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

Archive for April 2007

UN Planes Bomb Darfur?

leave a comment »

Not exactly, but that what the Sudanese government did.

On the fourth anniversary, as if it were needed there is further evidence of the Sudanese government’s involvement in the support and funding of the conflict in Darfur, as reported by The Times:

“Britain and America threatened yesterday to impose new sanctions on Khartoum after a United Nations report accused Sudan of disguising its military planes and helicopters as UN aircraft and using them to attack villages in Darfur.

The confidential report says that military aircraft were painted white — a colour usually reserved for the UN — and used to ferry arms to the janjawid militia, for reconnaissance flights and bombing missions.

The Government is also accused of shipping arms and fighters into the province, which is subject to an international arms ban. It has further failed to enforce a travel ban or freeze the assets of suspected war criminals.

The report’s most astonishing revelation was the use by the Sudanese armed forces of white-painted military aircraft in Darfur. On March 7 a photograph was taken of an Antonov AN26 aircraft on the military apron of al-Fasher airport, the Darfuri regional capital. Guarded by soldiers and with bombs piled alongside, the plane was painted white and has the initials “UN” stencilled on its upper left wing. Another Sudanese military aircraft was disguised in the same manner. The report said that white Antonovs were used to bombard Darfur villages on at least three occasions in January.

A similar ploy was employed to conceal the identity of three Mi171 military helicopters which were painted white. The report said that from a distance the aircraft could be mistaken for similar helicopters operated by the UN and peacekeepers.”

And still nothing happens to the Sudanese government, it make sure wonder:

what exactly would the Sudanese government have to do before the “international community” did something meaningful about Darfur??

Written by modernityblog

27/04/2007 at 15:41

Posted in Uncategorized

Almost Sixty.

with one comment

Well nearly.

The celebrations of the 59th Independence Day in Israel are a reminder of diligence, tenacity, guile and humanity which brought about the creation of the State of Israel, in the face of concerted opposition.

If we turn back the clock some 60 odd years ago what would we find?

At the end of WW2, many European Jews had been languishing in British concentration camps for up to 5 years, as Britain enforced the MacDonald White Paper severely restricting immigration to Palestine, even in light of widespread Nazi persecution. Soon after the end of WW2, Britain had decided to give up the mandate for Palestine (or in reality the remaining one fifth, as the other 4/5ths had passed to Transjordan). There were many proposals for the shape of a new state in Palestine: bi-national, federated cantons and finally partition.

Although the UN voted to partition Palestine, allowing the creation of a Jewish homeland, this was bitterly opposed by feudal Arab rulers and local dictators. Whilst many in the region welcomed the return of Jews to Palestine the invading armies from five neighbouring nations sought to “solve” the quaintly named “Jewish question” by force.

They failed and in the wake of their defeat the conflict in the Middle East has been allowed to fester on, deliberately stoked by local rulers, but the existence of Israel is a constant reminder that the use of military force to solve political problems will not succeed, and how the perseverance of the Israelis in the face of constant and unnecessary conflict should be applauded.

Roll on 60!

[PS: Israel is that really small country, middle to top left on that map]

Written by modernityblog

24/04/2007 at 00:13

Posted in Uncategorized

Countdown in France

leave a comment »

Today’s election in France and the choice of President may well have profound knock-on effects in Europe and other countries, so to keep up with the various stages see this handy schedule, printed in The Times:

April 22 First-round vote. There are twelve candidates, seven on the Left, five on the Right. To win, a candidate must score more than 50 per cent of the vote. Otherwise the first two go to a run-off

May 6 Run-off between the two leaders from the first round. The presidency goes to the one who receives the most votes

After May 6 The new president appoints a prime minister and Cabinet to run the country pending parliamentary elections in June

May 17 President Chirac leaves office. The new president takes office in the Elysée Palace and the new prime minister is installed with a new, temporary, government

June 10 First round of general parliamentary elections. It is a straight majority system, not proportional, but candidates must achieve more than 50 per cent to win a seat

June 17 Second round of parliamentary elections to decide seats that were not won outright in the first round

June 25 (approximately) The president is likely to reshuffle the government in light of the outcome of the elections. If the new parliamentary majority is from the president’s opposition, it will chose a new prime minister, who will appoint a government in opposition to the president. No parliamentary election has yet produced such a “cohabitation” in the aftermath of a presidential election, although nothing rules it out.”

