ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for November 2006

Shaky Iran?

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Leaving aside Iran’s quest for nuclear technology, the lies and subterfuge which has gone on for 20 years according to the IAEA, the situation in Iran looks volatile.

Iran’s young population are chaffing at the restrictions and repression forced upon them from the Ayatollahs, one example is Tehran’s brutal reaction to antigovernment sentiment shown in parts of Iran, according to the Observer:

“The film shows the public hanging of Alireza Gorji, 23, and his friend Hossein Makesh, 22, in July in Broudjerd, Iran. According to official versions of the charges, they were put to death because they had behaved ‘immorally’. The truth, according to anti-government campaigners, is that the two men were among increasing numbers of political activists being executed by Iran on trumped-up charges.

‘Both these men had been involved in anti-government protests in their home town and everyone who watch the hanging knew this,’ said a human rights observer in Tehran.

On Tuesday the UN General Assembly condemned Iran for human rights abuses and the video – filmed by a Revolutionary Guard, smuggled out by opposition activists and seen by The Observer – is rare evidence of Iran’s efforts to quell dissent. Amnesty International last year documented at least 94 public executions although many more are suspected to take place in secret - in September the authorities told a lawyer for Valliollah Feyz-Mahdavi, 28, that he had died after a suicide attempt in prison. Feyz-Mahdavi had been arrested for membership of Iran’s main opposition – the People’s Mojahedin Organistation of Iran.
Tehran has now been condemned on more than 50 occasions by the UN for severe human rights violations.

The Broudjerd video has been obtained by an exiled opposition group – the National Council of Resistance of Iran. At the House of Commons on Tuesday, it will be shown to cross-party MPs to encourage the British government to reconsider what the National Council regards as a policy of appeasing the Iranian regime. The group will unveil documents on the execution of more than 20,000 political victims, including evidence for the involvement of President Mohammad Ahmadinejad.

I wonder how the lickspittles in the nauseating President Ahmadinejad’s fan club will respond to evidence of his repressive nature?

They will probably say it is all Western propaganda and Teheran is model democracy in the Middle East!

Sadly, Ahmadinejad is like another Uncle Joe to some in the West and hero worship is rife.

Written by modernityblog

27/11/2006 at 00:21

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Rockets or the West Bank

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An update on the “ceasefire” in Gaza, it seems that Islamic Jihad won’t agree to it unless Israelis leave (the whole of) the West Bank as reported by Reuters:

‘GAZA (Reuters) – A ceasefire between Israel and militants in Gaza went into effect on Sunday and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, promising restraint after early Palestinian violations, said the truce could help revive peacemaking.

The agreement is designed to end rocket attacks and halt a crushing Israeli army offensive that was launched after gunmen seized a soldier in a cross-border raid last June. Olmert said he hoped the soldier would now be freed.

“All of these things ultimately could lead to one thing — the opening of serious, real, open and direct negotiations between us,” Olmert said. “So that we can move forward towards a comprehensive agreement between us and the Palestinians.”

Palestinian militants fired several rockets at Israel just hours after the start of the ceasefire.

“We will show the necessary restraint and patience, certainly in the coming days,” Olmert said during a visit to southern Israel.

The Israeli army pulled forces out of Gaza overnight, before the ceasefire took effect. Palestinian witnesses confirmed that soldiers had left northern Gaza, where operations against rocket-launching squads had been focused.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violations of the truce and the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, said he had instructed the heads of security forces to ensure the truce held. It gave no details of how they would do so.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for launching at least five rockets into southern Israel and said it would not agree to a ceasefire unless Israeli military activity also ended in the occupied West Bank. No one was hurt in the attacks.

The armed wing of the governing Hamas Islamic group said it fired two rockets, but Hamas political leaders pledged to obey the ceasefire. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Abbas’s Fatah movement, also said they launched two rockets.

