ModernityBlog

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

Archive for June 2011

Another Member Resigns Over Institutional Racism In UCU.

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Over at Engage.

Blogs in June 2011.

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I thought I should see what others are doing:

Flesh is Grass has an important post on how the EDL managed to march, unescorted, from Redbridge to Dagenham.

Yaacov Lozowick has given up blogging. Pity, I didn’t agree with him, much, but he has a thoughtful way and articulates many intelligent ideas.

Johnny Guitar thinks about the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement and the need for a South Africa-style truth commission, just not at the moment.

Weggis on the case against biofuels. Completely agree, it seems so questionable to use food stuff or related material as fuel for the internal combustion engine.

Harry Barnes on Sorting Out The Labour Party, which I think is very optimistic. In the short term they could ditch Ed Miliband, try to be a bit radical, really, seriously distance themselves from the skeleton of New Labour. Chance would be a fine thing.

In related news, I am not surprised that Ed Miliband is less popular than Iain Duncan Smith or William Hague, when they were in a similar position. Frankly, Miliband’s inarticulate, has the charisma of a saucer and he’s politically useless.

Jams looks at an evil cat, great photos.

Mark Gardner at the CST has a reflective post on the situation at UCU and its wider implications, From UCU to MEMO and “Israel’s British hirelings”.

Ten minutes hate on the ‘miracle villages’.

Chris Dillow considers Miliband’s power blindness.

Nick Lowles provides a photo and details of the EDL thugs racial attack in Dagenham.

Sorrel Moseley-Williams ponders Journalists’ Day in Argentina.

Not a blog, but worthwhile all the same. Searchlight on the BNP’s use of Facebook and Twitter.

Rosie looks at Fact and Fiction.

James Bloodworth has a couple of cracking posts, Will the Defence Secretary’s links with Sri Lanka compromise British calls for an enquiry? and Isn’t it time for an apology, Mr Chomsky?

Rebecca provides an update on the Gaza flotilla. Personally, I think the Israeli Government should allow them into Gaza with minimum fuss or hassle. I think Gazans should get as much as they can, after all living under Hamas must be terrible.

Jack of Kent looks at the arrest of blogger Jacqui Thompson and the many unanswered questions.

Greens Engage on Cynthia and Jello.

At Greater Surbiton, a guest post by David Pettigrew, Justice in Bosnia after Mladic.

Eric Reeves has a piece in the Washington Post, In Sudan, genocide anew?

Engage has an abundance of posts which should be read, just a small selection: Open antisemitism doesn’t harm your reputation, Sally Hunt pretends not to understand the term “institutional racism” and Richard Kuper on the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (by Eve Garrard)

Enjoy!

Women in Saudi.

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Readers might remember the case of Manal al-Sherif, a young Saudi woman arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia?

Well, more women are fighting back against petty restrictions and the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, France 24 reports:

“Several Saudi women got behind the wheel on Friday in a “Suffragette-level” protest against rules that ban them from driving cars in the conservative, male-dominated country.

A Facebook campaign page titled “Women2Drive”, as well as the reactions from thousands of Twitter users, have helped push this small act of civil disobedience onto the international stage.

The campaign was inspired by the arrest last month of 32-year-old Manal al-Sherif, who posted a video of herself driving on YouTube.

On Friday there were reports of “several” women driving. But in an ultraconservative country where such behaviour is virtually unknown, it was still a significant act of defiance – even if all the reports were of women driving with a male relative. Saudi women are required by law to be accompanied by a male relative when they venture out.

Microblogging site Twitter was flooded with messages of support on Friday and triumphant comments on those staging these acts of defiance.

Times of London columnist Janice Turner tweeted: “Today, women in Saudi will challenge the driving ban, risking arrest, loss of jobs & children. This [is] Suffragette-level bravery.”

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtan, a Saudi rights activist, said he had been driven by his wife Maha through the streets of Riyadh.

“My wife, Maha, and I have just come from a 45-minute drive, she was the driver through Riyadh’s streets,” he tweeted, adding later that she “has taken her necessary belongings, ready to go to prison without fear!” “

Update 1: Time covers it too:

“The beginning of the trip was uneventful. I tried to keep my camera discreetly in my lap and shoot the occasional frame, so as to not draw attention to us. We rode through Friday afternoon traffic, attracting some double takes and a few stares, but overall much less reaction than I would have anticipated. Her eyes, all that could be seen from underneath her all-encompassing hijab, darted in and out of the rear view mirror.