Written by modernityblog

21/04/2007 at 20:56

Posted in Uncategorized

Glass and Goodheart

with one comment

I had hoped to avoid a post on the Middle East, but the Spring edition of Dissent carried an article on Hezbollah and I have been shocked by the number of (otherwise intelligent) people who wish to deny Hezbollah’s antisemitism.

Eugene Goodheart exposes the underbelly of Charles Glass and the London Review of Books on this topic:

“The London Review of Books is an egregious instance of this one-sidedness. Almost every issue contains several articles devoted to attacks on Israel, and the target is not simply the governing party, but the whole spectrum of Israeli political life. Absent from the columns of the Review are the injustices and cruelties of political Islam. In an article by Charles Glass, Lebanon’s Hezbollah is eulogized for its capacity to learn from mistakes, its decency in treating prisoners, “its refusal to murder collaborators,” its intelligent use of “car bombs, ambushes, small rockets and suicide bombers.” Glass speaks of Hezbollah’s uncompromising political program, of which he apparently approves, without mentioning that at its core is the destruction of Israel. Any two-state solution requires a capacity and willingness to compromise, but compromise is anathema to Hezbollah. He claims that the movement had “jettisoned its early rhetoric about making Lebanon an Islamic republic, and [now] spoke of Christians, Muslims and Druze living in harmony.” Missing from this article (in the August 17, 2006, issue) is any reference to its anti-Semitism. In a letter to LRB printed in the September 7, 2006, issue, I pointed out that Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is not simply a resistance fighter, he is also an anti-Semite with genocidal fantasies. I cited the following statements attributed to him: “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” “They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.” I also noted that the name “Party of God,” should worry anyone of enlightened, democratic persuasion, but does not seem to bother Glass. (Would he be equally indulgent of the religious fanatics in Israel who assert their divine right to Greater Israel?) Parties of God, wherever they are to be found, mean tyranny should they ever acquire power. In the article, Glass mentions the fact that he had been kidnapped by Hezbollah at a Syrian checkpoint. Wanting to prove that the movement was independent of Syrian control, he writes that when “Syria insisted that I be released to show that Syrian control of Lebanon could not be flouted [,] Hezbollah, unfortunately, ignored the request.” What virtue! In my letter, I wondered whether he had not succumbed to Stockholm syndrome.

His response, printed in the October 5, 2006, issue, focused on the anti-Semitic statements attributed to Nasrallah, which he dismissed as fabrications, “circulated widely on neo-conservative web sites.” Whatever the agenda of the Web sites, the original source of the statements, as Glass’s letter makes clear, is “an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star in 23 October 2002.” The newspaper sympathizes with Palestinian aspirations and is critical of American neoconservatism. Glass reports that the managing editor of the Star has “faith in neither the accuracy of the translation (from Arabic to English) nor of the agenda of the translator [Chayban].” The editor in chief of the paper refers to Chayban as “a reporter and briefly local desk sub,” who did not interview Nasrallah. Glass does not explain why, given its misgivings about the reporter, the Star would choose to publish Chayban’s article, nor does he say what Chayban’s agenda was, leaving it to the reader to assume that the agenda was somehow linked to neoconservatism, therefore discrediting the attribution of the statements to Nasrallah. The source of one of the quotations was a Web site of the Israeli government and therefore not to be trusted. To clinch the argument, Glass cites a spokeswoman for Hezbollah who denies that such statements were ever made.

I wrote back to the LRB, first noting that in invoking the nefarious neocons as the vehicles of fabrication, Glass reminded me of the apologists for the Soviet Union who denied the existence of anti-Semitism in their beloved country, because the reports of its existence came from the bourgeois press. I challenged the LRB to make a disinterested effort to determine whether these statements were fabrications. Its animus against Israel was clear and bad enough; a willingness to indulge anti-Semitism, a much more serious matter. If they are not fabrications, the journal has a moral obligation to say so and to repudiate the kind of article that Glass has written.