Palestinian cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the government would speak to the factions which violated the truce. “We are committed to the agreement on calm,” Hamad said. ‘

Update 1: Israel’s CH2 TV News reports that 10 Qassam rockets have been fired into Israel since the start of the ‘ceasefire’.

Written by modernityblog

26/11/2006 at 12:14

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Good News From Gaza?

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The BBC News reports that a ceasefire has been agreed in Gaza, which is most welcome as the majority of Gazans have suffered unnecessarily from the actions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israelis should welcome the well-deserved peace and relative freedom from indiscriminate rockets dropping out of the sky at them. Several have been killed in recent weeks, even with their extensive early warning systems.

I can’t help thinking that there is something more behind this, as the BBC points out “BBC correspondents say the announcement is unexpected and a major development.

Until now despite efforts by the Egyptian government to mediate the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers had been blocked by the Syrian and Iran governments.

We can only hope that some deal has been struck and that the kidnapped soldiers are released, no more rockets are fired into Israel, that the IDF withdraw from Gaza and humanitarian aid pours in.

The situation in Gaza is dire and it serves no purpose for it to worsen, so hopefully a joint government in the PA were recognised Israel and funding for humanitarian purposes resumes, with strict controls on the money to ensure that it doesn’t go towards arms or bombs.

Or maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic?

Written by modernityblog

26/11/2006 at 01:14

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Iran, Trade Unions and the Middle East

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Trade unionists in the Middle East often face the most repressive regimes, theocracies, dictatorships, etc and yet they still struggle to protect the rights of their members. The possibility of arbitrary arrest or assassination is a constant worry to them.

How we react and how we help the trade unionists of the Middle East says a lot about our commitment to human rights and workers rights, the recent attack on the bus workers’ leader is but one example:

“Mansour Osanloo, the President of the Syndicate of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) was arrested by plain clothes agents, who refused to show any identification or arrest warrants, on Sunday, November 19, 2006 while he, along with two other union board members, were on their way to the office of the Labour Ministry in Tehran East. The agents physically and verbally assaulted Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi, the union’s vice-president, and one of them pointed a gun at Mr. Madadi and fired a bullet in the air. The agents finally forced Mr. Osanloo into a waiting car and drove away. “

(Hat tip: HP)

Written by modernityblog

25/11/2006 at 11:39

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Sudanese Government Cynicism Baffles the UN, Why?

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Over the last few days, the BBC Radio Four midnight news has made much of the talks between the Sudanese government, the UN and the African Union over the issue of Darfur.

A few days ago the unsuspecting listener may have assumed that Kofi Anand had pulled off a diplomatic masterstroke after months, if not years of prevarication on Darfur, by the Sudanese government.

The UN pressed for a solid NATO mission in Darfur to protect refugees, after the failure of the African Union’s under resourced effort. The Sudanese government would have none of this, and so a compromise was eventually negotiated, that a beefed up African Union force would protect refugees in Darfur. Additionally, the Sudanese government promised to help protect refugees, and disarm the Janjaweed militia.

Whilst the negotiations were going on, the Janjaweed militia and Sudanese government forces launched a vicious military operation in Darfur.

Even Kofi Anand must feel embarrassed at this level of cynicism.

The Sudanese government has proven time after time that they will lie, cheat and say almost anything to obstruct humanitarian efforts in Darfur, even expelling the UN official concerned.

The UN and interested countries should respond swiftly to these obstructive tactics by the Sudanese government with clear determination.

They should move a sizeable NATO force into the Darfur region to protect refugees, come what may, and any obstacle should be pushed aside, or the UN will go the way of the League of Nations over Abyssinia.

Written by modernityblog

19/11/2006 at 00:42

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Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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I doubt he would make a good James Bond, but Mr kiss kiss bang bang has certainly made an impression, the wrong one.

