People with special needs protest in Lebanon

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People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.” (Supplied)
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People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.” (Supplied)
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Protesters chant slogans during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2019

People with special needs protest in Lebanon

  • The suffering of social welfare institutions is a result of the country’s ongoing economic crisis

BEIRUT: People with special needs have taken to the streets throughout Lebanon, carrying banners demanding their “right to education, rehabilitation, treatment, integration and interdependence.”

Waving Lebanese flags, they shouted “we don’t want to be at home, we want to learn,” “you and I are like each other,” and “no one is better than anyone.”

Some associations catering for Lebanese children with special needs have closed down due to lack of government funding.

People in wheelchairs, and some with canes, went to the headquarters of Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

“We’re not the weakest segment of society, as some people like to call us,” said protester Michela Gabriel. “We have the right to know why the state hasn’t yet provided the necessary support to the associations.”

In the town of Hermel, people with special needs gathered around the center that provides them with care. “We don’t accept being marginalized,” said one of them.

Students with special needs also protested in the city of Tripoli. “If the dues aren’t paid, our students will remain in their homes without educational attention, and we don’t accept that,” said social worker Anita Bator.

HIGHLIGHT

Demonstrations come after some groups catering for special children closed down due to lack of government funding.

Norma Al-Zain, director of the El-Kharrub Complex for Welfare and Development, expressed concern that “social welfare institutions will have to make painful choices because their continuation depends on the donations of good people and the payment of dues by the state.”

Richard Kouyoumdjian, social affairs minister in the caretaker government, told protesters that he “won’t abandon these institutions, and won’t accept the threat of closure, nor touching a hair on the head of a child with special needs.”

He said the suffering of people with special needs and the associations that care for them “is part of what Lebanon is experiencing from an economic crisis that affects all institutions.” He promised to speed up aid disbursements.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met on Monday with Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Jumblatt.

The latter also visited Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29. 

The meetings were part of efforts to overcome hurdles to the formation of a new government.

There were conflicting reports of a meeting on Monday between President Michel Aoun and Samir Khatib, who has emerged as the favorite candidate to form a government, and a meeting between Khatib and the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil.

Jumblatt said the PSP will not participate in the government, but will nominate competent Druze candidates as ministers.


Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexation

Updated 29 January 2020

Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexation

  • A Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations
  • Hard-line Israeli nationalists have called for the immediate annexation of West Bank settlements

JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli minister said on Wednesday that a Cabinet vote to endorse annexation of parts of the West Bank will not take place early next week, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge a day earlier to act quickly after the US released a peace plan rejected by the Palestinians.
Netanyahu said he would ask the Cabinet to advance the extension of Israeli sovereignty over most Jewish settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, a move that would likely spark international outrage and complicate the White House’s efforts to build support for the plan.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio that a Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations, including “bringing the proposal before the attorney general and letting him consider the matter.”
Hard-line Israeli nationalists have called for the immediate annexation of West Bank settlements ahead of the country’s third parliamentary elections in under a year, scheduled for March 2.
They have eagerly embraced the part of President Donald Trump’s peace plan that would allow Israel to annex territory but have rejected its call for a Palestinian state in parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians angrily rejected the Trump plan which largely adopts the Israeli position on all the thorniest issues of the decades-old conflict, from borders and the status of Jerusalem to security measures and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Levin, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the Palestinian state envisioned by the Trump peace plan is “roughly the same Palestinian Authority that exists today, with authority to manage civil affairs,” but lacking “substantive powers” like border control or a military.
Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands,” reaffirming its commitment to an independent Palestinian state formed on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal under international law.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted Wednesday that “that which is postponed to after the elections will never happen.”
“If we postpone or reduce the extension of sovereignty (in the West Bank), then the opportunity of the century will turn into the loss of the century,” said Bennett, a hawkish Netanyahu ally with the New Right party.
Nahum Barnea, a veteran Israeli columnist, stridently criticized the Trump plan in Wednesday’s Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying it would create a Palestinian state “more meager than Andorra, more fractured than the Virgin Islands.”
He cautioned that annexation would lead to “a reality of two legal systems for two populations in the same territory — one ruling, the second occupied. In other words, an Apartheid state.”