Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2008The Arab League is pressing for the UN to adopt a “legally binding and enforceable” resolution requiring a ceasefire in Gaza. Since the UN can’t enforce anything on Israel, one must assume that the Arabs are seeking a resolution backed by American arm-twisting.

We shall see.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, Barry Rubin, blogagog, Insubria, JD, RRW, Srdja Trifkovic, Steen, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Berg Files New Challenge to Eligibility
Exclusive: RNC Draft Rips Bush’s Bailouts
Molotov Cocktail Thrown at Chicago Synagogue
US Gives 85 Million Dollars to Palestinian Refugees
 
Europe and the EU
Antwerp: Arab Riots, Jewish Neighborhood Sealed
Black Ravens Warn Against EU Treaty
Czech Communists’ New Spokesman Had Anti-Semitic Views — Press
Europe: Czech Minister Defends Israeli Strikes
Greece: Two Rifles Used to Shoot at Police Bus
Meet the New EU President: He’s Not Keen on the Euro or the Lisbon Treaty and Compares Europe to Soviet Union
One in Five Czechs Could Back Libertas in EP Elections
Spain: Car Bomb Explodes at TV Station
Sweden: Police Hire Protection in Malmö Suburb
Sweden: Man Dies in Stockholm Shooting
UK: Ambulancemen Arrested for ‘Ignoring a Dying Disabled Man Because He Wasn’t Worth Saving’
UK: Now Children Taught How to Blow Noses
UK: Outrage as Treasury Chief is Knighted — in the Middle of Britain’s Worst Economic Crisis for Decades
 
Balkans
Kosovo: in the Shadow of Mother Theresa
Kosovo: All Quiet in KM After Thursday Violence
Slovenia: Referendum on Mosque Temporarily Averted
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Libya: Frattini, We Will Resolve Compensation Issue
 
North Africa
Egypt, 40 Members Muslim Brotherhood Arrested
Tourism: Cairo by Night, More Like NY Than Arab Capital
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Egypt Supports Hamas
‘Gaza Children Will Collect Parts of Your Bodies and Your Tanks From the Streets’
Hamas Explains Use of Civilians as Human Shields
Israel Rejects Truce Calls, Targets Gaza Tunnels
Jerusalem-Area Arabs Step Up Riots, Protests
Let’s Talk About Justice
Middle East: Happiest Israelis Are Settlers
Shin Bet Head: Hamas Dealt Serious Blow; Operatives Hiding-Out in Hospitals
The Canary in the Mine
What Victimology Does Not Account for
 
Middle East
“Oil-Rich Arabs Have More in Their Pockets Than in Their Brains”, Say Expatriates
7,000 Students Register in Iran’s Isfahan to Fight Israel
Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge
Arabs Want UN Resolution Ensuring Gaza Cease-Fire
Iran: Italian Fashion Store Attacked by Protesters
Lebanon: Emigrant Remittances of 6 Billion in 2008
Syria: Damascus, 500 Mln Dollars to Revamp Qassioun Area
 
Russia
Spain Extradites to Russia Suspected Attacker on Ingush Interior
 
South Asia
Pakistan Attempts to Flush Out Taliban From Khyber Pass
 
Far East
China Reiterates No Room for Taiwan Sovereignty
Philippine Blasts Kill 1, Hurt 4
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
45 Churchgoers Mutilated in Congo
London Life for Mugabe Regime Crony
 
Immigration
Italy Not Re-Inventing the Wheel — Foreign Affairs Ministry
Long Awaited Joint Patrols Off Libyan Coast to Begin in January — Maroni
Malta: Where Hysteria is No Answer to the Plight of Refugees
Reportage Libya: Inside the Immigrants Detention Centre of Misratah
 
Culture Wars
Le Dernier Mot: Washingtonian Madness
Vatican Protests as Abortion Pill Looms

USA


Berg Files New Challenge to Eligibility

‘There is nothing more important than our U.S. Constitution’

A lawyer who already has two conferences pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president has filed a new lawsuit, this one on behalf of a retired military colonel who would need to know whether to follow any orders issued by Obama as commander-in-chief.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Eligibility Case Finds ‘Standing’?

New suit claims unique state law enables citizens to demand proof

In the case brought by Pennsylvania Democrat Philip Berg, for example, a federal judge ruled against the lawsuit in deciding Berg lacked the “standing” to sue, arguing that the election of Obama wouldn’t cause the plaintiff specific, personal injury.

In Washington state’s Broe v. Reed case, however, plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Pidgeon says a unique state statute grants everyday citizens the required standing.

“These lawsuits have pointed their fingers at the various secretaries of state and said, ‘You handle the elections, it’s your job [to verify Obama’s eligibility],’“ Stephen Pidgeon told WND, “and the secretaries of state have said, ‘No, it’s not our job. You the voter have to prove he was ineligible.’ But when the voters try to do it, the courts tell them they have no standing. So it presents a catch-22.

“Here, we have standing by means of statute,” Pidgeon continued. “This particular statute provides for any registered voter to challenge the election of a candidate if the candidate at the time of the election was ineligible to hold office.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Exclusive: RNC Draft Rips Bush’s Bailouts

Republican Party officials say they will try next month to pass a resolution accusing President Bush and congressional Republican leaders of embracing “socialism,” underscoring deep dissension within the party at the end of Mr. Bush’s administration.

Those pushing the resolution, which will come before the Republican National Committee at its January meeting, say elected leaders need to be reminded of core principles. They said the RNC must take the dramatic step of wading into policy debates, which traditionally have been left to lawmakers.

“We can’t be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms,” said Solomon Yue, an Oregon member and co-sponsor of a resolution that criticizes the U.S. government bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Republican National Committee Vice Chairman James Bopp Jr. wrote the resolution and asked the rest of the 168 voting members to sign it.

“The resolution also opposes President-elect Obama’s proposed public works program and supports conservative alternatives,” while encouraging the RNC “to engage in vigorous public policy debates consistent with our party platform,” said Mr. Bopp, a leading attorney for pro-life groups who has also challenged the campaign finance legislation that Mr. Bush signed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Molotov Cocktail Thrown at Chicago Synagogue

Bottle of flammable liquid hurled at one of Chicago’s oldest synagogues; no major damaged caused. Arson investigated as hate crime, with possible connection to Operation Cast Lead in Gaza

A bottle of flammable liquid was hurled at one of Chicago’s oldest synagogues, catching fire but not causing major damage. No one was injured in the incident early Monday at Temple Sholom of Chicago. Chicago police and the Chicago fire department are investigating the arson as a hate crime. No one was in custody Monday.

Police officer Daniel O’Brien says the fire burned itself out and never ignited the North Side building. He says investigators are working to get surveillance equipment from the area.

Roger Rudich, president of the temple, says the arson was unsettling but not damaging. Officials say they don’t know if there’s a link between the incident and increased violence in the Middle East.

Tens of thousands of people throughout the Arab world and Europe protested on Monday against the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. In the Greek capital, Athens, 3,000 Greeks and Arabs protested outside the Israeli embassy. Police were forced to use teargas and shock grenades to control the demonstrators, some of which were throwing stones at the building..

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



US Gives 85 Million Dollars to Palestinian Refugees

The United States announced Tuesday it is providing Palestinian refugees with 85 million dollars, including a portion to help ease the plight of Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip.

The State Department said the funds would be channelled through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) whose role it commended in “meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time.”

The US government is contributing 85 million dollars to meet UNWRA’s appeals for 2009, with 60 million dollars going to its general fund and 25 million dollars to its emergency fund, according to a statement.

It said 25 million dollars of the total will be used to help Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “receive urgently needed food, medicines, and other critical humanitarian assistance.”

Refugees account for 70 percent of Gaza’s population; and 30 percent of the West Bank’s, it said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Antwerp: Arab Riots, Jewish Neighborhood Sealed

How do you protest violence against a civilian population? Attack a civilian population, of course. These riots were expected, given the massive incitement that accompanied the organization of the demonstrations.

——

The demonstration that the Arab European League (AEL) in Borgerhout (Antwerp) organized against the bombardments of the Gaza Strip, has gotten completely out of hand. After the protest disbanded the demonstrators marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp, clashing with the police. In particular car windows suffered, but also trams and buses were attacked.

The AEL held a protest action in the Kerkstraat in Borgerhout from 2pm. The protesters demanded the immediate suspension of the bombardments of the Gaza Strip and of the violence against the civilian population. Already during the demonstration in Borgerhout there were heated moments here and there.

The situation truly got out of hand when the demonstration disbanded at about 3:15pm. A group of protesters then marched towards the Jewish neighborhood in Antwerp. The police had completely closed off the neighborhood upon which started a cat-and-mouse game. The situation threatened to get out of hand and at about 3:25pm the police arrived with more manpower in order to drive out the protesters. At about 4pm the riots moved again to Borgerhout, in the area of the Turnhoutsebaan.

The protesters caused much damage, in particular to car windows but also trams and basses were attacked. The De Lijn bus company is diverting all buses and trums on the Turnhoutsebaan-Carnotstraat-Rooseveltplaats route.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Black Ravens Warn Against EU Treaty

People’s Party reverses stand on labour treaty

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party says the labour treaty with the European Union will undermine the country’s independence and lead to more unemployment.

In February voters will have the final say on a parliamentary decision to prolong an accord aimed at easing access to the labour market and extend it to Romania and Bulgaria.

The government, business community, trade unions and most political parties argue the labour accord — also known as the free movement of people agreement — is crucial for the economy and relations between Switzerland and its most important trading partner.

However, People’s Party President Toni Brunner warned of dire consequences if the labour treaty were to win a majority at the ballot box on February 8.

“Salaries will drop, joblessness will increase, more people will take advantage of and plunder our welfare system and the level of protection against foreign criminals will be dangerously reduced,” he said on Tuesday.

Brunner lambasted parliament for lumping together two issues in one vote: the continuation of the labour deal with 25 EU member states, gradually introduced since 2002, and the extension to newest members Bulgaria and Romania…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Czech Communists’ New Spokesman Had Anti-Semitic Views — Press

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This guy was apparently an ultra-right winger who ended up in the Communist party — funny how that works.]

The KSCM leadership has known about Tomas’s controversial past, the papers say.

Tomas, 45, issued and headed the ultra-right anti-Semitic weekly Tydenik Politika (Weekly Politics) in the early 1990s in which he published a number of anti-Semitic articles, for instance, about the alleged “Jewish conspiracy.”

Over the articles, he was given a seven-month suspended sentence with a two-year probation by the Prague City Court in November 1994. In addition, he was banned from publishing for two years.

“No articles that would nod to racial discrimination of the Jewish nation, which I, too, condemn, ever appeared in Tydenik Politika weekly,” Tomas writes in his statement sent to the dailies, defending his views.

The KSCM leadership does not consider Tomas’s past a problem, LN writes.

“As far as I know he was put on probation during which he proved himself, so he must be regarded as never convicted,” KSCM chairman Vojtech Filip told LN.

KSCM deputy head Jiri Dolejs said he had rather discussed Tomas’s former critical opinions about the KSCM with him.

However, KSCM deputy group head Pavel Kovacik told Pravo that he had no idea about Tomas’s past and that the party leadership would deal with the case.

Tomas did not complete the studies of journalism at university. In the 1980s, he worked for radio and in a district paper. He became a candidate for the membership in the then Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSC) and later he actively worked in the People’s Party (LS).

In the 1990s Tomas published Tydenik Politika which was probably the largest wholesale Czech extremist magazine at the end of 1992. Later Tomas shortly cooperated with the public Czech Television (CT) desk in Brno.

From 2002 Tomas has been involved in the KSCM campaigns. He became the party’s spokesman in December, LN writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Europe: Czech Minister Defends Israeli Strikes

Prague, 30 Dec. (AKI) — The Czech Republic, which assumes the European Union’s presidency this week, on Tuesday defended Israel’s military strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

As the European Union called for a ceasefire to end the violence that has killed more than 350 people and injured 1400 others, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Israel had the right to defend itself.

“Let us realise one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the cease-fire ended. That is not acceptable any more,” Schwarzenberg told the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.

France, which will hand over the EU’s rotating presidency to Prague this week, has criticised Israel’s strikes. President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned what he called “the irresponsible provocations” and the “disproportionate use of force”.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, called for an immediate end to military action that it said had a heavy impact on the civilian population in Gaza. It also called for a halt to the rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians.

The EC is providing urgent medical support in Gaza in addition to ongoing support.

The Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) is currently providing more than 73 million euros in humanitarian assistance to the West Bank and Gaza and half that amount is allocated to Gaza.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece: Two Rifles Used to Shoot at Police Bus

Athens.- The shots fired at a bus carrying policemen earlier this week came from two rifles, tests have revealed, prompting authorities to consider the possibility that an existing or new domestic terrorist organization was behind the attack rather than an extreme anti-establishment group.

Ballistic tests on the seven cartridge cases found by members of the anti-terrorist squad revealed on Thursday that the bullets, two of which hit the bus, had been fired from two different rifles, most likely Kalashnikovs. The shots were fired from a building on an abandoned firing range where the University of Athens’ residence halls, known as Panepistimioupolis, are located. One bullet blew out two tires on the bus while another struck the engine. No police officers were injured.

Authorities now believe that at least two people were involved in the attack and that a third person was probably acting as a lookout for the gunmen. A source who wished to remain anonymous told Kathimerini that the incident is unlikely to have been the work of extreme anarchists or anti-establishment figures.

Anti-terrorist officers are disregarding a claim of responsibility by a group calling itself Popular Action and are instead expecting those behind the shooting to issue a proclamation.

Police are now focusing on the theory that the shots were fired by members of an existing terror group, such as Revolutionary Struggle, which fired a grenade at the US Embassy last year, or experienced urban guerrillas that have formed a new organization.

Officers were presented with another unusual shooting to investigate, after a Proastiakos suburban railway train carrying passengers through the southern suburb of Tavros was fired upon late on Thursday.

One bullet smashed through a window but no passengers were hurt. It was not clear if a second shot had been fired at the train, which was traveling from Athens to Kiato, west of the capital. Police had not made any statements by yesterday night linking the shooting with Tuesday’s attack on the police bus or any other incidents since the death of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos on December 6.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Meet the New EU President: He’s Not Keen on the Euro or the Lisbon Treaty and Compares Europe to Soviet Union

He is against the Lisbon Treaty, not keen on the Euro, and has compared the European Union unfavourably with the former Soviet Union. So there should be interesting times ahead from New Year’s day when Czech leader Vaclav Klaus takes over the rotating presidency of the EU.

Klaus, 67, looks certain to use his tenure as an opportunity to publicise views which will cause fury among other EU leaders.

Klaus, a bespectacled economist who came to prominence after the Czechoslovak revolution against communism a generation ago , is a confirmed Eurosceptic. He believes the modern EU is reminiscent of the former Soviet bloc under which he lived.

The Czech president is an enthusiastic challenger of European and international policy on everything from climate change to relations with Russia. Klaus has likened bank bailouts to ‘old socialism’ slammed the Lisbon Treaty as ‘contradicting Czech sovereignty’ and called environmental issues a ‘luxury’.

He has had numerous clashes with his pro-EU Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and the next six months are unlikely to match the pro-EU rhetoric of the current occupant to the top EU post, French President Nicolas Sarkozy. ‘It’s pretty uncomfortable to hold the EU presidency when you’ve got a euro-sceptic leader,’ a spokesman for European Policy Centre in Brussels said.

Klaus, whose Czech office is largely ceremonial, even refuses to fly the EU flag at his Prague Castle office, something which Sarkozy described earlier this month as ‘hurtful’ to EU colleagues.

The combative Klaus quickly countered, saying that Sarkozy’s leadership — and what he called a refusal to heed criticism — ‘certainly hurts the European Union and hurts Europe’. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



One in Five Czechs Could Back Libertas in EP Elections

Petr Mach, executive director of the Czech Centre for Economics and Politics, and a close aide of President Vaclav Klaus, is planning to establish a party that would cooperate with Libertas.

STEM has found out that a Czech branch of Libertas, if established, could be supported by 22 percent of voters.

STEM director Jan Hartl, however, said the figure is only fictitious, while the real situation will depend on how comprehensible the party will be to voters.

“The [poll] data present it [Libertas] as a generally acceptable entity, with supporters across all social groups. However, in fact [the support for] it will be a conglomerate of antagonist and even contradicting motivations,” Hartl said on CT.

According to the poll, potential voters of a Czech branch of Libertas exist in all groups of the population, regardless of age and education. Most of its supporters are among the people who say that Prague’s failure to ratify the Lisbon treaty so far is an advantage ahead of the upcoming Czech EU presidency.

CT said the preparations of the new party are finishing. Mach is to announce the composition of its preparatory committee, its name and basic programme points on January 12.

“If agreement with Mr Ganley is reached, we will be part of the Libertas movement in the EP elections. Nevertheless, our primary goal are the elections to the Czech parliament,” Mach told CT.

A Czech turnout would be 57 percent if EP elections were held now, the STEM poll showed.

Libertas wants to run in the EP elections in as many EU states as possible.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus repeatedly supported Ganley in the past. Ganley says the elections will be a referendum on the EU’s further shape. Ganley and Klaus say they mind what they call a deficit of democracy in the EU, allegedly reflected by the Lisbon treaty. They also criticise the fact that EU inhabitants, except for the Irish, have not been enabled to decide on the Lisbon treaty adoption.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Spain: Car Bomb Explodes at TV Station

The blast happened outside regional television station EiTB, which had been evacuated after a warning call to police from the armed separatist group Eta.

The blast caused significant damage and one person suffered an ear injury.

The TV channel managed to stay on air despite the explosion at its headquarters.

“They have tried to silence one of this country’s media outlets,” EITB director Bingen Zupiria told reporters outside the building later…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Police Hire Protection in Malmö Suburb

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I’m sure this is a good sign. :rolleyes:]

The police have contracted a security firm to help with the surveillance and protection of the police station in the Malmö suburb of Rosengård.

In connection with unrest in Rosengård the station has on repeated occasions been the target of fireworks, vandalism and stone-throwing youths.

The security firm will be deployed to help to ensure that the vandalism is not repeated, according to a report by local TV4 news program.

Michael Storm at Malmö police pointed out to TV4 that the move in no way meant that the police were unable to look after themselves.

The security firm will instead render it unnecessary for police officers to keep watch outside their own police station and free up resources for other duties. The firm will help the police to monitor those moving in and around the area.

“We of course think that this is an insecure situation, but now it has happened and we are working on normalizing the situation,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Man Dies in Stockholm Shooting

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I didn’t include this article before, but after reading the article at jihad watch about the mall shooting in Denmark targeting the Israeli kids, I gotta wonder if this is a similar type of incident — a Lithuanian being targeted in Sweden??? A Lithuanian Jew maybe? I don’t know. If CS or someone else has more news access maybe he can give us a note.]

One man died and another was seriously injured in a shooting in central Stockholm on Wednesday morning.

Police have taken two men in for questioning. Police underlined however that the perpetrators remain at large.

“We consider that these people can give us valuable information. But they have neither been arrested nor are they suspected of any offence,” Kjell Lindgren at Stockholm police told news agency TT.

The deceased man is a 27-year-old Lithuanian citizen. The injured man’s identity and nationality have not yet been confirmed. According to the press office at Karolinska hospital the man’s condition is described as serious but stable.

The shooting took place on Swedenborgsgatan on Sodermalm in central Stockholm shortly after 7am on Wednesday.

“I was awoken at 7.15am by two shots and then a man screamed. I went out on to my balcony, looked out and saw a man lying on the ground and a number of witnesses milling around. Then the ambulance arrived and number of police,” a witness told TT.

“At first I thought that it was New Year’s Eve. But there is quite an intense feeling to this area so I wasn’t that surprised really. But all the same it feels awful.”

According to Kjell Lindgren a large number of police are working on the case.

A TT news reporter at the scene this morning looked on when a group of police officers stormed an apartment near the crime scene on the tree-lined residential street.

“We have entered an apartment that we consider to be interesting,” police confirmed.

The police cordoned off parts of Sodermalm and suspended transport services on Wednesday morning but by 8am trains were running as normal. The area in the vicinity of the shooting has been sealed off and a police forensics team is examining the scene.

A moped is reported to have been found burning near Arstaberg train station a couple of kilometres from the murder scene soon after the shooting.

“We are taking a broad approach to the investigation at the moment and can not rule out that there may be a connection,” said Kjell Lindgren.

Police report that they are looking for two men in connection with the shooting.

Five or six police broke into the apartment on Swedenborgsgatan on Sodermalm in central Stockholm at around 9.20pm, according to news agency TT.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Pay Rise’ for Thousands of Poor Pensioners in Care Homes Leaves Them Worse Off Than Convicts

Tens of thousands of elderly people in care homes are to be given a spending money increase of just 75p a week.

They will have no more than £21.90 a week to pay for everything from clothes to toothpaste, books and phone calls.

The below-inflation rise was condemned as ‘Scrooge-worthy’ and ‘an insult’. It means vulnerable elderly people will have less spending money than prisoners in jail. The spending limit applies to all care home residents whose bills are being paid by the state.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Ambulancemen Arrested for ‘Ignoring a Dying Disabled Man Because He Wasn’t Worth Saving’

Two ambulancemen have been arrested for allegedly ignoring a dying man. They were detained after police were given a tape recording of them in the patient’s house in which they were said to have discussed not bothering to try to revive him. The ambulance crew had been sent to Barry Baker’s home after he dialled 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack.

Ambulance controllers kept Mr Baker talking on the phone as they ordered the paramedic and ambulance technician to use their blue lights to get to him as quickly as possible. But 59-year-old Mr Baker, who was disabled and lived alone, collapsed unconscious while talking on the phone, leaving the line open to the control centre as he lay on the floor. Minutes later astonished dispatch centre staff heard their crew enter the house, apparently making disparaging comments about the state of the home. A police source, who asked not to be named, said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying ‘words to the effect that he was not worth saving’. A police spokesman confirmed the arrests and added: ‘The men, aged 35 and 44 and from the Brighton area, have been arrested and questioned following the death of a man in Brighton. They were detained on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform a duty in public office, contrary to Common Law. They have been released on police bail pending further inquiries.’

Mr Baker, who used sticks to walk after having hip replacement operations, made a 999 call in the early hours of November 29. He told the controller he had severe chest pains and the ambulance crew from Brighton was immediately sent to his home. The police source said that despite Mr Baker collapsing, the controller was able to hear everything because the phone line remained open. ‘What they heard after their ambulance crew arrived frankly astonished them,’ said the source. ‘They are apparently heard to comment on seeing Mr Baker and saying-that it was not worth bothering to try to carry out resuscitation to try to save him. ‘They then are heard discussing what to tell ambulance control and allegedly decide to say that he was already dead when they arrived. ‘The controllers were so shocked by what seemed to be their colleagues’ lack of care for their patient that they immediately contacted senior managers and the police were called in.’ Police were called to Mr Baker’s home and made arrangements for his body to be removed. South East Coast Ambulance NHS Trust said both men had been suspended from duty. A spokesman said: ‘We are giving the police our full co- operation and are not in a position to comment further.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Hospital Sends War Hero, 101, Home to Die Wearing a Nappy and Clutching a Bag of Soiled Clothes

A dying 101-year-old war hero was sent home from hospital by taxi wearing only a nappy and a set of ill-fitting pyjamas.

Brigadier John Platt, who won the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery in battle, was left “degraded and humiliated” by his treatment by Salisbury District Hospital, his family say.

Brig Platt had spend five days on a mixed-sex ward during which his hearing aid was stepped on and crushed, his false teeth went missing and his soiled pyjamas were piled up in a locker by his bed for the duration.

He was unable to feed himself and was discharged in an incontinent and confused state, clutching a bag of his dirty clothes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Now Children Taught How to Blow Noses

Parent thrashes curriculum as ‘complete waste of time’

The five- to 11-year-old children at Broad Oak Primary School in Manchester have been shown a DVD telling them the right and wrong ways to act when they have a cold.

But one parent condemned the exercise as “a complete waste of time”.

The parent added: “I send my kids to school to learn, not for someone to show them how to blow their nose.

“My lad said ‘Everyone knows how to blow their nose, we know to use a hanky not our sleeve’.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Outrage as Treasury Chief is Knighted — in the Middle of Britain’s Worst Economic Crisis for Decades

A top treasury official has received a knighthood sparking outrage that the honour was granted as Britain’s financial crisis continues to deepen.

Nick Macpherson, who is the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury, received the gong for his role in helping steer Britain through the current financial crisis.

But the move to knight Sir Nick, who receives an annual income of E196,000, was met with criticsm as the pound hit its lowest level of E1.0199.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Police Force Slammed for Spending £10,000 on ‘Hippie Nonsense’ Head Massages for Stressed Call Centre Workers

The decision by police to spend £10,000 on office massages for ‘stressed out’ workers at emergency call centres in Sussex has been fiercely criticised.

Top brass took the decision to put a £10,000 tender out for bids on Monday after workers complained of ‘feeling stressed out’ at emergency call centres in Lewes, Brighton and Haywards Heath.

But with 250 officers short, the decision has been blasted by serving bobbies. Brian Stockham, the chairman of the Sussex Police Federation, said it was ‘‘outrageous’’.

He said: ‘To spend £10,000 of public money on something like this seems outrageous when there are so many more important things to apply money to in Sussex Police’s budget. ‘The force is really poor in helping people with mental issues and this is the main cause of long-term sickness, so if we have £10,000 to spend then this is where it should go — especially when Sussex Police us currently 250 officers short.’

Nick Herbert, the Tory MP for Arundel and the South Downs, said: ‘This beggars belief. ‘I cannot believe that public money is being spent on offering Indian head massages to police or police staff.

‘At a time when the authority is telling us how strapped for cash they are, you have to question whether this is a responsible use of public money.’ One local PC, who did not want to be named, said he was disgusting with the plan. He said: “It’s all very well that call centre staff get stressed out, but how do they think we feel when we are faced with the blood and guts we face every day. ‘If anyone should be getting head massages it should be the bobby on the beat, not the people sitting in warm offices with cups of tea and biscuits.’ He added: ‘The £10,000 could be put to some good use rather than being spent on some hippie nonsense about getting your head rubbed.’

Chief Constable Martin Richards defended the plan, saying: ‘This is nothing new in organisations where staff are employed in call handling work. ‘We recognise that out hard-working staff can be sitting in set positions at their desks for long periods taking calls and dealing with a variety of challenging issues. ‘This service (Indian head massage) is a way of relieving pressure.’

Companies specialising in head massages have until January 9 to bid for the deal.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Kosovo: in the Shadow of Mother Theresa

December 31, 2008: Over the last few days, there has been unrest in northern Kosovo, after a Serb teenager was knifed by two Albanian kids. The rioters burned down several Albanian shops before NATO peacekeepers were able to restore order.

Meanwhile, one positive sign is the growing trend of Albanians in Kosovo turning away from Islamic radicalism by converting to Roman Catholicism. While 65 percent of Albanians (in Albania and Kosovo) are nominally Moslems, many are only superficially so. In fact, there is a long tradition of practicing Christianity at home, in secret. Forced conversions often have this effect. The return to Christianity, via Roman Catholicism, is also a slap at the Serbs, who practice Orthodox Christianity, and are often violently at odds with local Roman Catholics (like the Croats). The Albanians also take pride in Mother Theresa, an Albanian Catholic who became a nun, served for decades in India, and was recently declared a saint by the Papacy. Farther back, there are Roman Catholic folk heroes who resisted the advance of the Turks, and defended Albanian culture. These conversions encounter no government hostility, as they often do in Moslem majority countries, and represent a growing trend worldwide.

           — Hat tip: blogagog [Return to headlines]



Kosovo: All Quiet in KM After Thursday Violence

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, BELGRADE — Peace has been restored to Kosovska Mitrovica following yesterday evening’s incidents. None of those injured in yesterday’s incidents are in a life-threatening condition. Northern Kosovska Mitrovica is quiet after yesterday’s violence that flared after a Serb schoolboy was stabbed.

Two Kosovo Albanians arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of stabbing Nikola Bozovic (16) in Kosovska Mitrovica have been released pending trial, Kosovo Police Service (KPS) regional spokesman Besim Hoti told Tanjug.

Hoti pointed out that both suspects, students from Dakovica aged 21 and 22, would be released on bail.

“The police have done their part of the job, they’ve taken statements and material proof, as well as a knife from one of them,” said Hoti, adding that the suspects claimed that they had stabbed Božovic in self-defense, which, the spokesman said, was irrelevant.

He said that they would be charged with causing actual bodily harm, that the motives for the attack were still unclear and that this would be the hardest thing to prove.

The stabbed sixteen-year-old boy is in stable condition and his life is not endangered, state broadcaster RTS reports, while the Albanians injured in the incident in Kosovska Mitrovica are stable and their condition is not life-threatening.

According to Hoti, the Albanian wounded in last night’s shooting has undergone surgery and is now in hospital in Pristina.

Kosovo Ministry State Secretary Oliver Ivanovic said that he expected the situation in the town to calm, but called for caution, especially from the international forces in the province.

He warned that the Serbs should “certainly be wary in future as it’s realistic to expect that once EULEX begins addressing ethnically motivated crimes since 1999 in earnest, problems could arise. That’s when everyone responsible for security in Kosovo will have to pay special attention to Serb areas as they could become a target.”

To recap, two other Albanians were also injured in the shooting that came in response to Bozovic’s stabbing.

In the north of the town, Serbs set fire to a number of Albanian shops and vandalized several cars with Kosovo number plates.

After the situation was brought under control, a group of international troops and EULEX police officers remained on the bridge over the Ibar.

Southern Mitrovica Mayor Bajram Rexhepi called on “everyone to show restraint to diffuse the tension,” adding that he hoped that KFOR, EULEX and the Kosovo Police Service would maintain law and order.

Meanwhile, Kosovo Ministar Goran Bogdanovic has called on EU and UN representatives to invest further efforts to protect the Serb population in Kosovo.

Following the violence last night, he called on the Serbs in the city not to give in to provocation and endeavor to keep the peace.

“It’s clear that it suits someone to cause chaos in Kosovska Mitrovica, I’m afraid that such actions are aimed at destabilizing the Serb community in Kosovo, which we must not allow,” said Bogdanovic.

He said that members of the international community in Kosovo had to invest added efforts to prevent these incidents from escalating into violence that could bring unpredictable repercussions for the Serbs in Kosovo.

Serbs in the north of the town primarily object to the reaction of international police forces, which, according to them, have “failed the test” on this occasion.

Chairman of the Serb National Council in Kosovska Mitrovica Nebojsa Jovic told B92 that protest were planned as a result.

“If you ask me, EULEX has flunked the test. I don’t know if they’ve formed those security units of theirs, but if they want to offer guarantees to the at-risk Serb population, how are they to protect them from this murder attempt or how are they to protect them from the next attack if they intervene like they did yesterday,” said Jovic.