Written by modernityblog

16/11/2006 at 18:44

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"Anti-War" and Dubious Connections

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Some people have argued that the current British antiwar movement (StWC) supports quasi-fascists (the insurgency) in Iraq, is home to a soft form of anti-Jewish racism (“we are all Hezbollah“) and even allows racist chants on their demonstrations (“Khaiber, Khaiber, Ya Yahud, Jaish Muhammad Safayahood”, which translates into, “Khaibar, Khaibar, O Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming for you”).

Now you might think that the StWC would be a bit more careful with what they use on their web site?

No, they will happily post items from people (Stephen Lendmen) that are lionised on web sites of notorious antisemites (Andrew Winkler) and Holocaust revisionists (Ziopedia). [Right hand side half way down their main page, which leds to http://sf.indymedia.org/print.php?id=1732540 and his blog http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/ bottom right are links to therebel.org and ziopedia]

Of course, it may just be a mistake.

It may just be that the Webmaster at StWC doesn’t know how to google a name or two.

Or it may be that she/he doesn’t know what Holocaust revisionism is or who Andrew Winkler is [hint: he likes Zundel], but 3-5 minutes of research would have saved them considerable embarrassment.

That is, if they are embarrassed? What next?

Will StWC link to David Duke’s “antiwar” rantings or Pat Buchanan?

Written by modernityblog

14/11/2006 at 16:33

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Poppies, the Chattering Classes and Memory

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I’m not so sure that the posturing of the chattering classes over the Poppy or one of their high priests: Jon Snow, really counts as news

But the Poppy does serve many useful purposes (apart from fund raising of some £24 million, a proportion which goes to aid ex-service people and providing work, social interaction for many disabled or chronically ill in the Poppy factory), it reminds us that if people had not opposed the Kaiser or Hitler, then Britain and the rest of Europe would be vassal states of a militaristic Germany.

It should remind us that millions and millions died to oppose military aggression and the fight against fascism, it should remind us that we enjoy a comparatively comfortable existence thanks to their willingness to give their lives. It should remind us that history didn’t start two weeks ago, two years ago or 20 years ago. The Poppy should remind us that there is history to everything and how we benefit from the struggles of others in the past.

So what does it cost, today’s whining-posturing-post-modernist generation, to buy a poppy and wear it??

No, it costs very little,

It costs us just the time and ability to remember how things that we take for granted are often built on the lives or backs of others.

It costs us a few moments to recall those graveyards, which litter Europe, full of young idealistic men and women prepared to fight against military aggression.

It costs us a degree of humility and a moment without self-indulgence, that’s all it costs.

But it costs us our bits of humanity, if we should forget.

Written by modernityblog

10/11/2006 at 20:33

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68 Years Ago

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68 years ago a modern day pogrom took place: Reichkristallnacht

Instigated by the Nazi leadership, attacks took place throughout Germany and Austria against Jews, their property, places of worship, schools, community centres and shops.

These attacks took place some three months after the Evian Conference, which did nothing to help German Jews or refuees, and emboldened Hitler at the complacent and the obvious ambivalence of the world’s nations towards the crisis faced by European Jewry.

Now, contemporary antisemitism is nowhere near as volatile (or as crude) as it was in the 1930s, and overt antisemitism diminished after WW2, but with the progressive and negative attitudes which exist towards Jews it is extremely worrying, and could become much worse in the next 10-20 years.

Which makes me reflect on these troubling issues and think that it is certainly worthwhile asking the question:

what have we learnt in 68 years?

Written by modernityblog

09/11/2006 at 10:00

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Iraq and Unions

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After Donald Rumsfeld’s late resignation (he should have gone the day he was informed of events at Abu Ghurayb), I wonder if things will look up in Iraq?

I hope so, but am not so sure. Justifiably Rumsfeld has been panned by Generals and many military sources for his stupid, counter-productive and short-sighted attitudes in Iraq.

What happens in Iraq is anyone’s guess now, neighbouring countries are fuelling the “insurgency” and the divide between Sunni and Shi’ites political leaders may be too wide to bridge.

