Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oil And Water

Islam simply does not mesh well with other types of ideologies, social systems, politics, religions. It's possible that the crux of the problem is that Islam represents all of those things; it is a blueprint for life in and of itself. It is a religion that infuses into its worshippers the belief that to worship Allah and to submit to Islam is to surrender one's entire life to that singular enterprise. Embracing Islam is to forfeit individuality, it is to accept total conformity.

Islam dictates the way people must think, behave, how they anticipate their lives will unfold, that they must dedicate themselves completely to Islamic precepts, accept without question its dictates, act in complete submission to its manifold directives. Peace will be found only in complete acceptance of limitations placed on one's freedom to think, act, believe and the need to practise innumerable daily acts of submission.

This entire mode of control is so completely at odds with liberal democracies where the prevailing religions are maintained separately from the political system, unlike Islam, which demands that religion transcends and is superior to politics, that it's little wonder the two collide instead of meshing. Muslims are so accustomed to living Islam that they accept its total control over every aspect of their lives.

Acclimated to a social, cultural, religious and political climate of instruction, demand and restrictive behaviour, Islam is the driving force behind the life and life-styles of Muslims. Little wonder that Muslims are so deeply offended by criticisms at any level, of their dearly-held values and customs. If the most compelling portion of someone's life is adherence to a supreme deity dictating every facet of life, outside commentary is insultingly, personally, demeaning.

And if lives and lifestyles and apprehensions and comprehensions are so acutely defined and accepted, there's little room for other modes of thought. All the more so when among the precepts of the Koran are those which warn of the corrupting effects of other, false religions, along with the divine injunction to keep oneself apart from unbelievers, to distance unilaterally from the kufars.

So wouldn't it be fine if the solitudes remained distant from one another under those circumstances, neither one troubling the other, each going their way without interference from the other...? It's not to be; as with any kind of human construct, there is always the human emotional element to deal with. One's own group considered to be superior than the adversaries; for adversarial is what they become to one another.

Where once, in ancient history, Islam was on the march and was successful in asserting itself over a large swath of the globe, achieving hegemony over geographical territory far from its source, in the process usurping a more ancient religion, and feeling itself triumphantly successful, it now seethes in an agony of grievance against what it perceives to be an unfairly dominant religion in Christianity.

And by extension the countries of the West. Those countries which embraced a period of intellectual and religious enlightenment, abjured and resolutely forbidden by Islam.

Islamists look to the modern world with especial loathing, blaming its Western representative countries for somehow curtailing opportunities for Islam to advance, for its countries to enrich themselves through trade and enterprise. While on the other hand, moderate Muslims have advanced into the world at large to extend their horizons and fit themselves handily as still-practising Muslims into a more generalized society.

Earning themselves the raging anger of fundamentalist Muslims who, over decades, have established a school of violent jihadism insistent on re-establishing a globally resurgent Islam, spreading Sharia law where it goes.

Islamist terrorists have secured for themselves an especial place in the modern world, claiming to represent the ideals of Islam by waging holy war against the corrupt influences of the West. They've preyed on Muslims insufficiently pious, in their belief, just as they viciously attack symbols of the West.

Gradually, moderate Muslims who live outside the Arab world of stultifying authoritarian rule and who have established a rapport with non-Muslims, and who have accepted the reality of egalitarianism in religion, culture and traditions, respecting others, and conceiving of a loyalty to their adopted countries, are beginning to voice their utter rejection of Islamism.

They understand how fanatical Muslims have been exploiting their loyalty to Islam. They reject the abuse of Islam through violent interpretation.

It is only through the gathering together and combined determination of Muslim moderates to finally speak en masse, and to deny the extremists among them that the world will be able to shrug off the vile depredations of Islamist terrorists.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jihad, Clarified

They're still there, haven't gone away anywhere. Lurking in the background, trusting to the tried-and-true, well-established method of ancient vintage to lure the young and the restless, well inculcated in a culture of blame and hatred. Into their exciting world of deadly intrigue and death-dealing. They've become adept in using the very modern technologies of the very modern civilizations whose decadence and religious ineptitude they deride.

