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

Archive for May 2008

Olympic Crassness.

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I was going to write something which compared the Burma’s dictators xenophobia and feeble response to Cyclone Nargis with the prompt action by the Chinese State in dealing with the recent earthquake.

I was, that was until I read this article in The Times:

“Disabled groups reacted with outrage yesterday to an official guide for assistants at the Beijing Olympic Games that describes them as unsocial, stubborn and defensive.

The guide for Chinese volunteers at the Games this summer explains that disabled people are a “special group” with “unique personalities and ways of thinking”.

The section of the manual entitled “Skills for helping the disabled” goes on to say: “Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling . . . defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority.

“Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called crippled or paralysed. Do not use ‘cripple’ or ‘lame’ even if you are just joking.”

The guide, distributed to 100,000 volunteers before the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September, sparked outrage in among disabled groups.

“I’m stunned,” said Simone Aspis, a parliamentary campaigner at the UK Disabled People’s Council. “It’s not just the language but the perception that in 2008 we are considered a race apart. Disabled people are introverted and stubborn the same way anyone else is.” The handbook notes that “often optically disabled people are introverted” and that physically disabled people can be mentally healthy.

“They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorisation and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability,” it said.

“Never stare at their disfigurement. A patronising or condescending attitude will be easily sensed by them, even for a brain-damaged patient.”

The advice reflects decades of discrimination in China against mentally and physically disabled people, who total 83 million – equivalent to the population of Germany.

The Communist Party’s desire for a healthy nation, characterised by the one-child policy, fostered deep prejudices that extended to forced sterilisations, bans on marriages between disabled people and abortions of abnormal foetuses.

Most disabled people are from poor, rural areas. Those in affluent society were hidden away until public attitudes softened in the 1990s after Deng Pufang, the eldest son of the former leader Deng Xiaoping, campaigned for reform.

He was forced to use a wheelchair in 1968 after Red Guards forced him out of a third-floor window during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Besides improved legal rights, there has been social progress. The Chinese now refer to can ji ren, or people with disabilities, instead of can fei, the handicapped and deficient.

Last week the Great Wall and Beijing’s Forbidden City were made accessible to wheelchairs for the first time, with lifts and barrier-free tourist routes. But disabled people are still regarded with curiosity bordering on disdain. The manual reminds volunteers that they should not sit in someone’s wheelchair just to satisfy a personal interest.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s greatest Paralympian with 16 medals, recalls how people in China pointed at her and jostled to take her picture. She was asked how it was possible she had mothered a child because she was in a wheelchair.

“Treatment of disability is a problem, but the Paralympics will do more to change attitudes than anything that has happened in China in 10,000 years,” she said.

The presence of a special guide denotes progress, according to Mike Brace, the chairman of the British Paralympic Association. “It’s a clumsy attempt to override years of limited awareness. It’s not ideal, but up to seven years ago, they might not have acknowledged disabled people at all.”

About 4,000 Paralympians will compete in 20 sports in Beijing this September. Britain is sending a team of 200 athletes who will be trying to close the gap – on China.

Despite its record for descrimination against the disabled, China topped the table in Athens with 63 gold medals. The next most successful nation, Britain, managed 35.

I am speechless.

Written by modernityblog

28/05/2008 at 02:25

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Counterpoise the Two?

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Mark Steel has a favourable review of Mike Marqusee’s If I Am Not For Myself, but he slipped in some rather strange comments, such as “To be against Israel is to be against Jews, so opponents of Israel’s etiquette are derided as ‘anti-semitic’.”

I have replied to Mark Steel on this issue via email (my comments didn’t seem to get posted, maybe finger trouble or something) and I hope he’ll eventually post them and see how the discussion develops.

I have a lot of time for Mike Marqusee, he’s a principled individual, but shortly after I was reading this over at Engage and it answered the point with greater persuasiveness than I could have hoped for:

“I have been a member for UCU/AUT for just over three years. In all my life living in the UK, I can say that this is the only organization with which I have been involved in which I have been made to feel uncomfortable as a Jew – and specifically as a Jew all of whose family is Israeli. Repeated calls for boycott of Israeli institutions, the circulation of vitriolic, offensive and untrue allegations, the fact that Jewish members have either been excluded or bullied out of the activists list, have led to a culture in UCU that I have to describe as institutionally anti-semitic. I choose these words carefully because I am sure that the individuals involved do not themselves mean to be anti-semitic; but the net effect of these actions is to create a culture in the trade union in which Jews and Israelis feel alienated or excluded. I know Israeli colleagues who will not join UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against them. I know non-Jewish, non-Israeli colleagues who will not join or who have left UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against Jews and Israelis, and not focussed on the important matters of pay and conditions which you wrote about in your email.