I suspect that Iraq will be split into three regions or statelets, there are many potential problems with this arrangement but it might happen almost by default, and the approaching 2008 US presidential elections will hasten the pace. I doubt that America will truly leave Iraq, they will probably keep some large bases in Kurdistan and the Kurds will welcome US support.

Whatever happens in Iraq and its regions, people in the West should assist the development of civil and public society there.

Trade unions play a key role in defending civil and human rights, and with the volatile situation in Iraq they are even more important, so I am pleased to support the TUC Iraq appeal.

(Hat tip: Tooting Station)

Written by modernityblog

08/11/2006 at 22:35

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David Grossman’s Vision

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David Grossman’s speech at the annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin contains many points that anyone truly interested in peace should reflect upon:

“The annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin is the moment when we pause for a while to remember Rabin the man, the leader. And we also take a look at ourselves, at Israeli society, its leadership, the national mood, the state of the peace process, at ourselves as individuals in the face of national events.

It is not easy to take a look at ourselves this year. There was a war, and Israel flexed its massive military muscle, but also exposed Israel’s fragility. We discovered that our military might ultimately cannot be the only guarantee of our existence. Primarily, we have found that the crisis Israel is experiencing is far deeper than we had feared, in almost every way.

I am speaking here tonight as a person whose love for the land is overwhelming and complex, and yet it is unequivocal, and as one whose continuous covenant with the land has turned his personal calamity into a covenant of blood.

I am totally secular, and yet in my eyes the establishment and the very existence of the State of Israel is a miracle of sorts that happened to us as a nation – a political, national, human miracle.

I do not forget this for a single moment. Even when many things in the reality of our lives enrage and depress me, even when the miracle is broken down to routine and wretchedness, to corruption and cynicism, even when reality seems like nothing but a poor parody of this miracle, I always remember. And with these feelings, I address you tonight.

“Behold land, for we hath squandered,” wrote the poet Saul Tchernikovsky in Tel Aviv in 1938. He lamented the burial of our young again and again in the soil of the Land of Israel. The death of young people is a horrible, ghastly waste.

But no less dreadful is the sense that for many years, the State of Israel has been squandering, not only the lives of its sons, but also its miracle; that grand and rare opportunity that history bestowed upon it, the opportunity to establish here a state that is efficient, democratic, which abides by Jewish and universal values; a state that would be a national home and haven, but not only a haven, also a place that would offer a new meaning to Jewish existence; a state that holds as an integral and essential part of its Jewish identity and its Jewish ethos, the observance of full equality and respect for its non-Jewish citizens.

Look at what befell us. Look what befell the young, bold, passionate country we had here, and how, as if it had undergone a quickened ageing process, Israel lurched from infancy and youth to a perpetual state of gripe, weakness and sourness.

How did this happen? When did we lose even the hope that we would eventually be able to live a different, better life? Moreover, how do we continue to watch from the side as though hypnotized by the insanity, rudeness, violence and racism that has overtaken our home?

And I ask you: How could it be that a people with such powers of creativity, renewal and vivacity as ours, a people that knew how to rise from the ashes time and again, finds itself today, despite its great military might, at such a state of laxity and inanity, a state where it is the victim once more, but this time its own victim, of its anxieties, its short-sightedness.

One of the most difficult outcomes of the recent war is the heightened realization that at this time there is no king in Israel, that our leadership is hollow. Our military and political leadership is hollow. I am not even talking about the obvious blunders in running the war, of the collapse of the home front, nor of the large-scale and small-time corruption.

I am talking about the fact that the people leading Israel today are unable to contact Israelis to their identity. Certainly not with the healthy, vitalizing and productive areas of this identity, with those areas of identity and memory and fundamental values that would give us hope and strength, that would be the antidote to the waning of mutual trust, of the bonds to the land, that would give some meaning to the exhausting and despairing struggle for existence.