“The question is whether we can trust them and it raises the question of cooperation with them,” said Jovic.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Slovenia: Referendum on Mosque Temporarily Averted

Ljubljana, 30 December (STA) — The construction of the first mosque in Slovenia, in Ljubljana, will not be subject to a local referendum yet as Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic said Tuesday he had rejected a petition that would allow the proponents to start collecting the 11,000 signatures necessary to call a referendum.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Italy-Libya: Frattini, We Will Resolve Compensation Issue

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 30 — The Foreign Affairs minister, Franco Frattini, has asserted that Italy and Libya are in negotiations to resolve the issues of loans claimed by Italian businesses and the compensation of Italian citizens who were expelled from Libya in 1970. Frattini promised that both parties “want to find a solution, and to find it in a spirit of friendship”. Speaking to journalists just outside a convention at the Foreign Ministry on the Italo-Libyan Treaty of Friendship, Frattini said that the issue is being dealt with “gradually”. The minister continued to explain that “there has been an initial meeting at Palazzo Chigi with the representatives of the association of Italians repatriated from Libya at which some moderate and acceptable requests were put forward that we now need to think about”. Whilst the question of the loans claimed by Italian businesses can only be settled by an agreement between Rome and Tripoli, the repatriated Italian citizens are asking that the Italian government set aside the necessary funds for their compensation in the current budget. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt, 40 Members Muslim Brotherhood Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 31 — Forty members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested in Egypt for participation in protests against Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. According to sources in security services, 25 activists were arrested last night in Cairo while preparing to participate in a rally on the situation in Gaza. The other 15 are all students, also members of the Brotherhood, detained for planning to participate in anti-Israel demonstrations. The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s main opposition group. Founded in 1928, the movement has strong historic and ideological links with Hamas. Though officially banned in 1954, the group is tolerated by the authorities and members of the Brotherhood, running as independent candidates in the elections, hold one fifth of Parliament seats. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tourism: Cairo by Night, More Like NY Than Arab Capital

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JULY 2 — Eat sushi, taste Thai, Indian, Greek, Italian, Lebanese and French dishes, have an aperitif at sunset, seating on the bank of the Nile, nibbling the typical appetizers of babaghanouch and tahini, or dance into the night, these are only several of the numerous possibilities which the most fashionable places in Cairo — just like the ones in western cities — offer to their customers. At Sequoia, white sofas covered with colourful cushions, soft curtains instead of a ceiling and hundreds of candles, guarantee rarefied and sophisticated atmosphere. Outside, luxury cars and security guards indicate that only the “right” people are allowed in the place. Situated on the island of Gezira, in the chic quarter of Zamalek, this lounge bar allows its visitors to sit literally “in the middle of the Nile”. There are few but unquestionable conditions to gain access: obligatory reservation and no veil. “This is probably the only place in the country to have banned its visitors from wearing a hijab, despite the fact that the owner is an Egyptian,” said Christine, a young customer. The menu is international: Japanese cuisine, along with Italian specialities and local dishes. Those who are not hungry can always sip a cup of mint tea and smoke a shisha — the typical water pipe — always kept lighted by diligent waiters dressed in white. The list of drinks is complete like in any western bar. On the other side of the river, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Giza, is situated “Club 35”, a bar frequented by the Egyptian jet set. Again near the pyramids stands “Andrea”, famous for its roast chicken. It is difficult to find but, according to its guests, it is a true jewel where one can have an open-air snack during daytime. In the evening, however, from November to March, the internal halls decorated in Byzantine style are turned into a night club. To those who love varied dishes, “Sangria” — downtown Cairo and offering a breathtaking view to the Nile — gives the opportunity to dine inside or out on the balcony and to choose between Mediterranean specialities, Japanese cuisine or opt for the more classical hamburgers. Once one has had a bite, they can always order a narghile or go downstairs to “Absolute”. Here, young Egyptians and foreigners of all ages dance to Middle East pop music and western hits. Finally, among the numerous boats moored along the Nile, two enjoy the most exclusive clientele. The “Blue Nile”, preferred during the summer for its deck with live music, and “Pacha 1901”, with its ten restaurants which offer meals from all corners of the world, among them “Tarbouche-Akl Zaman” where typical Egyptian food is served, “L’Asiatique”, which offers Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine and the obligatory Italian territory, “Piccolo Mondo”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Egypt Supports Hamas

by Federica Zoja

In Egypt, public opinion anxiously follows the situation in Gaza, and shows its solidarity towards Hamas. According to the average Egyptian, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) is nothing but a puppet president, and nothing has changed since 1981 when President Anwar Al Sadat was assassinated following his receptiveness towards Israel and the peace treaty of 1979. Many young Egyptians see protesting against Israel, the United States or Murabek as the same thing…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



‘Gaza Children Will Collect Parts of Your Bodies and Your Tanks From the Streets’

Hamas warning as Israel rejects ceasefire

Hamas has issued a dire warning to Israel that it will inflict untold harm unless it refuses to end its onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

The group’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades, spoke for the first time since fighting broke out as Israeli leaders rejected plans for a 48-hour truce.

A masked spokesman, appearing on television, said ominously: ‘If you think that Hamas and al-Qassam will be crushed, we will rise up from the rubble.

‘If you decide to enter the Gaza Strip, the land in Gaza will burn under your feet and it will explode under your soldiers and Gaza children will collect parts of your bodies and your tanks from the streets.’

[…]

Arab countries are also concerned about the silence of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said: ‘Obama’s position is very precarious. The Jewish lobby warned against his election, so he has chosen to remain silent.

‘If Obama continues to remain silent… his silence will be seen as providing an endorsement for Israel’s war on Gaza.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Hamas Explains Use of Civilians as Human Shields

“We desire death as you desire life.”

[Video at link]

The UN announcement that 51 civilians have died in the conflict in Gaza must be understood in the context of Hamas’s declared ideology to use civilians as human shields for Hamas fighters. Indeed, Hamas continues to emphasize and promote the religious ideology that death for Allah is an ideal to be actively pursued.

The goal is to convince Palestinians, including women and children, not to fear death but even to face it at the front to protect Hamas fighters. Hamas’s placement of its military installations and fighters among civilians reflects this ideology, and has led to these 51 deaths.

A Hamas representative in the PA legislative council this year expressed pride in the fact that women and children are used as human shields in fighting Israel. He described it as part of a “death industry” at which Palestinians excel, and explained that the Palestinians “desire death” with the same intensity that Israelis “desire life.”

The following is the full text of the comments by Hamas representative Fathi Hamad: “For the Palestinian people death became an industry, at which women excel and so do all people on this land: the elderly excel, the Jihad fighters excel, and the children excel. Accordingly [Palestinians] created a human shield of women, children, the elderly and the Jihad fighters against the Zionist bombing machine, as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death as you desire life.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Hamas is the Obstacle to Middle East Peace

In August 2005, Israel left Gaza. Every soldier was withdrawn. Every Jewish settlement was evacuated, in a process requiring 45,000 police and costing $2.5 billion. Politicians staked their reputations on a courageous step towards peace. They hoped Gaza could provide a blueprint of Palestinian autonomy, a precursor to a Palestinian state.

Tragically, Hamas chose violence, rejecting the chance to develop Gazan society and opting instead to attack ours. Missiles from Gaza have blighted the lives of Israeli civilians since 2001. The withdrawal should have brought calm, but 5,000 missiles and mortars have since rained down on Israel.

As I write, Hizbollah flags flutter in the Kensington streets outside my Embassy. Agitators hail the Hamas leadership that created the crisis. In Gaza, protestors dissenting against Hamas face the death sentence. With the blessing of Iran and Hizbollah, Hamas has turned Gaza into a theocratic nightmare.

Al-Hayat last Wednesday reported Hamas’s new laws enforcing punishments of whipping for drinking, dismembering for theft, and executions for a host of ambiguous crimes. “Games of chance” are also to be punished with the whip. Ironically, Hamas continues to gamble with Palestinian lives.

Hamas is committed to Islamism at its bloodiest, and Israel is not its only target. In June 2007 Hamas turned its weapons on its brethren, chasing the Palestinian Authority from Gaza. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 161 people died during the bloody coup, including 41 civilians. Brutality has characterised Hamas’s rule. In November 2007, seven demonstrators were killed, as Hamas police fired into an unarmed Fatah rally commemorating the death of Yasser Arafat. Last summer, Hamas killed 11 Fatah members as 200 more fled to Israel for safety. Yet while Hamas kills Palestinians, the megaphones remain mute.

Hamas has betrayed the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian national movement, previously based on secular, nationalist aspirations has been hijacked by religiously inspired lunacy. Every missile fired at Israel, every Fatah rival shot dead, has steered the Palestinians further from statehood, and closer to brutal theocracy and interminable conflict.

The megaphones crow selective demands to end the violence but Israel has been demanding calm for years. Our concerns have been treated with complacency. The realities faced by Israel’s southern citizens have been downplayed. Their life under missile fire relegated to small-print, a footnote in the reams of condemnation of Israel’s search for solutions to the Hamas menace.

500,000 Israelis live within range of Hamas’s missiles. The piercing warning siren dominates the daily routine in towns like Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod. Anywhere within 40km of Gaza, communities raise their children in bomb shelters. Israel cannot sit back while Hamas improves the size and range of its arsenal.

No democratic government in the world would tolerate this. No population would permit it. No army would allow an implacable foe to launch missiles at its citizens and improve its capabilities.

As the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has pointed out, the loss of life in Gaza was “avoidable”. Without the destructive actions of Hamas there would have been no reaction from Israel.

As Israel targets Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure, we continue to supply Gaza with electricity and aid. Thousands of tonnes of food and medical supplies have passed through the border in recent days. The provision of electricity, aid and support to the civilians of an enemy territory, during a time of war, is a unique phenomenon. Our fight is not with the people of Gaza, but with the terrorist body holding them hostage.

Cries of “disproportionate” fill the airwaves, based largely on the difference in death tolls. Yet Hamas’s disregard for the lives of civilians is the key to the difference. Israel provides shelters underneath its communities to protect its citizens. Hamas places missiles in shelters underneath civilians.

Hamas fires missiles with the express intent of murdering civilians. Israeli intent is directed solely at Hamas combatants.

The challenge of Hamas reflects the wider struggle between moderates and extremists that defines the dynamics of our region. Extremist cheerleaders parrot their usual rhetoric. Hamas’s political leader Khaled Meshal preaches martyrdom from his throne in Damascus. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah bellows “resistance”, while imposing ideological tyranny on Lebanon.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, the operational head-quarters of Middle Eastern terror, President Ahmadinejad writes new verses of pseudo-religious justification for the murder of Jews. Shamefully, Channel 4 executives made him their Christmas guest of honour, insulting the intelligence and integrity of the British viewer. Their alternative Christmas message will go down in history as a disgrace to British broadcasting.

It is time to recognise that the tactics and ideology of Hamas and its backers are the foremost obstacle to Middle East peace. The moderates in the Arab world understand this better than some European observers.

For too long, Hamas has held progress to ransom, choosing war over peace, destruction over development. Israel’s objective is to take the initiative away from Hamas. The pragmatic moderates of all sides need a new reality from which to find a diplomatic solution. Unless we weaken Hamas, the moderates cannot succeed. The international community, Israel and the pragmatic leadership of the Arab world must stand up to the extremism that threatens us all. We must start the New Year in the spirit of Churchill. If we are divided, we all stand to lose; “If we are together nothing is impossible.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Israel Rejects Truce Calls, Targets Gaza Tunnels

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel rejected international pressure to suspend its air offensive against Palestinian militants whose rocket barrages are striking close to the Israeli heartland, sending warplanes Wednesday to demolish smuggling tunnels that are the lifeline of Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers.

The diplomatic action was set in motion by the scale of destruction in Gaza since Israel unleashed its campaign Saturday, and a casualty toll that Gaza officials now put at 390 dead and some 1,600 wounded. Hamas says some 200 uniformed members of Hamas security forces have been killed, and the U.N. says at least 60 Palestinian civilians have died. Four Israelis have been killed by militant rocket fire, including three civilians.

[…]

Underlying the Israeli decision to keep fighting are the mightier weapons that Hamas has smuggled into Gaza through underground tunnels along the border with Egypt. Previously, militants had relied on crude homemade rockets that could fly just 12 miles to terrorize Israeli border communities. Now, they are firing industrial-grade weapons that have dramatically expanded their range and put more than one-tenth of Israel’s population in their sights.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Israel Residents Struggle With Rocket Casualties While Cheering Military Assault on Gaza

SDEROT, Israel (AP) — This working-class border town has been pounded with several thousand missiles fired out of Gaza since 2001. Now anxiety is mixed with satisfaction that Israel’s military is finally getting even with its tormentors.

“It’s about time,” said Victor Turjeman, a 33-year-old electrician. “We’ve been waiting for this for eight years.”

In that time, rockets have killed eight people here, injured hundreds more and made daily life unbearable.

Turjeman said his four children have been traumatized by the near daily attacks, his home has been damaged and his brother had a heart attack after a rocket exploded nearby. He fears escalation, but said he was pleased that the militant group Hamas was finally being punished.

“We should keep pounding them until they beg for mercy,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, all of Gaza can be erased.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Jerusalem-Area Arabs Step Up Riots, Protests

Parts of Jerusalem were tense Monday as Arab riots and protests against the ongoing IDF operation in Gaza erupted at various locations in and around the capital.

For the second day in a row, dozens of youths rioted near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, burning tires and throwing rocks at the border policemen and IDF soldiers stationed at the checkpoint that leads in and out of the area. By nightfall, the rioters had been dispersed, but the marks of two days of violence were visible from the camps’ entrance.

Large rocks, pieces of glass and other debris were scattered across the road, and a boosted Border Police presence — including Arabic-speaking officers wearing black face masks — were congregated in larger numbers than usual. “They were throwing rocks and burning tires, you know, the usual stuff,” said one border policeman, who declined to give his name. “They did it yesterday and they’ll probably do it again tomorrow, but that’s what we’re here for.”

Shuafat residents’ reactions to the riots ranged from complacency to talk of starting a third intifada. In a nearby auto garage, mechanics were transfixed by their television set, as it broadcast Al-Jazeera’s seemingly nonstop coverage of Operation Cast Lead. “Is that Rafah or Gaza City?” one of them asked the other, pointing at the images of black smoke rising above the dense urban sprawl. “Rafah,” another of the mechanics answered. “It’s the border with Egypt.”

But when it came to speaking with the press, the mechanics seemed less interested. “It’s angering,” one of them said. “It makes us all angry, but we don’t pay any attention to the kids who come out here and cause trouble. We have work to do.”

Others were more forthcoming.

“There is talk of starting the intifada again,” said Marwan, a young man returning home from work. “And it’s not just here in Shuafat, nor is it just in east Jerusalem. It’s in Ramallah, it’s in Nablus, it’s in Jenin. People are very upset about what’s going on, and I think that right now, the Palestinians feel very unified — no more Fatah and Hamas, it’s Palestinian blood that’s being spilled.” […]

A fire in a Jerusalem area forest caught the attention of border policemen on patrol. The officers began searching the area on suspicion that the fire had been deliberately set. “The officers apprehended two Arab suspects near the forest, who admitted to setting the fire in connection with the ongoing events in Gaza, and the protests in and around Jerusalem,” a police spokesman told the Post.

A loud but mostly peaceful protest was held at the Old City’s Nablus Gate in the afternoon, as dozens of east Jerusalemites carried signs and shouted slogans decrying the Gaza operation.

That protest was dispersed by police after one of the protesters tried to incite the crowd to riot, but another protest was held in the same spot later in evening, which was attended by even more Arab residents.

Other disturbances occurred in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Isawiya and Silwan on Monday, police said, but all of the demonstrations were dispersed by police and Border Police units, with minimal use of force.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Let’s Talk About Justice

David Moria, whose son was killed by terrorists, has no sympathy for Gazans who celebrated in streets

About 10 months ago, after our 16-year-old son was murdered in a terror attack along with seven of his friends, TV screens worldwide showed festive images from Gaza that included dances, the handing out of sweets, and gleeful shots fired in the air — alongside the terrible images of the blood-soaked library at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

I won’t deny the fact that the current images from Gaza elegantly circumvent my humanistic instinct and make their way to a satisfying sense of the most primitive desire for revenge. Yet my sense of justice has also been satisfied. Moreover, anyone living in this country knows that soon we shall again see the images of the blood of innocent Jews, and again Gaza residents will be celebrating it.

All of us know that in this country we have a large sector, including quite a few Knesset members, which despite the occasional condemnation of murderous terror directed at citizens secretly hopes for a multi-casualty terror attack — so it proves there is no way to defeat Hamas, and we must therefore capitulate to its demands and negotiate with it.

Commentators explain to us why being strong also means being weak, and why being weak also means being strong, and say that many casualties Advertisement

on our side will force us to talk to Hamas. Meanwhile, many governments worldwide provide us with words of advice and preach morals to us in the aim of renewing the lull and the talks. Yet everyone knows that every single one of these countries, had it faced our situation, would have embarked on a belligerent, destructive move a long time ago, without showing any compassion to women or children.

Yet everybody is talking about peace and nobody is talking about justice. The time has come to stop talking peace and to start talking about justice. I once knew a grandmother with common sense who used to say: What’s bad is bad, and what’s good is good…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Middle East: Happiest Israelis Are Settlers

(by Aldo Baquis) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 15 — It is now incontrovertible: these day you need to go to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to find happy Israelis. More than ninety out of a hundred people said they were “very satisfied with life” and said they were in “excellent health”. Hostility from the Palestinian population and the risk of attacks on the roads do not worry the settlers, whose number continues to grow rapidly. There are almost 300,000 in the West Bank: half a million, if you add the Israeli inhabitants of Jerusalem to this. A critical mass which — at least this is their feeling — should make up an insurance policy against possible clear-out projects by a future Israeli Government. The updated figures on life in the West Bank are the result of research by Professor Dan Soen and Doctor Vered Neeman-Haviv of the Academic Centre of Judea-Samaria, Ariel (West Bank). It emerges from the study that the Jewish population in the West Bank has doubled in twelve years, between 1995 (130,000) and 2007 (270,000). In the same period the total Israeli population grew by 29%, or by a third, compared to the settlers, which “are in a higher gear”. The population — say the researchers — is young and dynamic. The elderly Jewish population (over 65) in the West Bank is just 2.9%, while the Israeli national average is 10%. The demographic of these settlers has also changed, with a large increase in the ultra-orthodox population, whose families are famously large. In the West Bank the ultra-orthodox population is 30.7%, the national average in Israel being 7.5%. The quality of life in West Bank settlements is very high: researchers found that unemployment is relatively low, that average family incomes are 10% higher than the national average, that social inequality is lower and that young people do better in final exams that in the rest of Israel. There is only one ‘blot’ on this idyllic landscape: a relatively high level of petty crime. The research balances out the mainly negative image of the settlements which was created in the Israeli and international media following the violence carried out by hundreds of ultras last week against the Palestinian population of Hebron, in the West Bank. Premier Ehud Olmert then described their behaviour as “a true pogrom”. Soen and Neeman-Haviv’s research reveals that the West Bank settlements represent a social strata characterised by many positive elements. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



News Media Falsely Portraying Gaza Attack

Claiming Israeli strike on weapons lab targeted ‘woman’s wing’

JERUSALEM — The U.S. and international news media are falsely portraying an Israeli air strike against a Hamas-run university in the Gaza Strip, claiming a “woman’s wing” was targeted, when, according to the Israeli military, the target was a weapons lab at the school’s chemistry department.

Known senior Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, speaking on the record, previously explained to WND how the Islamic University’s chemistry department was used to manufacture explosives for use against Israel.

Palestinian raids of the targeted building previously yielded illicit Hamas rockets.

In a series of air Israeli raids yesterday, one precision strike hit a building of Gaza’s Islamic University.

[…]

Avital Lebovich, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, told WND Israel only targeted one chemical laboratory at Islamic University, which she said was used for the manufacture of Hamas explosives.

“This is the first university in world that gives out bachelor’s degrees in rocket manufacture,” she said.

Lebovich affirmed the targeted building did not house any women’s wing.

[…]

In a 2007 interview, Muhammad Abel-Al, a leader and spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees, a Hamas-affilated terror group, told WND Islamic University is “extremely important” for recruitment of militants.

Abdel-Al, who also goes by the name Abu Abir, said several members of his group study chemistry at the university to aid in the manufacture of explosives and suicide belts. The Committees is responsible for hundreds of rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at nearby Jewish cities.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Return of the Bad Old Middle East

The Arab-Israeli conflict is not about Israel refusing to share land and resources with Palestinians but about the absolute refusal of the Arab world to acquiesce in the existence of any Jewish-majority political entity within any set of borders in the Middle East. […]

Terrorism escalated with each concession by Israel, especially after it agreed to allow Palestinians political autonomy and then statehood. It escalated after Israel removed its administrative control of the Arab population in most of the “Palestinian territories.” […]

Arab terrorism and military aggression are not caused by Israeli occupation but rather by the removal of Israeli occupation. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Shin Bet Head: Hamas Dealt Serious Blow; Operatives Hiding-Out in Hospitals

Hamas has been dealt a serious blow by the repeated IAF strikes in the Gaza Strip since Saturday, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin said on Wednesday.

“Hamas has been attacked as it has never been attacked before; it has suffered serious damage and its governability in Gaza has been severely impaired,” Diskin told ministers at a cabinet meeting.

The Shin Bet head added that many of Hamas’s senior activists were hiding out in mosques and hospitals in Gaza, some of them in the guise of doctors and male nurses.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Terrorists Promise ‘Surprises’ for Israel

Gaza rockets may be capable of striking Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV — Speaking during exclusive WND interviews today, leaders of Hamas and an allied terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip claimed they have “surprises” in store for Israel as the Jewish state continues its aerial bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza.

The threats come as information from Israeli defense officials indicates Gaza-based terrorists have long-range rockets capable of reaching just outside Tel Aviv if launched from the northern Gaza Strip.

“This war is a war for elections and therefore we promise to send them (Israelis) surprises,” stated Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades.

Abu Abdullah claimed to WND that if Israeli ground troops entered Gaza, his terror group is ready to engage.

“This will be the day of al-Hasher — the day where believers and nonbelievers will be fighting face to face, and we will get rid of them and Allah will win for the Muslims and the believers,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Canary in the Mine

In the old days, I am told, coal miners would lower a cage with a tiny canary into a mine to determine if the levels of methane, carbon dioxide or other noxious gases were present. The logic was as long as that canary kept on singing in the mine, the miners knew that their air supply was safe; however, when the singing stopped, it was time to leave that site immediately, for death would quickly follow.

That simple deductive reasoning lasted scores of years and saved many lives, yet in our modern technological age, the nations of the world seem oblivious to the one country that metaphorically speaking is the little canary who daily sings its sobering aria to this perverted, psychopathic world — that canary in the mine are the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.

On New Year’s Eve, the day before 2009, as Israel, three years since giving the Palestinians Gaza, has been repaid with thousands of unprovoked rocket attacks, the canary in the mine is gagging from Muslim hatred, world apathy and U.N. anti-Semitism that surrounds the Jewish state, and after years of forbearance is finally fighting gallantly for her survival.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Gaza War: is it All So Hard to Understand?*

by Barry Rubin

But why, more than one reporter from highly reputable publications has asked me, is Israel attacking Gaza now? At first, I was astonished: because Hamas cancelled the ceasefire and started massive rocket firings at Israel.

No, they responded, as if I had said something rude. Isn’t it the election, or an attempt to stop the tunnels, or this or that reason?

Absolutely not, I say, it’s like Pearl Harbor, or September 11. If someone announces they are going to go to war with you and then does it, you retaliate and fight.

At that point, the reporters seem to lose interest and bring the interview to an end, as if clearly a person who can say such things is not going to provide any rational analysis. Yet if one cannot even understand this most basic fact, what comprehension can there be of this issue or, indeed, of Middle East politics in general.

There are reasons, however, for this response. Large elements in the West find it very hard to “get,” that is to understand, Hamas or the Palestinians in general—or, for that matter,? Islamists in general, or Arabs in general, or Muslims in general—albeit with all the many variations and exceptions.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



What Victimology Does Not Account for

I have been a very outspoken critic of Israeli policies for many years. Nevertheless, those who, like Nir Rosen here, go into endless diatribes to ascribe sole responsibility to Israel for the current situation are hypocritical at worst and ignorant at best. In this age of political correctness it is always sexy to support the underdog. But political correctness does not always yield wise political judgment.

Abba Eban, Israel’s dovish foreign minister for many years, coined the immortal saying “The Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance.” Even though lives are lost almost every hour now, I ask the reader to bear with me for a brief excursion through history.

Eban was right: Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance. They make every conceivable wrong decision. This does not constitute an excuse for Israel’s policies, but it makes it impossible for Israeli governments to take risks for peace. Every government is primarily responsible for its citizens’ security, and Israel is no exception. So far, Palestinians have forced Israeli governments into hardline positions by their policies…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Middle East


“Oil-Rich Arabs Have More in Their Pockets Than in Their Brains”, Say Expatriates

by Sami Alrabaa

Sociologists and politicians claim that underdevelopment and less poverty can be overcome by money. This is not true, at least in the Arab countries at the Persian Gulf. The Arab oil rich countries; Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, are a case in point. For more than half a century now these countries have been awash in petrodollars. Yet they are still underdeveloped, in particular their human resources…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



7,000 Students Register in Iran’s Isfahan to Fight Israel

[Comments from JD: Keep in mind news source is Chinese State run media, so numbers may not be accurate.]

TEHRAN, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Seven thousand university students from Iran’s central city of Isfahan registered on Monday to fight Israel, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“On the first day of registration to fight Zionist regime and to help Palestinians, 7,000 students from the universities of Isfahan have claimed readiness,” Mohammad Zarifi, member of Iran’s Students Islamic Association, was quoted as saying by Fars.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Arab Oral Culture and Lack of Knowledge

by Sami Alrabaa

We Arabs, the majority of us, at least, rarely read. Hassan, a Syrian graduate, said, “What do you want me to read? State-controlled newspapers? Cooking books? Horoscope and dream interpreting books? That is all you can get in almost all Arab countries in terms of books.”

Most Arabs watch TV or listen to the radio. What do they watch and listen to? They listen to music and watch movies and soap opera serials. Politically-interested Arabs watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya for news and political discussions. Most Arabs distrust news on state-controlled radios and TVs. Viewers of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the majority of whom are anti-Western and anti-American, enjoy the black and white picture depicted by these channels.

Very few political Muslims, the so-called Islamists, have read the Koran and Hadeeth. The majority have not, but dream of paradise on earth ruled by Al Shari’a.

Arab leaders and their affiliates do not read either…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Arabs Want UN Resolution Ensuring Gaza Cease-Fire

UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday night on an Arab request for a legally binding and enforceable U.N. resolution that would ensure an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

The council issued a press statement early Sunday — about 15 hours after Israeli warplanes started raining bombs on Hamas security sites — expressing serious concern at the escalating situation in Gaza and calling on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately halt all violence.

But unlike Security Council resolutions, council press statements are not legally binding, and the Israeli bombing has continued, along with Hamas rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel.

Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, on behalf of Arab Group of nations at the U.N., asked for an emergency session on “the continued Israeli military aggression,” on instructions from Arab League foreign ministers who met in Cairo earlier Wednesday.

He said in a letter that the Arabs want the council “to adopt an enforceable and binding resolution that would ensure immediate cease-fire, cessation of the Israeli military aggression, lifting of the blockade, opening of border crossing points, end of the Israeli policy of collective punishment, providing international protection to the Palestinian people and ensuring calm.”

With up to 390 dead in Gaza, and just four killed in Israel, the Israeli government has come under strong criticism from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and many in the Arab world for the excessive use of force. Israel said the bombardment — one of the Mideast’s bloodiest assaults in decades — was aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza that have traumatized southern Israel.

At the start of Wednesday night’s council meeting, Ban again condemned “the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation.”

He said he was “profoundly troubled” that the council’s call for an end to the violence had gone unheeded and demanded that the parties “step back from the brink” and observe an immediate cease-fire.

While welcoming efforts to end the conflict, including by Arab and European leaders, Ban reiterated that “not enough has been done and more is urgently required.” He called on all members of the international community, especially those in the region, “to exert what influence they have on the parties to end this violence now.”

At Wednesday’s meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers instructed Arab ambassadors at the U.N. to draft and start the process of winning approval for a Security Council resolution “putting a halt on this aggression,” Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed said.

Mohamed, who attended the Arab Group meeting just before the council met, said he did not foresee adoption of a resolution before Monday because a delegation of Arab foreign ministers is flying to New York “to give a boost to the diplomatic activity here.”

He said the ministers — from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco — would arrive Sunday or Monday. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has also asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to lead the diplomatic campaign in New York,” he said.

“Time is of the essence … because Israel is interested in time so that they can crush Hamas,” Mohamed said. “So time is good for Israel, but for us is very bad. This is why we want, as quickly as possible, adoption of a resolution.”…

[Return to headlines]



Iran: Italian Fashion Store Attacked by Protesters

Tehran, 31 Dec. (AKI) — A branch of the Italian clothing retailer Benetton was set on fire in Iran amid angry protests against the Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip, media reports said on Wednesday.

According to the conservative Iranian daily, Jomhuri Eslami, the shop in Dowlat Street, in the north of the capital Tehran, had been attacked by protesters on Tuesday.

Benetton is said to be “linked with the Zionist network,” a government newspaper said.

Several Benetton stores have opened in the past two years in Iran, where global brands have largely been absent since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Last year a group of prominent MPs protested against Benetton’s presence in Iran, alleging that it was owned by a “Zionist millionaire” and that its fashions were a bad influence on female consumers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Emigrant Remittances of 6 Billion in 2008

(ANSAMED) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 16 — Lebanon will have received around 6 billion dollars in transfers sent by emigrants living overseas by the end of 2008, an increase of around 4 percent on the 5.77 billion sent in 2007 (2006 saw remittances of 5.2 billion and in 2005 the total was of 4.9 billion). The analysis comes from the World Bank, as cited by the Italian Trade Commission in Beirut. Lebanese remittances equalled 24.4% of the country’s GDP in 2007, the World Bank estimates. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Syria: Damascus, 500 Mln Dollars to Revamp Qassioun Area

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 16 — The project to renovate the Qassioun Hill area, the hill overlooking Damascus, which typifies its urban neglect and lack of infrastructure, is to cost 500 million dollars. The estimate, reads a memo issued by Italy’s trade mission to Damascus, is that given by the Municipal Administration Modernization Programme (MAM), a project funded by the European Union. Qassioun Hill is a desert hill which has been left undeveloped for centuries and which has as a result gradually been settled over past decades by emigrants from Syriàs rural areas, who have thrown up thousands of shanty-style houses. A feasibility study carried out by MAM for the renovation and development of the hill plans infrastructure work, the temporary removal of resident families (numbers are put at around 5,000 family groups), urban re-planning of the entire area and property development and tourist projects on the upper part of the hill, which is presently unsettled. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Spain Sends ‘Militant’ to Russia

Spain has extradited to Russia a Chechen terror suspect accused of attacking interior ministry offices in the North Caucasus in June 2004.

The Russian chief prosecutor’s office said Murat Gasayev was handed over to Russia on Wednesday.

It is the first such extradition from a European country, according to Vadim Yalovitsky, deputy head of the office’s extradition department.

Mr Gasayev was arrested in the Spanish city of Valencia in December 2006.

Spain’s El Pais news website reports that Mr Gasayev’s extradition took place without any anti-torture guarantees.

Russian prosecutors say the police investigation established that in June 2004 Mr Gasayev took part in an attack on the interior ministry building in Nazran, in the Russian republic of Ingushetia.

A police officer died in the attack and seven were wounded, the Itar-Tass news agency reports.

Mr Gasayev stands accused of banditry, murder and illegal possession of arms. He could face life imprisonment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Spain Extradites to Russia Suspected Attacker on Ingush Interior

[Note the difference in headline between this article and the next one]

MOSCOW, December 31 (Itar-Tass) — Gunman accused of the participation in an attack on the Ingushetia Interior Ministry in 2004 was extradited from Spain to Russia on Wednesday, spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office Marina Gridneva told Itar-Tass.

“The investigation has established that the suspect, Murat Gasayev, joined a militant gang headed by Kirimov in 2003 when he was in the forest camp ‘Khilifat.’ In the gang Gasayev got the call sign ‘Abdul-Malik.’ Being an active member of the gang Gasayev repeatedly participated in terror acts and in attacks on representatives of the state power bodies, officers of law enforcement agencies and military servicemen in the territory of the North Caucasian Region of the Russian Federation,” according to the spokeswoman.

