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

Archive for June 13th, 2011

Whisky, West Dunbartonshire Council And Fakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian covers it here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost Of Orientalism: Non-existent Syrian Blogger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree with this:

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

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

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

Written by modernityblog

13/06/2011 at 01:27