The fundamental characteristics of the current Israeli leadership are primarily anxiety and intimidation, of the charade of power, the wink of the dirty deal, of selling out our most prized possessions. In this sense they are not true leaders, certainly they are not the leaders of a people in such a complicated position that has lost the way it so desperately needs. Sometimes it seems that the sound box of their self-importance, of their memories of history, of their vision, of what they really care for, exist only in the miniscule space between two headlines of a newspaper or between two investigations by the attorney general.

Look at those who lead us. Not all of them, of course, but many among them. Behold their petrified, suspicious, sweaty conduct. The conduct of advocates and scoundrels. It is preposterous to expect to hear wisdom emerge from them, that some vision or even just an original, truly creative, bold and ingenuous idea would emanate from them.

When was the last time a prime minister formulated or took a step that could open up a new horizon for Israelis, for a better future? When did he initiate a social or cultural or ideological move, instead of merely reacting feverishly to moves forced upon him by others?

Mister Prime Minister, I am not saying these words out of feelings of rage or revenge. I have waited long enough to avoid responding on impulse. You will not be able to dismiss my words tonight by saying a grieving man cannot be judged. Certainly I am grieving, but I am more pained than angry. This country and what you and your friends are doing to it pains me.

Trust me, your success is important to me, because the future of all of us depends on our ability to act. Yitzhak Rabin took the road of peace with the Palestinians, not because he possessed great affection for them or their leaders. Even then, as you recall, common belief was that we had no partner and we had nothing to discuss with them.

Rabin decided to act, because he discerned very wisely that Israeli society would not be able to sustain itself endlessly in a state of an unresolved conflict. He realized long before many others that life in a climate of violence, occupation, terror, anxiety and hopelessness, extracts a price Israel cannot afford. This is all relevant today, even more so. We will soon talk about the partner that we do or do not have, but before that, let us take a look at ourselves.

We have been living in this struggle for more than 100 years. We, the citizens of this conflict, have been born into war and raised in it, and in a certain sense indoctrinated by it. Maybe this is why we sometimes think that this madness in which we live for over 100 years is the only real thing, the only life for us, and that we do not have the option or even the right to aspire for a different life.

By our sword we shall live and by our sword we shall die and the sword shall devour forever. Maybe this would explain the indifference with which we accept the utter failure of the peace process, a failure that has lasted for years and claims more and more victims.

This could explain also the lack of reaction by most of us to the harsh blow to democracy caused by the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as a senior minister with the support of the Labor Party – the appointment of a habitual pyromaniac as director of the nation’s firefighters.

And these are partly the cause of Israel’s quick descent into the heartless, essentially brutal treatment of its poor and suffering. This indifference to the fate of the hungry, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, all those who are weak, this equanimity of the State of Israel in the face of human trafficking or the appalling employment conditions of our foreign workers, which border on slavery, to the deeply ingrained institutionalized racism against the Arab minority.

When this takes place here so naturally, without shock, without protest, as though it were obvious, that we would never be able to get the wheel back on track, when all of this takes place, I begin to fear that even if peace were to arrive tomorrow, and even if we ever regained some normalcy, we may have lost our chance for full recovery.

The calamity that struck my family and myself with the falling of our son, Uri, does not grant me any additional rights in the public discourse, but I believe that the experience of facing death and the loss brings with it a sobriety and lucidity, at least regarding the distinction between the important and the unimportant, between the attainable and the unattainable.

Any reasonable person in Israel, and I will say in Palestine too, knows exactly the outline of a possible solution to the conflict between the two peoples. Any reasonable person here and over there knows deep in their heart the difference between dreams and the heart’s desire, between what is possible and what is not possible by the conclusion of negotiations. Anyone who does not know, who refuses to acknowledge this, is already not a partner, be he Jew or Arab, is entrapped in his hermetic fanaticism, and is therefore not a partner.

Let us take a look at those who are meant to be our partners. The Palestinians have elected Hamas to lead them, Hamas who refuses to negotiate with us, refuses even to recognize us. What can be done in such a position? Keep strangling them more and more, keep mowing down hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are innocent civilians like us? Kill them and get killed for all eternity?