I regularly consider my position as a member of UCU, and, if congress again votes in favour of anti-Israel motions, will consider my position again. I will probably stay, if only out of dogged refusal to give way to a bigotted position. I would love to be able to contribute to the strike fund; but before I could make such contributions, that could help people who are in a different financial situation from me, I need to be able to feel that I belong to a trade union who accepts me for who I am: a Jew with an Israeli family.”

So Mark, I just wonder do you feel at ease with some trade unions when they become places where Jews and non-Jews feel uncomfortable on these issues?

Equally, would you feel content with trade unions if ethnic minorities or women felt so uncomfortable that they wouldn’t join or had to leave?

Written by modernityblog

25/05/2008 at 01:41

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Greek Laws

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This is a depressing article about the state of anti Nazi laws in Greece:

As head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Constantines has spent years lobbying the government to scrap 1959 legislation that prohibits the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in Greece. They have repeatedly called for the abolition of law 3933 and law 4016, which Constantines claims were enforced so that Nazi war criminal Max Merten could escape trial in Greece in 1959. Merten was Adolf Hitler’s senior administrator in Thessaloniki during World War II.

“We have spent the last 15 years calling for the elimination of these laws so that Greece may request the extradition of Nazi war criminals, even though they are now probably very old and will not serve their sentences,” said Constantines. “But their conviction would be of great moral satisfaction to the Holocaust survivors.”

Written by modernityblog

24/05/2008 at 00:01

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You Want Boris, You Can Have Him.

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Also posted at HP.

Ken Livingstone was in the City Hall public gallery today watching Boris Johnson’s performance in front of the GLA. Livingstone has a stronger stomach than me.

I’ve given up on watching Boris.

I acquired the BorisJohnsonWatch blog in a fit of activity, I thought it was a good idea at the time, that’s my excuse.

As much as I think that politicians should be kept under scrutiny, I can’t really get too worked up on Boris Johnson.

OK, sure, I dislike that smarmy Etonian air that Johnson has, and I heartily abhor the Tories, except I can’t get enthusiastic enough to cover his every antic and failure, so the BorisJohnsonWatch blog is up for grabs.

I think that monitoring Johnson should be a team effort as it is a soporific task and not something that I would inflict on any one individual.

However, if you (or a team) feel up to it (for 4 long years) and have a reasonable proposal then email me at and we’ll discuss it.

Written by modernityblog

23/05/2008 at 00:12

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Parts of the UCU leadership seem hell bent on bringing that trade union into disrepute, and the latest legal advice on the discriminatory nature of any boycott of Israeli academics further reinforces that concern. There’s a 21 page legal opinion over at the Stop the Boycott site.

(Hat tip: Engage)

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2008 at 03:06

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Good News

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Despite the stream of attacks on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual people there is occasional good news, the BBC reports:

“A gay Iranian teenager who said he could be executed if he was sent home has been given asylum in Britain.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London to study English in 2005, but later discovered his boyfriend had been charged with sodomy in Iran and hanged.

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who led the campaign to get Mr Kazemi granted asylum, said: “Like Mehdi and his family in Britain, I am delighted to hear of the Home Office decision to let him stay in this country. This is great news for a very decent man.

“As I have argued over the last 18 months, the Home Office should not send gay and lesbian people back to countries where they will be at risk of persecution, torture or death.”

Iranian human rights campaigners believe more than 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since 1979.

Mr Kazemi fled to the Netherlands after the Home Office rejected his case late last year, but a Dutch court ruled he could not claim asylum in the Netherlands.

Jacqui Smith said his case would be reviewed after he was sent back to the UK. ”

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2008 at 01:15

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Hamas and the Holocaust.