On the night from June 21 to June 22, 2004, Gasayev with the gang took part in an attack on the building of the Interior Ministry of Ingushetia in Nazran. One police officer died in this attack and seven were wounded. “In December 2006, Gasayev was put on the international wanted list and four days later he was arrested in the territory of Spain,” Gridneva noted.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Pakistan Attempts to Flush Out Taliban From Khyber Pass

Pakistan closed the main supply route for Nato forces in Afghanistan yesterday as it launched an offensive backed by tanks and helicopter gunships against Taliban forces in the strategic Khyber Pass. Troops pounded suspected militant hideouts with heavy artillery, killing several insurgents who had frequently ambushed the convoys, interrupting military supplies in recent weeks.

Security officials imposed a curfew, warned tribesmen against sheltering Islamic militants and said the highway linking Peshawar to the border town of Torkham would remain closed until the operation was completed.

Tariq Hayat Khan, the governor of the Khyber tribal agency, said: “We want to get rid of them and we mean business this time. Supplies to Nato forces will remain suspended until we clear the area of militants and outlaws who have gone out of control.” […]

About 75 per cent of the supplies and equipment used by Nato and US-led forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is shipped to the Pakistani port of Karachi, where it begins a treacherous 1,200-mile land journey to Kabul via the Khyber pass.

There is a second route from Karachi through the town of Chaman to the southwest, leading to the Afghan city of Kandahar but that has also come under attack recently.

The ambushes in the Khyber have forced Nato to look for alternatives, including through Central Asia into northern Afghanistan. The supply route is likely to be even more important as the United States increases its troops in Afghanistan, perhaps doubling the number to about 60,000 next year. […]

William Wood, the US Ambassador in Kabul, insisted: “We do not intend to provide weapons to anyone in this programme. This is not a recreation of tribal militias.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Reiterates No Room for Taiwan Sovereignty

BEIJING (Reuters) — Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Wednesday he understood Taiwan’s desire to take part in “international activities” but stressed he would not tolerate any move that suggested sovereign independence from the mainland.

In a policy speech, Hu called for a pragmatic approach to the political relationship to ease concerns over military tension across the strait.

“As long as the ‘one China’ principle is recognised by both sides… we can discuss anything,” Hu said.

If Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party gives up “splittist activities” and “changes its attitude,” it would elicit a “positive response,” he said.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Just this week, Taiwan said it would increase foreign aid next year, competing with China on largesse as the global economic crisis leave impoverished allies more desperate for help.

With about 170 diplomatic allies to Taiwan’s 23, China has continually blocked the island’s bid to join the United Nations or affiliated organisations.

But relations across the Taiwan Strait, in recent years one of the hottest flashpoints in Asia, have improved since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May, prompting a goodwill gift to the island of two giant pandas just last week.

“We understand the Taiwan people’s feelings on participating in international activities, and we attach great importance to related issues on this,” Hu told a gathering of the Communist Party elite at the Great Hall of the People.

“…We can have realistic negotiations to reach a reasonable approach for the issue of Taiwan participating in the activities of international organisations on the premise of not causing one China, one Taiwan.”

Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of a major announcement by China that it would stop shelling the Taiwan-held island of Kinmen, or Quemoy, and that its policy towards Taiwan would shift from “liberation” through military invasion to “peaceful reunification.”

It is also the 30th anniversary of the United States switching diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, recognising “one China,” though it remains Taiwan’s biggest ally and arms supplier.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Philippine Blasts Kill 1, Hurt 4

(Philippines) — A SUSPECTED bomber was killed and four other people, including two policemen, were wounded in two explosions in the southern Philippines, the military said on Wednesday.

A man transporting an improvised explosive device was killed when it went off at a police checkpoint near the town of Esperanza on Mindanao island late on Tuesday, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Julieto Ando.

One police officer was wounded when the device made out of a mortar shell and hidden in a sack of charcoal detonated, Col Ando told reporters.

‘The bomb was in transit and probably exploded due to faulty assembly,’ he added.

Meanwhile, a policeman and two other people were wounded late on Tuesday when unidentified men tossed a bomb at a police outpost on the outskirts of General Santos city, the spokesman said.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatist rebels operating in the region denied any involvement in the Esperanza bombing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


45 Churchgoers Mutilated in Congo

The Ugandan army has accused Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

An aid official confirmed Friday’s massacre, saying the killings took place in a Catholic church in the Doruma area, around 40km from the Sudanese border.

“We got information the rebels cut 45 people into pieces,’’ army spokesman Captain Chris Magezi said.

“They were cut with pangas (machetes) and hit with clubs but some luckily managed to escape. Our forces came to know about the killings while pursuing the LRA yesterday and the pursuit is on for the killers,’’ he said.

Mr Magezi said the victims, mostly women, children and the elderly, were mutilated in the style used by Hutu extremists in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Forces from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and south Sudan launched a joint operation against the Ugandan LRA rebels in northeastern DR Congo earlier this month.

The aid official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said there were scenes of carnage in and around the church where the killings took place.

“There are body parts everywhere. Inside the church, the entrance and in the church compound,’’ said the official.

The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya Angaze, said that “fighting has broken out around Doruma since Friday, between elements of the LRA and local groups’’ set up to defend their communities.

Mr Magezi had also accused the rebels of killing 35 civilians in attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in areas in south Sudan and northeastern DR Congo.

But LRA spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga denied the rebels were behind the killings.

“Reports about the LRA killing innocent civilians is another propaganda campaign by the Uganda army,’’ Mr Matsanga said.

“I am not a military spokesman for the LRA but I have it on good authority from the field commanders that the LRA is not in those areas where the killings are reported to have taken place.

“We need an independent verification to know who is responsible for these killings in Doruma because LRA has stated before we want peace not war because fighting won’t help,’’ he said.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks led by the government of South Sudan for more than two years.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



London Life for Mugabe Regime Crony

A woman who spent years berating the Australian Government for its criticism of the Zimbabwean Government has apparently decided she no longer wants to put up with life under President Robert Mugabe.

Florence Chitauro is believed to still be a staunch defender of Mugabe, but with cholera, AIDS and famine sweeping the country she has quietly opted to live in the more comfortable surrounds of London.

Ms Chitauro, Mugabe’s former ambassador to Australia, was photographed by The Australian returning from a shopping trip to her townhouse 150m from Hyde Park in expensive inner London.

Britain has pledged to ban travel and investments by Mugabe’s cronies, but Ms Chitauro’s first-floor apartment in Lancaster Gate, an area favoured by diplomats, is a pleasant walk through Hyde Park and St James Park to the Foreign Office and 10 Downing Street.

During her stint in Canberra five years ago, Ms Chitauro derided John Howard as an interfering dictator after the then prime minister called for democratic reforms in Zimbabwe.

Australian diplomats rebuked her, and foreign minister Alexander Downer described her “gratuitous personal insults” as “completely inappropriate” and “utterly out of order”.

As Mugabe’s minister for labour, public service and social welfare in the 1990s, Ms Chitauro cracked down on unions, ordering the arrest of striking workers and a corruption investigation to discredit opposition and union leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

A senior official in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change told The Australian he was disappointed that despite the European Union promise to ban members of Mugabe’s regime. Ms Chitauro lived “in comfort in London while our people back home are dying because of the policies she helped to impose”. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Italy Not Re-Inventing the Wheel — Foreign Affairs Ministry

Italy was not re-inventing the wheel when it decided to deport all immigrants reaching its shores as from next week, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minister in Malta said.

As a spell of good weather led to over 2,000 immigrants landing in the Italian island of Lampedusa over the past few days, the Italian government announced yesterday that, come Tuesday, it will send back illegal immigrants who arrive on its shores.

Reuters reported that 38 Egyptians will be the first group to be flown to Cairo under the new plan announced by Italy’s right-wing government, which, since coming to power in May, has made the fight against illegal immigration a top priority…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Long Awaited Joint Patrols Off Libyan Coast to Begin in January — Maroni

In what could be the best news for Malta in years as it grapples with the irregular migration phenomenon, long-awaited patrols off the Libyan coast are expected to begin next month.

Joint Italian-Libyan patrols along the Libyan coastline are to begin in January with the aim of stemming the ever-rising tide of African migrants setting off from Libyan shores toward Italy and Malta, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday.

Speaking in a radio interview, Dr Maroni commented, “I am optimistic. If, as the Libyans are assuring, (patrols) begin in January, we will be able to say once and for all addio to the landings in Lampedusa,” Italian state news agency ANSA reported yesterday.

The vast majority of migrants landing in Malta and Lampedusa depart for Europe from Libyan shores…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Malta: Where Hysteria is No Answer to the Plight of Refugees

On the second day of the crossing from Libya to Europe, Richard Josiah was asked to throw the bodies of two emaciated Somali women into the sea. The wintry waters of the Mediterranean were unforgiving, but the order was clear. “You cannot have dead bodies rotting next to you,” says the 30-year-old, who was recently released from 18 months in a detention centre in Malta. “They were weak and ill when they got on the boat. I still remember their faces.”

Josiah was among 55 migrants who paid Libyan people smugglers between $1,000 and $1,200 to make the crossing on two 10-metre skiffs, in the hope of reaching Italy. Instead, after three days adrift, the boats were intercepted by a European Union patrol and the passengers taken to the Mediterranean island that along with Lampedusa finds itself on the frontline of the EU’s battle to stem illegal immigration.

Since 2002 the Maltese government has processed 11,500 refugees and economic migrants, a figure, it says, equating to about 1.7 million arriving in France, Italy or the UK. The tensions are palpable. Anti-immigrant daubings have sprung up amid the sandstone walls of Valletta, Malta’s fortified 16th century capital; Africans say they frequently suffer racism, and a prominent Jesuit charity has been the victim of arson attacks for its outspoken support of migrants.

“There’s an ugly xenophobia developing here and I think the government carries some responsibility for that,” says Dr Neil Falzon, the local representative of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. “It is selling the idea that Malta can’t cope. The truth is it has to. There’s already a settled African population on this island, they just live in a different reality to the rest of Maltese society. The government should be leading the process of integrating them with jobs, education and homes instead of taking part in this kind of national hysteria.”

Criticism of Malta’s detention policy is mounting. The island is the only EU nation to automatically detain all illegal migrants for a legal maximum of 18 months: there are currently 2,000 in ramshackle camps. The UNHCR has voiced concerns over whether the policy could violate the Geneva Convention, while other NGOs are urging Malta’s government to soften its attitude to migrants.

The Jesuit Refugee Service — which carries out advocacy work on behalf of migrants — estimates 98% of young migrants do not receive formal education.

About half of the 4,000 migrants who have been released from detention live in two cramped, unsanitary open centres which are effectively African ghettos. They take the low-paid jobs shunned by an increasingly well-educated Maltese population: portering in hotels, working in factories, as refuse collectors or builders. After eight years of migratory flow to Malta, there few signs of social mobility for Africans.

“The result will be a social catastrophe,” says Father Joseph Cassar, of the Jesuit Refugee Service. “In five years I fear we’ll see ghettos, social unrest and a rise of far-right politics.

“What is being forgotten here is that these people come from terrible places and are running from the extremes of human behaviour — torture, rape and violence — and deep poverty. It cannot be right to treat them with contempt, detain or house them in horrible conditions, in Europe.”

Railing rust bleeds down the once whitewashed walls of Marsa, a dilapidated former school converted into an open centre, which is now home to more than 1,200 migrants. They take turns to sleep in bunks and share putrid lavatories and showers.

The building is divided into ethnic blocks run by Somalis, Sudanese or West Africans. For the fortunate few it is a stopping point before they find a regular salary to rent more salubrious accommodation. For others, Marsa is a symbol of their frustrated hopes: free but cut off from life in mainland Europe. According to the staff, at least one migrant attempts suicide each month.

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]



Reportage Libya: Inside the Immigrants Detention Centre of Misratah

MISRATAH — At night, from the courtyard of the prison, you can hear the sound of the sea. They are the waves of the Mediterranean, a hundred meters from the fence of the detention centre. We are in Misratah, 210 km east of Tripoli, in Libya. And the prisoners they are all Eritrean asylum seekers arrested off Lampedusa or in the suburbs of Tripoli. Victims of the collateral effects of the Italo-Libyan agreement against immigration. They are more than 600 people, from 20 to 30 years old, including 58 women and several children and babies. The majority was arrested two years ago, but none of them has been tried by a court. They sleep in rooms with no windows, 4 meters per 5, up to 20 people in each one, on the ground. At least they are allowed to stay in the courtyard, under the watchful eyes of police. Their fault? Having tried to reach Europe in order to look for asylum…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Le Dernier Mot: Washingtonian Madness

by Srdja Trifkovic

My farewell column has a melancholy air not only because all partings are inherently sad, but because the times are genuinely grim. The world is changing… not for the better, and America is making a disproportionate contribution to the process. There is a malaise at the very core of this country’s foreign-policymaking, on both sides of the dominant duopoly in Washington. At its poles there may be differences over tactics and means, but the alleged necessity of America’s continued, open-ended “engagement” in faraway lands is never questioned — and it will not be questioned under the new regime.

The madness is an amorphous beast, and it is still remarkably unaffected by the awful financial and economic reality. It has many names—multiculturalism, one-worldism, tolerantism, inclusivism, antidiscriminationism—that demand engagement abroad and wide-open doors at home. Both abroad and at home, the impulse is neurotic; its justification, gnostic. It reflects the collective loss of nerve, faith, and identity of a diseased society, producing a self-destructive malaise that is literally unprecedented in history…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



Vatican Protests as Abortion Pill Looms

Medicines agency’s imminent approval of RU486 sparks controversy. “Kills innocents”.

ROME — The Vatican has issued yet another condemnation of the abortion pill, which will soon be available to Italian hospitals. The spokesman this time was Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the Holy See’s health minister: “The Catholic Church understands the personal drama of a young woman who is pregnant against her will, but condemns abortion, in whatever form it is practised, because an innocent being is killed. An embryo is a human being, with all the rights of a human being”. For the cardinal, “RU is one of those medicines that are not so innocent”. Those who hoped to block RU486 have had to admit defeat. The pill, approved by the Centre-left government last February, will soon be available in Italy, probably at the beginning of next year, and the current executive is powerless to intervene. The procedure is automatic.

After the Corriere carried the news, Guido Rasi, head of the Italian medicines agency AIFA, confirmed that the technical committee will meet tomorrow. Thursday’s board meeting will consider the matter and the drug may receive final approval. RU486 will be subject to the same regulations as law 194 on abortion, which means it cannot be sold outside hospitals. Day surgery treatment is mandatory. Needless to say, doctors have the option of conscientious objection. “Our position has not changed”, said Pietro Saccucci, a gynaecologist and conscientious objector at Rome’s San Camillo-Forlanini hospital. “Objection to abortion does not depend on the means by which abortion is procured”.

The pill’s manufacturers, the French-based Exelgyn company, is ready: “We’ve already translated the leaflet and packaging into Italian”, says Exelgyn’s CEO Alexandre Lumbroso. “We’ve heard from the ministry that registration will take place before the end of the year”. The fact that nothing can be done to block the mifepristone-based drug has not disheartened objectors. Rightwing women in government have closed ranks with junior minister Eugenia Roccella, the first to raise the issue of safety. “Experience abroad has shown there are wide margins of risks, ineffectiveness and complications related to chemical abortion attempts”, claimed the junior welfare minister, Francesca Martini. “We are concerned about the way in which it is administered, which must comply with law 194. Information is needed. This is not a sweet to eat at home. It provokes the detachment of the embryo from the uterus”.

The minister for youth, Giorgia Meloni, warns young women: “This is not a contraceptive. This is something else. It’s a drug with serious risks that interrupts a pregnancy already under way. Every new tool to stop life is not a victory for someone. To the contrary, it’s a defeat for society”. According to Ms Roccella, RU486-induced abortion “is hard to square with law 194. It’s going back to a sort of legal back-door abortion. Women will take it at home, without medical supervision”.

Silvio Viale, the gynaecologist at Turin’s Sant’Anna hospital who was the first to trial the method in Italy, objects to what he calls a “terrorist” perspective: “Hospitals are not prisons. We can’t keep patients in if they don’t want to stay. Worries about the dangers are baseless: studies have proved it’s safe. Patients have to return to the clinic two days after taking the first pill for a second one based on prostaglandin, which aids expulsion of the foetus”. According to Dr Viale, there have been 4,000 chemical abortions since 2006. In 2008, chemical abortions were carried out at 28 centres in Italy under a nominal importation scheme. In practice, the drug is ordered from the manufacturer on a case-by-case basis. Italy of Values (IDV) parliamentarian Silvana Mura also talks about psychological terrorism: “The arguments are unfounded. The Prodi government was working in women’s interests. Now they’ll have an alternative to surgery”. Christian Democrat (UDC) Luca Volonté expressed “profound disappointment at the inexplicable inertia of the present government. It’s a sad episode, like the lack of any initiatives regarding the law on assisted procreation. Consistency demands that the minister Maurizio Sacconi should be attacked the same way Livia Turco was”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Two Israelis Shot in Odense Shopping Mall

Two Israelis were shot this afternoon in a shopping mall in the town of Odense, Denmark. All the news articles about the incident are at pains to emphasize that no one knows whether the nationality of the victims was a factor in the crime.

It’s noteworthy, however, that police are looking for a “man of Arabic appearance” in connection with the shooting. Only in Denmark — can you imagine police in the USA making such a public announcement?

According to Ekstra Bladet (my translation):

Videocamera may reveal gunman

Police are looking for a young man of Arabic appearance in connection with the shooting of two Israelis in Odense

Images from a surveillance camera may have captured the a young man who this afternoon at 3:20 drew a pistol and shot and wounded two Israeli men in the Rosengård shopping mall in Odense. One was hit in the arm, and the other in the leg, according to Odense police.

The offender is described as Arabic in appearance, about 25 years old, 170 cm (5 feet 6 inches) tall, with dark hair and a dark mustache. He was wearing a white jacket or sweater and blue jeans.

“We can’t say whether he is Palestinian, Iraqi, Bosnian, or where he comes from,” said police spokesman Lars Thede, and adds:

“It is too early to say anything about the suspect.”

- – - - – - – - -

The two Israelis have been in Denmark for a week selling hair-care products from a booth in the mall. The police have been stationed in the mall for about a month and a group of seven to nine young people have allegedly harassed sales staff.

Thought it was fireworks

An eyewitness, Alem Dervisevic, says that he initially thought the shots were fireworks.

“But then I noticed that people ran in panic. I saw blood and a man lying on the floor near Kvickly,” he says to TV2.

The news about the shooting, with its strong political undertones, immediately went around the world and has been reported, among other places, in American and Israeli media. For six days Israel has been carrying out a military action against Gaza. Nearly 400 Palestinians have died during the attacks.



Hat tip: Steen.

Laughing into 2009

More than a year ago I broached the idea of a Year of the Jackpot. Last February I went out on a limb and named 2009 as the most likely candidate.

Nothing has happened in the meantime to change my mind. If anything, the prospect seems even more likely now.

Even though Ireland has thrown a spanner into the works of the EU, and the full implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon has been delayed, the Islamization of Europe is still on track and accelerating.

Last winter I expected Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for president. I didn’t seriously entertain the notion that B. Hussein Obama would be our next President. Yet here we are, on the threshold of 2009, about to walk through the door into the glittering paradise of Obamaland. Hang onto your hats!

The new year comes with an Iranian bomb. There’s war in Gaza, and on Israel’s northern border Hezbollah stands poised for a repeat of August 2006. The mujahideen in Waziristan are that much closer to getting their hands on Pakistan’s nukes. The UK is cracking down on the Internet, and Sweden is about to read everyone’s emails.

And now we have to add the current financial crisis into the mix. The worst recession/depression since… What? Jimmy Carter? 1933? The fall of Rome? Take your pick.

It seems more and more as if we just finished up 1938 and are headed into 1939. A return look at “Autumn Journal” (Part XXIV) by Louis MacNeice is appropriate:

Sleep, the past, and wake, the future,
     And walk out promptly through the open door;
But you, my coward doubts, may go on sleeping,
     You need not wake again — not any more.
The New Year comes with bombs, it is too late
     To dose the dead with honourable intentions:
If you have honour to spare, employ it on the living;
     The dead are dead as Nineteen-Thirty-Eight.
Sleep to the noise of running water
     To-morrow to be crossed, however deep;
This is no river of the dead or Lethe,
     To-night we sleep
On the banks of Rubicon — the die is cast;
     There will be time to audit
The accounts later, there will be sunlight later
     And the equation will come out at last.

So let’s light the fireworks, drink a toast, and say good-bye to the world as we know it!

From “Laughing Into 1939” by Al Stewart:
- – - - – - – - -

For tonight is New Year’s Eve
Uncork your spirits and welcome it in
Who knows what it’s got up its sleeve
Can’t wait for it all to begin
Stand by the girl with the purple balloon
The look in her eyes just lights up the room
In the corner of her smile
She’ll be seeing you soon
Under a mistletoe moon

Out on to the balcony
Come the King and Queen
And the crowd go wild
He’s a little bit nervous
But that’s just fine
And they’re laughing, laughing into 1939
Oh, laughing, laughing into 1939

Happy New Year, everyone!

Preparing for Durban II

UN logoThe recent UN resolution that calls for “combating the defamation of religions” is just one front in a strategic effort mounted by the OIC through the United Nations. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has a ten-year plan for eradicating Islamophobia in the world, and the UN is the preferred venue for its implementation.

With 57 members, the OIC carries considerable clout in the UN. Although not a majority — there are 192 member states in the United Nations — the Islamic countries can vote and lobby as a bloc, and pull along many of the Third World nations such as Venezuela or Cuba, who like nothing better than taking jabs at the United States and Israel.

The UN is in the process of making final preparations for “Durban II”, next April’s follow-up to the notorious Durban conference of September 2001. The push to outlaw the defamation of religions is part of a larger platform which aims to eliminate “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at all levels”. The all-purpose bogeyman of racism is a convenient tool which can be used to suppress any criticism of Islam and overrule objections to sharia.

Eye on the UN sent us an alert about the provisional agenda for Durban II. I did some research on related UN activities, working from a list of UN documents outlining the Durban program of action. I picked the six most recent reports from various UN committees, plus the provisional agenda, and went through them all (see the bottom of this post for the full list of documents used).

Like most documents produced by large supranational bureaucracies, these UN reports are stupefyingly boring. Reading through them is almost more than a mortal can do, and one presumes that this is exactly what the authors of these works intended. It’s the purloined-letter strategy applied to an international bureaucratic power grab: all that you need to know is right there in plain sight. To get to it, however, you have to wade through all those hectares of bumf without falling asleep.

Here are a couple of examples of what the reader faces in these documents:

…the centrality of resource mobilization, effective global partnership and international cooperation in the context of paragraphs 157 and 158 of the Durban Programme of Action for the successful realization of commitments undertaken at the World Conference, and to this end emphasizes the importance of the mandate of the group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, especially in mobilizing the necessary political will for the successful implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action;…

And:

By its decision PC.3/9 of 17 October 2008 entitled “Continuation of the preparatory process for the Durban Review Conference”, the Preparatory Committee established this intersessional open-ended intergovernmental working group and decided that it shall meet for a total of up to 10 working days in advance of the third substantive session of the Preparatory Committee, including a meeting on 27 November 2008, the first session to be held from 19 to 23 January 2009, and the second session on 6 to 9 April 2009 or at any other date agreed by the working group.

Does that make everything clear?

These documents, however, are loaded with nuggets of information. Let’s start with some bullet points from the Provisional Agenda (Document #1):

Review of progress and assessment of implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance:

  • Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
  • Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;
  • Measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at all levels;
  • Provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress, and compensatory and other measures at all levels;
  • Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international cooperation and enhancement of the United Nations and other international mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The litany of evil — “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” is repeated over and over again in these documents. The most significant phrase is the open-ended “related intolerance”. As you’ll see, this is the door that admits the full-fledged suppression of free speech, because “related intolerance” includes any hatred based on religion. It links up with the combating of defamation of religion, and thus mandates the prohibition of any criticism of Islam.

For the rest of this analysis I’ll use the Report of the Third Committee (Document #2), which seems to be the latest version of a series of similar reports. For the last few months, various committees and subgroups have been weighing in with their own versions and suggested amendments, and I assume that there will be further revisions before Durban II rolls out the canapés and white wine next April. But for our purposes, this will serve as the definitive document of what lies in store for us.

First, from the preface:
- – - - – - – - -

Reiterating that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies, and that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races,

This starts out just fine — all human beings are born free and equal. But then the authors start defining what is and isn’t scientifically proven. Do we really want the bureaucrats of the UN telling us what is scientifically true or false?

And even if the “doctrine of racial superiority” could somehow be disproved, why should believing in it be a crime? Is it a crime to believe the earth is flat, or that thunderstorms are caused by jinni?

Another point of interest:

Convinced that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance manifest themselves in a differentiated manner for women and girls and may be among the factors leading to a deterioration in their living conditions, poverty, violence, multiple forms of discrimination and the limitation or denial of their human rights, and recognizing the need to integrate a gender perspective into relevant policies, strategies and programmes of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia,

What is this getting at? Is this mere feminist boilerplate? Or is it softening us up for a rationalization of the differential treatment of women under sharia?

And now for select numbered items from the rest of the report. I’ve interspersed them with my own comments in bold.

4.   Stresses that States and international organizations have a responsibility to ensure that measures taken in the struggle against terrorism do not discriminate in purpose or effect on grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, and urges all States to rescind or refrain from all forms of racial profiling;
 
    This is the rationale for exempting Muslims from any special scrutiny at the airport and in counter-terrorism investigations. It guarantees that every time a Muslim is investigated on suspicion of terrorism, lawsuits and other legal actions will be launched “under the provisions of international law”.
 
6.   Also recognizes that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance occur on the grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin and that victims can suffer multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination based on other related grounds, such as sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, birth or other status;
 
    Notice that “religion” has crept into the mix here.

And so has “political opinion”. But do you think my political opinion — namely, that Islam is a political ideology disguised as a religion — will be protected? Or does the “no defamation of religions” stricture trump all other opinions?
 

10.   Calls upon all States, in accordance with the commitments undertaken in paragraph 147 of the Durban Programme of Action, to take all necessary measures to combat the incitement to violence motivated by racial hatred, including through misuse of print, audio-visual and electronic media and new communication technologies, and, in collaboration with service providers, to promote the use of such technologies, including the Internet, to contribute to the fight against racism, in conformity with international standards of freedom of expression and taking all necessary measures to guarantee that right;
 
    This is a big one: it provides the framework for a UN-mandated crackdown on the internet. Gates of Vienna criticizes Islam, and that constitutes a “related intolerance” equivalent to racism. Therefore what we do is actionable under the provisions of Durban II, and our governments — assuming they intend to honor their treaty obligations to the UN, in observance of “international law” — will be required to take action against our “racist” speech.
 
11.   Encourages all States to include in their educational curricula and social programmes at all levels, as appropriate, knowledge of and tolerance and respect for all cultures, civilizations, religions, peoples and countries, as well as information on the follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
 
    The interference of the federal government in education is not good enough: now the UN will have a voice in our schools’ curricula. As if there isn’t already plenty of Multiculturalism larded into our school materials — from now on UNESCO or some similar organization will be writing the textbooks for our schoolchildren.
 
12.   Stresses the responsibility of States to mainstream a gender perspective in the design and development of prevention, education and protection measures aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at all levels, to ensure that they effectively target the distinct situations of women and men;
 
    Here comes the “gender perspective” again. What in the world does this mean?
 
27.   Welcomes the steps taken by numerous Governments, in particular the elaboration and implementation of national action plans to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and steps taken by national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations, towards the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and affirms this trend as a demonstration of commitment to the elimination of all scourges of racism at the national level;
 
    The phrase to note in this item is “non-governmental organizations”. NGOs lie outside the formal UN structure, but do much of the grunt work on behalf of the UN’s agenda. They are funded in part by national governments and by large (leftist) philanthropic organizations, and act according to a trans-national imperative with little accountability.

These are the groups that will be pushing the Durban II program all over the world.
 

29.   Calls upon all States to formulate and implement without delay, at the national, regional and international levels, policies and plans of action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including their gender-based manifestations;
 
    Get with the program, people!
 
38.   Requests the Secretary-General to provide the necessary resources for the effective fulfilment of the mandates of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the group of independent eminent experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards;
 
    “Experts on People of African Descent”? What are they? Who certified them? What are the criteria for their expertise?
 
45.   Recognizes with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed against Arab, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as all religious communities, communities of people of African descent, communities of people of Asian descent, communities of indigenous people and other communities;
 
    This is a joke, considering that Durban II is shaping up to be a veritable orgy of anti-Semitism.

And “Christianophobia”? Give me a break! When’s the last time you heard anyone accused of Christianophobia?

Make no mistake about it: only one of these Multicultural sins will be punished, and that’s Islamophobia.
 

49.   Requests the Special Rapporteur to continue giving particular attention to the negative impact of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights by national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, immigrant populations, asylum-seekers and refugees;

Refer to the list of Durban-related documents, and you’ll see what we’re up against.

Legions of UN bureaucrats toil day and night to churn this stuff out. They are lavishly funded by the UN — which means by the taxpayers of the member states, with the United States prominent among them.

Their resources are virtually limitless. They can conjure this nonsense out of thin air indefinitely. Their opponents, on the other hand, are mostly volunteers toiling in obscurity. Based on the disparity of financial backing, our chances are not good.

So we need all the help we can get. If you have the time and the stomach, slog through these documents, spread the word, and let your elected representatives know how you feel.

Denmark and several other European countries are considering boycotting Durban II. If enough Western nations stay away — if the working papers are signed only by Libya, Cuba, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Laos, and the like — then the results will be meaningless, and their impact will be minimal.

The UN is an evil monstrosity. No civilized country should be a part of it.



Relevant UN documents

1.   Durban Review Conference: Provisional Agenda and Annotations Thereto
Document name: Annotated_agenda271108.doc
2.   Elimination of racism and racial discrimination: Report of the Third Committee
Document name: N0863757.pdf
3.   International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
Document name: N0860667.pdf
4.   Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Document name: N0860691.pdf
5.   Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
Document name: N0859738.pdf
6.   Elimination of racism and racial discrimination: elimination of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Document name: N0858951.pdf
7.   Elimination of racism and racial discrimination: comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Document name: N0858662.pdf

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/30/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/30/2008Notable among tonight’s news stories are several about the continuing unrest in Sweden among the “youths” of Malmö and Stockholm.

