ModernityBlog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

Meanwhile In Israel.

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People across the Middle East are annoyed at their rulers and Israelis are no exception, Dissent explains why:

“WHAT IS happening in Israel? As usual, no one expected, no one predicted, the massive uprising of Israel’s young people—joined last Saturday night by large numbers, amazing numbers, of their parents and grandparents. What started as a demand for affordable housing has turned into something much bigger. I can only watch, and cheer, and try to figure out what’s going on. Here are four “takes” on the uprising.
…”

Update 1: I had, naturally, assumed that the Guardian coverage of these events, which started about three weeks, would be given the expected negative spin, but the coverage is fairly good, that is in between non-stories and piffle like this, Israeli spy claims over Christchurch earthquake and Israeli orchestra to perform Wagner in Germany at Bayreuth opera festival.

All the same rather surprising, given the Guardian’s clear anti-Israeli bias.

Israelis set up tent cities in protest at housing costs.

Israelis take to tents in housing protest – in pictures.

Government alarm at citizens’ revolt as tent protests spread.

Update 2: Lisa Goldman had been following things and saw this:

Update 3: According to the JC, Netanyahu forms panel to tackle tent city unrest.

Politicians across the world are so similar, major problems, form a committee, fob people off. I can’t see that working with younger Israelis.

Written by modernityblog

09/08/2011 at 02:17

Unrest In The Middle East.

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The Associated Press has a summary of unrest in the Middle East:

“SYRIA

Syria’s vice president calls for a transition to democracy in a country ruled for four decades by an authoritarian family dynasty, crediting mass protests with forcing the regime to consider reforms while also warning against further demonstrations. Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was speaking at a national dialogue. Key opposition figures driving the four-month-old uprising boycott the meeting, refusing to talk until a deadly crackdown on protesters ends.

EGYPT

Army troops firing in the air clash with stone-throwing protesters in the strategic city of Suez after crowds block a key highway to push for faster reform efforts, including probes of alleged abuses during the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Suez has been hit by days of unrest over calls for swifter action against Mubarak-era officials. In Cairo, protesters block access to the Egyptian capital’s largest government building and threaten to expand sit-ins to other sites.
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Elsewhere the Torygraph reports:

“In scenes that would have been remarkable before four months of protests and violent suppression, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad allowed public criticism to be aired at a televised conference and promised “multi-party democracy” in response.

“The bullets are still being fired in Homs and Hama,” said one participant, the writer Tayyeb Tizini, of two major cities that have seen repeated demonstrations. “Laying the foundations for a civil society requires the dismantling of the police state.

“That’s an absolute prerequisite, because otherwise the police state will sabotage all our efforts.” He also called for the freeing of “thousands” of political prisoners, some who he said had been in prison for years.

But the convention was boycotted by many more leading dissidents and opposition figures with links to the street protests, calling its final purpose into question. “I thought 1,500 people died for more than a dialogue between the regime and itself,” one activist wrote on Twitter. “

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.

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.

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.

A Thin Skinned SNP Councillor, The Middle East And Boycotts.

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I was going to forward a good letter on West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott of all Israeli products to the Council and Councillor Jonathan McColl, but alas they are blocking communications on Twitter.

They seem naive and thoughtless, to imagine that their actions would not receive a response, but worse than that they haven’t really adjusted their positions. Instead they have become truculent and defensive, which is a pity for the Scottish National Party, as it makes them look small-minded and parochial.

This letter from Pete Tobias‎ to Councillor Jonathan McColl of the SNP is well worth a read:

” June 1st 2011

Dear Councillor McColl,

I have just watched your video blog on YouTube and would like to apologise for the abuse that you and your fellow council members have received from members of the public who are responding inappropriately to your council’s decision to impose a (somewhat selective) ban on goods produced in Israel. I shall refrain from commenting on your interesting views how items such as mobile phones purchased in stores Glasgow owe nothing to Israeli technology, or how you seek to avoid any accident that might require you to receive medical treatment pioneered in the country you and your council seem to have singled out as the sole perpetrators of human rights abuses and atrocities.

Please allow me to be slightly more constructive and make some suggestions as to how you might restore the image of your council as a legitimate and sensible authority rather than appearing to be anti-semitic by focusing exclusively on the State of Israel for your ‘symbolic’ gesture.

