Letters: Christian Aid

Mandate for Christian Aid is strictly humanitarian
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The Independent Online

Christian Aid strongly counters any charge of political bias in its humanitarian response to the Gaza crisis and our wider programme in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (Comment, 27 January). Our Israeli partner organisations would also strongly refute this groundless allegation. To suggest we have taken sides is wrong.

The evidence for our neutral approach is clear. Our mandate is humanitarian: we give humanitarian aid based on need, regardless of race or creed or any other distinction. It is also our mandate to speak out on behalf of the poor and vulnerable and to challenge the root causes of their poverty. We challenge actions and policies that contribute to poverty and vulnerability. We do that in our work in Israel and in the occupied territories as we do everywhere else in the world where we work.

The evidence is also clear in what we say. We repeatedly demand that both Israel and the Palestinians keep within international humanitarian and human rights law. We state that all unlawful attacks must stop. We consistently call upon both Israel and the Palestinians to immediately cease all attacks against civilians.

Our call, together with other NGO's, for talks on Israel's EU upgrade to be suspended is similarly based on human rights. The EU's agreement with Israel contains a clause on adherence to human rights. The EU's impartiality and commitment to human rights is compromised if it further extends the benefits of EU partnership to a state that is not complying with the terms of its existing agreements relating to human rights.

Christian Aid is unequivocal in its support for the security of Israel and the rights of all Israeli people to live safely and securely. We believe the Palestinians should be afforded the same rights.

Daleep Mukarji

Director, Christian Aid, London SE1

Severn plan leads to mass extinction

It will indeed be no surprise if the energy the Severn Barrage could provide is judged to outweigh the ecological cost of destroying the estuary (front page and leading article, 27 January). Humans learn slowly. Our species has been irreversibly wiping out the other species on this planet for thousands of years, and still shows few signs of taking this mass extinction seriously. Extinctions are seldom caused deliberately; they are the result of numerous short-termist decisions which presumably seem tough but reasonable to many people at the time.

Considering developing a site which is designated and legally protected for its globally significant wildlife, to exploit a globally trivial amount of energy, indicates that many people still cannot see the inter-linkage between humans and nature. Even climate change may never surpass the many other well-established ways we destroy species and associated life-supporting ecosystem services. To use climate change as an excuse to ignore so many ecologists would be eco-lunacy, especially since "renewables" are not the only option.

Past mass extinctions have left their scars on this planet for some 10 million years. So for those who judge massive destruction of wildlife a fair and sensible contribution to the stabilisation of climate, I have this question: are you feeling lucky? Future generations may not see it your way.

Clive Hambler

Lecturer in Biological and Human Sciences, University of Oxford

No faith left in the FSA

So, we hear that the FSA is going to put together new ideas to stop any problems in the banking sector like the last one. I'll bet that the next time something goes belly up financially, the FSA will be the ones at the back looking bemused; again. It's as though they don't exist; maybe they don't, maybe it's all make-believe. Here is a statement from their website (no mention of the new strategy on page one, though). It reads, "In October 2004, following a decision by the Treasury, we took on responsibility for mortgage regulation".

Now, in my simple mind that means that more than four years ago, before we even started to go into mortgage meltdown, years before the crash, years before you could get a self-certified mortgage that you could in no way afford to pay back, but would be duly offered to you with a credit card as well, so long as you "promised you would pay monthly".

So what was the FSA doing? When Vince Cable repeatedly voiced his concerns in parliament over what he could see was over-gearing the economy in finance and housing he was shouted down by the then Chancellor that they knew best, and that boom and bust had finished and we were enjoying prosperity through continual growth.

I'm afraid we can look to the government to look after us with the FSA a bit like how the government looks after our roads: takes the money and wastes it doing something else.

Lee Tidman

Sutton Coldfield

So the government is giving the car industry a £2.3bn rescue package, so it can continue to make cars. Who is going to buy these cars? Perhaps it's the ex-Corus steel-workers with their redundancy pay, or maybe the ex-Woolworths employees, as a bit of a pick-me-up?

As it is taxpayer money, perhaps we will all qualify for a free new car, to keep these car-workers in a job, and to clear the thousands of unsold new cars littering the landscape at places such as Avonmouth? This government does not seem to have a clue about what to do next.

Simon Duckworth

Bridgwater, Somerset

In 1995, Baring's Bank collapsed because of Nick Leeson, who spent more than six years in prison for fraud. Recently, an allegedly similar banking collapse resulted in a knighthood and a pay-off of millions of pounds. What is the difference?

Ben Ross

Burgess Hill, West Sussex

People to decide status of school

I wish to clarify a few points about the article on proposals to create a new primary school in Swanage as part of the Purbeck schools review (13 January). Dorset County Council is consulting on changing the school system in Purbeck from three to two-tier. We are proposing that Swanage StMark's CE and Swanage First schools would close, move to the existing middle school site and combine to form a new primary school with a new name. No decisions have been made about whether the proposed school would be a community or a faith school or indeed on the future of any of the schools.

The status of the proposed primary school for Swanage depends on the result of the public consultation.

Toni Coombs

Cabinet member for children's services, Dorset County Council

What did Darwin really do for us?