While waiting for a reply, I decided to look into the literature on Hezbollah, and what I found left no doubt about its view of the Jews. Here is Nasrallah in one of his diatribes against Israel: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”[1]
Quoted in Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion, University of Michigan Press, 2001, p. 170. Original source, televised interview, Muhammad Fnayash. Wuhhat Nazar Future Television (FTV, July 2, 1997). Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary general of Hezbollah, author of Inside Hezbollah, which Charles Glass cites for its humane view of how collaborators with Israel should be treated, has this to say: “The history of the Jews has proven that, regardless of the Zionist proposal, they are a people who are evil in their ideas” (Quoted in Saad-Ghorayeb, p. 174; original source, Abbas al-Mussawi, Amiru’l-Zakira, Dhu al-Hujja 1406). Hezbollah’s denial of the existence of the Holocaust takes many forms. “The Jews have never been able to prove the existence of the infamous gas chambers.” Only “160,000 civilians died [and this was] as a result of US bombing of Germany.” Jews collaborated with the Nazis in killing their brethren: “From what we know about the Jews, their tricks and their deception, we do not think it unlikely that they partook in the planning of the Holocaust.” Saad-Ghorayeb, the source of these quotes, is a Briton of Muslim Lebanese extraction, who is sympathetic to Hezbollah. “As a Lebanese, I was appalled by the apparent ease with which this movement was accused of sundry terrorist activities by Western journalists and policy-makers, and on their insistence on referring to its guerrilla fighters, who were practicing their legitimate right to resist a foreign occupation, as terrorists.” She writes favorably of Hezbollah’s political evolution in Lebanese society, so there is no reason to doubt the scholarly accuracy of her representation of the movement’s unreconstructed view of Israel and the Jews. (As I write this, I am pleased to see a letter to the LRB from the distinguished lawyer and literary scholar Anthony Julius, citing Saad-Ghorayeb as evidence for Hezbollah’s anti-Judaism. Julius invited Glass to confirm the implication of his response to my letter that I am wrong in attributing anti-Semitism to Hezbollah and to comment on the “material assembled by Saad-Ghorayeb.” So far there has been no reply from Glass, nor any statement from the editors on the matter.)

Written by modernityblog

18/04/2007 at 22:57

Posted in Uncategorized

Blogs and France?

leave a comment »

I don’t normally comment on elections via this blog, rather I keep the blog for my occasional rambling thoughts at 03:00 in the morning, but the French presidential elections are different.

Irrespective of what this week’s Economist thinks, Nicolas Sarkozy’s right wing popularism might go down well with ex-FN supporters, but I would argue that the election of Sarkozy would be a disaster for France and Europe.

Still, to keep an eye on events in French I might as well post some useful web sites:

French presidential elections 2007

The FT’s coverage

Some Reuter’s coverage of the election

Written by modernityblog

17/04/2007 at 12:49

Posted in Uncategorized

Ralph’s Point of View

leave a comment »

Ralph Seliger comments are always worth reading and in particular his recent article, Politicization of the Holocaust

“These facts do not make Jews better than anyone else, but they do entitle us to recall the bitter memories of our past, and to consider the ongoing threats to our future, without apology. We are entitled to compassion and understanding from the rest of the world, not least being those who profess humanitarian and universalist values as activists on the left.”

[Hat tip: Zionation]

Written by modernityblog

17/04/2007 at 00:21

Posted in Uncategorized

How Will This Be Excused Away?

with 3 comments

As the battalions of “anti-imperialists” rolled back the frontiers with every car bomb attack, kidnapping, gas attack and beheading there is news from Algeria.

According to reports, a statement has been released by the Al-Qaeda Movement in Islamic Countries of the Maghreb:

“We will not be in peace until we have liberated all the land of Islam from crusaders, apostates and agents, and we have retaken our Andalusia (in southern Spain) and our violated Al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

So far it is reported that they have “… killed 33… with 222 people injured in the bomb attacks, 21 were still in hospital on Sunday.”

I shouldn’t wonder that they will get a standing ovation from Respect/SWP delegates to the Cairo conference, or their killing spree will at least be excused away, has so often occurs in “anti-imperialist” circles.

[Enough sarcasm, I think I am going to be sick]

Update: John Rees welcomes a good chinwag with some very dubious company, according to reports in Al-Ahram Weekly:

Where else can you sit down in a single evening and listen to senior people from Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood…

I wonder what the topics were?

Hamas and Hezbollah’s expertise in bomb-making, organising suicide bombings or perhaps how best to place rockets among civilians?

The Muslim brotherhood probably lectured on the implementation of Sharia law and the caliphate? Or possibly how best to dispense with civil rights for women, gays, Jews or anyone disagreeing with them?

I’ll bet that Comrade Rees was clapping his hands throughout their talks.

Written by modernityblog

15/04/2007 at 23:23

Posted in Uncategorized

Another 300

leave a comment »

No, not the film, but another 300.