Thanks to Insubria, JD, KGS, ML, Nilk, no2liberals, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

USA
“Restoring the Balance”: Insight Into Obama’s Middle East Policy?
Are Americans Safe From U.S. Mosques?
Defense Spending Would be Great Stimulus
Obama Policy Plan Inspires Jihadists
 
Canada
Ottawa Moves to Save Canadian From Execution
 
Europe and the EU
Citizenship Applicants Must Pass Exam in Icelandic
Finland: Cleaning, Sales Popular Jobs for Immigrants
Going Down the EU Tube: Brussels Videos Shunned
Lisbon Treaty Critics to Present Its Consequences in Czech Senate
Sweden: Migration Board Pays Off Pro-Israel Employee
Sweden: Burkini and Finance Crunch Add to Swedish Vocabulary
Sweden: More Unrest in Malmö Suburb
Switzerland Says Could Have Been ‘More Sensitive’ in Kadhafi Case
UK: Army of ‘Vigilante Villagers’ to Dish Out On-the-Spot Fines for Litter Louts
UK: Foreign Office Warns Holidaymakers Against Extramarital Sex in Muslim Countries
UK: Gym Teacher Fired … for Wearing Sneakers
UK: New Quota: 1 Woman Per Fire Engine
 
North Africa
Egypt: Crackdown on Violent Police
Egypt in Quandary as Gaza Raids Divide the Muslim World
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Cynthia McKinney Aboard Boat Headed for Gaza, Intercepted by Israeli Naval Force
Hamas Has Precipitated This Confrontation
Incoming European Union President: Israel is Right
Israeli Communist Party Goes to Support Hamas, PLO Factions in Gaza
Merkel Blames Hamas for Gaza Violence
Michael Ross: Jews Are News
 
Middle East
Egypt Mocks Iran, Hezbollah on Military Record
Hezbollah: Israel May Take This Opportunity to Attack Lebanon
Iran Hardliners Register Volunteers to Fight Israel
Jordan: Foreign Assistance Increased by 67% in 2008
Mideast:Gaza; Jordan King Abdullah Donates Blood for Gazans
Saudi Police Break Up Pro-Gaza Protest: Residents
Swede Detained by US Forces in Iraq
 
Russia
At Last, Stalin is Defeated by Russian Voters
Moscow’s ‘Constructive Separatism’ in ‘Near Abroad’ Backfires in Russia
The Sinister Resurrection of Stalin
 
South Asia
Indonesia: MUI Urges Muslims to Boycott U.S. Products
Malaysia: Mediators to Ease Tensions
OIC Concerned Over Pak Airspace Violation by India
Three Killed, 13 Troops Hurt in Thai South — Police
 
Far East
Japan Paid Y200 Million for Release of University Student Kidnapped in Iran
Johnny Neihu’s News Watch: a Heritage of Non-Denial Denial
Philippines: Police on Alert for Terror Attacks
Why Al Qaeda Isn’t Gaining a Foothold in Cambodia
 
Australia — Pacific
The Battle of Broken Hill: the First Islamic Terrorist Attack on Australian Soil, 1915
Topless Ban to Protect Muslims and Asians
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
British Missionaries in Gambia Jailed for One Year With Hard Labour for Sedition
Piracy: Two Turkish Ships Find Route to Freedom
 
Immigration
Illegal Baby Boom Hits Big Easy
Immigration: Malta, 140 Migrants Rescued at Sea
Immigration: Spain; Voluntary Re-Entry Plan Fails
Immigration: On Youtube a Story From an Italian Point of View
Immigration: First Repatriations From Lampedusa to Egypt
 
Culture Wars
Che Guevara: First He Took Havana, Now He’s Conquered Hollywood
Firefighters Ordered Into ‘Gay’ Parade Back in Court
Voted for Prop 8? You’re Fired
Why is ‘Sexual Identity’ Any of the Government’s Business?
 
General
Natural Disasters ‘Killed Over 220,000’ in ‘08

USA


“Restoring the Balance”: Insight Into Obama’s Middle East Policy?

Unsurprisingly, Bush’s critics excoriate his Middle East record. Fine, but now that they are almost in the driver’s seat; exactly how do they intend to fix America’s Middle East policy?

One preview is on display in Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President, a major study issued jointly by two liberal lions, the Brookings Institution (founded 1916) and the Council on Foreign Relations (founded 1921). The culmination of an 18-month effort, Restoring the Balance involved 15 scholars, 2 co-editors (Richard Haass and Martin Indyk), a retreat at a Rockefeller conference center, multiple fact-finding trips, and a small army of organizers and managers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Are Americans Safe From U.S. Mosques?

Middle East experts measure threat level of Shariah law

When the five Muslims convicted this month of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were charged, the New Jersey mosque where four of the men worshipped reacted to negative publicity by holding an “emergency town hall meeting” to calm neighbors and persuade Americans that Islam poses no threat.

But having investigated the Islamic Center of South Jersey one year ago, Middle East expert and former Air Force special agent Dave Gaubatz insists not only is the mosque a threat to national security, it represents a pattern that has prompted him to launch a massive project to systematically classify every known mosque in the U.S.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Defense Spending Would be Great Stimulus

The Department of Defense is preparing budget cuts in response to the decline in national income. The DOD budgeteers and their counterparts in the White House Office of Management and Budget apparently reason that a smaller GDP requires belt-tightening by everyone.

That logic is exactly backwards. As President-elect Barack Obama and his economic advisers recognize, countering a deep economic recession requires an increase in government spending to offset the sharp decline in consumer outlays and business investment that is now under way. Without that rise in government spending, the economic downturn would be deeper and longer. Although tax cuts for individuals and businesses can help, government spending will have to do the heavy lifting. That’s why the Obama team will propose a package of about $300 billion a year in additional federal government outlays and grants to states and local governments.

A temporary rise in DOD spending on supplies, equipment and manpower should be a significant part of that increase in overall government outlays. The same applies to the Department of Homeland Security, to the FBI, and to other parts of the national intelligence community.

The increase in government spending needs to be a short-term surge with greater outlays in 2009 and 2010 but then tailing off sharply in 2011 when the economy should be almost back to its prerecession level of activity. Buying military supplies and equipment, including a variety of off-the-shelf dual use items, can easily fit this surge pattern.

For the military, the increased spending will require an expanded supplemental budget for 2009 and an increased budget for 2010. A 10% increase in defense outlays for procurement and for research would contribute about $20 billion a year to the overall stimulus budget. A 5% rise in spending on operations and maintenance would add an additional $10 billion. That spending could create about 300,000 additional jobs. And raising the military’s annual recruitment goal by 15% would provide jobs for an additional 30,000 young men and women in the first year…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Obama Policy Plan Inspires Jihadists

The Salafi jihadist movement, a more radicalized version of Salafism followed by such militant groups as al-Qaida, is on the rise in the Middle East as the new Obama administration prepares to take office, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

(…)

And with the recent flareup in the Gaza Strip, Salafi jihadists are gaining support among followers of the Hamas which until recently resisted them. As radical as the Hamas appears to be, the Salafi jihadists are looked upon as even more so.

“Compared to us, they are Islamism lite,” Abu Mustafa said. He heads the Salafi jihadist movement in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas represents an American style of Islam. They have tried to curry favor.

“Hamas is like a block of ice in the sun,” he added. “Every minute they get smaller — and we get larger.”

(…)

Indeed, there are indications that the Salafi jihadists may have been involved in instigating the most recent outbreak of violence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, breaking an unofficial truce between the governing Hamas and Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Canada


Ottawa Moves to Save Canadian From Execution

The Harper government has ramped up direct political contacts with Saudi Arabia in an effort to save the life of a Canadian sentenced to death, even as the condemned man’s younger brother appears one step closer to a similar fate.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to The Globe and Mail that parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai met with senior Saudi officials — including the Minister of Justice — during a trip to Saudi Arabia from Dec. 20 to 23 to discuss the case of Mohamed Kohail, 23, and his 17-year-old brother Sultan.

The Kohails are accused of murder in the case of Munzer al-Haraki, a 19-year-old Syrian student who was killed in a schoolyard brawl in Jeddah nearly two years ago.

Mohamed Kohail has been sentenced to beheading, and has lost an appeal to have his conviction overturned. His sentence has been sent to the Supreme Judicial Council and the King for final approval.

Earlier this week, prosecutors moved to have Sultan Kohail’s case heard by the same panel of judges who sentenced his brother to death.

Despite expressing “concerns” over the case for some time, Ottawa has so far been unable to secure clemency for the two accused. Mr. Obhrai’s trip is the latest in Canada’s efforts.

Mr. Obhrai met with the Kohail family and “assured them that Canada will continue to pursue all avenues to assist Mohammed and Sultan,” DFAIT spokeswoman Lisa Monette said, adding that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon also raised the case in a phone call with his Saudi counterpart earlier this month, and that the embassy in Riyadh sent a diplomatic note to Saudi authorities.

“Our ambassador in Saudi Arabia is fully engaged, as are senior DFAIT officials in Ottawa. Consular officials have been actively providing assistance and support and remain in regular contact with the Kohail family and their legal counsel,” Ms. Monette said.

But it is unclear whether any of these efforts have achieved any result. Previously, the Kohail family had rejected calls from the victim’s family for the two brothers to admit their guilt, saying Mohamed and Sultan are not responsible for the death — the victim’s family has angrily denounced Canadian interference in the case and has said they will not entertain any possibility of forgiveness until the two accused admit their guilt.

However, this week the Kohails told The Globe and Mail they are willing to consider any of the al-Harakis’ demands, including the payment of blood money, and even a public apology.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who has worked closely with the Kohail family on the case, said time is running out for Ottawa to make progress on the file. “[Mohamed] Kohail was not afforded basic legal rights at his initial trial. In fact, even the appeal court recommended that the trial court hear from Mohamed’s witnesses and for it to view the case as self-defence, not murder,” Mr. McTeague said in a statement last week. “However, the trial court refused to do so and the appeal court gave up and upheld the verdict and passed the case on to the Supreme Judicial Council.

“The Council is not likely to review the case and merely support the death sentence within the next 30 days.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Citizenship Applicants Must Pass Exam in Icelandic

As of January 1, 2009, applicants for the Icelandic citizenship must have passed an examination in the Icelandic language in order for their applications to be considered, according to new regulations established by the Ministry of Justice.

The Course Assessment Institute (Námsmatsstofnun) or a comparable institute will be responsible for preparing and executing the examinations which will take place at least twice a year, mbl.is reports.

The old Icelandic citizenship regulations will still apply to everyone who submit their application forms and the appropriate supporting documents to the Ministry of Justice by January 1, 2009, and they will not have to pass an examination in the Icelandic language.

According to the new regulations, all applicants must undergo an examination recognized by the Ministry of Justice, regardless of whether they have studied Icelandic and passed similar tests on earlier occasions.

The purpose with the new ministry-approved examination is to prove that applicants for the Icelandic citizenship have sufficient language skills to manage daily life in Iceland, be able to engage in basic conversations and follow the main news events.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Cleaning, Sales Popular Jobs for Immigrants

A public transport driver is the third most common profession for immigrants, according to the statistics agency’s fresh report on data collected in 2006. Other common jobs for foreigners include working in the construction or restaurant industries.

In 2006, some 59,000 foreigners were employed in Finland and immigrants made up about 2.5 percent of the workforce.

A Growing Population

Statistics Finland also reports that Finland’s population is growing rapidly, thanks largely to immigration.

Currently some 5,325,600 people reside in Finland. The agency predicts the population will have grown by 0.5 percent, or by 25,100 people, in 2008. That’s the biggest rise in 16 years.

The increase is largely explained by a rise in immigration. Some 28,100 people moved to Finland in 2008. That’s the largest number of immigrants to Finland since the country gained independence in 1917. The record was last broken in 2007 when 26,700 people moved to Finland. After subtracting the number of people who moved away, Finland witnessed an overall gain of 14,500 new residents who moved here.

Furthermore around 59,500 children were born in 2008. That is the highest number of newborns in 12 years, and 800 more than in 2007. Meanwhile around 48,900 people died in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Going Down the EU Tube: Brussels Videos Shunned

The European Union’s answer to YouTube, the internet video sharing phenomenon, has backfired, with audiences shunning many of the clips intended to promote pet subjects in Brussels.

Eighteen months on from the creation of EU Tube many of the videos posted on the website have attracted only a few dozen viewers.

An EU Tube video entitled Controlling the Use of Chemicals in Europe has been watched 56 times. Another film, Better Rights for Temporary Workers, has attracted 70.

EU Tube’s attempts to adopt street language have also misfired, with ventures such as a three-minute “euro-rap”, which urges young viewers “you gotta be a part of” a united Europe.

“Get on our team, you know what I mean,” the rapper sings, surrounded by teenagers brandishing the EU flag. “It’s the return of the blue. See I’m going to move across from Germany to Paris, oui. We get united and take a stand in solidarity. I speak in all ‘hoods.”

One visitor, Opaz, writes: “It’s like Nazi Hitler Youth propaganda with aggressive music. Be a part of what? The destruction of our nations, homelands and security so that the rich can own and control us. Overlords of EU go to hell!”

EU Tube also displays a bizarre 30-second animation featuring an amorous chess piece and a condom to illustrate safe sex. “Chess love — safe sex is a game for two,” the video concludes.

The channel was perhaps seeking to emulate the success of one of its most popular videos: a three-minute series of clips of people having sex, ending with the words “Let’s come together”. The video, intended to promote the Brussels film subsidy, received more than 7.1m hits.

EU Tube is funded out of a €207m (£196m) communication budget from Brussels. So far the channel has attracted 7,391 subscribers. The community has a population of 500m.

The website is one of dozens of examples of EU marketing documented in a 160-page dossier compiled by Open Europe, the eurosceptic think tank.

The report claims the EU is spending €2.4 billion a year on lobbying, press officers, advertising and other types of “propaganda” including scholarships. It also says the EU sends out more than 1m promotional brochures, balloons and pens each year.

Other schemes funded by the taxpayer included:

— An event for young people on the Isle of Wight, justified on the grounds that students there might have below-average contact with their European peers: “This can make them seem insular and antiEuropean.”

— A film featuring young people waving EU flags to the tune of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in support of the Young European Federalists.

— Funding of €7m to enhance public awareness of the common agricultural policy.

Lorraine Mullally, director of Open Europe, said: “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for vain PR exercises to make us love the European Union.”

A spokesman for the European commission in London said: “This is not propaganda, we are simply providing information.” He added that the commission “did not recognise” the €2.4 billion figure.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Lisbon Treaty Critics to Present Its Consequences in Czech Senate

Prague — Foreign critics of the Lisbon treaty plan to present what they believe would be the treaty adoption’s consequences at a seminar in the Czech Senate in mid-January, before the Czech parliament takes vote on the document.

Their visit to the Czech Republic is meant as a counterweight to the December mission of MEPs to Prague.

The seminar is to focus on the position of democracy in the EU before and after a possible ratification of the Lisbon treaty, and also on the legitimacy of the treaty’s ratification in view of the Irish referendum’s “no” to the treaty this June.

According to www.euserver.cz, participants in the seminar also want to discuss the book “Lisbon treaty and the EU: even less democracy in the EU,” completed by experts from the German non-profit organisation Mehr Demokratie.

The seminar is to be attended by Mehr Demokratie executive director Roman Huber, British deputy and former minister David Heathcoat-Amory and former MEPs Patricia McKenna, from Ireland, and Jens-Peter Bonde, from Denmark.

The seminar will be held under the aegis of Miroslav Skaloud, deputy head of the Czech Civic Democrat (ODS) group of senators and Jaroslav Kubera (ODS), head of the Czech Senate constitutional and legal committee.

It is known that part of the Czech senior ruling ODS are Eurosceptics opposed to the Lisbon treaty.

Kubera is among those who openly say they will not support the treaty in the upper house’s vote. He says the treaty weakens small countries’ position in the EU.

The Senate and the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, might each take vote on the treaty in February.

If approved, the treaty would go to President Vaclav Klaus, its staunch critic, for signing.

The Czech Republic, which will take up the six-month rotating EU presidency on January 1, 2009, is the only of the 27 EU states not to have taken a position on the Lisbon treaty as yet.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Migration Board Pays Off Pro-Israel Employee

Sweden’s Migration Board has elected to pay over a million kronor in compensation to a demoted employee who maintained a pro-Israeli blog instead of following a court order to reinstate him.

A ruling handed down by the district court in Mölndal in western Sweden on November 11th found in favour of 51-year-old employee Lennart Eriksson. The court ruled that the demotion was tantamount to having Eriksson fired without cause, and therefore violated Swedish employment law.

Eriksson said at the time that he was looking forward to getting back to work.

But in a reply to Ericsson’s lawyers dated December 19th the Migration Board has stated that it does not intend to follow the court order and will instead pay 1,203,200 kronor ($155,000) in compensation to Ericsson — the equivalent of 32 months salary. The board writes that the sum is in accordance with Swedish employment law.

“With this payment all dealings between the Migration Board and Eriksson will be settled. The Migration Board rejects all other demands made to date or in the future.”

The sum will be paid to Eriksson on January 12th 2009.

Lennart Eriksson has responded on his blog by arguing that he is not interested in the board’s “Judas money” and instead wants the board to follow the court ruling and reinstate him.

“I want the Migration Board to be a democratic authority. An authority where the ‘justice-seeking general public’ can expect fair and just treatment.”

The case dates back to February when Eriksson decided to sue his employer when he returned from a year’s sabbatical to find that he had been demoted from his job as the head of an asylum assessment unit, a position he had held for six years.

Ericsson was from the outset suspicious of the grounds on which the Migration Board had justified the move, believing that it had to do with a new supervisor’s disapproval of a pro-Israeli blog Eriksson maintains in his spare time.

“I want to defend freedom and democracy. I try to be humble and just. Therefore I must — as every good democrat must — defend Israel,” Eriksson wrote on his blog Sapere aude!

The case sparked more controversy when Migration Board lawyer Staffan Opitz criticized Eriksson during the trial for writing in his blog that Hamas-founder Ahmed Yassin was a terrorist, rather than a “Palestinian freedom fighter”, despite the fact that the Swedish government considered Hamas a terrorist organization.

“It’s quite remarkable, and that probably gets to the heart of matter. If the Migration Board has managers that believe that, I can understand that they don’t like me,” Eriksson said.

The court left aside the question of whether the move to demote him constituted a violation of his freedom of speech, addressing only whether the board was right to do so according to employment law.

The Local tried without success to contact the Migration Board for a comment on the compensation payment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Dramatic Rise in Reports of Child Abuse

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Anyone actually seen data on the breakdown of this report — regions, cities, etc?]

The number of cases of child abuse reported to the police has increased dramatically over the past year, new statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) show.

1,738 cases of the abuse of children under six-years-of-age were reported to the police between January to November 2008, a 24 percent increase on the corresponding period of last year, according to a report in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

According to Felipe Estrada at Brå the figures do not however indicate that child abuse is on the rise in Sweden but do indicate that there is greater transparency.

“More cases are reported today than previously.”

Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital in Solna, outside of Stockholm, is working to develop concrete guidelines to help staff and ensure that more cases of child abuse are detected.

Around 150 children per day are admitted to the accident and emergency ward at the hospital and suspicions of child abuse are an everyday occurrence.

“This is often very complicated. The children are too small to tell and their parents don’t tell the truth,” said Anna-Carin Magnussen of the Mio group which works with the issue at the hospital to Dagens Nyheter.

Björn Tingberg at the hospital would like to see a more active approach.

“Staff traditionally trust the parents description of what has happened. They are the voice of their children and make it very hard to discover cases of abuse. There is also a significant fear, we are incredibly reticent and report all too seldom.”

The Mio group is currently working with an information project entitled “shaken baby” — a syndrome which has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years.

Tingberg observes such abuse is often a case of ignorance or frustration among parents who don’t realise how little is needed to seriously injure their baby.

Despite the increase in reports of child abuse, death remains a very rare occurrence in Sweden, with seven cases per year, and is almost never connected to a history of abuse.

“It is often in cases where parents commit suicide and at the same time take their children with them, there is often a conflict between the parents or a mental illness,” according to the criminologist Mikael Rying.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Police in Firing Line as Turbulence Continues

Swedish police experienced the latest in a series of busy nights on Sunday as gangs of youths created disturbances in the suburbs of Stockholm and Malmö.

A 19-year-old man has been detained in Stockholm after a police officer was injured while police conducted a search on a group of young people in the Vårby Gård suburb. The exact cause or extent of the officer’s injuries is not yet known.

The group was searched after an evening spent setting off fireworks and throwing car tyres onto subway tracks in the locality.

“Traffic had to be stopped occasionally,” said police spokesman Anders Lantz, who added that the weekend had been marked by disturbances in the Vårby, Alby, Fittja and Norsborg suburbs. Police said they planned to increase their presence in the area on Monday evening.

The Malmö suburb of Oxie has also experience turbulence in recent nights, with gangs of youths throwing stones and aiming fireworks at windows and balconies. A police vehicle also had its front window broken

“It continued on Sunday night. When we were out there on a case someone threw a rock at the windscreen and smashed it,” police spokesman Pete Martin told Skånska Dagbladet.

Malmö police said the trouble was sparked by a group of around forty young people.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Burkini and Finance Crunch Add to Swedish Vocabulary

[Comment from Tuan Jim: picture included at link]

The global finance collapse in the autumn and swimwear for Muslim women are among the phenomena of 2008 that have thrown up a slew of new words proposed for inclusion in the vocabulary of the Swedish language.

The Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet) has reported that it has received almost 2,000 proposals for its list of new words.

The new words being considered for 2008 include the burkini — a bathing suit with long arms and legs; klimatism — which describes a fear of climate change that has reached fanatical, religious proportions, and blåstråle — a literal Swedish translation of the English blu-ray.

The council receives proposals from a range of sources. Many of its words come from staff commissioned to scour the newspapers and identify new words developed by journalists to describe new phenomena.

One of the major influential events of the year has been the financial turbulence that intensified in the beginning of the autumn.

In English, recent economic developments have been afforded various epithets such as “financial crunch”, “financial collapse” and “financial meltdown” and so likewise in the Swedish language with finanssmälta — describing a total breakdown of the economy, becoming en vogue as 2008 comes to a close.

The council also receives a wealth of suggestions from members of the general public who send in their proposals for new words and phrases.

Some of these in 2008 include Al Gore-vår — to describe the early springs experienced in Sweden in recent years; Frugalista — someone who buys their clothes at second hand and charity shops, and hemester — a translation of the English staycation, describing a holiday spent at home.

The Language Council of Sweden is the “official language cultivation body of Sweden” and has been commissioned by parliament to care for and develop the Swedish language.

Aside from compiling lists of new Swedish words and phrases the council publishes handbooks, gives lectures and offers linguistic guidance within the Swedish language and the other languages spoken in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: More Unrest in Malmö Suburb

A number of disturbances broke out in a suburb of Malmö on Monday night. Four youths were arrested as police battled to impose order.

The unrest began in Oxie, a suburb south-west of central Malmö, when a skip began burning soon after 7.30pm on Monday evening. Police confirmed that security guards and passers-by were shot at with fireworks and several more fires were started.

The Christmas tree on the main square in Oxie was one of the targets and local resident Bo Persson expressed concern over recent developments.

“It has been awful lately. They should really ban fireworks. It is just a small number that are behind this carry on and ruin it for us all,” he said to local newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Ten police units were sent to the area during the evening and by 11pm four young men had been arrested for public order offences.

Trouble first flared up in Oxie on December 8th. Since then police and emergency services have been sent to the area on a round 20 occasions.

On Sunday a police car had its windows broken, and there have been several reports of arson and fireworks being shot towards balconies and people.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Demo in Stockholm Over Gaza Bombings

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the Swedish capital on Monday to protest against Israeli air attacks on the Gaza Strip, setting an Israeli flag alight and chanting “Israel, murderer.”

Organizers said some 1,000 people turned out while police said around 500 had gathered in Sergels Torg, one of Stockholm’s main squares, before marching to the Israeli embassy.

The demonstrators, mainly Muslim immigrants to Sweden, waved banners and shouted “Close the embassy,” “Gaza solidarity,” and “Israel, murderer,” and set fire to an Israeli flag painted with a swastika.

“Enough blood! We’ve seen enough,” Omar Mustafa, an organizer with the Swedish Islamic Association, told AFP. [Comment from Tuan Jim: see also photo for demo]

“We don’t see any reaction from the rest of the world while there is a massacre going on,” he added.

The demonstration, which began at 1:30 pm (1230 GMT) wrapped up peacefully after a few hours.

Other protest marches were planned later on Monday in Gothenburg, as well as in several towns and cities in neighbouring Norway and Finland.

Israel on Monday bombed Gaza for a third day in an “all-out war” on Hamas, as tanks massed on the border and the Islamists fired deadly rockets in retaliation for the air raid attacks that have killed at least 318 people.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Switzerland Says Could Have Been ‘More Sensitive’ in Kadhafi Case

GENEVA (AFP) — Switzerland’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday said authorities acted within international law in the arrest of Moamer Kadhafi’s son, but admitted that police could have acted in a “more sensitive” manner.

Geneva local police “should have applied international practises in a more nuanced and sensitive manner,” a spokeswoman from the Foreign Ministry told Swiss newswire ATS.

Hannibal Kadhafi and his wife were arrested after two of their domestic staff claimed they had abused them. Hannibal Kadhafi was eventually released and the complaint was dropped.

Bern’s spokeswoman stressed that authorities did not flout international law in the handling of the case.

“The Swiss and Geneva authorities applied the dispositions of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic relations that were in conformity with international practises, she said.

The case strained relations between Tripoli and Bern, with Libya cancelling deliveries of oil in October, withdrawing an estimated seven billion dollars ( billion euros) from Swiss banks, and stopping all areas of cooperation between the two countries.

Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs on Thursday also said Tripoli wants not only an apology from Swiss authorities but also the punishment of those who arrested Kadhafi.

“The Swiss authorities in the first days following the arrest already said they are ready to apologise,” said Abdulati Ibrahim al-Obidi.

“But what we want first is that justice is done and that the people responsible are punished,” Obidi told a news conference in Tripoli.

In a statement distributed at the press conference, the Libyan authorities demanded that the Swiss government recognise that “the treatment meted out to the Libyan diplomat (Hannibal) and his family was unjustified” and against the laws of Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Army of ‘Vigilante Villagers’ to Dish Out On-the-Spot Fines for Litter Louts

Villages are being encouraged to use unpaid volunteers to patrol the streets and hand out on-the-spot fines to litterbugs.

The uniformed litter police would be able to punish anyone who throws away so much as a sweet wrapper or a cigarette end with an £80 fine.

After a day’s training to teach them how to collect evidence to be used in court, they would have the right to demand that those they identify as offenders hand over their names and addresses.

Athough they will not have the power to arrest those who fail to do so, anyone who declines to pay faces prosecution in a magistrates’ court.

But critics have voiced fears the scheme will provoke angry confrontations and lead to the spread of ‘village vigilantes’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Calls for Automatic Car Speed Limiters

Fitting speed-limiting devices in cars could prevent up to 29 per cent of injuries from road accidents, a report by a Government advisory body said today.

The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) said there would be real benefits in the voluntary introduction of intelligent speed adaptation (ISA).

This is a driver-assistance system that brings local speed-limit information into the vehicle via satellite positioning technology and reduces its speed if necessary.

But the devices have been slammed by charity Safe Speed because they lull drivers into a “zombie mode”.

Claire Armstrong said truck drivers using speed-limited devices had been shown to stop paying attention to the road and “go into fatigue mode or zombie mode.”

She told the BBC: “That makes it highly dangerous in those scenarios. So you’ve taken the responsibility away from the driver and that is not good for road safety.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Foreign Office Warns Holidaymakers Against Extramarital Sex in Muslim Countries

Holidaymakers to the United Arab Emirates have been told not to have sex outside marriage or kiss in public in strong government warnings over how to behave in Muslim countries.

The advice, which goes further than the traditional admonition for women to dress modestly, follows allegations of drunken sex romps. The Foreign Office is worried that increasing numbers of tourists will get into trouble abroad as they the travel to less traditional holiday destinations and fall foul of local laws and customs.

The number of Britons going to Egypt this year increased by 38% and to Turkey by 32% and similar rises are expected in 2009 as more Britons look outside the eurozone to make their holiday money go further. Warnings about modesty are also given to those planning to visit the Kenya coast and rural areas of Malaysia .

Travellers to several countries are warned about their strong anti-drug laws as well as no-tolerance attitudes towards excessive drinking. The government says embassies regularly deal with Britons who have failed to take enough money, telling holidaymakers to ensure they have back-up emergency funds and sufficient insurance.

The Foreign Office already supports 75,000 Britons in difficulties abroad each year, from visiting those in hospital or arrested to rescuing them from forced marriage, in addition to dealing with 3 million consular inquiries. Julian Braithwaite, director of consular services, said: “ If people don’t research their destinations before they go , it could do more than spoil their holiday. What’s normal in reports in Spain or Greece are not necessarily acceptable in Turkey or Egypt.”

The warning come in the 2009 Travel Trends Report, written with travel association Abta, which tries to be positive about holidays next year. “Many experts believe travel lags about six months behind the rest of the economy. Holidays are one of the last things consumers will cut when it comes to discretionary spend but no one in the travel industry is under any illusion that 2009 is going to be anything other than challenging.”

The report, an addition to the Foreign Office’s Know Before You Go campaign, carries results of a poll 0f more than 2,100 adults commissioned from YouGov, which suggests about one in five fears they or their partner will lose their jobs before their next holiday and a similar proportion feel going abroad is a luxury they might not be able to afford next year. Nearly one in eight are not planning a holiday at all, and one in nine will only holiday in the UK. More than half all those questioned in November thought the pound was going to get even weaker — a belief that has already been confirmed.

Although European favourites such as France and Spain will continue to be most popular with tourists even in a recession and with the strong euro, Mexico, Croatia, Israel, the Caribbean , Australia and Poland are expected to be other holiday hotspots. Iceland is seen as increasingly attractive following its own financial crisis. with a beer now the equivalent of about £2.50 instead of £7 and the cost of a meal out tumbling to a third of what it was.

The report is upbeat about the US remaining popular, with a combination of the Obama Effect and the US’s own dire economic straits could mean it remains a significant destination. The plummeting pound is bound to have “a slight impact” on demand, it concedes , but adds that the last time there had been a two-dollar exchange rate was 1981, and that prices and the cost of living in the US is beginning to fall too An Obama boom may also help Kenya’s tourist numbers, because of the next US president’s family connections.

Around 50,000 couples are thought to have got married abroad this year, and the exotic locations, warmer climate and economy (nuptials abroad cost an average £6,000 instead of the £15-20,000 in Britain), are likely to see this figure rise. Another rising trend will be “posh camping” in teepees or semi-permanent structures with built-in bathrooms.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Gym Teacher Fired … for Wearing Sneakers

‘I have suddenly been sacked for something I have always worn’

A PE teacher who has worn a tracksuit and trainers to school for 30 years has been sacked after the acting headteacher decided he was flouting the dress code.

Adrian Swain, 56, was dismissed a week before Christmas because he refused to follow a ban on trainers.

The school’s local education authority has backed the sacking — claiming teachers ‘should not wear clothing children are not allowed to wear themselves’.

Now fellow teachers at the comprehensive where Mr Swain has taught for 17 years are threatening to strike if he is not reinstated.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Husband Died Because of Six Hour Delay in [Emergency]

Stewart Fleming, 37, arrived at his local hospital with his wife Sarah clutching an urgent note from his doctor saying he must be treated immediately.

But instead of being sent to the head of the queue, Mr Fleming had to sit and wait in agony as a virus ravaged his body, causing his organs to fail.

In a radio interview, Mrs Fleming said her husband should have been treated sooner.

She said: ‘Why wait three hours for a triage when a doctor had already done it and put it in writing what was going on?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Ministry Blames Crowded Jails on Labour

Britain’s soaring prison population is being driven by government policies rather than crime levels, according to an internal Whitehall briefing document seen by the Observer

The paper, a presentation to ministers and civil servants drawn up by the Ministry of Justice, explains in detail how new measures introduced by Labour have driven the prison population to record levels.

The admission is likely to embarrass the government as it suggests the prisons crisis — which has forced the prison service to use court and police cells to house offenders — is largely one of ministers’ own making.

The paper acknowledges that successes in curbing reoffending rates, which have taken some pressure off prisons, have been all but wiped out by changes to the justice system. And it suggests further problems lie ahead with Britain’s prisons running out of cells, possibly as early as the new year.

Britain’s prison population stands at more than 83,000, just off its record high and close to full capacity. According to a graph in the briefing, the worst-case scenario could see it touch 86,000 early next year, suggesting there will not be enough room even if Operation Safeguard, the use of police cells, is reintroduced. The paper warns: “Capacity is likely to remain tight over the next 12 months and there is a possibility that Safeguard will be required again.”

