ASIA/HOLY LAND – Bethlehem calling Lourdes: partnership between towns supports Palestinian Christians

Bethlehem – Lourdes and Bethlehem share a “common destiny”, because “without pilgrimages, Bethlehem, like Lourdes, would be a small forgotten village”. With these words charged with realism the mayoress of Lourdes, Madame Josette Bourdeu, connoted the special bond which unites the town where Jesus was born with the French village-shrine in the Pyrenees. Madame Bourdeu said this recently when she led a French delegation to visit the Holy Land and to sign a partnership between the two French and Palestinian municipalities, establishing concrete and active cooperation between the towns.

The agreement – according to the Official Communications media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – was completed on 1 March this year and aims particularly to create jobs in the field of tourism also through commerce of religious articles made by Palestinian Christian artisans. This form collaboration will help launch projects in the field of social economy, promoting the sale of Palestinian handicraft through the network of places of pilgrimage most visited by Christians all over the world including the shrines of Fatima, Czestochowa, Guadalupe and Aparecida. In 2012 the Marian Shrine of Lourdes adopted as its “official Rosary” beads carved from olive wood by a family in Bethlehem, and about 25,000 of them are sold every year. .

Netanyahu studying “deporting Palestinian attackers’ families to Gaza”

PNN/ Jerusalem/

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu  on Wednesday has ordered his government legal adviser to study the possibility of deporting the families of Palestinian attackers to the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s office published a copy of the letter addressed to the attorney general, which read: “using this legal method will decrease the terrorist attacks against the state of Israel and its people”.

This move comes a week after the Israeli Transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, has called on Israeli authorities to displace the families of “Palestinian attackers” to Gaza or Syria, saying that it will “deterr the Palestinian minors from carrying any attempts to attack Israelis, since demolitions were not enough to stop them.”

Netanyahu then expressed his full support to the statement, however said that the Judiciary system would not allow it, because it is considered as collective punishment, which is illegal in the international law.

Since the start of October, more than 185 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, at least 37 of them children and some extrajudicially executed under alleged attempts of attacks, while Israeli Authorities have been demolishing their family homes inhesitantly.

On the Israeli side, 27 settlers and soldiers were killed either in such attacks or by friendly fire.

Palm oil: who’s still trashing forests?

How ‘clean’ is the palm oil used by major brands around the world? Today, we’re releasing the results of our investigation into which companies are keeping promises to stop deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil. Take a look now to see who’s keeping up – and who’s lagging way behind.

Forest fires in West Kalimantan, September 2015.Forest fires in West Kalimantan, September 2015.

The biggest forest fires of the century tore through Indonesia just six months ago. They reduced millions of hectares of of vibrant, living tropical rainforest and peatland to smoking ash – and with it, some of the last habitat of Indonesian orangutans.

A forest fire in Indonesia may seem like a far away issue, but for the past ten years, our investigations have exposed how the everyday products in our cupboards and on our bathroom shelves have direct links to the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.

Despite the haze, children in Central Kalimantan continue to play without any protection. Indonesian forest fires impact the health of millions, causing heart and lung problems, and weakening newborn babies.Despite the haze, children in Central Kalimantan continue to play without any protection. Indonesian forest fires impact the health of millions, causing heart and lung problems, and weakening newborn babies.

For the average person, being a part of the solution isn’t as simple as making a few changes to your shopping habits. From Doritos to Colgate to Johnson & Johnson baby soap, palm oil is in so many products that it’s hard to avoid. Even if you could, palm oil isn’t the problem – deforestation is the problem, and that will only stop when corporations take responsibility for the palm oil they buy.

Burnt remains of forest on peatland that has been cleared in preparation for plantation (2006).Burnt remains of forest on peatland that has been cleared in preparation for plantation (2006).

A young oil palm plantation on peatland (2010)A young oil palm plantation on peatland (2010)

So when hundreds of thousands of Greenpeace supporters took action, they took the fight straight to the companies responsible. Using the power of mass pressure, one by one we began forcing the biggest brands that use palm oil or paper from Indonesia to promise to protect rainforests.

Then, a breakthrough. Two years ago, a host of massive brands – including Mars, Mondelez and Procter & Gamble committed to our campaign. Suddenly the biggest brands on the planet were all saying the same thing – that the destruction of these amazing forests had to stop.

And that’s not the end of the good news! This kind of collective action from corporations – with their immense purchasing power – puts huge pressure on traders and producers working directly on the ground. Companies like Wilmar International and Golden Agri Resources may not be household names, but they’re giants in the industry. And because of this they agree to end deforestation – an incredible result!

Environmental activists unfurl a banner in an area affected by forest fires in Central Kalimantan.Environmental activists unfurl a banner in an area affected by forest fires in Central Kalimantan.

Now, the best part of a successful campaign like that is getting to see the real results: Protected forest, healthy orangutans, and an end to rampant deforestation and forest fires. That’s why we have to make sure the companies are keeping their promises.

So last December Greenpeace contacted 14 massive companies to find out how they were getting on with their commitments. What we found was a bit alarming. Only a few companies are making significant headway towards ensuring that there is no deforestation in their palm oil supply chains, and most are moving far too slowly.

It turns out, some companies might think that making a promise is easy – and that no one’s going to notice if they don’t keep it. Find out more in the report here.

A crime scene: burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlingsA crime scene: burned peatland and forest remains, planted with oil palm seedlings

Out of all the companies we surveyed, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo show the poorest performance and are failing to keep the ‘no deforestation’ promises they made to their customers. Tell them to up their game now.

The truth is, we can’t afford to wait. Unbelievably, deforestation rates in Indonesia are actually increasing, instead of decreasing. And those huge fires from six months ago? They’re due to return in just a few months.

Otan, a 7 month old orangutan who was rescued from the forest firesOtan, a 7 month old orangutan who was rescued from the forest fires

The palm oil industry is still a leading cause of all this destruction. And what’s even more frustrating is that palm oil can be produced responsibly. One amazing project we’ve been working with is a community in Dosan, Sumatra that is producing palm oil and protecting and restoring the surrounding rainforest. And there are lots of other schemes like this in Indonesia that need support.

It’s so important that these companies step up and deliver. Everyone knows what needs to happen, and how – so don’t let them get away with empty promises. Demand real change and real action on the ground.

And check out the scorecard report here.

Annisa Rahmawati is the Forests Campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Indonesia.