We coasted along King Fahd Road in Riyadh. The traffic seemed to grow more dense by the minute. She was nervous and her husband was giving her directions. “Don’t change lanes, slow down, you are going too fast!” he said. Then, turning to me in the back seat, he declared proudly, “She’s a good driver!”

The backseat driving made me smile—so universal between husbands and wives, no matter where in the world you are.

Given the longstanding prohibition against women drivers, I wondered if the police would stop us. I flashed back to the cramped prison cell in Sirte, where I was held by the Libyan government in March along with three male colleagues from the New York Times. There we were splayed out on soiled foam mattresses, a bottle of urine in the corner of the cell, a box of dates on the floor. I was sure the Saudi prison would be cleaner.

I took the discs out of my camera, hid them in my bra, and put the camera back into my backpack. “

Update 2: This is the Facebook page of Women2Drive.

Chen Guangcheng, A Blind Lawyer Beaten Up.

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We often think we have it hard in the West, but the reality is different. Particularly when you consider what happens to you in China if you step out of line. You get beaten up or jailed. That’s what happened to Chen Guangcheng, AFP reports:

“WASHINGTON — A blind Chinese activist who exposed abuses in Beijing’s population control policy was beaten unconscious by dozens of men led by a communist party official, his wife said in a letter released Thursday.

Human rights groups earlier reported an attack on activist Chen Guangcheng in February, but the account from his wife — who said she was also severely abused and remains under house arrest — offered graphic new details.

Wife Yuan Weijing said that 70 to 80 men stormed their home in February. She said around 10 beat her husband for more than two hours while the others trashed the place, taking away a computer, video-camera and even flashlights.

“Some of them twisted his arms forcefully while the others were pushing his head down and lifting his collar up tightly. Given his poor health condition of long-time diarrhea, Guangcheng was not able to resist and passed out after more than two hours of torture,” she wrote.

The letter was released by ChinaAid, a US-based rights group. It said it received the letter on Wednesday.

Yuan said the couple was not allowed medical treatment. She said she was covered with a blanket and beaten, which she believed caused her broken ribs. She said she could not see for five to six days and still cannot stand up straight.

Yuan said that the assailants were led by a local communist party vice secretary and included policemen, although they did not wear uniforms or show legal documents.

Yuan said that authorities have stepped up pressure on them since the beating, with their five-year-old daughter also under house arrest and Chen’s mother followed constantly by three men.

Previous attempts to verify the couple’s condition independently were unsuccessful. Reporters from Western news organizations said they were roughed up in February when they tried to reach Chen’s home in the city of Linyi.

Chen, a self-taught lawyer blind since childhood, served more than four years in prison after he exposed widespread late-term abortions and forced sterilizations under China’s policy of restricting most families to one child.

He was released in September and put under house arrest. He later made a daring video, also released by ChinaAid, in which he said police threatened to beat him or throw him back in jail if he spoke up.

No Update On Khaled al-Johani.

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Been asked to produce an update on Khaled al-Johani, but sadly I can find very little on the web that is current, the best is BBC News from 24 May 2011:

“The only man to protest on Saudi Arabia’s day of rage has suffered in prison, his family say.

Khaled al-Johani was arrested minutes after going to the courthouse in Riyadh and giving a BBC interview in which he called for democracy and described the country as a big jail.

His family have now told the BBC that they were not allowed to see him for the first 58 days of his incarceration. And when they did see him, says his brother, Abdullah al-Johani, their concerns increased.

“He has lost a lot of weight. The situation is sad and he is depressed. He doesn’t have any of his own clothes and we can’t give him food or money.”

Khaled al-Johani is one of more than 160 dissidents who have been arrested by the Saudi authorities since February, according to Human Rights Watch.

On Tuesday a judge in Jeddah sent 40 people, charged with instigation and calling for protests against the ruler, to face a court that specialises in security and terrorism cases.

The interior ministry spokesman, General Mansour Sultan al-Turki is unapologetic.

“Saudis…do not have anything to demonstrate for. The Grand Mufti has talked about this and [protesting] is un-Islamic behaviour.” “

UN Hands Over Protesters To Bahrain.