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HP has nailed the SWP and their support of Hamas, the excuses, the downright lies and the stupidity of it all.

The Western supporters of Hamas would like them to revise their racist Covenant and take out the most vicious Jew hating elements, for the sake of good public relations and which might eventually fool the most gullible, but not always.

And it certainly won’t fool anyone as long as Hamas leaders are allowed to give interviews and express themselves, because once that happens the cat is out of the bag, as Khaled Meshaal has showed:

From aljazeera “Khaled Meshaal also praised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, for his “courage” in having dismissed the Holocaust as a myth and calling for Israel to be moved out of the Middle East to Europe or North America.”

Only recently, on the 31st of March 2008, Khaled Meshaal tells a Sky interviewer:

“KM: We don’t want to harm any religion in the world. We don’t deny the holocaust.
But, we believe the Zionists have exaggerated the numbers to get sympathy from other nations. But, there is Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.”

I just wonder how people, that would rightly reject ANYTHING from David Irving and fellow neo-Nazis, can express any support for Hamas?

Answers on a postcard.

Written by modernityblog

20/05/2008 at 00:47

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Israel 60 Years On.

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I thought long and hard about what to write for the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel’s creation. Should I look at the background to its creation? Or perhaps a history of the various efforts at mediating solutions? I could have written many things, but none of them would have match this document for its eloquence:

Declaration of Israel’s Independence 1948

Issued at Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948 ( 5th of Iyar, 5708 )

ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) – The Land of Israel] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.


WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.


David Ben-Gurion
Daniel Auster
Mordekhai Bentov
Yitzchak Ben Zvi
Eliyahu Berligne
Fritz Bernstein
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Meir Grabovsky
Yitzchak Gruenbaum
Dr. Abraham Granovsky
Eliyahu Dobkin
Meir Wilner-Kovner
Zerach Wahrhaftig
Herzl Vardi Rachel Cohen
Rabbi Kalman Kahana
Saadia Kobashi
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin
Meir David Loewenstein
Zvi Luria
Golda Myerson
Nachum Nir
Zvi Segal
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman
David Zvi Pinkas
Aharon Zisling
Moshe Kolodny
Eliezer Kaplan
Abraham Katznelson
Felix Rosenblueth
David Remez
Berl Repetur
Mordekhai Shattner
Ben Zion Sternberg
Bekhor Shitreet
Moshe Shapira
Moshe Shertok

Written by modernityblog

13/05/2008 at 22:10

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A Day To Remember.

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The 10th May 1933 should be remembered, as the IHT reports:

“Germany’s president on Friday marked the 75th anniversary of the 1933 book-burning that was an emblematic step in the Nazis’ seizure of power, voicing his country’s shame for actions that he said faced little resistance at the time.

On May 10, 1933 — little more than three months after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor — students around Germany burned thousands of books deemed to be “un-German.”

“We recall today with shame that 75 years ago — not just here in Berlin, but in all of Germany — tens of thousands applauded and cheered as the books of Erich Kaestner, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Kurt Tucholsky and many others were thrown into the fire by students,” President Horst Koehler said.

Koehler said in a speech at Berlin’s Academy of Arts that the book-burning, broadcast on radio, left room for no illusions about the way Nazi-run Germany was headed, coming after a boycott of Jewish businesses weeks earlier.

“It was only a small step from the ostracism of Jews to the burning of their books, and again a small step from the burning of books to the burning of human beings,” Koehler said. “And there was barely any resistance against the action.”

He noted that the book-burning was not even organized by the state, but by the student body, adding that “academics, students and professors engaged in propaganda against what they viewed as ‘un-German.

Written by modernityblog

10/05/2008 at 17:30

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Resistance to Books

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Most Afghan girls have a hard life, third class citizens in their own country, striving to improve themselves against overwhelming odds and when they try to get out of the vicious circle of illiteracy, poverty, and destitution then they are viciously attacked, The Times reports:

“After they had terrorised the caretaker for doing the work of foreigners, they collected floor mats and desks to light bonfires inside the classrooms. Then they gathered all the dog-eared exercise books and school textbooks that they could find and threw them into the flames.

After a year’s respite the Taleban has returned to attacking schools and intimidating teachers across much of the south and east of the country. Schoolbooks, regarded as a threat to the Taleban’s grip on the minds of young Afghans, are a particular target.