Another forum for the disaffected and the Islamist-deranged, as long as you've the correct password. Truly obsessed jihadists have proclaimed it their numero uno Internet (pssst! site for inspired instruction in dealing with the Angel of Death. And the latest message sets things nicely into perspective, lest terror-bewitched adherents seek to stray off-message. The message headed "Clandestine work inside the city".

Explicating delicately the manner in which small-unit cells can be most effectively trained in urban terror. Training first and utmost; action to follow. Included is the arcane game plan of "The preferred rules of the art of kidnapping Americans." A methodology that can most surely be interpreted and handily manipulated toward abductions of all "kufars", apostates, and Jews. Not necessarily in that order.

A leader of a unit is the first requirement. Amazing bit of intelligence, that. An intelligence unit to follow - using the terminology loosely - and a logistics unit, and finally an execution unit. Mind, if the unit is sufficiently meagre, all of those needs can be encompassed within the purview of a hard-core of four dedicated jihadis. Each of the principals sharing the requisite finesse in carrying plans to fruition.

Units to communicate discreetly and indirectly, to leave few traces through what's termed the "dead-letter-box" technique, amply described by witnesses in Canada and Great Britain in past and ongoing trials. Jihadis are warned to forego attacks on religious figures because it redounds nastily on their cause, tch, tch. Elderly civilians, women and children are given the green light, however.

Odd that al-Qaeda hardly follows its own advice, having been known to attack mosques in various places where Muslims themselves remain the majority targets. However, disciples in death are urged to target Jewish investments in Muslim countries; international companies, international economic experts; exports from "Crusader countries" and raw materials "stolen from Muslim countries by the enemies".

That's a fairly extensive listing, giving more than sufficient targets for enterprising jihadis. Yet they're even more precise in elaborating on the human target list, as follows:
  • Jews; Jews from Israel and the United States have priority over Jews from Britain and France;
  • Christians, especially those from Canada, the United States, Britain, Spain, Australia and Italy;
  • Apostates, particularly Muslim leaders who keep close ties with Jewish and "Christian governments" such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of the Gulf States;
  • Secular individuals, including "spies and security officials" who "protect Jews and Christians".
So that pretty well does it, right? Kind of encompasses much of the world, actually. But for Islamists basking in the warm and sheltering light of Sharia, so pleasing of Muhammad and Allah. They and they only do the divine bidding, finding favour as defenders of the Faith; brave warriors heralding the new Islamist-dominated world of tomorrow.

Nice of them to offer due and deadly warning.

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Purpose, Please...?

The world's Elder Statesmen seek to parlay what's left of their time on this earth continuing to pursue truth and justice. To use their credentials, the huge respect given them, the trust with which their past endeavours have brought peoples' opinion to their embrace of social issues to ensure that the rights and entitlements of the oppressed are not forgotten. No one could claim there aren't a whole lot of issues in the world that require urgent addressing.

Anyone could rhyme off quite a few problems of a really vital nature that vex the world community. So it comes as just a little bit of a shock, to put it lightly, to learn that the Carter Center and its titular head, along with South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are up to what looks like nasty mischief. Really, it's depressing that those two notables have nothing better to turn their considerable attention to than the State of Israel.

They've been mute on items such as abductions of children to induct them into African militias, the ongoing rape of women in various African countries beset by internecine violence. I've read or heard nothing whatever regarding condemnatory pronouncements by either of these two seasoned human-rights activists with respect to the crises in Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan, Burma. Nor have I heard condemnations of resolutely intransigent Islamists.