Turn to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, address them over the heads of Hamas, appeal to their moderates, those who like you and I oppose Hamas and its ways, turn to the Palestinian people, speak to their deep grief and wounds, acknowledge their ongoing suffering.

Nothing would be taken away from you or Israel’s standing in future negotiations. Our hearts will only open up to one another slightly, and this has a tremendous power, the power of a force majeur. The power of simple human compassion, particularly in this a state of deadlock and dread. Just once, look at them not through the sights of a gun, and not behind a closed roadblock. You will see there a people that is tortured no less than us. An oppressed, occupied people bereft of hope.

Certainly, the Palestinians are also to blame for the impasse, certainly they played their role in the failure of the peace process. But take a look at them from a different perspective, not only at the radicals in their midst, not only at those who share interests with our own radicals. Take a look at the overwhelming majority of this miserable people, whose fate is entangled with our own, whether we like it or not.

Go to the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert, do not search all the time for reasons for not to talk to them. You backed down on the unilateral convergence, and that’s a good thing, but do not leave a vacuum. It will be occupied instantly with violence, destruction. Talk to them, make them an offer their moderates can accept. They argue far more than we are shown in the media. Make them an offer so that they are forced to choose whether they accept it, or whether they prefer to remain hostage to fanatical Islam.

Approach them with the bravest and most serious plan Israel can offer. With the offer than any reasonable Palestinian and Israeli knows is the boundary of their refusal and our concession. There is no time. Should you delay, in a short while we will look back with longing at the amateur Palestinian terror. We will hit our heads and yell at our failure to exercise all of our mental flexibility, all of the Israeli ingenuity to uproot our enemies from their self-entrapment. We have no choice and they have no choice. And a peace of no choice should be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice. And those who believe we do have a choice, or that time is on our side do not comprehend the deeply dangerous processes already in motion.

Maybe, Mr. Prime Minister, you need to be reminded, that if an Arab leader is sending a peace signal, be it the slightest and most hesitant, you must accept it, you must test immediately its sincerity and seriousness. You do not have the moral right not to respond.

You owe it to those whom you would ask to sacrifice their lives should another war break out. Therefore, if President Assad says that Syria wants peace, even if you don’t believe him, and we are all suspicious of him, you must offer to meet him that same day.

Don’t wait a single day. When you launched the last war you did not even wait one hour. You charged with full force, with the complete arsenal, with the full power of destruction. Why, when a glimmer of peace surfaces, must you reject it immediately, dissolve it? What have you got to lose? Are you suspicious of it? Go and offer him such terms that would expose his schemes. Offer him a peace process that would last over several years, and only at its conclusion, and provided he meets all the conditions and restrictions, will he get back the Golan. Commit him to a prolonged process, act so that his people also become aware of this possibility. Help the moderates, who must exist there as well. Try to shape reality. Not only serve as its collaborator. This is what you were elected to do.

Certainly, not all depends on our actions. There are major powers active in our region and in the world. Some, like Iran, like radical Islam, seek our doom and despite that, so much depends on what we do, on what we become.

Disagreements today between right and left are not that significant. The vast majority of Israel’s citizens understand this already, and know what the outline for the resolution of the conflict would look like. Most of us understand, therefore, that the land would be divided, that a Palestinian state would be established.

Why, then, do we keep exhausting ourselves with the internal bickering that has gone on for 40 years? Why does our political leadership continue to reflect the position of the radicals and not that held by the majority of the public? It is better to reach national consensus before circumstances or God forbid another war force us to reach it. If we do it, we would save ourselves years of decline and error, years when we will cry time and again: “Behold land, for we hath squandered.”