Since the beginning of the new school year on March 23 there have been 36 attacks. Empty buildings have been set on fire or had grenades thrown into them. Teachers have been kidnapped, and later released. In one grisly case a caretaker was mutilated by having his ears and nose cut off, a common punishment for those accused of collaborating with the Afghan Government.

Classes in Kandahar city are still full of girls, most of whom walk to school wearing burkas that are tucked under their desks during lessons given by male teachers.

At the Shalid Abdul Ahad Karzai school, which teaches boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon, the principal, Dawood Shah, admitted that many parents are deeply worried.

He said: “The main problems are explosions, kidnappings and assassinations.” Two years ago 16 pupils died when a bomb exploded outside his school. Some pupils have been withdrawn recently because their parents fear they are being targeted for abduction by kidnappers.

A more everyday problem is intimidation of girls by men who approach them as they walk home. In deeply conservative Kandahar, girls’ education is still opposed by many men.

Sixteen-year-old Anita said: “It is difficult but we have to come to classes. It is our duty to be educated. Our families are happy that we come to school but they worry about our security.” Some of her classmates have stopped attending because of the threats though, she admitted. “

Written by modernityblog

09/05/2008 at 19:57

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Dying For a Cigarette?

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Cigarettes and death are often linked but in a BBC World Service programme, Misha Glenny looked at how they financed the conflict in the Balkans and it sheds new light on the political disputes between Montenegrin and Serbia, download as a MP3.

Written by modernityblog

06/05/2008 at 01:39

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Hamas Out Duke David Irving.

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The latest filth from Hamas beggars belief, via Engage:

Written by modernityblog

03/05/2008 at 20:01

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Humble Pie? Unlikely

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Boris Johnson’s win in the mayoral elections will probably herald a bitter period of bloodletting with blame liberally strewn around, questions will be asked of the Labour Party, new Labour and not least Ken Livingstone.

It is easy enough to blame the media and certainly the Evening Standard had it in for Ken, others dug around for any dirt sowing it squarely at Ken’s feet. Sadly, Livingston provided more than enough material for his critics, from shenanigans in City Hall to sucking up to Clerics and attacking human-rights campaigners.

Blame enough for all occasions and Ken might rightly criticise the media, but he is a professional politician and cannot be unfamiliar with their shady methods so it’s all the more surprising that he supplied much of the material that they’ve used against him.

Ultimately, Livingstone is to blame for his own defeat.

The hubris that he exhibited certainly demonstrated the many flaws in his character, and just for a moment during the election campaign we saw a more modest, slightly humble Ken but it failed to convince people to vote for him.

Instead old Etonian Boris Johnson is now London mayor.

Until now Johnson’s managerial experience was confined to organising the Spectator’s stationary cabinet or buying a round of drinks. He may well find that the job of London mayor is very taxing and beyond his buffoonery. However, it’s reasonable to expect that the Tory Party will carefully manage Johnson’s term in office, they’ll put their best people on it because with the success or failure of Johnson hangs the Tory Party and importantly, their chance of winning the next general election.

The Tories will do anything to win the next general election, they see the mayoral election as a springboard to power, so they’ll probably aim for a technocratic administration with Johnson simply as a figurehead, carefully marshalled and briefed by Tory Party minders.

I suspect that they will try to play up the cuddly side of the Tory Party, to wash away the harsh image of Thatcherism and the dotage of John Major, hoping that the Brown government will play into their hands.

The Cameron game plan is to run a fairly competent and uncontroversial mayoralty, try to convince people that the Tories are not headbangers or fiscal vampires and make a big play at the general election.

I sincerely hope that they don’t succeed, but with the Brown government and the new Labour zombies anything is possible.

Having said all of that I doubt very much that Ken will be eating any humble pie, he’s not the type, shame because if he had, then he still might be Mayor.

Written by modernityblog

03/05/2008 at 01:13

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Harry’s Gone!

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Harry’s Place has finally migrated to WordPress at their new site.

It is still early days and its not always as easy as it should be to move one site completely over to a new host.

They have to move some 96 Mb of comments over, so please be patient with them and enjoy the new HP.

Written by modernityblog

01/05/2008 at 14:08

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