The paper states: “Prison population increases are driven by changes to the criminal justice system more than changes in offender behaviour.” It acknowledges that this is the result of more and longer custodial sentences being handed down, more offences involving violence and drugs, and a greater use of recall to prison for prisoners who breach stringent rules governing their early release.

The admission that more people are being jailed at a time when crime is falling is likely to focus attention on the government’s overhaul of the justice system over the past decade.

During the last 10 years the government has introduced 55 criminal justice bills, creating over 3,000 new criminal offences — which experts say have fuelled the increased use of custody — and eliminated its successes in reducing reoffending.

“This document makes it absolutely clear that the government’s obsession with criminal justice bills, and the creation of more and more offences, is the prime cause of the rises in the prison population,” said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation officers’ union. “At the same time, this has been coupled with more severe sentencing. The situation is so grave that significant reductions in reoffending, achieved by staff working in probation and prisons, have been negated by the changes to the criminal justice system.”

Alleviating the crisis will be difficult, as the paper makes clear criminal behaviour is closely associated with entrenched socio-economic factors. It says that “82% of offenders … are at or below the writing level expected of an 11-year-old”. And, it adds, “around two-thirds of prisoners who do have a job” lose it while in custody.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: New Quota: 1 Woman Per Fire Engine

Politically correct rule blasted as potential threat to safety

The Local Government Association (LGA) has said that at at least 15 per cent of those in operational roles should be female.

That means they will fill one of the five or six places for crew on each engine.

The LGA said an increased number of firewomen is necessary “to meet the needs of local people”.

But critics warned that political correctness was being put above the ability to save lives.

Susie Squire, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Introducing this sort of quota to the fire service is a big mistake.

“If ever there was a job that should be awarded on merit and physical fitness, it is that of a firefighter.

“This quota system will not only cost taxpayers money by introducing additional and unnecessary administration, but could risk the safety of all of us in the long run.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt: Crackdown on Violent Police

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 29 — The firing of 1,164 policemen accused of violence against citizens and compulsory retirement for 280 others has been ordered by Egyptian Interior Minister Habib El Adley, as reported by the daily paper Al Ahram. General Hamed Rashed, ministerial assistant for judicial affairs, gave news of the decision to members of the Committee for Human Rights of the People’s Assembly (the Chamber). “The minister does not allow any laxity,” said Rashed, “for policemen who commit violations to the harm of citizens.” Another ministerial assistant, General Ahmed Shaker, reported that periodic inspections are carried out in police stations: on 24 December, 124 underwent inspection and no violation of any type was found. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt in Quandary as Gaza Raids Divide the Muslim World

Israel’s ongoing bombing of the Gaza Strip has put Egypt in a delicate position. The government in Cairo has no interest in antagonizing Israel, but pressure is growing to allow Palestinians into the country. The attacks have split the Muslim world.

The demonstrators in front of Cairo’s Al Azhar University, one of Sunni Islam’s most esteemed institutes of learning, were screaming, the anger clearly etched on their faces. “Open the borders to Gaza! Break off relations with Israel!” they yelled on Monday. There were about 500 of them, mostly young, but some older ones as well wearing the full beards of devout Muslims. They faced off against police armed with batons and riot shields…

….The outrage has been fueled by the Arab and Iranian media. Some even reported that Mubarak was personally informed of the impending Gaza offensive by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and neglected to pass the information along to the Palestinians.

The accusation is one that seems out of place. Last week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned the Palestinians in a press conference “not to do anything that the enemies of peace … could exploit, such as the firing of rockets, which (gives) the Israeli side an excuse for aggressive actions against the Palestinian people.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Cynthia McKinney Aboard Boat Headed for Gaza, Intercepted by Israeli Naval Force

[Comment from Tuan Jim: For some reason I thought she was still a congresswoman and that this would be good grounds for impeachment and a treason trial — now it looks like the impeachment is out, but maybe we can still work in a treason charge.]

Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, unimpeded by the “closed military zone” imposed by Israel, was among 16 people aboard a medical supply boat that collided with an Israeli naval ship Tuesday as it tried to enter coastal waters around Gaza.

The yacht, owned by the U.S.-based Free Gaza Movement, was reportedly carrying 3.5 tons of medical supplies donated by Cyprus. A press release from the group claimed “several Israeli gunboats intercepted the Dignity she was heading on a mission of mercy to Gaza.” They said the Israeli military fired machine guns into the water in an attempt to stop the Dignity’s progress.

The boat, registered under the flag of Gibraltar and with an English captain, reportedly took on water and experienced engine problems, according to the group’s Web site. It also said the incident occurred 90 miles offshore in international water. The boat’s captain was given permission to dock in Lebanon, where it was regrouping to try again.

Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Reuters that an Israeli vessel and the 60-foot Free Gaza Movement boat did make “physical contact,” but only after the aid boat failed to respond to radio contact. He denied any gunfire had occurred, and he said no one was hurt in the incident. He told Reuters the Israeli ship escorted the damaged boat back to Cypriot territorial waters.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Hamas Has Precipitated This Confrontation

When Gazans contemplate the death and destruction caused by Israeli aircraft, they may conclude that their tiny, overcrowded coastal strip has been the latest victim of a Middle Eastern “perfect storm”.

Unlike corners of the globe afflicted by typhoons and hurricanes, the Middle East is blessed by good weather but plagued by recurring man-made disasters usually triggered by the lethal convergence of military and political interests.

Ever since Hamas militants seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority 18 months ago, a full-scale military confrontation with Israel had been inevitable.

Hamas is committed ideologically to the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement with an Islamic alternative over the full territory of the British Mandate of Palestine.

This by itself should not necessarily lead to violence. Syria has been in a state of war with Israel for more than 60 years but their common border has been quiet for decades. It is the actions of Hamas that have precipitated the current crisis.

With the open support of Iran and Syria, the Islamic movement has smuggled arms into the strip and pioneered the use of homemade rockets to terrorise the quarter of a million Israelis living near Gaza. The latest target of Hamas rockets was Ashdod, Israel’s second-largest commercial port, 23 miles (35km) north of the Gaza Strip.

When Hamas’s six-month ceasefire expired a few days ago, there were fears that a new cycle of attack and reprisal would begin. From the perspective of the Israeli Government the ideal moment to strike was now. George W. Bush, who has supported Israel throughout his eight years in office, is still in power for three more weeks. Better to finish this operation before Barack Obama arrives at the White House promising to take a fresh look at Middle East peacemaking.

Israel’s domestic politics are also a factor. The ruling Kadima party and its Labour ally are lagging behind the right-wing opposition Likud party in the polls ahead of elections on February 10. Launching a big military operation is risky — as the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, learnt to his cost after the disastrous Lebanon war in 2006 — but a victory of any sort in Gaza could help the coalition to revive its electoral fortunes.

The big question now is whether Israel is ready to carry out its threat to send ground forces into Gaza, 31/2 years after they were withdrawn by Ariel Sharon, then Prime Minister. Back then it had been hoped by some that Gaza could become the model of a Palestinian state. Some even dreamt of turning the long, thin strip of sandy terrain into a Mediterranean Hong Kong.

Unfortunately for Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants the dreams never materialised. Gaza today is a giant prison, where law is administered by Hamas militants or the armed gangs that rule the teeming refugee camps, where the local population depends on United Nations handouts to survive.

Gazans are known for their strength of character in the face of appalling living conditions and the daily threat of violence. They must now fear that they will be tested to the limit in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Hamas’ Strategy of Escalation

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip entered its third day on Monday with over 300 Palestinians now dead. The Arab world is up in arms, and with Palestinians as fragmented as ever, the dream of an independent country seems no closer today than it did decades ago…

…An Indonesian militant group told Reuters on Monday that it planned to recruit up to 1,000 volunteers to fight in the Gaza Strip. “Fighters should be in good physical condition, have a strong faith and be ready to die,” said Ahmad Soebri Lubis, head of the Islamic Defenders’ Front…

…For weeks, the threats voiced by Israel had been clear and unmistakeable. Only last Wednesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a stark warning to the Palestinians in an interview with an Arab TV channel: “Stop it” — or Israel would respond with violence to the rocket launchers and their backers, was his message.

Hamas’ Need for Violence

That, though, is exactly what Hamas seems to have been banking on. For Hamas, the gruesome television pictures that were beamed around the world following the Israeli air raids appear to have been part of the plan. They appear to have deliberately factored in the suffering of innocent victims when they refused to prolong their cease-fire with Israel. Ultimately, Hamas hopes the current escalation of violence will make the West take it seriously as a negotiating partner.

Otherwise it wouldn’t have provoked Israel and its mighty army. The Hamas leadership accepted the possibility that Palestinian civilians would be hurt in the Israeli counter-attack. The Hamas infrastructure is deliberately located in city districts where civilians live.

It seems unlikely that Hamas will ultimately be successful. The Palestinians are simply too divided to provide a unified response to Israel — too split for a third Intifada. On a political level, that became abundantly clear on Sunday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah Party has the upper hand in the West Bank, condemned the attacks, but seemed to partially blame Hamas for the ongoing bloodbath in the Gaza Strip.

“We talked to them (Hamas) and we told them ‘please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop’ so that we could have avoided what happened,” Abbas said on Sunday in Cairo, where he had traveled for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Even among the moderate Palestinians living in Israel, the comment did not play well. “Imagine: hundreds of his fellow Palestinians have been killed and he uses the opportunity to blame the opposing party,” Abu Shadeh said in Jaffa. “I really don’t know what to expect anymore.”

Shadeh’s confusion is understandable. The entire Arab world is united in its condemnation of Israel. Many in Europe have likewise criticized the Israelis for overreacting and using disproportionate violence. But among the Palestinians themselves, the situation could hardly be more complicated. They are scattered across the Middle East — from Beirut to Cairo — and their politics fall across the political spectrum. Some are ready to fight and die to achieve their goal of a Middle East free of Israelis. Others seek to make peace with their Jewish neighbors. And the two dominant Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, are united only in their hate for one another.

Israel, in its regional dominance, has made it even more difficult for the Palestinians to work together, meaning the dream of an independent country seems no closer today than it did decades ago. The Palestinians quite simply have little political leverage because they have no political unity.

In Jaffa on Sunday, Arab-Israelis seemed intent on keeping a low profile. A restaurant owner there was one of many who was unwilling to comment on the ongoing violence. He ran his finger across his mouth, as if closing a zipper. “We make kebabs here,” he said. “We don’t do politics.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Incoming European Union President: Israel is Right

(IsraelNN.com) The Czech Republic, which takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency this week, takes Israel’s side in the conflict with Hamas.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who will become the EU’s president for the coming six months, told the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily newspaper that Hamas had excluded itself from serious political debate due to its rocket attacks on Israel.

Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? … I enjoy the luxury of telling the truth.

He also indirectly blamed the terrorist group for its own growing death toll by placing its military bases and gun warehouses in densely populated areas.

“Let us realize one thing,” Schwarzenberg said. “Hamas steeply increased the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more.”

He further said, “Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? … I enjoy the luxury of telling the truth.”

Schwarzenberg has said that he will work for closer relations between the EU and Israel.

EU Calls for End to Violence

The EU itself has called for a bilateral end to the violence that has killed almost 350 Gazans — practically all of them terrorists — and four Israeli citizens. France, the EU’s outgoing leader, condemned both Israel and Hamas, saying that Israel has displayed a “disproportionate use of force.”…

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Israeli Patrol Boat Rams Aid Ship

AN Israeli patrol vessel rammed a boat of Palestinian activists carrying a shipment of medical aid that tried to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israeli military radio said today.

The “Dignity” was ordered to turn around, and warning shots were fired across its bow, but the 20-metre vessel nevertheless tried to navigate around the patrol boat which blocked its passage, the radio station reported. No one was injured in the collision, but both vessels suffered damage. […]

Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said the offensive’s goal “is to topple Hamas.”

Barak said if militant rocket attacks did not stop, “Israel will have recourse to every means and all legal actions at its disposal to see to it that the enemy halts its illegal aggression.”

The army decreed the border area a closed military zone — a move that in the past has been followed by ground operations. “After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game,” said armed forces deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Dan Harel.

“We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings,” Harel said. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Israeli Communist Party Goes to Support Hamas, PLO Factions in Gaza

In quite a typical fashion of Israel’s own Fifth Column being led by members of the Israeli Communist Party, Israeli Communist leaders have openly come out to condemn the Israeli government’s response toward Hamas. Many members of this Communist party were involved in helping organizing members of the Free Gaza movement which has been shipping “aid” to the Gazan Palestinians. In reality, it’s all just a ruse for PR, and possibly secret arms for Hamas:

Israeli Communists condemn attacks on Gaza, call for ‘another direction’ toward peace

The Communist Party of Israel and Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) condemned the deadly Dec. 27 attack by the Israeli Air Force on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the killing of over 200 Palestinians.

In a statement issued the day of the massive airstrikes, the CPI called on communist and workers parties and social movements throughout the world to mobilize against what it termed “these Israeli war crimes” and called on the international community to “implement sanctions against Israel and indict Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and other Israeli political and military leadership for these blatant war crimes, committed as part of Israel’s election process.”

The CPI said the attack on Gaza is part of the Israeli government’s ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip. “Israel is exploiting the last moments of the Bush administration to implement the deadly but ineffective imperialist policy of utilizing military force to effect political change,” the statement said.

It noted that demonstrations against the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip were planned for Israel’s major cities, with demonstrations to be held that night in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Nazareth. The day before, hundreds of demonstrators attended a rally in central Tel Aviv to protest the expected Israeli military operation in response to Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza. The rally was organized by the Coalition against the Gaza Siege and Hadash.

“I suggest that we go the other direction,” said Hadash Knesset Member Dov Khenin, a leading member of the Communist Party of Israel. Israel’s power, he said, “is our tragedy. One powerful blow will not bring the end. [Hamas] will respond with rockets and eventually we’ll embark on an all-out war. Going in the other direction means reinforcing the lull, securing a ceasefire, and lifting the siege that only serves to unite the population around Hamas.”

A genuine peace process has to engage the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, he said. “What’s tragic here is that it’s possible. We just need the desire.”

Khenin added that it is “essential to secure a prisoner swap that would include Gilad Shalit.” When asked why few Israelis object to the war in Gaza, he responded: “People lost their hope. They realize that what’s happening is bad, yet they think there’s no other option. Yet we are not destined to be the victim of history.”

Another rally participant, former Knesset Member Tamar Gozansky, also a leading member of the CPI, said, “Two years ago we protested at the same site, before the Second Lebanon War. We were ostracized and referred to as traitors. Yet several months later, all the people who made fun of us carried their own signs to Rabin Square and protested against Olmert’s policy. I really hope that we won’t have yet another reason to say: ‘We told you so.’“

In an earlier statement, Khenin said, “A comprehensive war in Gaza is dangerous and unnecessary and will put the lives of thousands of Gazans and western Negev residents at risk.”

“War is not the solution” to the problem of the Kassam rockets fired into Israel by Hamas, he continued. “There is another way: a real truce agreement. Not just a ceasefire, but also ending the Gaza blockade and easing the extreme suffering of a million and a half people.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Merkel Blames Hamas for Gaza Violence

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed Hamas for the escalation of violence in Gaza. A Merkel aide told reporters in Berlin that Israel’s military action was taken to protect the country’s civilian population from missile attacks by Palestinian militants. The spokesman called on Hamas to stop firing Kassem rockets and mortar shells at Israeli towns and villages immediately so that Israel can end its military operation. However, the Chancellor told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during a telephone conversation on Sunday that “everything possible” must be done to avoid civilians being hurt in the operations. Earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to hostilities and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Michael Ross: Jews Are News

While there may be dark clouds hovering over the boardrooms of companies and financial houses these days, there must have been collective whoops of joy in the world’s newsrooms — and in particular those belonging to network and cable TV news — at the onset of Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza this past week.

Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and its neighbours is no longer a news story but an industry complete with a revolving conveyor belt overloaded with ambitious career-minded journalists, dubious Middle East “experts”, clueless peace activists, and patronizing diplomats and envoys who can be counted on to talk endlessly in clichés and platitudes about “halting the cycle of violence” and “getting the peace process back on track”.

One reason that this particular conflict attracts so much unqualified attention is because it is incredibly easy to cover while at the same time providing the necessary drama and “bang-bang” (newsroom slang for combat footage) that for reasons left better explained by a sociologist, seem to increase viewer ratings and heighten overall interest. The other reason is that such is the nature of the Palestinian propaganda machine that it is all too willing to make sure that foreign journalists — and in most cases their Palestinian stringers — are granted access to scenes of death and destruction that clearly portray the Israelis as warmongering monsters and the Palestinians as simple villagers who were just minding their own business until several thousand pounds of ordinance was dropped on their coordinates. This makes covering the conflict far less risky than say, in Iraq, where a journalist regardless of his political bias and that of his sponsoring news entity, could assuredly count on having his head separated from his body in a different kind of video-taped news story. The Palestinians know all too well the impact of bang-bang on our flat-screen TV’s and understand that scenes of civilian deaths are way more effective than a score of suicide bombers. This could be one reason why Hamas operates its missile batteries from well within civilian areas and from atop civilian buildings and structures — like schools for instance…

           — Hat tip: ML [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Egypt Mocks Iran, Hezbollah on Military Record

CAIRO, Dec 30 (Reuters) — Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit mocked the military records of Iran and the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah in an escalating war of words over Egypt’s cooperation with Israel in the blockade of Gaza.

Aboul Gheit, in an interview with Egyptian television broadcast on Monday night, said Hezbollah destroyed Lebanon in 2006 and that its Katyusha rockets and rocket-propelled grenades were nothing compared to the Egyptian army.

Addressing Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, he said: “You are a man who used to enjoy respect, but you have insulted the Egyptian people.”

The Egyptian minister also attacked Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who criticised Arab governments on Monday for their lack of response to Israeli raids which have killed some 348 Palestinians in Gaza.

“It’s as if hundreds of thousands of Iranians shed their blood over the last 30 years,” he said, referring to the Egyptian view that its army bore the brunt of the suffering in wars with Israel for the sake of the Palestinians.

Egypt fought four wars with Israel between 1948 and 1973, losing tens of thousands of soldiers. In 1979, it became the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state.

“There are Iranian motives driving Arab parties to play in the interests of Iran,” the minister added.

Nasrallah, whose guerrilla forces withstood the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 2006, angered the Egyptian government with a speech on Sunday calling on Egyptians to take to the streets in protest at Egyptian policy.

Aboul Gheit replied: “Egypt is big and strong and no one outside it can move anything inside it. Egypt moves when the Egyptian people and the Egyptian leadership ask it to.”

The minister also lashed out at accusations that Egypt has obstructed the delivery of emergency aid from Arab governments to the people of Gaza through the Gaza-Egypt border.

“The allegations are many, the injustice is obvious and the plotting is clear,” he said.

But he later called for calm between Arabs. “There is much pulling and pushing in the Arab arena which requires much wisdom and calm for us to protect the (Arab) nation, which is going through extremely difficult circumstances,” he said.

He said plans for an Arab summit should wait until Arab foreign ministers have met in Cairo on Wednesday.

“Let’s concentrate on the work of the foreign ministers,” he said. “If we do not succeed in that, then we can look at other dimensions in the situation through the summit.”

           — Hat tip: no2liberals [Return to headlines]



Hezbollah: Israel May Take This Opportunity to Attack Lebanon

The head of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said Sunday that he had asked his fighters to be on alert for any possible Israeli attack on Lebanon following raids on Gaza that killed nearly 300 Palestinians.

In a televised address at a religious gathering marking the Shiite Day of Ashura south of Beirut, Nasrallah said “I have asked the brothers in the resistance in the south specifically to be present, on alert and cautious because we are facing a criminal enemy and we don’t know the magnitude of the conspiracies.”

“What is happening today is a Palestinian copy of the July war,” Nasrallah said, drawing a comparison between the Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip and the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which Hezbollah waged against Israel in southern Lebanon.

“This is exactly what happened with us. The possibilities and the same possibilities, the conspiracy is the same, the battle is the same battle, and the result, Allah willing, will be the same result,” the Hezbollah leader told the crowd.

Speaking about IDF preparations in northern Israel, at the border with Lebanon, Nasrallah said that he does not rule out the possibility that Israel fears a Hezbollah assault, “but there is another possibility,” he said, “that at this terrible timing, in the shadow of the Arab conspirators and the American political vacuum, between Bush and Obama, there is the possibility that the enemy will take advantage of the situation and attack Lebanon. They need it because of the elections, or to improve their power of deterrence. We need to be careful and not take what is happening lightly.”

The Hezbollah leader also mentioned the missiles recently discovered by the Lebanese army, which it said were aimed at Israel and had timers set for launch, saying that Israel, or someone working on Israel’s behalf, planted them. “Who put them there before a war?” he asked.

“When they found them, they said ‘people in Lebanon.’ We in the Hezbollah have the courage to take responsibility for every action and we won’t hide, like some others. Would it have been difficult for Israel to infiltrate southern Lebanon and put them there? The many Israeli agents, lone and institutional, could do this to give themselves an excuse to attack Lebanon.” […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Iran Hardliners Register Volunteers to Fight Israel

A group of Iranian hard-line clerics is signing up volunteers to fight in the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s air strikes that have killed at least 300 Palestinians, a news agency reported on Monday.

“From Monday the Combatant Clergy Society has activated its website for a week to register volunteers to fight against the Zionist regime (Israel) in either the military, financial or propaganda fields,” the semi-official Fars news agency said.

[rohaniatmobarez.com writes: “From Monday the Combatant Clergy Society has activated its Web site for a week to register volunteers to fight against the Zionist regime (Israel) in either the military, financial or propaganda fields, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

1387/10/10 TEHRAN, Iran — A group of influential conservative Iranian clerics launched an online registration drive on Monday seeking volunteers to fight against Israel in response to its air assault on the Gaza Strip. About 3,550 people registered Monday with the Combatant Clergy Societys Web site. The weeklong online campaign gives volunteers three options on ways they can fight Israel: military, financial and propaganda.”]

The hard-line Iranian group, which is headed by some leading clergy, says it has no affiliation with the government and was formed shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians in Gaza against Israeli attacks “in any way possible.”

A religious decree is an official statement by a high-ranking religious leader that commands Muslims to carry out its message. While there is no religious and legal force behind it, Khamenei is respected by many Iranian and non-Iranian Shi’ites.

Iran refuses to recognize Israel, which accuses Tehran of supplying Hamas Islamists with weapons. Iran denies the claim, saying it only provides moral support to the group. […]

Fars said the hard-line group provided volunteers with a registration document called “Registration form for dispatching volunteers to Gaza.” It said more than 1,100 people so far had registered for military service against Israel.

Khamenei said on Sunday that whoever was killed in the fight to defend Palestinians was “considered a martyr.” Iran will send its first ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Labour Market Employs 32,000 Children

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 29 — Child labour is on the rise in Jordan with latest figures putting number of minors in job market around 32,000, statistics by the government showed today. Nearly 34 percent of working children are from the capital Amman, while other congested cities like Zaqa and Irbid are home to nearly 50 percent, according to minister of social development Hala Bseiso, who based the findings on a recent nationwide survey on child situation and social system. Jordanian officials complained that lack of awareness and wide spread poverty has contributed to the large increase in number of working children, many of them are employed in dangerous jobs. ‘‘We do not have the strong regulations to tackle to child labour,’’ said the minister. According to a recent study by the Ministry of Labour, 13 percent of working children are subjected to forced labour, with over 16 percent earning an equivalent of US 15-70 a month. The majority are school dropouts aged 9-17 who work average of 60-65 hours a week. Many children are often subject to systematic sexual abuse, but this phenomenon is brushed under the carpet by the society. Labour law bans the employment of children aged less than 16 years. Those aged between 16-18 years should not work more than a six-hour day, with employers liable to a JD500 fine if caught in violation. But the law is not being enforced. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Foreign Assistance Increased by 67% in 2008

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 30 — Jordan has been awarded USD 1.2 billion in foreign assistant during 2008, representing an increase of 67 percent compared to 2007, official figures showed today. The total grants committed by the US, the EU, Germany, Canada, Japan, China, Italy, Korea, the World Bank and UN agencies reached USD 719 million, according to figures by the ministry of planning and international cooperation. Moreover, Jordan contracted USD 418.5 million as soft loans from the Islamic Development Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the World Bank, the French Development Agency, Germany, Italy and Switzerland to finance a number of priority projects in the areas of water, health, tourism, energy, as well as regional and municipal development. Minister of Planning and international cooperation, Suheir al Ali said Jordan’s moderate foreign policy was the catalyst for the increase in aid. ‘‘Our outstanding relations with the donor community and progress achieved in the implementation of reforms, as well as Jordan’s commitment to pursue these reform efforts were behind the increase in assistance, said the minister in an official statement. Some of the key projects Jordan has undertaken with the help of donors are water, health, education, tourism, energy and local development, in addition to grants in the form of budget support. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Queen Rania Urges Jordanians to Donate to Gaza

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 30 — Queen Rania of Jordan on invited Jordanians in letter today to donate food, medicine and cash for people in Gaza as they suffer from stifling embargo and continued Israeli air strikes. In a letter sent to Jordanians through main Arabic daily, the Queen, whòs of Palestinian origin, called on Jordanians to “take an action to offer a helping hand to people in Gaza.” “When your brother is in distress, you do not only feel sorry for them, you have to help out,” said the Queen, whose popularity in Jordan is on the rise as she continues advocating her time for humanitarian causes. “Yesterday the king donated his blood so that it mixes with the blood of people in Gaza and now we need to take an action as we start receiving donations to send to Gaza as of today,” said the queen, chairman of Nahr al Urdon charity organization. The invitation comes against the backdrop of similar calls by the opposition today to donate cash, medicine and basic food items to have them sent to Gaza in the coming days. Public protest in Jordan, like many places in the region, continued as Israel pounds the coastal enclave and prepares for an all out land invasion. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Mideast:Gaza; Jordan King Abdullah Donates Blood for Gazans

(ANSAmed), AMMAN, DECEMBER 29 — King Abdullah of Jordan said Monday Jordan will send military hospitals to Gaza to help treat the wounded following the air strikes on the city as he donated blood for Gazans. Abdullah told journalist in king Hussein medical centre after donating blood that he is working hard to end the attack on Gaza and that Jordanians are pained to see what is happening in the city. “We in Jordan are uncomfortable about what is happening in Gaza. We spoke to the army to prepare military hospitals and hopefully we will be sending them very soon to Gaza”. Abdullah said his country will provide the Palestinians with humanitarian aid. The opposition and the government are currently collecting blood in public hospitals to send it to Gaza as part of a nationwide campaign to support citizens of the Hamas controlled city.Jordan is home to nearly 5.6 million people, more than half of them are of Palestinian origin. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Saudi Police Break Up Pro-Gaza Protest: Residents

RIYADH (Reuters) — Witnesses said Saudi police fired rubber bullets to break up a pro-Palestinian protest on Monday, injuring up to eight people, but a government official denied the report.

Residents said between 200 and 300 people took part in the march in Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing Eastern Province.

Many protesters held pictures of Palestinians wounded in Israel’s military offensive against the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 300 Palestinians since it began on Saturday.

At least three witnesses said they saw riot police fire rubber bullets after demonstrators clashed with security forces in the al-Qatif area.

However, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said there had been no protest.

“None of this is true. No rubber bullets have been fired, no clashes occurred and no demonstration happened. That’s what security sources in Qatif told me,” he said.

“As you know, protests in the kingdom are banned.”

One witness said two demonstrators were injured by rubber bullets. Two others said between six and eight were injured.

“We chanted slogans against Israel and America. We did not attack the (Saudi) government or the Arab political system,” said another witness, who did not want to be named.

“The police charged at us with sticks and electric batons. Some of us had to defend ourselves with shoes and rocks.”

One resident said the police had dispersed the crowds and blocked the main street in al-Qatif.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Swede Detained by US Forces in Iraq

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Pretty sure this is the same “Swede” who we posted news stories a couple months back.]

Swedish authorities have confirmed that a 40-year-old man from Norrköping is being held prisoner at a US detainment camp in Iraq.

The foreign ministry said the man, identified by local media as Ahmad Hamad, is viewed as a security detainee by US authorities. The ministry added that it was calling for the man to be either granted legal representation and a trial or released.

The 40-year-old is being held at the Camp Cropper internment facility near Baghdad Airport.

Hamad became a Swedish citizen after moving with his wife from Iraq in 2000. They have seven children.

His wife, Susin Hamad, told newspaper Norrköpings Tidningar that her husband had struggled to find work in Sweden and had moved to Ramadi, around 100 kilometres west of Baghdad, on May 2nd with the intention of setting up a construction company.

According to information received from Hamad’s family in Norrköping, the 40-year-old was arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded and removed from his home at 2am on the morning of May 8th.

Susin Hamad said she did not know why her husband was being held captive as she did not believe he was politically active.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia


At Last, Stalin is Defeated by Russian Voters

Joseph Stalin came within a whisker of being voted the greatest Russian of all time yesterday in a marathon television contest that reached a dramatic climax after a six-month build-up.

The winner of the competition — modelled broadly on the BBC’s Great Britons series in 2002 which was won by Winston Churchill — was Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-century prince who defeated German invaders and was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Grand Prince Nevsky garnered 524,575 votes, fewer than 1,000 ahead of Peter Stolypin, Tsar Nicholas II’s authoritarian Prime Minister, and 5,500 in front of Stalin.

The vote, which some commentators claimed had been rigged, went down to the wire, with presenters counting down the final seconds as viewers of the state-owned Rossiya channel voted by text message during the last programme. Among the other 11 finalists were the poet Alexander Pushkin, Vladimir Lenin and Tsar Alexander II, who abolished serfdom.

The vote comes after a concerted campaign in Russia to rehabilitate the Soviet dictator, who has been lauded in recent times on state television for his role as a victorious leader in the Second World War while school history books have softened their criticism of his repressions. A factor in Stalin falling behind other contenders could have been his Georgian roots, as anti-Georgian sentiment in Russia reached new heights this summer after the brief war in the former Soviet republic.

The Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has avoided direct comments rehabilitating Stalin, but state media have played down the deaths of millions of Russians under his rule, insisting it was unavoidable given the circumstances of rapid industrialisation and the threat of foreign invasions.

Under Mr Putin, authorities have cracked down on human rights groups that have tracked Stalin’s repressions. Earlier this month the St Petersburg offices of the Memorial group were raided and computer hard drives were confiscated. They contained 20 years’ work documenting victims of Stalin’s Terror and political persecution.

But although a win for Stalin would have provided a rationale for present-day crackdowns on political opposition, it would also have sent out a dangerous signal at a time of economic crisis, analysts said.

Before the final vote Sergei Markov, a member of parliament for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, said a win for Stalin would be viewed by the country’s ruling class as an anti-establishment vote. “The most important issue for Russia’s ruling class, and the heads of the TV channel, is that they don’t want Stalin to win, because that would give the impression of authoritarianism,” Mr Markov said.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political analyst with the Panorama think-tank, went farther, questioning the result. Stalin’s narrow defeat clearly understated the real support for him in society, he claimed.

“The vote was an absolute falsification,” Mr Pribylovsky said. “Stalin, Lenin and Peter I: these are the most important figures in Russian history. Thirty to 40 per cent of Russians would support Stalin.”

Neither Mr Putin nor President Medvedev has openly declared support for any of the contenders, but a close friend of Mr Putin’s, the Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov, delivered the closing argument for Stolypin on Saturday, giving a strong hint that he enjoyed Mr Putin’s backing. “Putin’s preferred figure is Stolypin,” Mr Markov said, but added that Mr Putin could not openly support any candidate, in case he lost.