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Officials at the UN offices in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, have handed over human rights protesters to the Bahraini security forces according to information coming out of Twitter and Demotix:

“Three Bahrain women, Asma Darwish,Sawsan Jawad and Zainab Alkhawaja have been arrested as they began a hunger strike calling for immediate action to be taken by the UN, on political prisoners in Bahrain. “

So instead of helping the women, the UN officials hand them over to the very people they should be protecting them from. Despicable.

George Monbiot On Genocide Belittlers.

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George Monbiot has written a fine piece in the Guardian, Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers:

“But genocide denial is just as embarrassing to the left as it is to the libertarian right. Last week Edward Herman, an American professor of finance best known for co-authoring Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, published a new book called The Srebrenica Massacre. It claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.”

Like Karadzic, the book claims that the market massacres in Sarajevo were carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs. It maintains that the Serb forces’ reburial of Bosnian corpses is “implausible and lack[s] any evidential support” (an astonishing statement in view of the ICMP’s findings). It insists that the witnesses to the killings are “not credible” and suggests that the Bosnian Muslim soldiers retreated from Srebrenica to ensure that more Bosnians were killed, in order to provoke US intervention.

These are not the first such claims that Herman has made. Last year, with David Peterson, he published a book called The Politics of Genocide. Mis-citing a tribunal judgment, he maintains that the Serb forces “incontestably had not killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’.” Worse still, he places the Rwandan genocide in inverted commas throughout the text and maintains that “the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”, and that the story of 800,000 “largely Tutsi deaths” caused by genocide “appears to have no basis in any facts”. It’s as straightforward an instance of revisionism as I’ve ever seen, comparable in this case only to the claims of the genocidaires themselves.

But here’s where it gets really weird. The cover carries the following endorsement by John Pilger. “In this brilliant exposé of great power’s lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.” The foreword was written by Noam Chomsky. He doesn’t mention the specific claims the book makes, but the fact that he wrote it surely looks like an endorsement of the contents. The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Media Lens has waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating the number killed in that country.

Why is this happening? Both the LM network and Herman’s supporters oppose western intervention in the affairs of other nations. Herman rightly maintains that far more attention is paid to atrocities committed by US enemies than to those committed by the US and its allies. But both groups then take the unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers.

The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and confront those trying to make them disappear.”

The original post with full references can be seen at Monbiot’s site.

Update 1: In a hole, stop digging, but Media Lens carry on:

“One initial thought. Monbiot writes:

‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/13/left-and-libertarian-right

What does ‘talk down’ really mean here? Downplay? Underestimate? Deliberately underestimate? Dishonestly underestimate?

In fact, last week we spelled out our position to Monbiot on Twitter:

‘We’re saying +everyone+ is entitled to debate facts. Who are we, or you, to say they are not? Do you possess Absolute Truth?’

Imagine how it would have looked for him, if he had honestly represented our position:

‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to debate the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’

As Monbiot also knows (we sent him a link to what follows), this is also what we wrote in 2009:

‘It is certainly true that we have posted articles by Herman and Peterson discussing the massacre on our website. But it is simply false to suggest that they have argued that “the genocide at Srebrenica was all a hoax”. Herman and Peterson have written:

‘”The Srebrenica massacre took place in the month before Operation Storm, Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed, including over 500 women and children…” (Edward Herman and David Peterson, ‘The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,’ Monthly Review, October 2007; http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson1.php)

‘Their very rational concern is to discuss the “asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon”. (Ibid) Their interest, then, is in precisely +comparing+ how these two horrific massacres were treated by Western politics and media. Herman and Peterson have also written:

‘”There is a good case to be made that, while there were surely hundreds of executions, and possibly as many as a thousand or more, the 8,000 figure is a political construct and eminently challengeable.” (Herman and Peterson, ‘Milosevic’s Death in the Propaganda System,’ ZNet, May 14, 2006; http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3884)

‘Herman and Peterson, then, are +not+ denying that mass killings took place at Srebrenica. They also do not accept the figure cited by Kamm and others, but that they are perfectly entitled to do. The point is that while critics are free to take issue with their facts, sources and arguments, it is nonsense to accuse them of sins that are the “moral equivalent of Holocaust denial”. And to associate us with Holocaust denial on the grounds that we publish their material is desperate indeed.’

http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=585:dancing-on-a-mass-grave-oliver-kamm-of-the-times-smears-media-lens&catid=23:alerts-2009&Itemid=9

Notice that Monbiot has smeared us in a national newspaper on a subject we have never written about beyond the above explanation of why we posted, or linked to, articles by Herman and Peterson on the subject on our website. We have not ourselves ever written about the Srebrenica massacre other than to affirm that it took place. For this, according to Monbiot, we are guilty of the thought crime of ‘genocide denial’.”

