It says the U.S. government is going to be the custodian of human development. … That is why we are inspired with developments in Latin America, because human rationality always triumphs over human brutality.”

Israel: Poll reveals rising racism

A recent poll conducted by the Center for Combating Racism in Israel revealed an increase in racist attitudes toward Arab citizens. Poll results showed half of Israeli Jews would prefer that Arabs not live there and 40 percent said the government should encourage Arab emigration. Forty-one percent of Jews approve of separate recreational facilities and 34 percent said, “Arab culture is lower than Jewish culture.”

Arab leaders in Israel reacted sharply to the report, according to the International Middle East Media Center.

Mohammad Baraka, a Knesset (parliament) member and chairman of left-coalition Hadash Party, called the poll “the direct result of Israeli government policies throughout the years.” Another Knesset member, Talab Al Sane’, said it was “a stain on democracy; moral bankruptcy.”

Shawqi Khateeb, chairman of the Israeli-Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee, attributed the poll results to “the Israeli apartheid policy.”

World Notes are compiled by Pamella Saffer (psaffer@pww.org).