Stolypin, a conservative politician who opposed liberal reforms and cracked down hard on the Bolsheviks, was assassinated by a socialist revolutionary in a Kiev theatre in 1912.

Some 50 million votes were cast on-line and by text message from all parts of the former Soviet Union, except Georgia. In the competition’s early stages in the summer, Stalin was the clear leader, but was closely followed by Nicholas II, whom the organisers admitted plugging to make the contest more interesting.

The result reflected “the big role of the state in all periods” of Russian history, Mr Markov said, adding: “A lot depends on who is the leader.”

Mark Urnov, the dean of political studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said the closeness of the outcome looked “really strange, yet it reflected the state of our public mind”. The vote supports two myths that Russians buy into, he said. “One is a great Tsarist Russia, and the other is a great Soviet Russia under Stalin.

“This vote is the result of eight years of brainwashing by the mass media,” Mr Urnov said. “This vote for authoritarianism would never have happened eight years ago.”

Vote winners

1   Alexander Nevsky 524,575
2   Peter Stolypin 523,766
3   Joseph Stalin 519,071
4   Alexander Pushkin 516,608
5   Tsar Peter the Great 448,857
6   Vladimir Lenin 424,283

Stalin’s achievements

  • Stalin defeated the Nazis at Stalingrad in 1943, sweeping them out of Eastern Europe well before the Allies’ D-Day breakthrough
  • He cemented the Soviet Union’s status as a superpower, gaining a permanent seat on the UN Security Council
  • Stalin’s agricultural collectivisation alone led to the deaths of 14.5 million people
  • His Great Purge, which ran from 1936 to 1939, led to the deaths of 600,000 people
  • Of these, 81 out of the 103 generals and admirals in the armed forces were executed
  • About 20 million people were sent to penal camps during his time in power

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Moscow’s ‘Constructive Separatism’ in ‘Near Abroad’ Backfires in Russia

Vienna, December 29 — Abkhazia and South Ossetia are only the first examples of Moscow’s policy of “constructive ‘separatism’“ in the wake of NATO’s decision to recognize Kosovo, according to a Moscow analyst.

And both the region and the world, he says, should prepare themselves for analogous “geopolitical shifts” in the post-Soviet states.

But if the Russian government is interested in promoting separatist challenges in Ukraine and other countries through the sponsorship of groups like the Ruthenians, Moscow is equally committed to preventing any manifestations of the right of nations to self-determination on its own territory and to blocking any outside support for them.

In an article about “constructive ‘separatism’“ posted online last week, Leonid Savin provides both a general argument about the nature of separatism in the contemporary world and a specific discussion of the application of that argument to Ukraine and by extension to other post-Soviet states.

Separatism, the Moscow analyst notes, “is connected with various factors,” including historically rooted hostility between groups, policy mistakes, state failure, and the principles of national self-determination as laid out in a variety of international charters to which most countries of the world are signatories.

At present, he says, these factors are coming together in many places in the world. He mentions Somalia and Norway, among others, but nowhere are they playing a greater combined role than in some of the post-Soviet states and especially in the most populous non-Russian republic, Ukraine.

Savin cites the observation of Oleg Bakhtiyarov, the director of Kyiv’s University for Effective Development, on this point. According to the latter, “separatism is a protest against state weakness and the inability to create new values which unify society.” It thus challenges states “either to become stronger, smarter or more creative” or to fall apart.

“Crimea and Subcarpathian Rus’ are no exception” to this pattern, Bakhtiyarov continues. Either Kyiv will find “a vector unifying people and protecting the internal variety of Ukraine[‘s population] or separatism — Crimean, Ruthenian and then Donets, Slobozhan, and then Galician and Volhynian — will make of the Ukrainian idea only a memory.”

Given that danger, Savin argues, “Ukraine ought to reach out to the Ruthenians who are lawfully demanding autonomy within Ukraine … and to the Crimean Tatars” who otherwise will pursue their goal “the creation of a national state on the territory of the autonomous republic of Crimea.”

According to Savin, Kyiv to date has “preferred the carrot and stick method” of dealing with ethnic challenges, providing carrots to smaller groups who pose no real challenge to Ukraine’s territorial integrity but employing sticks whenever larger nations such as the Crimean Tatars and the Ruthenians demand their rights.

And he concludes that Moscow has every right to get involved. After all, he notes, “until 1945, the Transcarpathian oblast was part of Czechoslovakia and was transferred not to Soviet Ukraine but to the USSR (the treaty was signed by Molotov). And according to the logic of international law,” he suggests, Russia as “the legal successor” of the USSR thus has rights there.

That is why, Savin says by way of conclusion, “Ruthenian society has turned to Russia with a request to recognize their independence.”

But Moscow is not willing to acknowledge the rights of nations living within the current borders of the Russian Federation. Last week, OMON officers showed up at the residences of two leaders of the Kazan Tatar independence movement, Fauziya Bayramova and Faik Taziyev, in an effort to intimidate them.

At the same time, prosecutors called in the editor of the local Tatar-language youth newspaper, “Chally yash’lere,” and issued him a warning for publishing the text of the Declaration of Independence of Tatarstan. And officials blocked the website of another Tatar independence activist, Zulfiya Kadir.

Despite these actions, the Milli Mejlis, a body which unites Tatars interested in pursuing independence, managed to attract more than 100 delegates to a congress in Naberezhny Chelny, to announce the formation of a Tatar government in exile, and to issue an appeal calling on member states of the United Nations to recognize Tatarstan.

That effort is unlikely to succeed in the near term, but Moscow’s likely response — the use of the force structures against anyone who seeks to make such demands — almost certainly will not succeed either. Indeed, using force in this context likely will be the functional equivalent of fighting a grease fire with water.

As one St. Petersburg analyst noted last week, Moscow’s response to events in Russia’s regions shows that the center continues to believe that “‘if you have force, you don’t need to think.” That may work for a time, Mikhail Olgertov says, but in the end, “he who sows the wind will reap a whirlwind”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



The Sinister Resurrection of Stalin

Who is the greatest Russian of all time? In the unlikely event that you answered “Stalin”, you would be in good company. One of the 20th century’s most horrific dictators has just come third in an opinion poll conducted by a Russian television station. Some 50 million people are said to have voted.

Myself, I have some doubts about the veracity of this poll, particularly given that the television station in question is state-owned, and therefore manipulated by the Kremlin. Also, first place went to Alexander Nevsky, a medieval prince who defeated German invaders — and an ideal symbol for the Putinist regime, which prides itself on its defiance of the West. Second place went to Piotr Stolypin, a turn-of-the-century economic reformer who, among other things, gave his name to the cattle cars (Stolypinki) in which prisoners were transported to Siberia — another excellent symbol for the “reformer with an iron fist” label to which both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev aspire.

Both seem too good to be true; neither had ever before seemed like candidates for such an august title. Had the poll been completely free, I expect Stalin would have come in first place. Why wouldn’t he? After all, the government, media and teaching professions in Russia have spent a good chunk of the past decade trying to rehabilitate him — and not by accident.

All nations politicise history to some extent, of course. But in Russia, the tradition of falsification and manipulation of the past is deeper and more profound than almost anywhere else. In its heyday, the KGB retouched photographs to remove discredited comrades, changed history books to put other comrades in places where they had not been, monitored and tormented professional historians. Russia’s current leaders are their descendants, sometimes literally.

But even those who are not the children of KGB officers were often raised and trained inside the culture of the KGB — an organisation that believed that history was not neutral but rather something to be used, cynically, in the battle for power. In Putinist Russia, events are present in textbooks, or absent from official culture, because someone has taken a conscious decision that it should be so.

And, clearly, a decision has been made about Stalin. In a recently released, officially sanctioned Russian history textbook, in public celebrations and official speeches, the attitude towards him runs something like this: “Mistakes were made… errors were committed… but great things were achieved. And it was all worth it.”

This public portrayal of Stalin is highly selective. The many, many millions who died in the Gulag, in mass deportations or in mass murders are mentioned only as a kind of aside. Stalin’s purges of his closest colleagues and revolutionary comrades are given short shrift. The terror that made people afraid to speak their minds openly, that made children turn their parents in to the police, that stunted families and friendships, is absent from most contemporary accounts. Even Stalin’s programmes of industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation — which modernised the country at enormous cost to the population, the environment, and Russia’s long-term economic health — are not dwelled upon.

Instead, it is Stalin’s wartime leadership that is widely celebrated, and in particular his moment of imperial triumph in 1945, when Soviet-style communism was imposed on Russia’s western neighbours. In that year, Eastern Europe became a Russian colony and, more to the point, Stalin negotiated as an equal with Roosevelt and Churchill.

Annually, Russia’s May celebrations of the anniversary of victory in 1945 grow more elaborate. Last year, they included several thousand Russian soldiers dressed in Soviet uniforms, waving the Soviet flag and singing Soviet songs. Major pieces of weaponry were paraded across Red Square, just like in the old days, to enormous applause.

Books about the war have also now become a major publishing phenomenon in a country that, up until a few years ago, hardly published any popular history at all. Most major bookstores now have a war section, often featuring books like one I picked up in Moscow a few months ago. Entitled We Defeated Berlin and Frightened New York, it is the memoir of a pilot who describes the joy of bombing raids and revels in Russia’s long-lost power to frighten others.

Even more significant is the role that the celebration of the Soviet Union’s imperial zenith now plays in a larger narrative about recent Russian history, namely the story of the 1980s and the 1990s. Famously, Putin once said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, presumably larger than either world war. He, along with the Russian media and the current Russian president who echo him, now considers the more open discussion of the Stalinist past that took place during Gorbachev’s glasnost to have been a distraction, a moment of national weakness. More to the point, they openly attribute the economic hardships of the 1990s not to decades of communist neglect and widespread theft, but to deliberate Western meddling, Western-style democracy and Western-style capitalism.

In fact, this argument now lies at the heart of the current Russian leadership’s popular legitimacy. Summed up, it goes something like this: communism was stable and safe; post-communism was a disaster. Putinism, within which Medvedev fits naturally, represents a return at last to the stability and safety of the communist period. Cheer for Stalin, cheer for Putin, cheer for Medvedev, and the media will once again be predictable, salaries will be paid on time, Russia’s neighbours will be cowed, and Russia’s leaders will, once again, negotiate on equal terms with the leaders of the West.

Besides, the more people take pride in the Stalinist past, the less likely they are to want a system that is more genuinely democratic and genuinely capitalist — a system in which the Russians might, for example, vote their president out of power, or hold a street revolution of the kind that brought down corrupt, post-Soviet governments in Georgia and Ukraine. The more nostalgia there is for Soviet-era symbols, the more secure the KGB clique is going to be.

None of which implies that the current Russian government is itself Stalinist either. As the recent election of Medvedev proved, Putin does not need that level of repression in order to stay in power. Too much violence might even threaten his legitimacy which is, as I say, based on an implied guarantee of stability and safety.

Nor was this rewriting of history ever inevitable. Despite the clichés people often spout about Russians invariably leaning towards authoritarianism or dictatorship, Russia was never condemned to celebrate this version of history.

On the contrary, a future government could, instead, rediscover the legacy of Russian liberalism at the beginning of the 20th century or even the legacy of the Russian dissidents, who in the 1960s and 1970s essentially invented what we now call the modern human rights movement. Every country has a right to celebrate some positive elements of its past, and Russia is no exception. But that Putin and his colleagues have chosen, of all things, to celebrate Stalinist imperialism tells us a good deal about their vision of their country’s future.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Indonesia: MUI Urges Muslims to Boycott U.S. Products

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has urged all Indonesian Muslims to boycott U.S.-made products, to push president-elect Barrack Obama to halt the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Boycotting U.S. products was a way for Indonesia to pressure the United States to stop conflicts between Israel and Palestine’s Hamas group, MUI fatwa commission chairman Ma’ruf Amin said Tuesday .

“Israel … will only be afraid of the U.S., so all Muslims must urge Obama to intervene and overcome the conflict,” Ma’ruf said.

The MUI hoped Obama would not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who had failed to adopt a neutral stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Malaysia: Mediators to Ease Tensions

KUALA LUMPUR — MALAYSIA’S government plans to train special mediators to resolve disputes between neighbors of different races in a bid to prevent communal tensions in the ethnically diverse country, officials said on Tuesday. About 300 volunteer community representatives would undergo mediation courses starting next month as part of the government’s efforts to curb racial and religious friction, said Azman Amin Hassan, director general of the National Unity and Integration Department.

‘They will be residents who can talk to both sides in a dispute to defuse racial problems,’ Mr Azman told The Associated Press.

Authorities have acknowledged that racial polarisation has increased in recent years even though the Malay Muslim majority still has generally amicable relations with the large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, who are mainly Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

Malaysia has not suffered major ethnic violence since 1969, when riots fueled partly by Malay rancor over the Chinese’s wealth left more than 200 people dead.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: note the qualifier — “major” — this stuff goes on all the time.]

Nevertheless, grievances between ethnic communities have occasionally sparked bloodshed. A dispute between Malays who celebrated a wedding and their Indian neighbors who held a funeral at the same time prompted violence that killed six people near Kuala Lumpur in 2001.

Mr Wan Abdul Halim Othman, a sociologist who will be training the mediators, said the program will initially be implemented in urban areas where the risk of racial disputes is relatively high because many multiethnic residents live alongside each other.

‘We need neutral mediators who can prevent the usual conflicts between neighbors from accumulating and transforming into ethnic problems,’ he said. ‘In disputes involving different ethnic groups, people in the community tend to take sides based on race, but nobody mediates.’

The program would initially be rolled out in Kuala Lumpur, central Selangor state, northern Penang state and southern Johor state. If successful, it would be implemented nationwide.

Ethnic divisions have deepened amid increasing complaints by minorities about special privileges enjoyed by Malays in jobs, education and other areas. Some also say their religious rights have become secondary to Islam. The government has denied any unfair treatment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



OIC Concerned Over Pak Airspace Violation by India

ISLAMABAD: Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has expressed concern over the recent violation of Pakistan’s airspace by the Indian Air Force.

Ihsanoglu conveyed his apprehension over the deteriorating security situation in South Asia following the Mumbai terrorist attacks. In a statement posted on the OIC website, Ihsanoglu appealed to Pakistan and India to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action that might be detrimental to peace and security in the region.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Three Killed, 13 Troops Hurt in Thai South — Police

YALA, Thailand (AFP)—Suspected separatist insurgents have killed three people and injured 13 soldiers in shootings and a bomb attack in Thailand’s Muslim-majority far south, police said Tuesday. A 41-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman — both employees of the state-owned telephone operator — were killed in a drive-by shooting as they traveled together in a car in Pattani province Monday evening. Later that night in the same province, a 43-year-old soldier was shot dead and six troops were injured after they were ambushed by a group of rebels who are fighting for a separate state in the three far-southern Thai provinces. Tuesday afternoon in neighboring Yala province, seven soldiers were hurt when a roadside bomb hit the pickup truck they were traveling in. Two of the soldiers are in a serious condition, police said. More than 3,500 people have been killed since separatist unrest erupted almost five years ago in the deep south. Tensions have simmered since Thailand annexed the mainly Malay sultanate in 1902.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East


Japan Paid Y200 Million for Release of University Student Kidnapped in Iran

TOKYO — Japan paid about 200 million yen to resolve the kidnapping of a Japanese national in Iran, a government source said Monday. The money is believed to have been a de facto ransom payment for university student Satoshi Nakamura, who was kidnapped by an armed group in October last year and released after eight months in June this year.

The Foreign Ministry denied making the payment, with an official saying it is ‘‘groundless.’’ The source said the money was allegedly disbursed from the Foreign Ministry’s discretionary fund and delivered to the armed group.

Nakamura, a 24-year-old student at Yokohama National University, was kidnapped while traveling near the southeastern Iranian city of Bam on Oct 7 after entering Iran by way of Pakistan. He was freed after negotiation efforts by the Iranian authorities and others.

Another Japanese government official has said Japan paid $3 million for the release of four Japanese in 1999 in Kyrgyzstan under the name of economic assistance. Japan has also denied making the payment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Johnny Neihu’s News Watch: a Heritage of Non-Denial Denial

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I’ve enjoyed JN’s satirical weekly op-ed’s for quite some time — providing a very unique view of Taipei and it’s relationship with China (and the rest of the world) and this one seemed a little more valid for posting here than others.]

People from outside Taiwan who support my beloved homeland tend to find themselves in the strangest company.

Leftists and rightists who would gouge each other’s eyes out on any other issue frequently embrace to defend Taiwanese self-determination.

Let me qualify that … and apologize in advance for the crudity of my generalizations. Perhaps I should say that foreigners who are “practical” leftists (eg, human rights and labor activists, church workers on the ground) embrace rightist “ideologues” (eg, pro-defense, pro-conservative values, anti-big government and commiephobes) to defend Taiwanese self-determination.

On the other hand, foreigners who are “practical” rightists (corporate barons, US State Department policy mavens) and leftist “ideologues” (Cultural Revolution nostalgia peddlers, Hugo Chavez and other hopelessly confused or dishonest people) prefer the banquet of largess and hubris that China offers over the less-than-lucrative blasphemy of Taiwanese nationalism.

In the middle, people sit on the fence and are not inclined to believe in very much at all except something that hovers between unenlightened self-interest and family values, neither of which offers much guidance on what to do with cross-strait difficulties.

So you see, dear reader, how odd it is for people to call the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) “right wing.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Philippines: Police on Alert for Terror Attacks

MANILA, Philippines — Police in Metro Manila will remain on heightened alert status to monitor possible terror attacks in commemoration of the Rizal Day bombing eight years ago, director Leopoldo Bataoil said Tuesday.

A series of explosions rocked Metro Manila on Dec. 30, 2000, leaving a number of people dead and scores wounded. The explosion that claimed the most casualties was inside one of the trains of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) at Blumentritt station.

Although police have not monitored any specific terror threats in Metro Manila, Bataoil said police were not discounting “indicators” such as the twin blasts in two malls in Iligan City, as well as the arrest of a number of suspects reportedly planning to launch a series of attacks in the metropolis.

“Huwag nating balewalain yung mga indicators tulad ng sa Iligan. Dapat lang na seryosohin natin yung ating crime prevention program at target-hardening para hindi mangyari ang ating kinatatakutan [Let us not ignore these indicators like what happened in Iligan. We should take our crime prevention program and our target-hardening seriously so that there won’t be a repeat of our fears],” Bataoil said.

To help in its crime-prevention program, police have sought the help of “force multipliers,” consisting of civil society groups, which would help in monitoring crime across the region.

“Each one of us and our force multipliers will continue their tasking. We will monitor odd behavior, suspicious individuals who have plans of bombing some places, hold hostages or sow terrorism,” Bataoil said in Filipino.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Why Al Qaeda Isn’t Gaining a Foothold in Cambodia

CHROYAMONTREY, Cambodia — In this village, and others like it throughout Cambodia, Muslims and non-Muslims live side by side in harmony, their existences unmarred by the toxic cocktail of government repression, separatist ambitions, and growing radicalism characteristic of many neighboring countries.

“I’ve been living with Muslim neighbors since I was young,” says resident Ouk Ros. “When there’s a marriage, we join together in the party.”

Still, as money and influence from the Persian Gulf pours into Cambodia, many fear that pockets of the 400,000 strong Muslim community could fall into the orbit of a less-tolerant form of Islam.

“There are some organizations here from the Middle East that are very radical and that are very intolerant, and they are trying very hard to change the attitude and the atmosphere of the Muslim population here,” the outgoing US Ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli warned in August…

…But there are fears that Cambodia’s moderate form of Islam could be contested. In recent months, ties between Cambodia and the Persian Gulf have grown as the Gulf States look to Cambodia as a potential buyer of oil and supplier of food. In September, the government of Kuwait pledged $546 million in soft loans, while Qatar pledged $200 million. Kuwait has also earmarked $5 million to refurbish a mosque in Phnom Penh.

There are fears that the money could open the door to private individuals and foundations who seek to influence the Muslim community here. Whether founded or not, in January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened its first office in Cambodia, citing the potential for terrorism.

“Cambodia is an important country to us for the potential of persons transiting Cambodia — using Cambodia as a spot for utilizing terrorism,” FBI director Robert Mueller said, inaugurating the new office.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


The Battle of Broken Hill: the First Islamic Terrorist Attack on Australian Soil, 1915

On January 1, 1915 two Broken Hill men, both former camel drivers, armed themselves with rifles, an homemade flag bearing Islamic insignia and a large supply of ammunition and launched a surprise attack on the Picnic Train about 3 kilometres outside Broken Hill.

The train carried about 1200 Broken Hill residents to Silverton where a picnic to celebrate the new year was to take place.

The two Muslim men, Gool Mohamed originally a Pashtun tribesman from Afghanistan and Mullah Abdullah from what is known today as Pakistan, decided to wage Jihad against Australian infidels after Australia and the Ottoman Empire officially joined the opposite sides in the WWI.

Despite attempts from “progressive” authors, who try to explain the actions of the two Muslim men as acts of misplaced patriotism or as a desperate response to brutal racial persecution, the reasons for the terrorist attack were clearly stated by the perpetrators themselves. Both men knew very well they were going to die and (as any present day terrorists do) and left notes explaining that they had to become martyrs — DEFENDING THEIR FAITH and the caliphate.

The attack was not spontaneous. It was a very well planned and a premeditated act. Both men wanted to inflict as much damage and kill as many infidels as possible and having almost the entire population of the tiny settlement packed into forty open, wooden carriages where people sat in rows, shoulder to shoulder on flat wooden benches, presented a great opportunity to do just that.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Topless Ban to Protect Muslims and Asians

Conservative MP Fred Nile says he wants topless bathing banned in NSW to protect Sydney’s Muslim and Asian communities. The Reverend Nile has rejected allegations that prudishness is behind a bill he has prepared to ban nudity, including topless sunbathing, on the state’s most popular beaches.

Australia’s reputation as a conservative but culturally inclusive sociery was at risk of erosion by more liberal overseas visitors, he said. “Our beaches should be a place where no one is offended, whether it’s their religious or cultural views,” he said.

“If they’ve come from a Middle Eastern or Asian country where women never go topless — in fact they usually wear a lot of clothing — I think it’s important to respect all the different cultures that make up Australia.”

The practice was at risk of raising the ire of Muslim men in particular, Mr Nile said. “I don’t want to have any provocations or disturbances on our public beaches,” he said.

Acting Premier Carmel Tebbutt and the NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, have both said that topless bathing is an issue for local councils, not state governments.

But Mr Nile said he believed most politicians would come around once all the issues were considered. “I think if you survey Australian women you’ll find a lot of women would be uncomfortable if it became the custom [of going] topless at the beach,” he said. “Australia’s always been a conservative country as far as beachwear goes.

“Once being topless is accepted as lawful the next question will be why can’t women go totally nude on a public beach and I don’t think Australians want to go down that pathway.”

NSW Liberal powerbroker David Clarke and Labor MP Paul Gibson have reportedly vowed to support the bill.

AAP reports: Mr O’Farrell said topless bathing was not a matter for Parliament. “This is a matter for local councils to deliberate, at a time when state parliament should be focusing on roads, public transport, hospitals and education,” he said today. “It doesn’t rate on the list of important matters for the Parliament of NSW.”

Up to individuals: Gillard

Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the topless issue was one of context and clear signage.

“People want to go to the beach and use the beach in a variety of ways. Obviously family groups want to go to the beach, people who want to get a bit of sun all over also want to go to the beach,” she said. “As long as people know what the rules are and know what to expect I think it is a matter for the individuals involved.”

Ms Gillard urged topless bathers to be sun smart. “There is also a stage where people should be getting the hat on, getting the shirt on and getting the sunscreen on,” she said.

Topless bathing not an issue: Bondi mayor

Waverley Council Mayor Sally Betts says she is aghast at moves by state politicians to outlaw women from sunbathing topless on NSW beaches.

“We’ve got alcohol-related violence, we’ve got under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour in the public domain — those are really important issues,” Ms Betts told Fairfax Radio Network. “If the Reverend Nile really wants to help people he should focus on those issues.”

Ms Betts said she was at the beach on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and did not notice any topless women.

But if it was a problem, she would have heard about it, she said. “In Waverley, we have a very involved community. They complain about everything,” she said. “But nobody has complained to me about topless [women].”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


British Missionaries in Gambia Jailed for One Year With Hard Labour for Sedition

David Fulton, 60, a former Army major, and his wife, Fiona, 46, pleaded guilty to making seditious comments “with intent to bring hatred or contempt against the president or the government”.

Their sentence, in a country which has one of west Africa’s worst human rights records, sparked concern after reports that other prisoners on similar charges have been poisoned while in jail.

The couple, originally from Torquay in Devon, have spent 12 years in Gambia. They were arrested on 29 November at their home at Kerr Sering, an hour’s drive from the capital through tropical bush, and accused of spreading “hatred against the government” via a series of round-robin emails believed to relate to their missionary work.

Friends said that they were not given details of what exactly they were accused of until appearing in court.

They were sentenced in the capital, Banjul, and will be held at one of Africa’s toughest jails, the former colonial penal institute of Mile Two Prison. They were also fined 250,000 Dalasis (£6,500).

According to Pastor Martin Speed, of Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in Bolton, who has been campaigning for the Fultons’ release, the couple were advised to admit the sedition charge in the hope that the judge might show leniency.

The Fultons met two decades ago in England. He had found God while serving a sentence for armed robbery and she was a prison visitor. They have two children, Iona, 20, and Luke, 17, who are studying in Exeter, Devon.

Mr Fulton was a chaplain in the Gambian army and at the national airport and had begun ministering to spiritual needs at the immigration posts that dot the long frontiers with Senegal, to the north, south and east.

Meanwhile, Mrs Fulton spent her time training prison chaplains, looking after terminally ill people and visiting female hospital patients.

Peter McMinn, Mrs Fulton’s father, said that before the couple’s arrests, his son-in-law had been attacked three times in the street by locals who did not like the couple’s Christian beliefs. He said: “They threw stones at him and attacked him with bits of wood. He was very shaken.”

Mr McMinn, 80, from Teignmouth, Devon, said of his daughter: “She has done nothing wrong. If anything she has been a blessing to people out there.

“David went out to Gambia initially on holiday and then decided that he liked the people and wanted to do God’s work out there. My son-in-law is a very kind man and a good Christian. All he wanted to do was help people.

“My daughter is a wonderful mother and a person who selflessly does her best to help those in need. She is doing work that God has given her to do.”

Gambia is ruled by President Yahya Jammeh, whose record on human rights and civil freedoms has been questioned after a crackdown on anyone who has criticised the government.

There have been six coup attempts during his 14-year rule. Whilst the country is constitutionally secular, the population is 90 per cent Muslim.

Amnesty International believes that at least 30 alleged government opponents are being held in poor conditions in Mile Two without charge or access to lawyers or their families.

A recent report by the human rights watchdog concluded: “Lawyers are reluctant to take on human rights cases for fear of reprisals and families of victims are afraid to speak out. The media, for the most part, censors itself in the face of arrests, fines, threats and physical attacks on those accused of criticising the government. All public protests have ceased.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Piracy: Two Turkish Ships Find Route to Freedom

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 29 — Ransom bargaining for two Turkish ships taken hostage in the Gulf of Aden has concluded and now debates continue regarding how the ransom will be delivered, and if an agreement is reached, 34 staff will be set free in January, daily Sabah reported. The inklings of a route to freedom have begun for two turkish ships, the Neslihan and Karagol that were hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. It has been made known that the two ships have been brought to the Eil port and ransom bargaining has come to an end, while now delivery methods are being deliberated. Fehmi Ulgener, the lawyer for the Ya-Sa Denizcilik Company, which owns the Neslihan ship that has been hijacked with 20 crew members stated to Sabah that he had spoken to the captain adding that “We have now reached the end of the road. I am hoping they will be set free in the beginning of the New Year. They are all in good health condition. Now, we are discussing how to deliver the ransom. From his side the attorney of the Karagol ship, Kubilay Marangoz, stated that “We are expecting that the ship and its 14-member crew will be freed in January”. Deals continue regarding how the money will be delivered to the pirates. There are two methods which have been approved by the pirates. They are demanding either the money be dropped in a balloon that will not sink by air from a helicopter or plane, or for the ransom to be delivered by ship. At the moment the delivery from the air is the most probable method to be used. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Illegal Baby Boom Hits Big Easy

‘Most violent city in America’ hosts exploding alien population

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, illegal aliens flocked to New Orleans from other U.S. cities to find work ? but three years after the storm, the most violent city in America is festering with crime while schools are overcrowded and immigrant births are ballooning.

The New Orleans Economic Development office estimates the city’s Hispanic population has more than tripled since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. It has risen from 15,000, or 3.3 percent of pre-Katrina residents, to 50,000, or 15 percent of today’s population.

Tulane University and the University of California, Berkeley, released a 2006 study revealing that almost half of the city’s construction labor force was Hispanic. At least 54 percent were found to be illegal aliens, and 90 percent had lived elsewhere in the U.S. before migrating to New Orleans.

[…]

In 2004, Emergency Medicaid cost taxpayers $1.7 million in Metro New Orleans, according to the report. Now the government program covers five times as many people, and the cost is more than 4.5 times what it used to be — at $7.8 million.

[…]

Likewise, schools are having trouble keeping up.

Director Melinda Martinez of a Esperanza Charter School, a taxpayer-funded English-immersion institution in New Orleans, told the AP her elementary school doesn’t ask about immigration status.

In May, Esperanza Charter School teacher Judy Flores told Louisiana’s WWLTV she would never inquire about whether her students were legal.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you,” Flores said. “Whether you agree or disagree, politics and that situation is outside of what our job is; our job is to make sure our students learn and feel safe in our environments.”

