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Archive for January 2007

Never Defined Before?

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Engage pointed to an article by Professor Dina Porat in Haaretz that looks at the definition antisemitism and brings up many interesting points:

“What makes an anti-Semite? By Dina Porat

In January 2005, an international working definition of anti-Semitism was accepted for the first time since the term was coined in the late 19th century. This definition, approved in June 2005 at a conference in Cordoba, Spain, is the result of a joint effort on the part of two institutions – a center established in Vienna by the European Union to monitor racism and xenophobia, and a center set up in Warsaw by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to strengthen the institutions of democracy and human rights among its 55 member countries.

And this is the essence of the international working definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” However, why was a new, international, practical definition needed, and why did non-Jewish organizations invest ongoing efforts in discussions on its formulation? After all, there has been no shortage of different definitions of anti-Semitism ever since the term was first coined 125 years ago in Germany and they can be found in encyclopedia and lexica, reflecting both temporal and geographic circumstances.

A long list of personalities and institutions sought to define the anti-Semite and the Jew he so hates: Jean-Paul Sartre, who sarcastically defined an anti-Semite, blaming the Jews for every tragedy, as a man who fears not Jews, but himself and the need to accept his responsibility; Encyclopedia Britannica, which as early as 1966 defined opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitism, but whose dictionary still features to “Jew Down” as a verb meaning to insist on haggling and deception; the Jewish Encyclopedia, published in the United States about one hundred years ago, includes a description of Jews as being perceived by others as greedy people, who are tribal in nature, devoid of tact and patriotism, and evade hard work; or the definition of Prof. Jacob Toury, of Tel Aviv University, who in the 1970s described anti-Semitism as a manipulation of sentiments directed against an unrealistic figure for political purposes.

However, our focus here is not on the definitions of learned people, but on international bodies and their perception of anti-Semitism as a problem that needs fixing. It is hard to believe, but even the United Nations, for example, did not define anti-Semitism or racism after World War II; no international organization mentioned these two basic terms in the basic conventions that were formulated and signed after that war, even though racism and anti-Semitism were among the primary causes of its outbreak.

Various international conventions mention tolerance and minority rights in very general terms, indicating a desire to forget the past and not to blame a specific person or regime. When the Cold War began, U.S. efforts were directed at the Soviet Union and in this undertaking, even the contribution of former Nazis was welcomed. Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who headed the group that in the late 1940s formulated the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man, several years later wrote the preface to the first edition of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in English. In her introduction, she makes no mention at all of the fact that Anne was Jewish or that she was forced to hide from German persecutions.

For almost 50 years, from the end of the Second World War until the early 1990s, anti-Semitism is not mentioned and is certainly not defined in the documents, conventions or summaries of European and international conferences. Since 1990, with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the reunification of Germany and the waves of immigrants who started flooding the industrialized countries, new questions regarding definition and legislation in all matters relating to foreign labor, political asylum seekers, immigrants, their offspring and their rights made it onto the agenda.

At the same time, expressions of anti-Semitism were clearly voiced by the extreme right, which blamed the Jews for bringing in foreigners and profiting from their labor; and by the left, which accused the Jews of being behind the spread of globalization because of their being owners of giant corporations and international banks; and by the immigrants, primarily Muslims, who were not absorbed by their host countries and occasionally vented their frustration on the veteran Jewish communities.

Therefore, the 1990s were filled with conferences and initiatives whose goal was to strengthen human rights and to promote the fight against racism. At a huge conference (numbering 5,000 participants) organized by the UN in Vienna in 1993, a decision in principle was adopted and approved several months later, stating that anti-Semitism should be considered as a form of racism. This resolution was described as “historic” and considered a great accomplishment by UN institutions, as if this fact had not been obvious. In the same manner, xenophobia, fear of foreigners, Negrophobia (fear of Blacks) and Islamophobia (fear of Muslims) were also defined as racism. Yet racism and anti-Semitism itself were not defined at that conference.

Even the August 2001 Durban conference in South Africa, which the UN’s bodies had prepared for more than two years and which was supposed to have been the world conference with a capital “W” against racism, strayed from its set agenda and turned into a forum for anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. The conference did not resolve a single one of the many problems and tensions experienced by immigrants. Violent anti-Semitism continued to increase, at first parallel to the second intifada but later, especially in Western Europe, also without any connection to the Middle East. The definition approved some two years ago indeed reflects the need to ease tensions and reach a form of coexistence for the European host society, the immigrants and the Jewish communities. It tries to be a clear and practical tool that is not academic or theoretical, does not discuss the motives of anti-Semites, and does not try to portray the traits and images of a Jew or the gap between these and reality.