It is Israel with which they are concerned, mesmerized, held in the bondage of condemnation. They are concerned with Israel's determination to ensure that the Gaza coast not be utilized beyond what the Israeli navy can prevent, to smuggling weaponry to Hamas. Hamas, that Islamist entity that makes no secret of its violent intent to destroy Israel. Why not engage with Hamas in an effort to bring its leaders around to recognition of Israel?

From there, much could be accomplished. The fearless duo of Carter-Tutu-Human-Rights Emeritus, could conceivably settle down to seeking a peaceful solution to the bloody conflicts ongoing between Fatah and Hamas. In the knowledge that once peace has been achieved there, it could commence toward its ultimate goal; the Palestinian state, alongside the Israeli state. Instead confrontation with Israel is the goal.

The Carter Center sponsoring a sea voyage from Cypress to the Gaza coastline to challenge the authority of Israel. The 60 passengers who have volunteered to man the ship do so with the expectation that they will be arrested once they've left international waters, some 7 miles from the Mediterranean Coast. What might be the ultimate purpose, other than to obviously create new, damaging publicity, once wearily again damning the State of Israel.

The conspirators in this mission to judge and condemn Israel have reached the conclusion that Israel has no sovereignty over the Gaza coast as it withdrew unilaterally three years earlier from the land mass of the Strip under the country's Disengagement program. At the time Israel cautioned, however, that it had no intention of disengaging from control over the air and sea until such time as the Palestinian Authority could guarantee its security.

Not yet, obviously, reality. And the trip organizers whose blame-and-shame game reeks of anti-Semitism, for carefully selecting a Jewish country as its human-rights-abuse target when there are so many other countries just aching to be noticed in that category, countries like Iran, for example, chafing at the bit to destroy a neighbouring country, and whose obvious search for catastrophic nuclear weaponry will set the geography on existential edge.

Plan B goes into effect if Israel's naval forces put a halt to the protest ship's advance beyond international waters. For, instead of arresting at the Gaza coast, rather than retaining them inside international waters, the game plan remains unfulfilled. If they face that kind of dilemma, skewing their plan, the 60 protesters are prepared to remain on board for a minimum of two weeks, revelling in their not-quite-there status.

At issue, according to one of the ship's passengers, is the need to "remind the world that we will not stand by and watch 1.5 million people suffer death by starvation and disease." A moot point; no one should be prepared to do nothing while countless people suffer. And why are they suffering, other than that they launched a guerrilla war against an occupying force which is there to protect itself and its citizens from the violent attacks of the suffering peoples' heroes?

It is the intransigent disavowal of Israel's right of existence, the continual and ongoing assaults against its citizens that has the country's defence forces engaged in just that: defence. The vaunted, once-flourishing economy now in disaster mode was a deliberate mission embarked upon by the Palestinians who form terror militias and who claim to represent the best interests of the Palestinian people - not yet disavowed either from the West Bank or from Gaza.

When Israel forcibly removed its Gaza settlers, with the hope that leaving the Territory to the Palestinians as an indelible sign of goodwill, it was soon disabused of the notion that it would be received as such. Hoping that the Palestinians in Gaza would finally take it upon themselves to establish order and safety and work to reduce their dependence on international aid by constructing a future for themselves, not by re-launching an even more violent series of actions against Israel came to naught.

The separation wall, so thoroughly detested by human-rights activists who don't have to live under the constant barrage of rockets, nor suffer the bloody violence of Fatah- and Hamas-sponsored-and-encouraged suicide attacks, has stilled the constant threat of death and destruction to a manageable level. The closures of border crossings were undertaken as a necessary deterrent to the entrance into Israel of death's deliverers.

Perhaps it's past time that reason dictate the Elder Statesmen retire in honour rather than besmirch their past successes in leading the world's attention toward human rights beyond areas where they truly occur, and toward places where existential desperation causes liberal democracies to take urgent, unavoidable steps toward survival.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Societal Values

The measure of a society can be determined through a careful look at its civilized attitude toward universal values and the quality of life.