[My emphasis.]

Whisky, West Dunbartonshire Council And Fakes.

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In response to the symbolic boycott of Israeli products by West Dunbartonshire Council some people are organising a boycott of Scotch whisky.

It all seems to me a bit petty, given that West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t actually import any Israeli products. Certainly, they use technology which is derived from Israeli know-how, that includes but isn’t limited to Intel chips, Microsoft XP software and Kinect.

However, the Council and the posturing Councillors are hardly going to inconvenience themselves by really boycotting Israeli technology, lest it proves too troubling, like giving up using Google (their key search algorithm was developed by an Israeli).

As for the retaliatory boycott, well I am not sure it makes the required point, but Drink Business Review explains:

“FJMC Executive Director Rabbi Simon’s boycott urge followed after Israeli-Anglo blogger and pro-settlement activist, Jameel Rashid publicized on his website a letter to several distilleries located within West Dunbartonshire.

In his letter he stated, the global counter boycott of Scottish whiskey products, distilled in the West Durbanshire council region, is beginning, and requested officers to cease the purchase of any goods that made or grown in Israel.

The West Dunbartonshire Council, while it has not responded publically to calls endorsing a boycott of locally manufactured spirits, has defended the decision which sparked the protest.

The council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK, and are therefore not affected by this boycott. “

The intense interest in this issue has revealed an exceedingly unsavoury side to the instigator of the boycott, Councillor Jim Bollan.

Bollan seems perfectly comfortable contextualising the decapitation of a three-month old baby, as the JC reports:

“”Violence breeds violence. Have you any idea what may have motivated this man [Awad] to commit this crime? Could it have been because he may have seen Palestinian children slaughtered by the IDF?”

Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children were murdered in the West Bank settlement in March. The youngest victim, three month old Hadas, was decapitated.

Responding to another pro-Israel activist, Mr Bollan declared: “Hamas was elected and are freedom fighters alongside the Palestinians fighting an illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel.”

Mickey Green of Scottish Friends of Israel said: “I’m not surprised he has sunk to this level. This is a man with pre-conceived ideas and a mental block to reason. He is functioning at a nasty, visceral level.

Judy reports that the fake Gay Girl in Damascus had form, as, er a “anti-Zionist” or something like that.

Marko at Greater Surbiton points out the Guardian’s complicity in this issue, The Guardian’s disgraceful treatment of Jelena Lecic.

Over at Though Cowards Flinch, Carl has a superb post on Chavez, anti-Zionism, and antisemitism. It is noticeable how the thread is almost monopolised by a particular “anti-Zionist”, who is keen to quibble and nitpick on these issues, but he can’t see any anti-racism. Well, not when it is aimed at Jews, that is.

Finally, Tim Marshall has a provocative post, The ‘Arab Spring’ And The Conspiracy Of Silence:

“Across the Middle East from the Arab leaders you can hear the sound…… of silence. A similar sound emanates from many Muslim ‘activists’.

Take the most glaring example – Bahrain. The allegation, backed by human rights groups, is that the Sunni ruled state opened fire with live rounds on peaceful protesters from the majority Shia population, killed large numbers of people, then followed up with a wave of arrests which resulted in widespread torture.

The response from Arab leaders? In the Gulf, the 6 nation Gulf Cooperation Council quickly sent troops to assist in the repression whilst most Western nations, aware of the US military fleet based in Bahrain did little to upset the old order. Elsewhere, the Jordanians, Egyptians, Syrians, Algerians et al – just kept quiet.

During the Egyptian upheaval the House Of Saud was quietly horrified at how quickly the Americans let the Generals get their way and remove Mubarak. In private they let Washington know their displeasure, but to have complained openly would have been to do what you don’t do in the Arab political world in public (and to a lesser extent in our own systems) which is to tell the truth.