From where I stand right now, I beseech, I call on all those who listen, the young who came back from the war, who know they are the ones to be called upon to pay the price of the next war, on citizens, Jew and Arab, people on the right and the left, the secular, the religious, stop for a moment, take a look into the abyss. Think of how close we are to losing all that we have created here. Ask yourselves if this is not the time to get a grip, to break free of this paralysis, to finally claim the lives we deserve to live. “

Written by modernityblog

06/11/2006 at 01:41

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The Hitler Paradox and Saddam Hussein

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I wasn’t going to comment on the Iraqi court’s verdict on Saddam Hussein and I would prefer to avoid Godwin’s law, but I have been surprised at the response of some people at HP and the comments indicate my views on the subject.

I was intending to reduce the rhetoric and argue a logical case how qualms over capital punishment could not apply to dictators, their henchmen and others guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide but instead I will argue that the Hitler “paradox” is obvious enough:

suppose, for the sake of argument, that Adolf Hitler had been captured alive and put on trial at Nuremberg, would anyone here seriously have opposed the death penalty towards him??

Written by modernityblog

06/11/2006 at 01:02

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Gotcha, Finally?

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The Times reports:

“‘AUGUSTO PINOCHET, the 90-year-old former dictator of Chile, was branded a “grave danger to society” as he was placed under house arrest in Santiago yesterday by the judge investigating his role in cases of torture and kidnapping during his time in power.

Judge Alejandro Solís charged the general with 35 kidnappings, one homicide and 24 cases of torture in the Villa Grimaldi case. Villa Grimaldi was a secret police prison that became one of Chile’s most infamous torture centres during the military’s “dirty war” against left-wing opponents.

This is the first prosecution for torture to proceed against the former general.

“General Pinochet has been notified of his prosecution for kidnapping, one homicide and torture, and has been detained as a grave danger to society considering the gravity of the crimes. But, owing to his age, he has been granted house arrest,” Señor Solís said. On Friday the judge dismissed efforts by General Pinochet’s legal team to have the case dropped on the ground of health.

Señor Solís said that he found the former ruler lucid for his age.

General Pinochet will turn 91 next month and his legal team claims that diabetes and a series of strokes have left him suffering from mild dementia. He seized power in a violent coup in 1973, when he overthrew the democratically elected communist leader, Salvador Allende.

The Government of General Pinochet oversaw the secret kidnapping and killing of left-wing opponents. Tens of thousands were tortured and 3,000 were killed or disappeared. Among the former inmates of the Villa Grimaldi are Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean President, and her mother. The general denies any knowledge of abuses at the centre.

The effort to bring the former military leader to trial has long been a cause célèbre for human rights campaigners. He was first arrested in 1998 while in London for medical treatment, after an extradition request from Spain. But Jack Straw, then the Home Secretary, ordered his release in 2000, saying that he was medically unfit to stand trial.

Efforts to bring him to justice have since switched to Chile, where he has lost a number of rulings, including being stripped of his parliamentary immunity in 2002. In September the Supreme Court threw out his legal team’s argument that he was medically unfit to stand trial in the Villa Grimaldi case.

As well as the gathering case against him for human rights abuses, General Pinochet faces prosecution for fraud and tax evasion. His wife and children have also been charged as part of the investigation into his finances, undermining support for him among Chileans, who believed that the abuses of his regime were a price worth paying to prevent the country turning into “another Cuba”.

GENERAL’S TRAVELS

1973 Salvador Allende is killed in army coup. Pinochet dictatorship begins

1989 Democracy is restored after Pinochet steps down

1998 Pinochet arrested in London

2000 Pinochet unfit to face trial and returns to Chile

2004 Pinochet charged with murder and kidnapping”

Written by modernityblog

02/11/2006 at 00:35

Posted in Uncategorized

MSF

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Médecins Sans Frontières are a brave and tireless charity that provide medical support in the most desolate areas of the world and they deserve our support.

The MSF slideshow from Darfur helps us to appreciate the seriousness of the problems in Sudan and MSF’s very necessary work.

Written by modernityblog

01/11/2006 at 13:55

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