A full 60 percent of Esperanza students are Latino, while 30 percent are black and 10 percent are white. Each class has extensive waiting lists.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Immigration: Malta, 140 Migrants Rescued at Sea

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, DECEMBER 29 — One hundred and forty migrants from a number of different African countries have been picked up at sea by the Maltese navy, and are headed for the Valletta port onboard a motorized patrol boat. The immigrants, from Ghana, Somalia and Nigeria, were intercepted about 40 miles south of the island nation. Among them are ten women, all of whom are pregnant. Emergency services have been set up in the port to receive the migrants, who were at the mercy of the waves in a storm, with strong wind and heavy rain. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: Spain; Voluntary Re-Entry Plan Fails

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 19 — It has only been in force for one month but it is already a clear ‘flop’.. Spain’s Voluntary Re-entry Plan for immigrants to return to their countries of origin has so far seen just 676 persons making applications, compared to the 100 thousand expected by the Zapatero government. Meanwhile, Spain’s Cabinet has today launched a plan of legal reform concerning immigration law, raising to 70 days the maximum period of detention for illegal immigrants and tightening conditions for family members joining from abroad. At the same time, in Catalonia, any foreigner wanting to have his permits put in order will be required to be able to speak Catalan. The objective of the re-entry plan, proposed by Labour and Immigration Minister, Celestino Corbacho, is to promote the return of unemployed citizens to their countries of origin, allowing foreign workers to cash in their pension contributions in a one-off process, in exchange for an undertaking not to return to Spain for a period of three years. The average amount so far paid out to foreigners, according to Ministry figures, is of around 9,670 euro. But despite the fact that the rate of arrival of applications has increased seven-fold since the initiative was introduced, it would take 11 years to arrive at the total of 100 thousand re-entries forecast by the Government. The cause of the failure? “The fact that the executive tried to introduce the plan as an anti-crisis measure, without consulting immigrant associations”, according to the Chair of the Moroccan Workers’ and Immigrants’ Association (ATIME), Kamal Rahamouni. The Moroccan community is that with the largest number of immigrants in Spain, at around 644,688 persons, of whom only two have requested to join the Re-entry plan. “Those who have paid in a large amount of pension contributions have been in Spain for many years, and for them a return to their homelands would represent a renewed uprooting”, notes Raul Jimenez, spokesperson for the Ecuadorian association, Ruminahui. Today’s Cabinet move has been the launching of a reform of the law on foreign nationals, with an increase in the maximum period of detention in reception centres for illegal immigrants from 40 to 60 days, with another 10 at the request of a court. This, with a turn of tough measures being announced for the conditions under which family members may join from abroad. “These are corrections to contradictions existing in the present legislation”, Corbacho noted, “which allows for children aged between 16 and 18 to come, but without conceding them permission to work”. The new law would allow them to work, but in the case of elderly relatives, they would only be allowed to join their families once they have reached the age of 65, and once the applying immigrant has obtained permission to reside permanently, after five years. The reform project, which has to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies, modifies around 50 of the 71 articles in existing law, introducing some fundamental rights for the ‘sin papeles’, those without the requisite documents to remain in the country, which have not been provided for by the law before now. These include the right to belong to a union, to strike, to hold meetings, to demonstrate, the rights to education and free legal aid. The reform addresses the three main pillars of immigration policy: the fight against people trafficking, with the appearance on the books of new crimes and toughening of penalties; the linking to the labour market, which will determine inflows; and integration, with a 200-million fund for autonomous communities and councils. “These are measures towards legal and regulated immigration”, Corbacho noted. The further handicap for immigrants to Catalonia who are seeking to get their documents in order is that they will have to show proficiency in the Catalan tongue, as envisaged by the Immigration Pact approved by the region’s three-party government. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: On Youtube a Story From an Italian Point of View

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 19 — A video on YouTube talks about identity conflicts across two shores of the Mediterranean from the point of view of an Italian. Alessio Osele, film-maker and journalist from Italy’s Trentino, decided to get to know what it’s like to be a Moslem immigrant in Italy after meeting a young Tunisian musician. And also to follow his friend in re-tracing his sea voyage back to Tunisia, across the space of sea that both separates and unites the populaces living on either shore. This is the story told by Osele in his video, with the Arab subtitles as reminder that this is an attempt at dialogue with the other side: it’s the story of a journey that takes in a few of Italy’s cities, seen with the double vision of second generation immigrants, which the narrator has tried to approach with a completely open mind, after the many journeys he has undertaken, which have, however, also opened up fresh questions. Such as when the nineteen-year-old girl he meets in Padova, with the awareness of the issues around her condition as a young Moslem living in Italy, says that she could never fall in love with a Catholic (keeping in line with the rule forbidding a Moslem woman from marrying a man not of the same faith). The wall of religious dogma that proves the impossibility of true and unconditional dialogue? Maybe, Osele replies, aware of the various possible interpretations of sacred texts o Islam, a religion without a central authority or clerical hierarchy. But in the end he keeps the conviction that no matter how high that wall may be, “there is still plenty of room for dialogue, and a great deal of goodwill to conduct it from both sides of the divide”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: Post-Christmas Emergency, Landings in Sicily

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, DECEMBER 28 — The latest 300 non-European migrants have run aground on the rocks of Linosa — both due to the lack of experience of those onboard, and Wind Force 4 conditions at sea. The raft filled with would-be immigrants had been headed for Lampedusa, which over the last few days has seen an unceasing onslaught of landings bringing 1500 to the island. Also today many of the Pelagie Islands, a common destination for those journeys of desperation and of hope, have seen a considerable number arriving on their shores: 234, including 60 women and dozens of under-18s. The number is bound to rise, a “raft” with over 150 non-Europeans has been spotted 80 miles off the island. The repercussions have also reached as far as Rome, with majority and opposition have blamed Libyan leader Gadafi of not having respected the agreements on the issue with Italy. The Lampedusa temporary detention centre is groaning under the weight of the new arrivals, with 1560 on its premises, double its maximum holding capacity. Today the first transfers from the centre have begun, with 540 people siphoned off to Brindisi, CrOtone and Pian del Lago. Today’s first landing was early this morning, when a large raft carrying 234 non-European immigrants, some bearing Oriental features, were intercepted by the ‘Bettica’ Marine patrol boat and a motorized one from the Financial Guard. The transfer was slowed by negative weather conditions at sea. Rescue operations for the raft which crashed into the Punta Faraglioni cliffs in Linosa were also complicated. Some of the immigrants who had fallen overboard have been rescued from the sea, and five motorized patrol boats have been sent for their transfer to Lampedusa: three from the Coast Guard, one from the Customs Police and one from the Carabinieri, with 171 migrants so far taken onboard.. The remaining 160 will remain on Linosa for the time being, until conditions at sea allow for their transfer. Meanwhile, Libyan leader Gadafi has been called an “former financier of international terrorism” by Northern League member Mario Borghezio. “As I had easily predicted,” he said, “he is treating our country as the worst of blackmailers would: it is time we drew the necessary conclusions”. Calling for policies to fight against illegal immigration, “harsh and effective against those who illegally land on our shores and incisive diplomatic actions to obtain immediate respect for commitments taken at an international level was the PDL deputy leader in the Chamber, Italo Bocchino, while PD shadow minister Marco Minniti addressed the government in polemical terms. “What is now happening in Lampedusa,” said the representative of the Democratic Party, “bears ever clearer witness to the fact that the strategy of a ferocious facade worn by the government as concerns illegal immigration has failed miserably.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: Maroni, Libyan Coast Patrols From January

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, DECEMBER 29 — Patrols along the Libyan coast will begin not later than January, following the agreement reached last year between the Libyan and Italian interior ministries. In an interview with Radio Padania, Roberto Maroni explained that “right now, a delegation from the Italian government is in discussions with Libyan officials and I have been assured by the interior minister, Franco Frattini, that the patrols will begin in January. I am optimistic. If they start in January, as the Libyans assure us that they will, we will be able to say goodbye to landings on Lampedusa”. The problem of illegal immigrants arriving by boat does not only interest Italy by also other countries such as Cyprus, Malta and Greece, and therefore Maroni has organised a meeting on January 13 with the interior ministers of these countries with the aim of reaching “a common strategy”. There is also the aim of “bringing our claims to the European level on January 15, when the European Council will meet in Prague”. Certainly — according to the interior minister — the start of patrols along the Libyan coast “will mean we can say goodbye to landings at Lampedusa, once and for all”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Immigration: First Repatriations From Lampedusa to Egypt

(ANSAmed) — AGRIGENTO (ITALY), DECEMBER 30 — According to the police department of Agrigento (Sicily), today will see the first force repatriation of non-EU residents who have arrived on the island of Lampedusa over recent days: 38 Egyptians will be put on a flight this evening heading from Lampedusa to Cairo. The operation is to be co-ordinated directly on the ground by Police Chief, Girolamo Di Fazio. The immediate repatriations of illegal immigrants whose nationalities have been established were announced yesterday by Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni. The Cairo flight was made possible under bilateral accord between Italy and Egypt. As the police department explained, no further air-bridges are foreseen for today for the transferral of immigrants held in the island’s reception centre to other centres. But around 90 persons left Lampedusa this morning on the ferry bound for Porto Empedocle. They included 43 minors who will be transferred to several reception communities in the Agrigento and Ragusa areas, as their expulsion is not permitted. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Che Guevara: First He Took Havana, Now He’s Conquered Hollywood

“Che lives!” we of the great unwashed cried in the Sixties, and, more than 40 years after his death, it seems only right that he remains insistently among us — as an idea, a global brand, and, in these times of capitalism’s crisis, a useful provocation.

His old pal, Fidel Castro, is still in business in Cuba, new books continue to feed the Guevara legend, and now, lumbering onto the pop-cultural battlefield like some huge, agitprop-lobbing trench mortar, comes Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour-plus, two-part Hollywood biopic Che. The film, starring Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro in the title role, has sharply divided opinion, with grown Frenchmen weeping in the aisles during its first outing at Cannes, while outraged Cuban exiles hurled bottles of habanero salsa at the screen in Miami. Some critics, bemused by its scale and complexity, have taken to calling it The Importance of Being Ernesto.

What’s hard to dispute is that the moment could hardly be better for a fresh look at what Che stood for. Faith in existing political systems has been shaken and insurrectionary stirrings are again being felt around the world. Might Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Lynch, with his steely attachment to permanent revolution, have been right after all? The film makes great efforts to avoid answering this question…

…Che, in fact, was a dead loss at almost everything he turned his hand to; an inept militarily strategist, a duplicitous comrade, an idle and vicious public servant, a faithless husband and a neglectful father. We know all this because, in his wearyingly bureaucratic way, he kept immensely detailed notes of everything he did. “Myths can tell you as much about an era as truth,” says Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a prominent analyst of South American affairs and author of The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty. “So it is that thanks to Che’s own record that we know exactly how deluded so many of our contemporaries are about so much that he did.” …

…For several months Che installed himself as governor of the La Cabana prison, where political opponents were held, and hundreds, possibly thousands, were executed on his orders. He treated homosexuals and the professional classes with particular contempt, but was broadly happy to dispose of anyone who could be considered an enemy of the revolution. He served, with comic uselessness, as Minister of Industry, ordering, as an early initiative, the replacement of American glue by a Soviet-made substitute, which resulted in the collapse of the previously thriving Cuban shoe industry.

In 1966, having clashed with Castro, whom he concluded wasn’t Marxist enough, Guevara took himself off to Bolivia with 50 volunteers, intending to spark a new revolution. In finest Che fashion, he launched the mission at the start of the rainy season, condemning his men to months of nightmarishly wet conditions and attacks by malarial mosquitoes. The guerrillas may have been loyal to the cause, but they weren’t to each other, and soon the whole party — ill-led, hungry and largely spurned by the masses they had come to liberate — was at war with itself.

On October 8, 1967, Che was captured by government forces and executed the next day on the orders of Bolivia’s military ruler General René Barrientos. In death, Che’s stardom could only grow, and it has continued ever since to shed a golden light over the miseries and cruelties of the Cuban revolution. Perhaps predictably, Soderbergh’s epic has been well received in Havana. The tourist dollars it is likely to generate will be most welcome, and it has long been understood there that the world cares less about Che’s failings than that he looks good on a T-shirt.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Firefighters Ordered Into ‘Gay’ Parade Back in Court

4 told to appear on pro-homosexual event or face discipline

Editor’s Note: WARNING — Some content in this article is graphic.

Four San Diego firefighters who say they suffered sexual harassment when they were ordered by the city to participate in the obscenity-laden “gay” pride parade in 2007 are going to trial for a second time, and their attorney says this time he’ll be seeking to introduce photographic evidence of the illegal public sex at the parade.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Voted for Prop 8? You’re Fired

Same-sex marriage activists target businesses, employees

Protests following the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, made news headlines, but the Pacific Justice Institute reports a growing number of cases where those opposed to the ballot measure have taken out their anger more quietly: by harassing — and even firing — employees who voted for it.

[…]

“Californians have been shocked by the aggressiveness of radical homosexual activists who have ousted several individuals from their jobs and livelihoods based solely on their support for traditional marriage,” states Brad Dacus, president of PJI, on the group’s website. “These tactics of fear and intimidation in retaliation for supporting a lawful ballot measure are completely unacceptable.”

[…]

Kevin Snider, chief counsel for PJI, told WND of a worker at a financial company who was asked before the November election how he would vote on the issue of homosexual marriage. The employee gave an evasive answer. Following the election, the employee was asked repeatedly how he voted.

When it was learned the employee had voted in favor of Proposition 8, he was written up for discrimination, Snider reports, and fired within a couple of days.

[…]

“I think there’s certain types of jobs where there’s more hostility than other places,” Snider told WND. “I’ve had several college professors report harassment by their colleagues.”

In one instance, Snider said, a professor took copies of nasty emails from his colleagues over his support of Prop. 8 to the lawyers in the college’s human resources department. The professor alleged the emails clearly constituted hate speech, but his appeal was ignored.

Snider also told WND of Proposition 8 supporters who have suffered vandalism, physical violence and even attacks against family pets.

One report included a University of California student whose car was vandalized and who was beaten over her support of Prop. 8.

“It’s inappropriate behavior, and really criminal behavior,” Snider advised, “to do this sort of thing.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Why is ‘Sexual Identity’ Any of the Government’s Business?

Pensioners living at the home in Brighton are supposed to be questioned regularly about their sexual orientation under the council’s “fair access and diversity” policies.

But the charity running the home has declined to do so, and nor will it use images of elderly homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in its leaflets. As a consequence, the council has accused the charity of “institutional discrimination” and withdrawn its £13,000 grant, no doubt in the spirit of Christmas.

A spokesman said the charity had made “limited progress” in ensuring the home was “accessible” to homosexuals. But this a Christian organisation and the residents are also Christians. It is their faith that defines them, not their sexuality. Some have been missionaries or in a ministry and they chose the scheme — part of the Pilgrim Homes network — because of its Christian ethos.

Since the home has never asked impertinent and intrusive questions about sexuality how is it possible to know how many homosexuals have actually stayed there in order to show discrimination; and why should anyone care? As Phil Wainwright of Pilgrim Homes said: “We have every reason to believe that we have given places to gay Christians, and no questions were ever asked.”

So who is being discriminatory here: the home against homosexuals or the council against Christians? Would a Muslim charity have been treated in the same way? Can you imagine one being required to ask the same questions? Well, if it is providing services, like care for the elderly, it might well be because that is what the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 say should happen. Although the questions do not have to be answered, an unwillingness to do so could be construed, as it was in Brighton, as a sign of hostility to homosexuals, rather than simply of indifference.

It is only 40 years since homosexuality was made legal and overt discrimination of the sort depicted in The Naked Civil Servant remained rife for many years after. But that can hardly be said to apply any longer when so many gay people are now part of our national life and accepted as such. Most of us, naively, thought that a tolerant and civilised attitude had been reached when it simply did not matter any more. However, to be confronted with a questionnaire asking about what are, for many people — especially older generations — private matters is outrageous.

This issue goes far beyond the over-zealous application of the law by a single council which has the highest proportion of homosexual residents in the country. From next Monday, the Office for National Statistics will routinely ask people about their “sexual identity” in every household survey it conducts. There had been a plan to include a question about sexuality in the 2011 census, but this was dropped because officials recognised what a fearful row there would be. Instead, ONS surveys will include the question “to allow for more accurate baseline estimates, of the size and characteristics of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in the UK”.

Karen Dunnell, the National Statistician, said: “ONS puts great emphasis on maintaining confidentiality of data. In this case, special show cards are used to ensure that even someone in the same room as the respondent at the time of the interview cannot know how they have answered.”

That may be so, but why on earth should any of this be necessary? According to the ONS it is a requirement of the Equality Act in order that public policy and money can be properly targeted on needy groups. Yet we discover from the Brighton example that the opposite is true: it is so that funding can be withheld from organisations that do not subscribe to the intrusive demands of a madcap law.

This development is of a piece with all the other attempts to gather more and more information about the population. Gay rights groups have long battled to get a sexual orientation question included on national surveys; but they should be careful what they wish for. The time may come when information like this is used against them, just as refusing to take part is now being used against a Christian charity. Even if the law expects those providing services to produce evidence that they are not discriminating against homosexuals, why should the rest of us be asked to declare our sexuality?

When the ONS survey question is introduced next week, people will be asked to choose from the categories “Heterosexual/straight”, “Gay/Lesbian”, “Bisexual” and “Other”, although they will also be allowed to decline to answer. The ONS said: “The category ‘other’ has been included (because) a very small group of people find that the answer categories provided do not describe themselves and that they would prefer to use another term.” Well, there is a much larger group of people who would like the opportunity to give one further answer. It is this: Mind your own business.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

General


Natural Disasters ‘Killed Over 220,000’ in ‘08

German insurer claims man-made global warming major factor

Natural disasters killed over 220,000 people in 2008, making it one of the most devastating years on record and underlining the need for a global climate deal, the world’s number two reinsurer said Monday.

Although the number of natural disasters was lower than in 2007, the catastrophes that occurred proved to be more destructive in terms of the number of victims and the financial cost of the damage caused, Germany-based Munich Re said in its annual assessment.

“This continues the long-term trend we have been observing. Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,” Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said.

[…]

The world needed “effective and binding rules on CO2 emissions, so that climate change is curbed and future generations do not have to live with weather scenarios that are difficult to control,” board member Jeworrek said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Living in the Shadow of Past Moslem Achievements

John Stoye: The Siege of ViennaI’m in the process of re-reading The Siege of Vienna: The Last Great Trial Between Cross & Crescent by John Stoye. Stoye’s work is the comprehensive account in English of the events of 1683. I’ve been told that much more detailed and extensive material on the topic is available in German, but for monoglots like me, Stoye is the best resource. I highly recommend the book.

In the last four years of blogging this topic, I’ve become increasingly sensitized to the nuances of the struggle against the Great Jihad, and more alert to the parallels between Europe in 1683 and our own time. Just before Kara Mustapha launched his attack on Vienna, the states of Western Europe were busy squabbling among themselves, planning military adventures and plotting intrigues as if there were no danger to their east.

Unlike their Christian neighbors, for the kings and princes of Europe the Mohammedans were an alien culture, and not well understood. Therefore they chose to treat them like the weather — an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous phenomenon, but nothing to interfere with the conduct of business as usual.

The excerpt below, from page 7 of The Siege of Vienna, describes the social and political context of the Ottoman Empire as the Sultan and his Grand Vizier prepared their grand assault against the Habsburgs:

One or two far-seeing Moslem writers of the seventeenth century contrasted unfavourably the working of contemporary Ottoman institutions with what they believed was the sounder practice of earlier periods. It is more important to take into account the conventional opinion of their day. For the plain man, accepting without debate the structure of human society as it existed, the frame of government provided by the great empire of the Ottoman Sultan seemed indestructibly part of the nature of things. Its splendour, and strength, far overshadowed the current tribulations of humanity within it. Anyone who cares to browse, for example, through the writings of the traveller Evliyá Chelibí, son of a prosperous Istanbul goldsmith who crossed and recrossed the Moslem world in a long sequence of journeys between 1640 and 1670, will be left with a vivid impression of his complete sense of confidence. No city, in Evliyá’s experience, could approach the magnificence of the Istanbul he so lovingly describes: its palaces and places of worship, its educational establishments and hospitals, its plethora of the guilds of skilled craftsmen. Nothing could detract from the glory of those marvellous conquests which the sultans of his own day, Murad IV and his two successors, had made in various parts of the world. They were worthy of Selim the Cruel and Suleiman the Lawgiver. Look up his account of the gun-foundry and its workmen in the capital, and of the topjís, or artillerymen: who could doubt that both were incomparable in their own line of business?

- – - - – - – - -

Read his description of the siege by the Turks of Azov in 1640: the reader must believe that such a partnership of Moslem courage in battle with massive military organisation was, and would always be, superior to the efforts of any enemy. Besides, victories brought their due advantage to the brave adventurer. Evliyá tells of the booty distributed, of his own share of slaves and furs and other valuables; it was the traditional, practical motive for Ottoman militancy from the Sultan or Vezir down to the dingiest camp follower. In this valuable and conventionally minded author there is not the slightest hint of a ‘failure of nerve’, no inkling of living mainly in the shadow of past Moslem achievements.

If the Turks were living in “the shadow of past Moslem achievements” in 1683, just think how deep and long that shadow must be by now. In 1683 the Ottoman Empire was just barely lagging behind Western Europe in technology and military organization, and was its equal in economic terms. In the three centuries since then, the entire Muslim world has fallen three centuries further behind the West, and without the petroleum windfall would be unable to sustain any functional political economies whatsoever.

But, as Stoye points out on page 9, the response of Islam to decline and decay is to become even more Muslim:

The state was becoming more obstinately Moslem in personnel and outlook. This is one comment that may be made on old Evliyá’s view of the Ottoman empire’s continuing glory. Other fundamental changes, which he could hardly be expected to grasp, were also taking place.

The fundamental changes that were underway in 1683 would lead to the Grand Vezir’s rout before the gates of Vienna and the long retreat of Islam from Europe.

The fundamental changes that are underway right now are at least as large as those of the 17th century, but none of us understands them well enough to predict the final outcome of the current conflict.



As I work my way through The Siege of Vienna, I’ll post further excerpts here, as time permits.

Targeting Journalists

Conservative Swede’s challenge is still outstanding: no one has as yet presented any investigatory material showing the evidence for Vladimir Putin’s complicity in the murder of journalists.

The Russian bearThis is unfortunate, because all of the assertions to that effect made by our commenters remain simply that — assertions. Conservative Swede has put forward a reasonable request, and if I had the time, I’d go out and research some of the material myself.

All of the information on the topic that I’ve read in the past, except for a smattering of articles on the English-language Russian sites, has come from the Western media. But we’re no longer innocent about this: we know that actual lies concerning Bosnia, Kosovo, and Georgia — in which Western journalists were at best credulous and at worst complicit — were widespread in the media, so it’s appropriate to re-examine all the things that “everyone knows” about Russian issues. I’d like to see actual background material for both sides, rather than simple assertions.

I’ll have more to say on this topic later. But until then, some comments from Armance on the same thread are worth reproducing here (edited slightly for clarity):

First, in order to understand what is happening in Russia, we have to understand how the media work in post-communist countries with high levels of corruption. I can give the example of Romania, where the situation is not as bad as in the Russian Federation (at least the journalists are not killed), but there are some similarities, especially regarding the financial power behind the media and the links among politics, business and media. I think from that we can draw some conclusions about Russia, too.

At least 80% of the mainstream media (from TV channels and the newspapers with the biggest circulation to… women’s magazines and cultural publications, etc.) are owned by four billionaires. Each one of them has more power, at least in terms of influencing the public opinion, than the president and the government together. Similar to the Russian oligarchs, they got rich in the early 1990s, during the “privatization” process, which was basically a huge robbery from the state budget in a period of chaos. Their businesses, at least in the beginning, were dubious, to say the least. But as they say, nobody asks you how you made the first million dollars.

The journalists are free to criticize the politicians, the government, and the president as much as they want, even to curse them, if they please. But they know that these four men and their business partners are untouchable as long as they work for their media trusts. If they cross the line, they will lose their jobs and will be subjected to character assassination by the very publication or TV channel they worked for. Fortunately, the oligarchs don’t have the courage to assassinate them, but this is what they would do if they had the possibility, like in Russia.

- – - - – - – - -

Sometimes the oligarchs support one political candidate or another, depending on who is the best for their economic interests. Some of them are involved in politics themselves because they have business contracts with the state and the central or local authorities. But no politician has the power to threaten or intimidate a journalist by himself, without the backing of the oligarchs.

The worst situation is for the journalists working in the provinces, in distant corners of the country, away from public scrutiny, when they write about the businesses of the local oligarchs. A few of them have been beaten by “unknown persons” in recent years — the most serious cases of intimidation. Now, going back to Russia, here it is the Wikipedia list of Russian journalists killed.

So, four journalists were killed in 2008: three from Dagestan and one from Ingushetiya (hmm, all four come from Muslim republics. I wonder why).

Ilyas Shurpayev, Dagestani journalist responsible for news coverage of Northern Caucasus on Channel One, was strangled with a belt in Moscow.

Gaji Abashilov, chief of Dagestan outlet of VGTRK, shot in his car.

Magomed Yevloyev, owner of Ingushetiya.ru, shot by Ingush policemen which convoyed him to Nazran procurator office.

Abdulla Alishayev, Dagestani journalist fatally wounded by unknown assailants.

This is definitely the pattern of “the provincial journalists”. I cannot think of Putin as the first reason for their deaths for the same reason I cannot suspect the president of Romania for the intimidation of a journalist in a distant corner of the country. I know that Putin (or Medvedev, his man) has a lot of power and influence, but still: when there are so many local interests to suppress the voice of these journalists (from the local authorities or oligarchs), why should I think directly of the head of the state? It is not serious. Especially since I know how the things work over here.

It might be said that justice hasn’t done enough to solve these cases. But justice is corrupted to the bones in this part of the world. Many judges and prosecutors can be bribed with a thousand euros. Again: it takes a lot of time to crush this octopus, maybe a generation. Even Putin cannot do this in eight years. And I bet most judiciaries are not bribed or threatened by Putin himself. I expect Putin to do more to improve the justice system in Russia, but it is difficult as hell in Romania, supposedly an EU country — in Russia the situation is even more complicated. And again, the first source of influencing the judiciary is not the president or the prime minister, but the joint interests of the oligarchs and their puppets in the administration.

Another interesting phenomenon is this: working in these circumstances, the most influential journalists sign the pact with the devil themselves, which means they are used by their masters to blackmail their economic or political competitors and are heavily paid in exchange for their services. Some of them become involved in suspect business transactions themselves. I don’t want to blame the victims, but the Wikipedia stories of the four journalists killed in 2008 have dubious elements, if you read between the lines. For instance, Gaji Abashilov, a TV boss, a perfect example of the links among media, politics and business, a pattern that exists also in Romania:

In 1991–2006 he was chief editor of “Molodezh’ Dagestana” (Молодежь Дагестана, Youths of Dagestan).

In 1999 he was elected a member of local legislature, then was appointed deputy head of republican Ministry of information. In January 2007 he became a chief of TV company “Dagestan”, local outlet of VGTRK.

Gaji Abashilov was assassinated in the evening of March 21; his car was fired on in the central part of Makhachkala. In the early hours of the same day another Dagestani journalist, Ilyas Shurpayev, who had worked for years in the republic as a correspondent of NTV and Channel One was found strangled.

Definitely I cannot see Putin behind this story. To make a long story short, The Russian Federation doesn’t seem a friendly country for the journalists, but not because of Putin’s power. On the contrary: I pity him a little bit for being a leader in such a, hmm, complicated country. And definitely regarding some aspects, like the judiciary, I would like to see Russia more “Westernized”, the same as I would like to see the West more “Russianized” in other aspects, like national and cultural pride.

I want to add one more thing: I hope we all agree that Putin is not stupid. The same about the KGB/FSB officers, like him. Whatever we might say about Putin — and a lot of criticism can be made regarding his person — definitely stupidity is not among his flaws. Now look at the methods used to kill the four journalists assassinated in 2008. I mean, c’mon: a former KGB officer, be it Putin or his entourage, ordering that people should be strangled with a belt or shot in their cars, especially when the world is watching them and they have so many enemies? The same about the stories of Politkovskaya or Yushcenko poisoned at some point in their life, but just a little bit, not until death.

Sorry for being so cynical, but this is amateurs’ work in search of instant revenge, not professionals’. I am not Putin and had nothing to do with the KGB, but I can still think of a hundred more intelligent ways to get rid of my opponents. They can die “by accident” in a car crash. They can be hit by a tramway on their way to the office. They can fall from a cliff while skiing during the winter holidays. Etc.

And it’s not even necessary to kill them. You can blackmail them. As we know, most of us have moments that we are ashamed of, even vices we don’t want to be made public. Some photos or films of a man in a brothel or of a married woman with her lover, in exchange of their silence, can do wonders.

At least these were the methods used by the Securitate, the former secret police of Ceausescu. And KGB was much more evil and cunning than them (as exemplified in the interview with the KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov).

A Mass Grave of Serbs

Our Flemish correspondent VH referred us to a report by Lodewijk Nasser, a noted contributor to the Dutch language blog “Het Vrije Volk” (as translated by VH):

Mass Grave of Serbians has been found in Albania

The article mentions a discovery of a mass grave of Serbs in Burelj, in Albania. As I reported before, there had reputedly been a vast trade in organs. The victims, who, needless to say, did not survive, were buried in this grave.

According to Serbian war-prosecutors, [former] “Prime Minister” Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo-Albania, was deeply involved in this lucrative trade. The Yugoslavia Tribunals, however, acquitted him of charges of war crimes.

And the English-language report from Serbianna:

Mass grave of Serbs found in Albania

A mass grave with bodies of Serbs has been found in a village of Burelj in Albania says the sources close to the war crimes prosecution office in Belgrade.

“The location of the mass grave has been marked in a part of the UN report from March 2004 that still has not been officially forwarded to Serbia prosecution for war crimes,” says a source from the prosecution office.

Serbian war crimes prosecution office requested the UN report several times but the requests were ignored. The prosecution has found that the top Kosovo Albanian separatist leadership ran a kidnapping network via tunnels and border crossings at Cafa, Prshit and Vrbnica to the psychiatric hospital in Burelj that was registered as Prison 320.

- – - - – - – - -

Kosovo Serbs were brought to this facility from several other concentration camps in Albania such as Tropoja, Kuks, Bajram Curi and Koljsh. The body parts and organs were then extracted in the psychiatric hospital. When the person whose organs were taken out died, the body was then buried in the grave that was just found.

Serbian war crimes prosecution says that it has evidence that the organ extraction network was run by a former Kosovo Albanian so-called prime minister Ramush Haradinaj who was pronounced innocent at the war crimes trial in the Hague.

Additional documents exist linking Haradinaj with the current Prime Minister of Albania Sali Berisha but no specific description of the link has been provided to the media. Albanian authorities rejected cooperation requests made by Serbia.

The Council of Europe envoy Dick Marty is set to go Albanian capital Tirana in January to investigate the organ trade.

Israel’s Struggle

From Zonka, a translation of yesterday’s editorial in Jyllands-Posten:

Editorial: Israel’s Struggle

As horrifying as the images from Gaza in these days may appear, it is necessary to constantly keep the roots of this conflict in focus. Israel — surrounded by enemies who wish to remove the Jewish state from the map — is in a struggle for survival. That is the starting point.

Israel has a self-evident right to defend itself. The violence, terror, and war come from Gaza and are forced on the sole democracy in the Middle-East, Israel, which then reacts with a completely legitimate “Enough is enough”.

One can discus the proportion in the military response, although it must be recognized that Israel seems to take into consideration the civilian population of Gaza, that the nature of war otherwise makes difficult: According to news agencies approximately 180 of the 250 killed are regular Hamas-warriors.

However, there is a reason to keep remembering the fundamental conditions in this endless war between Israel and the terror organizations that surround the country, because in such a tragic conflict a false symmetry quickly appears, clearly stated in the phrase “They are equally guilty. Nobody has anything to let the other hear”.

This is and remains manipulation; a moral and intellectual knee-jerk towards the violence and terror. The two parties aren’t equally guilty. The violence goes one way — and releases a response. Israel has throughout the years given its enemies all chances. They have been rejected. The violence has on the contrary been escalated.

- – - - – - – - -

After a massive international pressure Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. Has this led to peace? No, the rockets continued to rain down over Israel, so a military response on this front became unavoidable last summer.

After a massive international pressure Israel withdrew in 2005 from Gaza. Have this led to peace? No, rockets and mortar shells have ever since rained down on Israel — according to Israeli calculations 6,300 rockets and shells since then(!). A military response was also here unavoidable.

Gaza is one large catastrophe. The humanitarian conditions are horrible. 1.5 million people are pressed together in a small area. The structures of society have all broken apart. The only thing that still works is apparently the military structure and the will to constantly challenge Israel.

Is that the fault of Israel? When will the international community hold the changing Palestinian regimes responsible? For decades the West has pumped a dazzling amount of money into Gaza. Denmark has contributed generously as well. Money that was meant for common Palestinians and in an effort to make the region better able to take care of itself. What has become of that money? Well, the international community slowly realizes what the corrupt-to-the-core Yassir Arafat used the billions for. He spent it on a two-digit number of security services in addition to keeping his private accounts abroad fully stocked.

What Hamas uses the energy and money for is beginning to be equally clear. They have built up to 700 tunnels under the border to Egypt, which are being used to smuggle weapons into Gaza, and they have thrown themselves into a simultaneous battle of life and death against the competing Fatah organization.