The definition presents a list of acts and statements that are anti-Semitic because they are directed against Jews, harm them, or incite against them, and therefore their perpetrators can be tried and punished. Laws prohibiting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial already exist in a dozen countries and if anti-Semitism is a form of racism, it is also possible to punish perpetrators under laws prohibiting racism.

One may argue with the approach behind the definition, which disconnects the motive from the action and focuses solely on the action and the statement. Even the boundary between freedom of speech and incitement needs to be refined and it will be difficult to find or enact a single, uniform law that will address all components. However, this does mark a courageous step and an effort to find ways to deal with acts of anti-Semitism. Whether the definition will truly be able to serve as a solid foundation that remains relevant in the face of an intensification of anti-Semitism, and as the elements included in it become the bon ton, only time will tell.

Prof. Dina Porat is the head of Tel Aviv University’s School of Jewish Studies.

The working definition of anti-Semitism

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 anti-Semitism. The practical definition of the phenomenon: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism 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 collective.

Anti-Semitism 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, in visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism 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 about the power of Jews as a collective – including, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a global 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 wrongdoings 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 during World War II (Holocaust denial)

* 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 anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel 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 Israel to behave in a manner not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation

* Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (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 anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of anti-Semitic materials in some countries). Criminal acts are anti-Semitic 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. Anti-Semitic discrimination means denying Jews the opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.”

Written by modernityblog

31/01/2007 at 02:45

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The Shoah and Attitudes.

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Attitudes towards the Shoah and its remembrance have a habit of revealing some people’s truer attitude towards Jews, particularly nowadays with the increase of antisemitism and the nasty streak of animosity which has entered the public discourse.

Invariably the Shoah, Israel and the current conflict in the Middle East are linked, but it is perfectly possible to have distinct and different views on these three separate topics.

It is perfectly possible to acknowledge the indescribable horror of the Shoah without disparaging Jews or Israel.

It is perfectly possible to think that events in the Middle East are brutal, terrible and unnecessary without disparaging the memory of the victims of the Shoah.

Yet does that always happen? No, certainly not.

It is common amongst people that have a strong animosity against Jews (call them what you will: antisemite, Jew hater, Jew baiter, Holocaust denier, Holocaust revisionist, white supremacist, inveterate conspiracy theorist or neo-Nazi, it is all the same), it is common that they will not acknowledge the magnitude of the Shoah, its horror, its brutality or extent.

It is common among these people that they would rather bite off their tongue than make a comment which shows a degree of empathy towards the suffering of the victims of the Shoah: Jews.

But that is an extreme fringe in society, or at least we like to think it is?

Consider how certain people will metaphorically cough, look the other way or change the subject when the issue of remembrance and the Shoah comes into view.

Now they may not share any of the views held above by those nasty extremists, and yet you have to wonder why certain people are almost embarrassed to show the slightest degree of empathy towards the suffering of the Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.

That above all reveals their innermost attitudes, and how little some parts of humanity have learnt from the past 60 plus years.

So if you are one of these certain people that are uncomfortable showing any compassion toward Jews on Holocaust Memorial Day, then it’s probably time to reflect on your innermost thoughts, neuroses, bitterness and what your subconscious attitude tells you about your truer character.

That is, if you have the courage.

Written by modernityblog

28/01/2007 at 00:54

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Ceasefire In Darfur?

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If ever there is a UN prize for political cynicism, murder and warfare then the Sudanese government is probably in with a fair chance of winning it.

The BBC headline says it all “Sudan leader admits Darfur raids”, despite having its arm twisted to agree the recent UN ceasefire, the Sudanese government continues to cause bloodshed in Darfur and they have the cheek to comment: “Mr Bashir said the action did not breach a UN-brokered ceasefire signed earlier this month”.

Oh yeah? So it’s not really a ceasefire, is it? If the Sudanese government can use massive military force whenever it chooses?

The UN should have moved in NATO and AU troops with a strong monitoring element to publicise the Sudanese government’s support of genocide and failure to comply with the basic agreements to resolve the conflict in Darfur.

Written by modernityblog

24/01/2007 at 23:55

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Ubantued?