Why not propose a motion at your next Council meeting condemning the violent and oppressive treatment of the Syrian people by their own government? And in case you think what is currently happening is an isolated incident, check this out: http://bit.ly/mBGcr9 . Worth a symbolic protest of some sort, don’t you think?

Or how about the Democratic Republic of Congo? www.savethecongo.org.uk. Darfur? Burma? Tibet? Sadly, the list of places in which human rights abuses are perpetrated by one group of people against another is a long and painful one.

As a rabbi, I have consistently found myself being vilified by my own community for comments that I have made criticising Israel’s actions. We are, after all, a people who are taught to think of ourselves as ‘poor we us’, as you so rightly observe, and how dare one of the Jewish people’s own leaders dare to add his voice to those who demand no less than Israel’s destruction? But when I do so, I try to balance my arguments (eg http://bit.ly/kLFUky , http://bit.ly/bYbSAI) – and I also recognise that there are other regimes in the world worthy of criticism.

That last point, I am afraid, is where your claim that West Dunbartonshire Council’s venture into international relations represents a genuine concern with human rights smacks of the anti-semitism that you seek to deny. Your council’s actions are unbalanced, are directed towards one individual country’s failings, but do not even try to take into account the numerous other human rights’ abuses that exist in our troubled world.

Councillor McColl, if you are genuinely concerned about human rights, and you genuinely want to demonstrate that West Dunbartonshire Council is similarly dedicated to such issues, might I suggest that you seek out one or two other causes to champion in your Council Chambers, some different human rights’ violations over which to make a ‘symbolic’ gesture? Otherwise, I am afraid, your protests that you are not behaving in an anti-semitic manner founder on the knee-jerk reaction your Council has made to one situation while ignoring numerous others.

I look forward very much to hearing that West Dunbartonshire Council has passed a resolution condemning the actions of the Syrian government, the Libyan government, the Egyptian government, the Burmese government, or any other cause of your choice. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, then I am afraid you are guilty as charged, and your position in singling out Israel is indefensible.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Pete Tobias”[My emphasis.]

Paid To Get Shot?

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I think anyone that follows the Middle East would appreciate how the despots and dictators in that region have manipulated, exploited and used the Palestinians as a political football, for their own purposes, but even I was surprised at this story in the Guardian:

“Israeli troops have clashed with protesters on the Syrian border for the second time in less than a month, with several dozen reported injured and claims that up to 20 had been killed.

The violence had been widely predicted after organisers called for a symbolic March on Israel to mark 44 years since the beginning of the six day war in 1967.

However, the clashes were smaller in scale than the last time pro-Palestinian activists confronted Israeli soldiers along borders with Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon.

The Syrian village of Majd al-Shams was again the focal point with an estimated 1,000 Syrians and Palestinians surging to within 20 metres of the fenced off border over six hours. They threw stones and molotov cocktails at Israeli troops as snipers fired rubber-coated bullets and live rounds at some activists,

One demonstrator who was wounded that day told the Guardian the Lebanese militia Hezbollah had given him $50 to turn up at the border and $900 to have his gunshot wounds treated by physicians. He said he had been planning to return to Maroun al-Ras yesterday until the rally was cancelled.

But as the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on protests show, protesters are only allowed to gather when the state allows them. The Golan area of Syria is off-limits without state permission.

Leaders’ Judgment?

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I wanted to cover more of events in Syra and Yemen, but this piece in the New York Times is very relevant.

So I am not the only one with a low opinion of Binyamin Netanyahu:

“Journalists recalled that Mr. Dagan, who had refused contact with the media during his time in office, called a news briefing the last week of his tenure and laid out his concerns about an attack on Iran. But military censorship prevented his words from being reported.

“Dagan wanted to send a message to the Israeli public, but the censors stopped him,” Ronen Bergman of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot said by telephone. “So now that he is out of office he is going over the heads of the censors by speaking publicly.”

Mr. Dagan’s public and critical comments, at the age of 66 and after a long and widely admired career, have shaken the political establishment. The prime minister’s office declined requests for a response, although ministers have attacked Mr. Dagan. He has also found an echo among the nation’s commentators who have been ringing similar alarms.

“It’s not the Iranians or the Palestinians who are keeping Dagan awake at night but Israel’s leadership,” Ari Shavit asserted on the front page of the newspaper Haaretz on Friday.