How a country orders itself as a fully functioning democracy with respect for the rule of law and the need to protect the interests, safety and well-being of its citizens. Its legal, security and judicial institutions must be guarantors of freedom and justice for all its citizens. Its educational, health and social institutions must be guarantors of equality of opportunity for all.

Most countries who subscribe to liberal democratic values aspire to the ideal and succeed within the parameters recognized for success. Some countries, like Israel, do their utmost to meet their obligations as free and democratic nations, while battling adversity from without, and often, within.

It's a difficult, tortuous balancing act for Israel. The conscience of the country is such that it not only wishes to be thought well of as a decent society, but it also requires its own self-respect.

Take the matter of Palestinians living within Israel with full rights of citizenship, including the right to elect one of their own to the Knesset. Take the example of former Israeli Arab Knesset member, Azmi Bishara, who, facing charges of treason, fled the country.

This former Israeli MK is charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hezbollah for intelligence during the Israel-Hezbollah confrontation in 2006. The charges against him are that of aiding the enemy in wartime, transmitting information to the enemy, contacting a foreign agent, and money laundering.

The Knesset is grappling with the issue of pensionability of this man. A hard-right MK insists that Azmi Bishara must be considered innocent until proven guilty, despite the man's most recent announcement that he is joining Hezbollah to fight against Israel.

MK Rivlin insists that holding back Bishara's pension would "harm the foundations of democracy in the deeper sense of the word" in response to legislators having introduced bills calling for the revocation of monthly payments to the former MK who fled to Qatar to avoid charges of treason.

Revocation of his citizenship is also being argued. Knesset legal counsel Nurit Elstein, however, argues that, despite the fact that Bishara is currently busy joining terror forces against Israel, he must still receive his pension as a former lawmaker. The legal counsel, additionally, wrote to the Knesset House Committee that it is his considered opinion that the bills drafted to strip Bishara of benefits are probably illegal.

"Revoking one's right to receive pension funds, particularly after the employee retires, constitutes a severe infringement of ownership rights, which, according to Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, cannot be violated. In addition, stripping employees of their rights in an imbalanced manner, as the bill proposes, hinders equality, which is recognized as a constitutional right...

"We must remember that Bishara served as an MK for 11 years, was not convicted of a criminal offence, and was not even indicted."

So much for the conscience of a country. During a Cabinet meeting, discussion ensued with respect to the hudna, the temporary ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. Israel's Shabak chief cautioned the cabinet that Hamas is "maintaining the ceasefire, but using it to rearm against us". Warning additionally that the recent prisoner exchange with Hezbollah has had the effect of encouraging further IDF troop abductions.

Just desserts for a country and an administration that so highly regards its own that it will hand over incarcerated prisoners who have been found guilty of the most atrocious crimes against their people, in exchange for the corpses of Israeli soldiers. The families of the dead have the comfort of burying their bones, and some closure, while the country steels itself against the reality that the exchanged prisoners will happily take up arms against them again.

Warning as well of the increasing eruption of terrorist activities from within eastern Jerusalem Arab neighbourhoods. Where entry of government representatives is only possible with back-up forces, who meet with violent resistance by the Arab residents. As official Israel withdraws its presence from eastern Jerusalem which the PA reserves as their potential state capital, the residents draw closer to world Islamic Jihad movements.

And as terror events continue to erupt out of that environment, threatening the peace and security of surrounding Jewish residents of Jerusalem, another matter of contention is discussed; that of demolishing the homes of families of terrorists who have carried out successfully murderous terror attacks against Jews.

It's not clear whether it's official government policy to destroy those homes as deterrents against future attacks, for while Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak insist those homes must be destroyed, judicial action against allowing the continuance of the practise seems to be dragging the matter away from resolution.

It's extremely problematical for a morals-based society to come to complete agreement on all facets of its decision-making in dealing with situations that have the potential to entirely destabilize the country, and worse.