I must thank adloyada for this link to OnTheFace, it shows us how a sense of memory and shared humanity has helped some Darfurians, far away from their home:

Israel and Sudan are officially “enemies,” which makes the status of the 300 or so Darfur refugees in Israel very complex, because Israeli law does not permit the granting of asylum to citizens of enemy states. So when those refugees surrendered themselves to the Israeli authorities after crossing the border from Egypt, they were detained and jailed under the Law to Prevent Infiltration [from enemy states]. The stories of those jailed refugees, who had seen their families murdered and / or experienced horrible torture at the hands of the Janjaweed, were widely and sympathetically covered by the Israeli media, and many Israelis responded with horror: Given the all-too-fresh memory of what happened to the Jewish people during the Second World War, how could Israel fail to grant asylum to refugees fleeing genocide?

“Jeanine looked at me sternly. “Do you know what happened at the Evian Conference in 1938?” she asked. “When all the countries gathered to try to find a solution for the Jews of Germany and Austria but no-one was willing to give them refuge?”

Yes, I answered, of course.

“So that’s why,” answered Jeanine. “We knew that we had a moral obligation, after what happened to us.”

Did people mention that at the meeting? I asked.

“No,” said Jeanine. “They didn’t have to. It was understood.”

Written by modernityblog

12/04/2007 at 17:49

Posted in Uncategorized

Map Darfur

leave a comment »

Google has launched a very worthwhile project, along with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to publicise the terrible situation in Darfur.

Written by modernityblog

11/04/2007 at 01:49

Posted in Uncategorized

Summer War in Lebanon

leave a comment »

The BBC radio programme, The Summer War in Lebanon, is well worth a listen.

Written by modernityblog

07/04/2007 at 00:30

Posted in Uncategorized

Taken For Granted?

leave a comment »

It is a truism to say that, far too often we take for granted those things around us and that point was brought home to me last week with the passing of John Backus.

John Backus was the inventor of FORTRAN.

Now that may not mean a lot too many people, but FORTRAN was probably the first universal high-level computer programming language.

Without the advent of high-level programming languages there would be no browsers, there would be few wordprocessors and still less many of today’s modern computer operating system.

As the Guardian observes:

“In 1954, IBM introduced the Model 704 Electronic Data-Processing Machine, the world’s first mass-produced computer. Backus had worked on the design of the machine, but he was frustrated at the difficulties inherent in programming it. The machine only understood sequences of numerical codes, so programming was slow.

Backus decided that there had to be an easier way. It should be possible, he reasoned, to write the instructions for the computer in something resembling plain English, and have the computer translate that into the proper sequence of codes. He put this idea to his manager, who had the foresight to allow him to put together a small team to try it out. The result, announced in late 1956, was a “formula translation” language named FORTRAN, which enabled complex calculations to be expressed as a combination of English commands and mathematical formulae. Backus and his team confounded sceptics by demonstrating that programs written in FORTRAN were as efficient as those written in numerical codes. This was an important factor in ensuring the adoption of FORTRAN by the scientists and engineers who used the IBM 704.

Its success led to the creation of many other programming languages in the following years. …”

Written by modernityblog

06/04/2007 at 13:49

Posted in Uncategorized

End Of The Drama ?

leave a comment »

The theocracy in Tehran seems to think that it has milked the capture of the British Marines/sailors sufficiently.

No doubt the spectacle of that British officer admitting culpability for being in Iranian territorial waters played very well with the Iranian domestic audience, and further enhanced the Iranian leaderships’ “anti-imperialist” credentials.

Had this drama continued on, I was about to suggest a radical solution: a prisoner swap.

But a swap with the difference, in the vogue of contemporary “anti-imperialism” I was about to suggest that George Galloway be exchanged for the captured service personnel.

Sadly that is not on the cards now. Shame, though.

Written by modernityblog

04/04/2007 at 14:39

Posted in Uncategorized

The UN and Darfur

with 4 comments

Adam LeBor’s article in The Times on the failure of the UN over Darfur raises important questions:

“The slaughter in Darfur could be curtailed or even brought to a close without military intervention. Measures might include: deploying UN troops in Chad to prevent cross-border raids; targeted sanctions on Sudan’s oil industry; using trade to pressure China to stop its support for Khartoum; and even threats to boycott the Beijing Olympics.

If there were sufficient political will. It seems there is not. If we cannot act to help to stop the killing, at least we could provide a safe home for Darfuris here. On January 27, on Holocaust Memorial Day, government ministers once more pledged “never again”. How empty those words sound now. The Home Office organised the first Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies. Now civil servants in the same ministry are overseeing the deportation to likely imprisonment, torture, even death, of refugees fleeing the 21st-century’s first genocide. Have we no shame?”

Written by modernityblog

02/04/2007 at 14:35

Posted in Uncategorized