“He does not trust the judgment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”

It was Mr. Shavit who interviewed Mr. Dagan on stage at Tel Aviv University this week. And while Haaretz is the home of the country’s left wing, Mr. Shavit is more of a centrist.

“Dagan is really worried about September,” Mr. Shavit said in a telephone interview, referring to the month when the Palestinians are expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize their state within the 1967 border lines. The resolution is expected to pass and to bring new forms of international pressure on Israel. “He is afraid that Israel’s isolation will cause its leaders to take reckless action against Iran,” he said.

Nahum Barnea, a commentator for Yediot Aharonot, wrote on Friday that Mr. Dagan was not alone. Naming the other retired security chiefs and adding Amos Yadlin, who recently retired as chief of military intelligence, Mr. Barnea said that they shared Mr. Dagan’s criticism.

“This is not a military junta that has conspired against the elected leadership,” Mr. Barnea wrote. “These are people who, through their positions, were exposed to the state’s most closely guarded secrets and participated in the most intimate discussions with the prime minister and the defense minister. It is not so much that their opinion is important as civilians; their testimony is important as people who were there. And their testimony is troubling.”

This concern was backed by a former Mossad official, Gad Shimron, who spoke Friday on Israel Radio.

Mr. Shimron said: “I want everyone to pay attention to the fact that the three tribal elders, Ashkenazi, Diskin and Dagan, within a very short time, are all telling the people of Israel: take note, something is going on that we couldn’t talk about until now, and now we are talking about it. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and that is the decision-making process. The leadership makes fiery statements, we stepped on the brakes, we are no longer there and we don’t know what will happen. And that’s why we are saying this aloud.” “

Update 1: Letters From a Young Contrarian does a great job, The Arab Spring into Summer: Today’s Events.

Update 2: Not forgetting Left Foot Forward’s Arab Spring latest: Murder, civil war and motor racing.

The Massacre of Baghdad’s Jews.

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BBC Witness had a programme on the Farhud which took place on 1st June 1941, 70 years ago, listen to it here.

An MP3 is available to download.

Written by modernityblog

02/06/2011 at 02:59

Over In Syria, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb.

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The situation in Syria is still very serious, yet in the West comparatively little is heard of Syrian’s dire circumstances or the true level of State organised murder.

In the Western media, the regime’s violent is under reported and not given the prominence that it should have.

This is another example of how the dictatorship in Syria treats people:

“BEIRUT — The boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was 13 years old.

And since a video portraying the torture inflicted upon him was broadcast on the al-Jazeera television network Friday, he has rapidly emerged as the new symbol of the protest movement in Syria. His childish features have put a face to the largely faceless and leaderless opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that has roiled the country for nine weeks, reinvigorating a movement that had seemed in danger of drifting.

It is too early to tell whether the boy’s death will trigger the kind of critical mass that brought down the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year and that the Syrian protests have lacked. But it would not be the first time that the suffering of an individual had motivated ordinary people who might not otherwise have taken to the streets to rise against their governments. “

Why I Don’t Read The New Statesman.

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I have already admitted that the New Statesman disappoints me, but as it reflects much of the Metropolitan Elite I can’t say it surprises me.

Dave Rich at the CST takes the trouble to read it carefully, and he doesn’t like what he finds:

“Hasan clearly understands the pitfalls of writing on this subject, and he has genuinely tried to avoid producing an antisemitic article. The problem is that his article is basically just another conspiracy theory. It offers a simplistic argument that completely ignores the hopes, fears, needs and goals of Israelis and Palestinians themselves, or of any other actors in the region, and imagines that the whole problem could be solved by a wave of America’s magic wand (or a shake of its big stick).”

Whilst we are at it we shouldn’t forget this one from 2010, The New Statesman Praises Iran’s President For Not Denying the Holocaust.

Assorted Middle East.

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Saudi troops in Bahrain were probably trained by the British or so the Torygraph says.

IAEA worried about Iran’s enrichment programme and the past goings-on in Syria.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s activities have focused the limelight on politicians and with reason.

Are their strains within the Hamas leadership? Reuters seems to think so.

Ahmadinejad going shortly? Not before time.

Insider trading? Members of Congress, strangely do very well in their dealings.

Netanyahu, a diplomatic failure? He’s very popular, all of 37% !

Saudi’s rulers try to stop revolutions in the Middle East.

Lessons From Tahrir Sq.

Written by modernityblog

26/05/2011 at 01:57

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