It may be a good idea to have extra public holidays but to call one of them a Darwin Day is preposterous (letters, 23 January). Do all scientists believe (I use the word advisably) Darwin's theory of evolution? Why have some adapted his theory to become Neo-Darwinism? Others have noted that the fossils do not show the evidence Darwin postulated, and once more adapted the theory with another aspect called punctuated equilibrium.

Darwin's theory of evolution is just that, viz, a theory. There are laws in science which most, if not all, scientists accept. Entropy is evident all around us and we see things do run down. Consequently, Darwin's molecule-to-man theory is a contradiction of accepted scientific laws.

Finally, are we to accept every detail of Darwin's theory, or be selective? Social Darwinism, as it has been called, I believe, consigns women to an inferior status to men. This is surely unacceptable. Also natural selection or the survival of the fittest is what we see in our day on the streets.

Why do young people get involved in gangs, carry knives etc if it is not to survive? Many examples which are causing us serious social problems could be given and these relate to Darwin's theory of evolution. So, contrary to reinvigorating the scientific studies, it has created ills in society.

James Neilson

Bolton, Lancashire

Appeal for help in Sri Lanka

Just as much needed help starts to reach the hospitals in Gaza (leading article, 27 January), a new, desperate call for medical aid comes from the Vanni region of Sri Lanka, where an estimated 250,000 people are trapped in heavy fighting. Hundreds of civilians are reported wounded or killed, and hospitals, already badly short-staffed, are running out of drugs.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has a medical team and supplies ready to go to aid the hospitals, but last September the government forced all NGOs out. The ban still stands, despite direct appeals for help to MSF from Sri Lanka Ministry of Health staff working in the Vanni.

About 2,000 people have managed to cross to the relative safety of Vavuniya. An MSF medical team there is supporting the local hospital to treat wounded people who have escaped the fighting. But it is vital that both parties respect the right of civilians to seek safety and to receive medical treatment.

Marc DuBois

Médecins Sans Frontières, London EC1

The legal status of Palestine

Roslyn Pine (letters, 28 January) is wrong in fact and incorrect in interpretation of the legal status of Palestine. The League of Nations Mandate was drawn up in consultation with the Jewish agencies and ratified in 1923, not 1922, after a British White Paper proposed that the Jews would be given a homeland within Palestine, and not a state.

They could enjoy relative autonomy, provided they accepted Palestine citizenship and did not infringe the rights of other communities. Article Seven of the "legally binding document" gave citizenship, nationality and voting rights to all inhabitants of that territory, excluding Transjordan, as Palestinians, not as Israelis. This was agreed by the Zionist Organisation and administered by Britain as the mandatory power.

By the time the UN replaced the League, repeated attacks by armed Jewish terrorist groups had made that administration impossible. In the eyes of the present Government of Israel, this now appears to be the only "legal entity" for Palestine they recognise. It is not the Palestinian nation that was intended and to which the Israelis consistently deny rights and legal status.

In 1948, the USA and the Soviet Union, in the UN Security Council, took over the problem and created a two-state solution, which has palpably failed to secure either Palestinian autonomy or its statehood.

Nick Howard

Sheffield

Briefly...

Secured waste

I bought internet security software for my PC, from one of the best-known names in that business. They may be good on computer security but not on the environment. The cardboard box was nine and a half inches high by seven and a half inches wide, by two and a half inches deep. Inside was a CD in a paper envelope with a 22-page A5 booklet. The packaging industry has gone mad.

Iain Smith

Rugby, Warwickshire

Chance for trains

It would be ridiculous for the government to allow railway companies to reduce the number of services or carriages, given how overcrowded trains are ("Rail passengers face cut in services as recession bites", 21 January). Indeed, if overcrowding eases, you might get more people switching from cars to trains, and reducing CO2 emissions, because there was more room on the trains. It's no good train companies saying they'll lose money if fewer people travel: they've just had massive fare hikes, 8 per cent on South Eastern Trains.

Mark Hurstfield

Northfleet, Kent

Not Nixon

Whereas television, according to Anthony Quinn, ("Films of the week", 23 January), "exposes hypocrisy", one thing history does is to try to get the facts right: Richard Nixon was not, as he claims, impeached.

Jerry Stiles

Mitcham, Surrey

Blair's the best

We should be suspicious of President Obama and his professed humility. We, and all of the Middle East, know full well that when it comes to being humble, Tony Blair is better than anyone.

Robbie Jones

Dublin

Asking for trouble

As a person with hearing difficulties, I agree with Carol Thomas (letters, 26 January) that cyclists are a danger to the blind. The law is there to stop vulnerable people being hit. Here, shared-space pavements are being installed and cyclists encouraged to use the footpath. Is it me going crazy, or is it our traffic engineers?

Jeffrey Kaufman

Oadby & Wigston Borough Council, Leicestershire

Bananas furious

I think it scandalous, in the light of recent events, that people should be comparing our politicians with bananas, saying they're green when they first arrive, that they soon turn yellow and that they're nearly all bent. This calumny must be stopped in its tracks.

Bob Johnston

St Agnes, Cornwall

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