This marks the difference between Israel, as a democracy and her neighbours representing autocratic rule at best, who don't trouble themselves excessively about meting out justice.

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A Violence-Subdued Iraq

The U.S. "surge" that subdued a violence-plagued Iraq quieted the doubts felt by American politicians and military commanders. They could succeed, they would succeed. All it took was another several tens of thousands of committed troops to reinforce to the various sectarian militias that they were in control and meant to keep it that way.

Of course, to allow the country's new coalition government to grow into its role, just as its military was learning to control its impulse toward anarchy and channel it toward controlled professionalism.

Currently, the news of the day isn't all that hopeful in the continued fractious society. With female suicide bombers targeting religious pilgrims, killing 36 faithful and wounding 182 in the four explosions that resulted from a determined suicide-terror attack.

This is Islam, the religion of peace and brotherly love. Which can profess undying allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad on the one hand, and commit atrocities, Shia against Sunni, Sunni against Shia, Arab against Kurd, on the other.

As millions of the faithful of the Shia persuasion wended their way toward the Kadhimiyah shrine to celebrate one of their holiest festivals in Baghdad, their sectarian rivals carefully arranged for select members among them to meet their Maker, rather prematurely.

Painstakingly constructed homemade bombs blasting nails and screws to indiscriminately target the soft flesh, sinews, muscles of men, women, children.

Craftily placed where tired pilgrims would assemble, to refresh themselves after their long and arduous march. Carefully timed, two suicide bombers, one after another, with a ten minute lapse between, to kill 20 and wound another 70.

This, despite tighter security measures in place for the pilgrimage, and checkpoints where female police officers could search female pilgrims. And yet the police had been forewarned; informed that six female suicide bombers were en route to do their duty for Allah.

In Kirkuk, hundreds of thousands of Kurds held a demonstration against a bill that had the potential of weakening Kurdish control of the city. There, a woman detonated a suicide vest, killing sixteen, injuring 112. Where there's the will to succeed, a way will be found.

Male suicide bombers had become too obvious, too readily discovered and disarmed. Enter women to do their duty. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, whom local Sunni militias had turned against because of their horrible and indiscriminate attacks on their own, are finding themselves again.

"People wrote the requiem for sectarian conflict and al-Qaeda in Iraq too rapidly", pronounced Vali Nasr, of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Wishful thinking. People have a right and an obligation to hope for the best.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Looks Worse Than It Is - Oh - It's Worse Than It Looks

Two issues looming large in China of late; the success of the Beijing Olympic Games and the need to eradicate "splittism" influences and tendencies in Tibet.

The former was, along with other fears of human rights abuses in the country, a contentious issue of great note when the Olympics Committee was about its business of selecting a country to showcase the 2008 Summer Games, and in their great good wisdom they reached the conclusion that with the attention of the world focused on China, it would see the wisdom of ramping down its Tibet crackdown.

And then, of course, there was the matter of the country's dynamic economic engine creating ever more environmental carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric detritus through the reality of coal-fired energy besmirching the air and the health of China's citizens. As it would the lungs, the eyes, and the comfort of countless visitors to the country on the occasion of the Summer Olympics.

China pledged it would clean up its atmosphere, and remained mum on Tibet.

It could certainly not deny its environmental problems, there to be seen within the country and without, through the auspices of prevailing winds. But it could, would and most certainly did deny that it was exercising the politics of a cruel tyranny on the people of Tibet; China wanted nothing more than to ensure that all its citizens - including Tibetans - adhered to its prerogatives of universal rule.

Now, close to the opening of the Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee is biting its proverbial nails in anticipation of an opening and ongoing proceedings that may take place in a murky atmosphere of soiled pollution. Not so, claim China's officials, cheerfully pointing out that what outsiders see as a deep gray haze is merely "fog". It will clear off handily for the games.