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While trying to resurrect an old piece of kit (Dell Latitude 400 MHz) I was very taken by the range of speedy and small Linux distributions that are available, two caught my eye:

Damn Small Linux, which fits a usable range of applications and tools into a 50 Mb footprint.

Puppy Linux, an Australian distribution, and only slightly bigger 84 Mb and with a pleasant interface.

I think that the smaller Linux kits are very appealing, they are a testament to human ingenuity and very usable.

I finally chose the latest OpenSUSE 10.2 distribution, I always liked SUSE, there were plenty of packages, updating applications was easy and it was robust.

Even after Novell took them over I still thought that the SUSE distribution was good. The advent of a community project such as OpenSUSE seem to bode well for Linux.

I was wrong.

Ages back I had some minor configuration problems with Linux 9.0 and wireless networking. I had hoped by now all such problems would be resolved, as much of the wireless networking has been put straight into the 2.6 Kernel. It was an unnecessarily amount of tedious fiddling with the wireless set up again, and again.

Eventually I got bored with OpenSUSE 10.2 and experimented with Ubuntu.

To be honest I never liked Debian Linux (which Ubuntu is based on) after installing it many many years ago, but according to Distowatch Ubuntu is one of the most popular distributions and it seems with good reason.

I was shocked, Ubuntu booted up as a LiveCD after a few minutes and looked perfectly usable, if a bit strange with that sandy coloured background.

Clicking on the Install icon brought up a simple wizard and after six (yes, six) steps it copied itself over to the hard drive in about 50 minutes, which for such a slow machine was good.

Ubuntu made me a believer! I am still tinkering around, but I have found it is fast, usable, has wide support and very popular.

So the product award of the month goes to Ubantu. Oh and did I say it was free, completely free?

Written by modernityblog

22/01/2007 at 02:07

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Cat Out of the Bag

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For all of those gullible souls that shouted “we are all Hizbollah” during the summer of 2006 here is an interview with former Hizbullah secretary-general Sheikh Subhi Al-Tufeili, who let’s the cat out of the bag.

“Hizbullah is an Integral Part of the Iranian Intelligence Apparatus

Question: “You were formerly Hizbullah secretary-general. Is the [situation in Lebanon] within the strategic framework of Hizbullah? Does Hizbullah have an outlined and prepared plan that is being implemented today? Why do you think Hizbullah has become a source of anxiety for the Lebanese? “

Al-Tufeili: “It wasn’t like this in the beginning. Hizbullah’s activity was limited to resistance [operations]… But, unfortunately, the problem has developed today to the point where they have succeeded in changing Hizbullah from a resistance force into a tool to be used in [whatever] direction they want.”

Question: “Does this mean that Hizbullah does not make its own decisions, and that its orders come from outside [Lebanon]?”

Al-Tufeili: “Yes, Hizbullah is a tool, and it is an integral part of the Iranian intelligence apparatus. Unfortunately, all the elements in the [Lebanese] arena have become tools, and take orders from outside [Lebanon]…”

Abducting the Soldiers Was “An Unsuccessful Adventure”

Question: “Can you see any justification for the July [2006] war after southern Lebanon was liberated in 2000?”

Al-Tufeili: “Following the abduction of the Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit] in Gaza, and the enemy’s response to that operation, [i.e.] the shelling, and the abduction of Palestinian ministers and MPs… I was amazed when Hizbullah announced that it had abducted two Israeli soldiers…

“[Israel is] an enemy we know. It has plundered our land, murdered our people, and slaughtered our children. [Was it reasonable] for us to carry out an operation like this after we have seen the response to it in Gaza and in occupied Palestine? [Was it reasonable for us to carry out such an operation] when we know that Israel attacks us, murders our children, and destroys our country [even] without us giving it excuses to do so…? I think that any sensible person could have assessed the enemy’s possible response to the abduction operation… On the one hand, they [Hizbullah] are saying, ‘Had we known what the reaction would be, we would not have abducted the soldiers.’ On the other hand, they are giving the Israeli enemy a pretext to launch aggression against us…

“When we look at the causes of the war, there is no choice but to [admit] this. If [the war] had gotten worse, it could have led to the loss of the [entire] country… Are we allowed to destroy our country [just] so we can say that we abducted two soldiers – when we all knew what the magnitude of the Israeli response [would be]? What happened was an unsuccessful adventure, and there is no escaping the fact that those who carried it out will bear the responsibility for it…”