Israel cannot be responsible in any way for the changing leaders of the Palestinians, taking their own population as hostages in a darkened, fundamentalist battle. Israel is essentially a Western outpost in this struggle, which is underlined by the fact that on all of Israel’s fronts Iran is pulling the strings.

We must understand Israel’s position. But naturally friends should also by criticized, when there is reason for it.

Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front…

The aftershocks from last month’s terror attacks in Mumbai are still resonating throughout the region and the rest of the world. Both India and Pakistan have been ratcheting up their preparations for war, but it looks like Pakistan has blinked first and is calling for a hudna:

Pakistan has again called for an easing of tension with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, saying dialogue would benefit both sides.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also urged India to move some troops and air bases away from joint border areas to send a “positive signal”.

While the world’s attention is focused on Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Jews who bore the brunt of one of the attacks in Mumbai are determined to restore their building. Nariman House, the Chabad-Lubavitch center in Mumbai, is the place where Jewish hostages were taken, held, tortured, and murdered. In the process the building was severely damaged, but the Jews insist that they will not allow it to be destroyed.

According to the Mumbai Mirror:

Restored Nariman House is our reply to all terrorists

Israelis say they won’t allow demolition of Nariman House; it will now become a symbol of their resistance to terror attacks

Nariman HouseAfter three days of sustained shelling and grenade attacks, Nariman House at Colaba, the site of last month’s terror strike, has been reduced to a shell almost. But the Chabad-Lubavitch movement that ran the Mumbai centre from there is determined that the building will not be pulled down. Instead, say the Jews, they will restore and preserve the building as a symbol of their resistance to terrorism.

On Tuesday, a demolition team from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that went to break the damaged sections of the building had to come back after breaking only the compound wall which had been left in a precarious state after the attack. The BMC team was not allowed to enter the debris-filled rooms by members of the Jewish sect.

Members of the orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch order who have now taken charge of the building said that since the central structure of the five-storey building is more or less intact, the building need not be demolished because the Jews now have sentimental attachment to the building. The centre’s director, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka were among those who died in the attack.

Levi Jurkowicz, an official from Chabad-Lubavitch who has been in charge of the building since the last few weeks said, “We are not scared and we will not go back to Israel. Nariman House has become a building with lot of symbolic importance for us. We are emotionally attached to this building. We will not demolish this building. It will be repaired and restored to its old state.”

- – - - – - – - -

“By restoring and preserving Nariman House, we will give a befitting reply to the extremists who wanted to frighten us,” Levi added.

“Once the building is brought to its original state, our people will come and stay here without any fear.”

[…]

The staircase of the building is badly damaged and several walls have developed huge cracks. But a structural audit by the BMC has said that the building is structurally sound and there is no need to pull it down. A team of seven experts from Mahimtura Consultants Pvt Ltd had completed their survey last week.

A BMC official who was part of the team that went to the building yesterday said that in addition to the staircase, the fifth floor was the worst affected. “Many walls have developed cracks. The entire building is in a mess,” he said.

Most of the damage to the building was caused by grenade explosions. The aluminium windows and doors were damaged by bullets. “We demolished the compound wall that had developed a tilt. The neighbours were worried that children who play in the lane could get injured by the wall. Levi did not allow us to clear the debris inside,” said the civic staffer.

There were two major explosions on the last day of the siege: one broke the windowpanes of the fourth-floor flat and the other that created a gaping hole in the wall of the third floor and at the fifth floor, bear witness to the long battle between the terrorists and NSG commandos. Levi said that the BMC should not waste the public tax payers on their building. “It should be utilised to help needy people.”

A notable difference between the Jewish victims in Mumbai and those of southern Israel is in the randomness of their selection. Rockets are fired indiscriminately into Sderot and Ashdod, and strike their victims by chance. But the targets at Nariman House were carefully singled out from among the millions of inhabitants of Mumbai.

In other Gaza-related news, Iran is planning to put the Israelis on trial:

Iran has set up a court to try Israelis for its air attacks on Gaza and is ready to try in absentia any people who Tehran says have committed “crimes,” a judiciary official said on Tuesday.

Iran, which does not recognize Israel, has criticized some Arab states for not doing enough to stop military action by the Jewish state.

[…]

“The court is in a special branch in Tehran and entrusted with the task of dealing with the executors, planners and officials of this (Israeli) regime who have committed crimes,” judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said.

One niggling detail: the extradition of the defendants to Iran may pose a slight logistical problem for the mullahs.



Hat tip: VH.

“Just Kick the Whole Lot into the Sinai”

Geert Wilders ventures his opinion on Israel’s “disproportionate response” in this brief article from De Telegraaf, as translated by our Flemish correspondent VH:

Wilders stands behind Israel

Geert WildersThe Hague — PVV leader Geert Wilders stands behind Israel in the conflict in the Middle East. “Violence against terror is rarely disproportionate”, he responded Sunday concerning the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

“If we [in The Netherlands] had to deal with terrorists just across the border in Belgium or Germany, who were launching missiles at Maastricht or Breda, and broke a truce,” Wilders — if he were Minister of Defense — would have done exactly the same as Israel is doing now.

- – - - – - – - -

Wilders points out that the Palestinians have chosen Hamas themselves in elections. He believes that Israel has the all the right in the world to defend itself. “The cause is blind hatred. There is unfortunately no dialogue against that. If your people and country are threatened existentially and fired upon by terrorists, you shoot back.”

According to Wilders, Israel is quite right: “Just kick the whole lot into the Sinai.”

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/29/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/29/2008Tonight’s most important stories are about the war in Gaza. Hamas is threatening to assassinate Livni and Barak, but that looks like a sign of desperation to me.

The most interesting aspect of all this is how well Israel is doing on the media front. For once, the USA is not the only country blaming Hamas. Germany and Egypt — Egypt! — have come down on the same side as Israel. As one article says, “[w]hen you have a 10% lead in France, that’s better than we could have expected”.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, ACT for America, Barry Rubin, JD, MESI, Steen, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

USA
At Plant in Coal Ash Spill, Toxic Deposits by the Ton
Child Maids Now Being Exported to US
 
Europe and the EU
Greek Paper: World Jewish Plutocracy Behind Gaza Strife, Global Financial Crisis
Over 60 Per Cent of Britain’s Muslim Schools Have Extremist Links, Says Draft Report
UK: Five Fatal Stabbings Every Week Despite Labour’s Knife-Crime ‘Crackdown’
 
Israel and the Palestinians
‘Coordination is Putting Israel Ahead in the Media War’
Hamas’s Strategy: the Rockets or the Media
Hamas Threatens to Assassinate Livni, Barak
How Palestinian TV is Covering the War
International Law and the Fighting in Gaza (PDF)
 
Middle East
Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa Urging Muslims to Avenge Gaza Raids
 
Far East
Philippines: Remembering Rizal
 
Immigration
From the Left, a Call to End the Current Dutch Notion of Tolerance

USA


At Plant in Coal Ash Spill, Toxic Deposits by the Ton

In a single year, a coal-fired electric plant deposited more than 2.2 million pounds of toxic materials in a holding pond that failed last week, flooding 300 acres in East Tennessee, according to a 2007 inventory filed with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hundreds of acres were flooded by sludge last week in a coal ash spill from a holding pond filled with heavy metals at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant 40 miles west of Knoxville.

The inventory, disclosed by the Tennessee Valley Authority on Monday at the request of The New York Times, showed that in just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems.

And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits.

For days, authority officials have maintained that the sludge released in the spill is not toxic, though coal ash has long been known to contain dangerous concentrations of heavy metals. On Monday, a week after the spill, the authority issued a joint statement with the E.P.A. and other agencies recommending that direct contact with the ash be avoided and that pets and children should be kept away from affected areas.

Residents complained that the authority had been slow to issue information about the contents of the ash and the water, soil and sediment samples taken in and around the spill.

“They think that the public is stupid, that they can’t put two and two together,” said Sandy Gupton, a registered nurse who hired an independent firm to test the spring water on her family’s 300-acre farm, now sullied by sludge from the spill. “It took five days for the T.V.A. to respond to us.”

Richard W. Moore, the inspector general of the authority, said he would open an investigation into the cause of the spill, the adequacy of the response, and how to prevent spills from similar landfills at other authority plants, according to a report in The Knoxville News Sentinel.

[Return to headlines]



Child Maids Now Being Exported to US

Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family’s crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.

(…)

Shyima cried when she found out she was going to America in 2000. Her father, a bricklayer, had fallen ill a few years earlier, so her mother found a maid recruiter, signed a contract effectively leasing her daughter to the couple for 10 years and told Shyima to be strong.

For a year, Shyima, 9, worked in the Cairo apartment owned by Amal Motelib and Nasser Ibrahim. Every month, Shyima’s mother came to pick up her salary.

(…)

By the time the Ibrahims decided to leave, Shyima’s family had taken several loans from them for medical bills. The Ibrahims said they could only be repaid by sending Shyima to work for them in the U.S. A friend posed as her father, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo issued her a six-month tourist visa.

She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 3, 2000, according to court documents. The family brought her back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home, decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.

It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage’s only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn’t replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.

She was told to call them Madame Amal and Hajj Nasser, terms of respect. They called her “shaghala,” or servant. Their five children called her “stupid.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Greek Paper: World Jewish Plutocracy Behind Gaza Strife, Global Financial Crisis

A daily newspaper in Greece has blamed Jews both for the world financial crisis and the Israeli operation in Gaza, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported this week.

“After the American Jews acquired once again the world’s wealth and plunged the planet into an unprecedented financial crisis, they started rehearsing for WWIII,” JTA quoted the Avriani newspaper’s front-page headline as reading Sunday “Midway through the paper’s story on Israel’s operation in Gaza, the story, under the heading ‘The Plan,’ explains that a Jewish plutocracy, having made the ‘wealth of the century at the expense of the economies of the world,’ is preparing to put in motion ‘war machines’ in various hot spots around the world in order to control the price of oil, redistribute the world’s natural resources and start a new cycle of weapons production,” JTA said.

The paper also blamed U.S. President-elect Barack Obama for “playing dead” in the present crisis by not saying anything against the Jews, urging him to prove that he is not owned by the Jewish lobby.

The day that Obama was elected president, the paper ran a headline that said, “The end of Jewish domination. Everything changes in the U.S.A. and we hope that it will be more democratic and humane,” drawing the ire of Jewish groups,” JTA reported.

[Return to headlines]



Over 60 Per Cent of Britain’s Muslim Schools Have Extremist Links, Says Draft Report

by Damian Thompson

Britain’s Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists.

An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection.

The report also claims that some of these schools teach “repugnant” beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews…

           — Hat tip: ACT for America [Return to headlines]



UK: Five Fatal Stabbings Every Week Despite Labour’s Knife-Crime ‘Crackdown’

Seized knives at New Scotland Yard in London, this May. Police are directing their action plan to ten areas where knife crime is the most serious problem

Richard Ford, Home Correspondent

Fatal stabbings have reached a record level in England and Wales this year, with five people a week being killed with a knife or sharp instrument, according to figures published today.

The surge in fatalities comes despite a drive by the Government and police to reduce attacks involving knives, particularly in large urban areas.

In London alone the number of knife fatalities this year has jumped to 86 — a rise of one quarter on the figure for 2007.

Today’s figures from all except one of the police forces in England and Wales show that fatal stabbings have risen by almost a third since Labour came to power.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


‘Coordination is Putting Israel Ahead in the Media War’

As the anti-Hamas operation in Gaza entered its third day Monday and IDF commanders laid the groundwork for a possible ground assault on the Strip, Israeli officials responsible for the parallel media offensive sounded decidedly optimistic.

Reporting on the conflict is a crucial arena of the battle itself, say analysts. The success or failure of the media effort can affect the window of opportunity which the IDF has to fulfill its operational objectives: weakening Hamas and imposing a calm that could not be reached through negotiations.

“I don’t know how long it will last, but at this moment Israel has no small measure of understanding and support, and even approval, from many countries,” says former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, who was brought into the media effort by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shortly before the aerial attack against Hamas began on Saturday.

“We haven’t seen dramatic condemnations [from world leaders], only the expected and generic calls for calm and cease-fire,” said Gillerman.

“Even in the UN I didn’t see anyone happy to condemn us,” he added. “Unless something very dramatic happens, such as a blundered hit that kills large numbers of civilians, then we will have enough time to do what we need to do.”

In large part, this welcome window to act against the Hamas infrastructure in Gaza is due to a new culture of coordination among the agencies responsible for managing Israel’s media message in times of crisis. These include the Foreign Ministry, the IDF Spokesman’s Unit, the military coordinator in the territories and Prime Minister’s Office representatives.

Unlike in previous military crises, “we have close coordination and unified messages between agencies,” says Yarden Vatikai, the director of the National Information Directorate, which is seeing its first trial by fire.

Established in the wake of the Winograd Report’s criticism of insufficient coordination in the media effort during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the NID’s purpose is to synchronize the content and tone of Israel’s message across the many organizations that carry it to the world, whether official or unofficial.

On the media front, preparation for the Gaza operation included training exercises among spokespeople for handling worst-case scenarios, daily conference calls between all the agencies and a daily review of Israel’s media “footprint,” or the amount and type of coverage Israel receives around the world.

This kind of preparation, learned the hard way from previous mistakes, is paying off, says Gillerman.

“You can’t take for granted that the entire system will be coordinated properly,” he says, “but this time it’s being done to an impressive extent.”

“We’re not seeing the grandiose military press conferences or the nonstop video footage from air force strikes” so familiar to Israelis and foreign journalists from the Lebanon conflict, says Vatikai. Instead, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit is one of the agencies using a more nuanced and prepared approach, investing its efforts in getting multilingual officers on the air on as many foreign outlets as possible.

According to Aviv Shir-On, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for media and public affairs, these efforts are successfully creating a dramatic Israeli presence on major international television networks.

Using figures taken from a Foreign Ministry media tracking operation run out of the television studios in Neveh Ilan, Shir-On cites an eight-hour period between 4 p.m. and midnight Sunday during which tracking of CNN, the BBC, Sky News, Fox, Al-Jazeera English and France 24 yielded 335 combined minutes of Gaza coverage.

Of these, 58 minutes were given to Israeli representatives, while only 19 were given to Palestinian ones.

Elsewhere, a survey published by French newspaper Le Figaro on Sunday showed that 55 percent of French respondents were understanding toward the Israeli operation, while 45% were critical of it.

“When you have a 10% lead in France, that’s better than we could have expected,” notes Shir-On.

From such figures, and other reports from Israel’s 97 representative offices worldwide, Shir-On says he can confidently report that “Israeli hasbara is fulfilling its missions. Our media presence internationally is good.”

Even so, caution Israeli officials, the worst is not yet past for the media struggle. Some of the initial success on the media front is due to external factors, such as division among the Palestinians — Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have publicly blamed Hamas for the fighting — and the holiday season.

“Israel was given a window of opportunity by the calendar,” notes Channel 2 foreign news editor Arad Nir. The conflict “caught the world on the weekend between Christmas and New Year, when its attention is elsewhere.”

But that window may be closing, he warns.

“By Monday morning, the French newspapers started talking about ‘proportionality’ and ‘cruelty.’ Yesterday we heard the Turks, for whom Sunday is a work day, come out against [the operation].

“I assume it will get worse as we leave the holiday season behind and television screens are flooded with ugly pictures out of Gaza. Even if world leaders understand Israel’s logic in the rational part of their brains, the emotional part will take hold because of such images, and as more and more people take to the streets.”…

[Return to headlines]



Hamas’s Strategy: the Rockets or the Media

by Barry Rubin

Nothing is clearer than Hamas’s strategy. It gives Israel the choice between rockets and media, and Hamas thinks it is a situation of, “We win or you lose.”

Option A: The Ceasefire

Hamas ends a ceasefire giving it the peace and quiet needed to build up its army and consolidate its rule over the Gaza Strip. Israel would deliver supplies as long as there weren’t attacks. From a Western-style pragmatic standpoint this is a great situation.

But Hamas isn’t a Western-style pragmatic organization. Peace and quiet is its enemy not only because of its ideology—the deity commands it to destroy Israel—or its self-image—as heroic martyrs—but also because battle is needed to recruit the masses for permanent war and unite the population around it.

Hamas has no program of improving the well-being of the people or educating children to be doctors, teachers, and engineers. Its platform has but one plank: war, war, endless war, sacrifice, heroism, and martyrdom until total victory is achieved.

Thus, it ends the ceasefire.

Option B: The Rockets

And so Hamas ends the ceasefire and rains rockets down on Israel, accompanied by mortars and the occasional attempt at a cross-border ground attack. Israel does nothing.

Hamas crows: you are weak, you are confused, your are helpless. Come, people, arise and destroy the paper tiger! And so more people are recruited, West Bank Palestinians look on with admiration at those fighting the enemy, and the Arabic-speaking world is impressed.

Remember 2006, they say. It is just like Hizballah. Israel is helpless against the rockets. Why don’t our governments fight Israel? Let’s overthrow them and bring brave, fighting Islamist governments to power.

Option C: The Media…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Hamas Threatens to Assassinate Livni, Barak

Hamas on Sunday threatened to respond to an ongoing Israel Defense Forces assault on the Gaza Strip by assassinating senior Israeli officials. Senior Hamas official Fatah Hamad specifically threatened Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He also threatened that Hamas would go after senior Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank, as well as “those in the Arab world who have conspired against us,” — an apparent reference to Egypt.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, however, said that Hamas could have prevented Israel’s assault had it only agreed to extend the cease-fire, and he urged it to do so now.

[Return to headlines]



How Palestinian TV is Covering the War

[…]

Hamas Celebrates Targeting Israeli Civilians

Along with today’s TV propaganda in which Hamas depicts itself as a victim, Hamas continues to portray itself as the heroic killer of Israelis.

A video on Hamas TV this morning blended pictures of Hamas fighters shooting at Israel with pictures of injured Israelis and medical evacuation scenes.

In addition, the visuals include pictures of skulls dripping with blood, captioned: “Let them taste violent death.”

Other narrations and texts include…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



International Law and the Fighting in Gaza (PDF)

by Justus Weiner and Avi Bell

As with every flare-up of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the air is thick with accusations of violations of international law. The halls of the United Nations resound with voices objecting to the alleged illegality of Israel’s behavior, and legal “experts” have taken to the airwaves to raise accusations of wrongdoing. For instance, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes asserted that “the effective Israeli isolation of Gaza.amounts to collective punishment and is contrary to international humanitarian law.” Similarly, organizations such as Amnesty International have issued erroneous and misguided criticism, including “condemning” Israel’s imposition of all “blockades” on the Gaza Strip as “collective punishment.” Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International, called on Israel “immediately [to] lift its inhumane and illegal siege.” This briefing paper explores the many international legal issues raised by the Palestinian-Israeli tension along Gaza’s borders. It first examines legal issues raised by Palestinian conduct and then turns to legal issues raised by Israeli conduct. As will be demonstrated, criticisms of Israeli behavior such as mentioned above lack any basis in international law. By contrast, criticisms that ought to be voiced about illegal Palestinian behavior are markedly rare…

           — Hat tip: MESI [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Saudi Cleric Issues Fatwa Urging Muslims to Avenge Gaza Raids

A Saudi Web site on Sunday reported that a popular cleric has issued a fatwa urging Muslims to target Israeli interests everywhere, to avenge the attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The site, Rasid, posts news about Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community and on Sunday said that Sheik Awadh al-Garni has issued a religious edict urging Muslims to strike anything that has a link to Israel, calling it a legitimate target for Muslims everywhere.

Al-Garni, whose is popular in the kingdom, is not a member of the official religious establishment.Fatwas are not legally binding, and it is up to the individual Muslim to follow them.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday also issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, state television said.

“All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world’s pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible. Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr,” state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a statement.

Israel launched an unprecedented assault on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 280 people and sparking protests and condemnations throughout the Arab world.

Many of Israel’s Western allies urged restraint, though the U.S. blamed Hamas for the fighting.

In his statement on Sunday, Khamenei also criticized some Arab governments for their “encouraging silence” towards the Israel’s raids on Gaza.

[Return to headlines]

Far East


Philippines: Remembering Rizal

Originally published on page A10 of the December 30, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

TODAY is the 110th anniversary of the execution of Jose Rizal in Bagumbayan. Without meaning any sarcasm or reproof, I am wondering how many of our young people today appreciate the significance of that event which made our country free.

It is regrettable that what they may choose to remember is not the martyrdom of Rizal but the killing of John Lennon 26 years ago in New York. It was he who boasted that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus Christ, and perhaps he was right. Some of their fans, including not a few from our own country, may really consider the songsters and their rock music more appealing.

I recently found that the 2006 calendar issued by the Supreme Court apparently does not place much importance either on Dec. 30. It is simply printed in red and called Rizal Day. There is a brief note that it marks the oath-taking of President Manuel L. Quezon in 1941 and President Ferdinand Marcos in 1969, both for their second terms. But there is no reminder of Rizal’s sacrifice in 1896 as if it did not deserve any mention at all.

If the Supreme Court assumed that every Filipino knows about Rizal, it must be out of step with the times. Many citizens may now simply take Rizal as the name of a province or the statue at the Luneta or that old memorial stadium in Manila. Even the plaster busts of him that used to adorn the old libraries in my grandfather’s time have disappeared. The Noli-Fili books are compulsory reading in our schools, but many students prefer Harry Potter.

Before the war, Rizal Day was celebrated with programs and parades mostly organized by the Veteranos de la Revolucion. But the Katipuneros are all gone like the former veneration of the hero. The memory of the great man is dissipating except in the usual street signs, which are mixed with reminders of the martial law period like Imelda Avenue and Marcos Highway. Marcos tried to replace Rizal as the foremost Filipino hero but his ugly cement face in La Union was mangled instead by his irate victims.

Remembrance of Rizal is fast disappearing when it ought to be cherished and honored by all Filipinos. It was he who, more effectively than any one else among his compatriots, unified the disparate inhabitants of our archipelago into one nation. It was he who made them share a common rage against the foreign intruder and a common aspiration for the freedom of their land.

Without him, and I say this without offense to those who followed his leadership and example, our people may still be under the yoke of some alien ruler. Consider that we were oppressed by Spain for more than three centuries and it was only when Rizal protested its villainies that Bonifacio’s armed revolution began to smolder. It was the execution of Gomburza, to whom Rizal dedicated the “Noli Me Tangere,” that ignited the spark of resistance against the Spanish government. But it was Rizal who fanned the flames into a bright conflagration.

Rizal awakened the national conscience from its lethargy not through the force of arms but with the armies of his pen. These were the “Noli” and “El Filibusterismo,” his “Letter to the Women of Malolos,” his youthful poems for the Motherland, his “Mi Ultimo Adios” that he secreted in a lamp in Fort Santiago hours before his death, and other irrefutable accusations against the Spaniards. His words were like mighty legions that won for our country the freedom we now enjoy.

Let not the idiot who once criticized me for speaking in English at a nationalistic program belittle Rizal’s writings because most of them were in the tyrant’s tongue. That jingoist who is now a National Artist must think his expertise in Tagalog has exalted his empty mind. Sentiments are best expressed in words one knows best and Spanish was for Rizal his sharp and avenging sword.

That is why, if I may digress, I heartily support the bill restoring English as the medium of instruction in our public schools. During the pre-war years, that educational policy made us the most proficient English-speaking people in the whole continent of Asia and many other parts of the world. English is still, along with Filipino, our official languages under our Constitution. Filipino is a beautiful language that is easily learned without formal instruction, but it is not useful for international communication.

To go back to Jose Rizal, I hope we can revive the reverent sentiments of gratitude to him for his efforts in releasing us from foreign bondage. Political rhetoric is not enough to keep his heroism alive. Let us remember that he forsook the enticements of his youthful and gifted life and embraced instead the ultimate sacrifice for the welfare of his country. That is the best homage we can pay the greatest hero of our race.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Immigration


From the Left, a Call to End the Current Dutch Notion of Tolerance

by John Vinocur

AMSTERDAM: Two years ago, the Dutch could quietly congratulate themselves on having brought what seemed to be a fair measure of consensus and reason to the meanest intersection in their national political life: the one where integration of Muslim immigrants crossed Dutch identity.

In the run-up to choosing a new government in 2006, just 24 percent of the voters considered the issue important, and only 4 percent regarded it as the election’s central theme.

What a turnabout, it seemed — and whatever the reason (spent passions, optimism, resignation?), it was a soothing respite for a country whose history of tolerance was the first in 21st-century Europe to clash with the on-street realities of its growing Muslim population.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Netherlands had lived through something akin to a populist revolt against accommodating Islamic immigrants led by Pim Fortuyn, who was later murdered; the assassination of the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, accused of blasphemy by a homegrown Muslim killer; and the bitter departure from the Netherlands of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who became a member of Parliament before being marked for death for her criticism of radical Islam.

Now something fairly remarkable is happening again.

Two weeks ago, the country’s biggest left-wing political grouping, the Labor Party, which has responsibility for integration as a member of the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats, issued a position paper calling for the end of the failed model of Dutch “tolerance.”

It came at the same time Nicolas Sarkozy was making a case in France for greater opportunities for minorities that also contained an admission that the French notion of equality “doesn’t work anymore.”

But there was a difference. If judged on the standard scale of caution in dealing with cultural clashes and Muslims’ obligations to their new homes in Europe, the language of the Dutch position paper and Lilianne Ploumen, Labor’s chairperson, was exceptional.

The paper said: “The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance.”

Government and politicians had too long failed to acknowledge the feelings of “loss and estrangement” felt by Dutch society facing parallel communities that disregard its language, laws and customs.

Newcomers, according to Ploumen, must avoid “self-designated victimization.”

She asserted “the grip of the homeland has to disappear” for these immigrants who, some news reports indicate, retain their first nationality at a level of about 80 percent.

Instead of reflexively offering tolerance with the expectation that things would work out in the long run, she said, the government strategy should be “bringing our values into confrontation with people who think otherwise.”

There was more: punishment for trouble-making young people has to become so effective such that when they emerge from jail they are not automatically big shots, Ploumen said.

For Ploumen, talking to the local media, “The street is mine, too. I don’t want to walk away if they’re standing in my path.

“Without a strategy to deal with these issues, all discussion about creating opportunities and acceptance of diversity will be blocked by suspicion and negative experience.”

And that comes from the heart of the traditional, democratic European left, where placing the onus of compatibility on immigrants never found such comfort before.

It’s a point of view that makes reference to work and education as essential, but without the emphasis that they are the single path to integration.

Rather, Labor’s line seems to stand on its head the old equation of jobs-plus-education equals integration. Conforming to Dutch society’s social standards now comes first. Strikingly, it turns its back on cultural relativism and uses the word emancipation in discussing the process of outsiders’ becoming Dutch.

For the Netherlands’ Arab and Turkish population (about 6 percent of a total of 16 million) it refers to jobs and educational opportunities as “machines of emancipation.” Yet it also suggests that employment and advancement will not come in full measure until there is a consciousness engagement in Dutch life by immigrants that goes far beyond the present level.

Indeed, Ploumen says, “Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally.” Immigrants must “take responsibility for this country” and cherish and protect its Dutch essence.

Not clear enough? Ploumen insists, “The success of the integration process is hindered by the disproportionate number of non-natives involved in criminality and trouble-making, by men who refuse to shake hands with women, by burqas and separate courses for women on citizenship.

“We have to stop the existence of parallel societies within our society.”

And the obligations of the native Dutch? Ploumen’s answer is, “People who have their roots here have to offer space to traditions, religions and cultures which are new to Dutch society” — but without fear of expressing criticism. “Hurting feelings is allowed, and criticism of religion, too.”

The why of this happening now when a recession could accelerate new social tensions, particularly among nonskilled workers, has a couple of explanations.

A petty, political one: It involves a Labor Party on an uptick, with its the party chief, Wouter Bos, who serves as finance minister, showing optimism that the Dutch can avoid a deep recession. The cynical take has him casting the party’s new integration policy as a fresh bid to consolidate momentum ahead of elections for the European Parliament in June.

A kinder, gentler explanation (that comes, remarkably, from Frits Bolkestein, the former Liberal Party leader, European commissioner, and no friend of the socialists, who began writing in 1991 about the enormous challenge posed to Europe by Muslim immigration):

“The multi-cultis just aren’t making the running anymore. It’s a brave step towards a new normalcy in this country.”

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Ethnic Justice

In recent months Britain has taken several steps towards instituting a sharia court system, a separate and parallel legal structure designed to adjudicate complaints within Britain’s Muslim community. Not only the Archbishop of Canterbury, but also lawyers, judges, and members of the government are openly discussing the implementation of sharia in the UK.

Now comes word that a social anthropologist in Switzerland is proposing the same thing for his country. According to an article entitled “Sharia courts in Switzerland?” in today’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Dr. Christian Giordano foresees a Swiss version of sharia. Our Austrian correspondent ESW sent us a working summary of the article:

Christian Giordano, a social anthropologist, demands that Swiss citizens should be tried in different courts according to their origin, their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

He is aware of the fact that his views are provocative. But the time is ripe for debate in Switzerland.

“Those who think people from faraway cultures are able to assimilate completely into Swiss culture are wrong. This is true also for the legal system.”

Giordano also believes that there are already sharia courts in operation in Switzerland, which are not under any sort of control. This shadowy existence must cease, he demands. He asks for sharia courts to be implemented for immigrants. He is primarily thinking in terms of civil court procedures, but also for assault cases.

Hudud punishments would not be accepted, and therefore such cases would be retried under Swiss law. Human rights must of course remain in effect in front of a sharia court. He is thus unsure about polygamous marriages in this regard. This must be investigated in more detail.

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Muslims support Giordano. One Iranian sociologist says that Muslims, Christians, and Jews have been tried under different laws for centuries. The state order does not break down if there are different laws implemented for different groups. He believes that in the long run there is no way around sharia courts. He supports the early institution of sharia courts in Switzerland.

Others believe it’s not the right time for the institution of sharia, although certain parts should be implemented. At the moment it is not politically viable.

Giordano, meanwhile, is confident that there will be much debate regarding his demands. He believes this to be important because the concept of a single law in an immigration country is simply not working, just as the concept of a national state is not working.

“The concept of a national state is not working.” Hmm…

So there will be different sets of laws for different ethnic groups. Each judicial system will respect the origins and traditions of that particular ethno-religious group. Muslims from Pakistan can expect a system of laws that resembles the one they have at home. Somalis will live under the laws of Somalia — which right now, of course, means living without any laws at all.

And what about here in the USA? Does that mean that white Christians of European descent get to live under traditional honkie law?

Nuh-uh! That’s not the way the rules work.

Earlier today Dymphna wrote about the imposition of euthanasia and abortion upon constituencies who do not support these practices, in the face of contrary public opinion and in defiance of democratic procedures that would otherwise have prevented such legal changes. The federal courts are imposing by fiat the practices of a minority, since these results cannot be effected in any other manner.

The same is true of numerous other progressive legal changes. Provisions which were in effect when the states ratified the Constitution in 1787 — and were the law of the land for 200 years afterwards — have suddenly, at the drop of a judicial hat, become unconstitutional. Traditional practices are now forbidden, and previously forbidden practices have become permissible — or even mandatory. Public religious observances, an absence of homosexual marriage, the prohibition of contraception and abortion for minors without their parents’ consent: all of these are traditional “white Christian” legal customs in America, and all have been repealed or enacted by a narrow sliver of the elite without the consent of the populace at large.

So, as usual, the meta-rules for white people are different than those for all other ethnic groups. Unlike the Iranians and the Indonesians, we will not be allowed to keep our traditional customs. Baby, bathwater, and bathtub — all must go!

That’s the shining future that lies ahead for us in the “post-racial” utopia known as Obamaland.