Update 1: This is a thoughtful perspective on Tom MacMaster, the fake blogger, Understanding #amina.

In Bahrain, The West’s Ally, Prosecutes Medical Staff.

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As the regime in Bahrain puts medical staff in the dock, they’ve managed to do what only the worst dictatorships, mad monarchs and authoritarians do, lock up a poet.

Reuters reports:

“MANAMA — A Bahraini court sentenced a young Shi’ite poet to one year in prison on Sunday for taking part in illegal protests and incitement against the Gulf state’s monarchy.

Ayat al-Qurmouzi, 20, was arrested after she recited a poem mocking the Bahraini king and demanding he step down, during protests led by the country’s Shi’ite majority that gripped the kingdom in February and March.

A relative confirmed her sentence, saying Qurmouzi’s family had feared for her safety in detention.

Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, called in troops from its fellow Sunni-led Gulf neighbor Saudi Arabia to help it crush the pro-democracy protests in March.

Qurmouzi is one of about 400 people, most of them Shi’ites, who the Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq says have been put on trial for their roles in the protests.

Some 50 people have already been given sentences ranging from short prison terms to execution, the group says.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said in a statement on Sunday that Qurmouzi and others had been ill-treated in custody. “

The Guardian covers it here.

On top of that, Bahrain’s rulers are prosecuting medical staff, in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention:

“Manama, Bahrain (CNN) — Dozens of doctors and nurses went on trial Monday in Bahrain, accused of taking control of a hospital during anti-government protests, storing weapons and keeping people prisoner.

The doctors, their lawyers and international human rights activists say the defendants were tortured to extract confessions against a background of demonstrations in the kingdom.

Eleven male doctors appeared in court Monday, their heads shaven, alongside at least five female doctors. They appeared stressed and anxious.

One of the doctors tried to tell the judge that his confession had been extracted under torture, but the judge told him to stop and that he would be able to give evidence later in the trial.

Human rights groups have accused the government of widespread attacks on doctors and other medical workers.

“We documented a systematic attack on medical staff in Bahrain including the beatings, torture and disappearances of more than 30 physicians,” said Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.

“We found doctors were simply providing ethical and life-saving medical care to patients whom Bahraini security forces had shot, detained and tortured,” Sollom said.

Physicians for Human Rights, a group that shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to ban landmines, says it sent investigators to the Persian Gulf kingdom and interviewed 45 patients, doctors, nurses and witnesses.

The report details attacks on “physicians, medical staff, patients and unarmed civilians with the use of bird shot, physical beatings, rubber bullets, tear gas and unidentified chemical agents,” the group said in an April report.

Its report echoes those released earlier by Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders.

The Cost Of Orientalism: Non-existent Syrian Blogger.

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Why someone would want to impersonate a gay blogger in Damascus I can’t fully understand, but my bet is that Western Orientalism is to blame. The condescending notion that people in the Middle East are not the same as everyone else and not as deserving of the same respect, can often be found at the heart of how many Westerners treat the region, even if it is just at an subconscious level.

The Guardian reveals that the gay girl in Damascus was apparently a married bloke in Scotland:

“The mysterious identity of a young Arab lesbian blogger who was apparently kidnapped last week in Syria has been revealed conclusively to be a hoax. The blogs were written by not by a gay girl in Damascus, but a middle-aged American man based in Scotland.

Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old Middle East activist studying for a masters at Edinburgh University, posted an update declaring that, rather than a 35-year-old feminist and lesbian called Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, he was “the sole author of all posts on this blog”.

“I never expected this level of attention,” he wrote in a posting allegedly emanating from “Istanbul, Turkey”.

“The events [in the Middle East] are being shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.”

The admission – confirmed in an email to the Guardian from MacMaster’s wife – apparently ends a mystery that has convulsed parts of the internet for almost a week. But it provoked a furious response from those who had supported the blogger’s campaign, with some in the Syrian gay community saying he had risked their safety and seriously harmed their cause.

The blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus”, was launched in February, purportedly to explain “what it’s like to be a lesbian here”, and gathered a growing following as Syria’s popular uprising gained momentum in recent months. Amina described participating in street protests, carrying out furtive lesbian romances and eventually being forced into hiding after security forces came to her home to arrest her.