Iran Must Stop Using Hizbullah for Its Own Aims in Its Struggle with the West

Al-Tufeili: “[Furthermore], why was… the South [Lebanese] front the only one left burning, and why was Lebanon the only arena of bloodshed? Why weren’t all fronts opened?… Why has Hizbullah become a tool [serving] individual interests that have nothing to do with the resistance? In my opinion, the issue is broader than the local [context], and is connected to the regional struggle – but it is being carried out by a local tool [i.e. Hizbullah]…

“After all that has happened, I hope that Iran will change from an element seeking its political interests in the region [into an element acting for the] liberation of Jerusalem – if Iran indeed wants to liberate Jerusalem as it claims. [It must stop] using the resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] for its own aims in its struggle with the West…”

Hizbullah is Leading the Country to Civil War

Al-Tufeili continued: “Until not long ago, the March 8 Group [a term for the Lebanese opposition] was a partner in the government, and participated in parliamentary elections.

“The March 14 [Forces] did not mislead [the Lebanese opposition]… They are openly allied with of the U.S. and France; they say openly ‘We do not agree to weapons in Lebanon, except for those of the military.’ They are demanding that Hizbullah hand over its arms, but in the framework of [internal Lebanese] dialogue, not by force. [They are also saying] that they want an [international] court [for the Al-Hariri assassination]. All this they said prior to the elections as well as after the elections, before they became ministers and after they became ministers.

“So where is their treason? Whom have they betrayed? Their position is clear; this is their plan, and [Hizbullah] entered into [an alliance] with them [just] for the election campaign… Yesterday, [Hizbullah] had an alliance with them, and gave the March 14 Forces a majority in parliament and in the government, and had no dispute or problems with them. [Hizbullah considered this alliance] to be for the good of the homeland.

“Today, [Hizbullah] is leading the country to civil war, in order to obtain a third [of the government]… If this third is so important, then [Hizbullah] must be punished, because it itself was the one who gave it to the [March 14 Forces in the first place]. If it is not important, then Hizbullah is leading us to civil war, to destruction and to the ruin of the country, for no good reason…”

I Do Not Believe Those Who Say They Are Against Civil War Yet Behave in a Way that Will Lead to Civil War

“I find no [justification] for us having reached such a situation… This is how wars begin. What we are seeing today in Lebanon is the preparation of an emotional, popular, military, media, and security climate [leading] towards a war that might break out at any moment. I don’t believe anyone who says he is not interested in [civil] war, [yet] behaves in this manner. This is the behavior of someone who wants war.”

“Iran is the Main Nerve in the Activity Today in Lebanon”

Referring to Syria’s role in the events in Lebanon, Al-Tufeili said: “Syria is undoubtedly Iran’s ally. It has undoubtedly been harmed by the March 14 Forces, and by the establishment of the [international] court. Thus, it is part of this battle; but it is not the most influential factor…

“Iran is the main nerve in the activity today in Lebanon. All Hizbullah activity [is financed] by Iranian funds. Syria has an important role, but Iran is the main and primary support of [the Lebanese opposition]. On the other side, the U.S. is supporting the March 14 Forces.”

Written by modernityblog

19/01/2007 at 01:57

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Radio Head

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I am a fan of Internet radio, which allows us to sample the music, talk and news from other regions, countries and continents.

However, the problem can be finding the stations, so to help out I present some good Internet radio directories, my favourite is the streaming radio guide but the others are good as well and offer a diversity of choice.

Radio Feeds

Radio Locator

Mike’s Radio World

Radio Tower

The Streaming Radio Guide

Written by modernityblog

14/01/2007 at 02:00

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Site(s) of the Week/Month 20

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I like sites that are either informative or make me laugh, so when thinking about the site of week/month/unspecified time period, one particular site came to mind: Indy Media Watch

Its header explains it all:

“Indymedia was set up to fill a void in the corporate media. An idea I thought long overdue. Unfortunately, as a largely unmoderated, unrestricted medium it was promptly over-run by bigots, trolls and Nazis confusing free-speech with hate-speech. I believe the Indy Media experiment has failed. As Indymedia claims it keeps the corporate media honest, I decided it was time someone watched Indymedia instead. Be careful… You may not like what you see.”

It certainly keeps on a useful eye on the cranks!

Written by modernityblog

12/01/2007 at 01:29

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