Then, on 6 June, a post appeared in the name of Amina’s cousin “Rania O Ismail”, who said the blogger had been snatched by armed men on a Damascus street. The news sparked internet campaigns to release her, until activists in Syria and beyond began voicing doubts.

It emerged that no one, even a woman in Canada who believed she was having a relationship with Amina, had ever spoken to her, and other key details could not be corroborated.

In recent days an army of bloggers, journalists and others uncovered snippets of evidence that pointed increasingly to MacMaster and his wife, Britta Froelicher, who is studying at the University of St Andrews for a PhD in Syrian economic development.

IP addresses of emails sent by Amina to the lesbian blog LezGetReal.com and others were traced to servers at Edinburgh University. A now-defunct Yahoo discussion group supposedly jointly run by “Amina Arraf” was listed under an address in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that public records show is a home owned by MacMaster and Froelicher.

Many private emails sent by the blog’s author contained photographs identical to pictures taken by Froelicher and posted on her page on the Picasa photo-sharing website. Included on the site are many images from a trip to Syria in 2008. The pictures had been removed from public view last night. “

I agree with this:

“Sami Hamwi, the pseudonym for the Damascus editor of GayMiddleEast.com, wrote: “To Mr MacMaster, I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism. Add to that, that it might have caused doubts about the authenticity of our blogs, stories, and us.

“Your apology is not accepted, since I have myself started to investigate Amina’s arrest. I could have put myself in a grave danger inquiring about a fictitious figure. Really … Shame on you!!!”

“What a waste of time when we are trying so hard to get news out of Syria,” another Damascus activist told the Guardian.”

Written by modernityblog

13/06/2011 at 01:27

Another Weekend Of Assortments.

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The world is a busy place and events move on at a pace, so here are a few assortments I nearly missed:

Colonel Qaddafi sends a thank you note to some members of the US Congress.

Andy on the Australian Defence League.

Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride is very colourful, according to the Guardian.

Blogger arrested for filming a Council meeting.

And for the Polyglots amongst you, the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism in many, many languages, including, but not limited to Mongolian and Estonian.

Jen Campbell’s blog is enjoyable. Book lovers will like her series, weird things customers say in bookshops.

The Atlantic Wire has picked apart many of Palin’s emails and it is as you might expect, stunning!

Top 10 trends on Twitter, not sure about this.

Washington Post finds that Palin had a third email account, which is amazing. It shows a hitherto hidden aspect to Palin, dexterity with a PC, who would have thought it?

Are the Iranian Revolutionary Guards helping to kill Syrians?

In Japan, an anti-nuclear protest.

Syria And Assorted News.

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The news coming out of Syria is terrible, Left Foot Forward covers it.

Amnesty International highlights the plight of medical staff in Bahrain that are scheduled to go on trial on Monday.

It seems that the Iranian state is getting people accustomed to the idea of a nuclear test, or at least that is one plausible reading coming out of this piece in the Guardian.

This extract is for Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary lest she forget what institutional racism means. [Thanks to Flesh Is Grass.]

Apparently, a Tory MP has sexually assaulted a woman, and guess who he blames? The woman. Then he proceeds to cast doubt on the veracity of the victim’s account of the assault. I am sure if UCU members read the Indy article with a critical eye they will see a message there.

Another EDL thug.

An eyewitness account from Syria.

Finally, the Washington Post has a page on the Palin emails. I liked this bit, Sarah Palin emails hint at her governing style.

The Pain of Palin And Gingrich.

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It can’t be easy to be a potential party nominee to the Presidency of the United States. Aside from the intrusion, the fact you need millions and millions to run and years spent climbing the greasy pole there are other obstacles in the way of ultimate power, emails and ex-aides.

A vast treasure trove of emails from Sarah Palin have just been released and I am sure that we will hear much more about her idiocy, parochialism and self-conceit.

The Guardian, Slate, ABC News, New York Times and Huff Post are excited by what these, presumably self-serving, emails will tell us about Sarah Palin.

I can’t help thinking it will be very little, although they will probably confirm that Palin hasn’t read the US Constitution and the questions that Katie Couric asked were just too easy!

Newt Gingrich isn’t having it easy either, as his political aides resign en masse, the Atlantic Wires explains:

“Will Rogers: quit as Gingrich’s Iowa political director on May 31 Where He Griped: Also the Register

“I’d say, ‘Oh, great. Thanks for inviting us. We’ll get this sent up to the Washington, D.C., folks.’ … And then I’d send it to the D.C. folks and it would be radio silence. A few days later, you’d ask again and you’d ask again and you wouldn’t hear anything back. At first I thought it was the staff. And then I came to find out it was the candidate.”

“I decided I wasn’t going to continue to spend 60, 70 hours a week away from my family while begging GOP activists and friends around the state to be involved in the campaign.”

But the really bitchy stuff remains, of course, off the record. It also focused on Gingrich’s wife, Callista, portraying her has a Yoko Ono dividing the team and encouraging her man to fritter away his genius. It was Callista, they say, who insisted on the couple’s two-week luxury Greek cruise, the last straw for many staffers.

“He does whatever she wants,” a source complained to Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman.

“She insisted on the cruise,” a source told Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.

“It’s how much time that his wife thinks that he should spend on this… It’s not a hobby. This is a full-time, 80-hour-a-week job,” a staffer told The Daily Beast’s Peter J. Boyer.

“The problem was the wife. Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich… The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich’s ‘strategy’ for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy–a part-time campaign, in effect–that Gingrich’s wife favored,” In fact, the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes reports. “

How Newt Gingrich’s Campaign Imploded by Peter J. Boyer.

All most amusing, couldn’t happen to nicer people !

Update 1: One of the “almost” Palin quotes (really from Tina Fey, but you could imagine Palin saying it, “I can see Russia from my house):

The EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism.

with 4 comments

Having followed various discussions, it seems to me that many of those talking about the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism haven’t actually read it.

It’s not a complicated document, rather a simple A4 sheet, dating from 17th August 2005.

It is available as a PDF [downloadable here], but as a public service I am providing a copy of the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism in text format:

WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM

The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.

Working definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.
Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

• Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
• Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
• Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
• Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
• Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
• Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
democratic nation.
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property—such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries—are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.”

UCU, A Political Vacuum And Racism.

with 2 comments

You might have supposed that University and College Union’s delegates at their recent Congress would have had a grasp of cause and effect (coming from the educational sector as they do), or at the very least, they should have had some sense of history, but apparently not.

When the UCU’s NEC brought forth a motion disregarding the EUMC’s working definition on antisemitism they seemed to think nothing would occur. That no one would respond. That people would not notice or care.

Because if they did appreciate the dialectic of politics, how their actions would cause immense offence and disquiet, then the UCU’s NEC would have known that consequences must surely follow from their actions.

If they knew that there would be a negative response, and as a result that trade unionism would be weakened and disparaged then the UCU’s NEC are culpable of bringing trade unionism into disrepute. They can’t have believed that this issue existed in a political vacuum. They knew what they were doing and how it would reap a detrimental reaction for trade unionism. The UCU’s NEC are, at the very least, guilty of endangering the continuation of trade unionism within further and higher education.

As the days and weeks pass that is what we are seeing. UCU members are leaving in disgust. UCU’s actions have been shown to be intellectually untenable and reprehensible in the extreme. Trade unionism and UCU has been brought into disrepute by UCU’s institutionalised racism.

Further, Universities may take action because of UCU’s inability to deal with anti-Jewish racism in its own organisation, I despair. The TES has more:

“The Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to vice-chancellors urging them to consider derecognising the University and College Union if it “refuses to address claims of institutional racism”.

The UCU has been criticised by Jewish groups after delegates at its recent congress voted to reject a working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

The UCU motion says that the working definition “confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism” and “is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus”.

The motion, proposed by the UCU’s national executive committee, says the union “will make no use of the definition (eg, in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)”.

The UCU has previously attracted criticism from Jewish groups for motions proposing an academic boycott of Israel, although no such motions were raised at this year’s congress.

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote to vice-chancellors on 1 June.

“Following these developments, and in light of UCU’s history of behaviour, we now believe it to be an institutionally racist organisation,” he writes.

Mr Wineman adds that since its formation in 2006, the UCU “has been obsessed with Jews and Israel”.

The boycott debate “has poisoned the atmosphere inside UCU and led to many Jewish members feeling harassed for their beliefs and identities”, he argues.

He adds: “If UCU refuses to address claims of institutional racism, then we would ask that you reconsider whether formal union recognition…is appropriate at all”. “

(H/T: Engage]

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