Beijing has had a million or more fewer vehicles polluting its atmosphere for the past week, and heavily pollution-causing businesses have been told to take a holiday from production. Yet, amazingly, the air pollution index has increased, with levels above 100 ,reflecting "unhealthy" air quality, injurious to the lungs of children and the elderly.

Beijing's deputy director of its Environmental Protection Bureau chides international news reportage, for its specious reliance on blurry-air photographs; all is not quite what it seems. The international community has his assurance that air quality would more than meet the IOC's standards "We can guarantee good air quality during the Games", said he.

There will be many "blue-sky" days; those days when the sun can be made out through the terminal haze of the city and where the air pollution index falls gracefully under 100. Now, in the matter of the criminal intransigence of Tibetan monks who inspire in their people the mood to rebel, that's another matter entirely. It is an interior problem, not the world's to measure.

China cannot and will not put up with criminal subversion of her legal right to rule yet another province of her vast territories. Tibetan Buddhist abbots and other religious leaders who foment unrest and who fail to defer to Beijing's orders to "re-educate" their flock will be summarily replaced. This, to take place where some of the violent clashes between monks and security forces occurred earlier in the year.

This representing, evidently, the most propitious opportunity for Beijing to address the Tibet problem, concurrent with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The monasteries, monks and nuns who continue to flagrantly defy government edicts by distributing splittist slogans and fliers, who hoist the Tibetan national flag and who encourage illegal demonstrations will be dealt with.

Those found guilty of "minor crimes" will be dealt with expeditiously and exposed to "re-education" techniques certain to make good citizens of them. Those deemed to be in the category of "masterminds" of the unrest, encouraging splittism will face the full force of the law. Details are quite unnecessary.

The climate-based environment is better than it looks, take their word for it. The political environment is more critical than it might appear to the casual onlooker; you have the word of government. All will be speedily and handily resolved.

Let the Games begin!

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Know Thine Adversary

Much as people of good will cling to the belief that if only people care enough, take the trouble to know one another, express a willingness to come together for the common purpose of living in peace, all will be well.

Religion is thought by many of its adherents as having a modifying effect on instinctual human emotions - those primordial impulsive reactions to strangers - teaching the faithful to welcome the stranger as a friend. Moderation in behaviour as in all worldly things is said to be the key to a life well lived.

What to do, however, when your moderate behaviour comes up against the reality of someone else's instinctive withdrawal, suspicion, arousal to anger? Withdraw. Go another route. Avoid contact. The world has many human beings whose atavistic reaction to those clearly from without their tribe, their culture, their traditions, is hostility.

Some cultural traditions encourage revulsion of others, some religions denounce the authenticity of other religions.

Muslims around the world are crying foul at their perception of Islamophobia, a condition which they ascribe to ignorance of the true meaning of Islam, which encourages brotherly love and holds dear the condition of peace between nations. Belied by almost thirty decades of Islamic jihad, where Muslim terrorists have struck in Spain, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iraq, Britain, the United States, China, Israel, and elsewhere on the map.

Yet moderate Muslims decry the suspicion that wafts their way, engulfing them in suspicion and claim themselves to be victims of misunderstood qualities of Islam, as a life-affirming religion, one that encourages its adherents to be good citizens of the world. The dichotomy plays out on the world stage, day by day. Prove it, the critics of Islam say, provoking Muslim frustration, and in the minds of some proving there is no justice toward Islam.

Yet the anger and violence unleashed against the West and its interests goes on unabated, despite that a ruling hierarchy of Islamic clerics has issued its verdict on Islamist jihad, ruling it to be illegal, against the precepts of Islam, an affront to Allah. And well they might do so, since the overwhelming majority of victims falling prey to violent martyrdom-seeking jihadists are other Muslims.

The message of peace and global brotherhood is somehow not being absorbed by the global Muslim demographic most susceptible to the strangely atrocious allure of militant jihad. And it is not only young and disaffected men from the Middle East who crave to work out their frustrations with life, and target helpless civilians in their quest to prove their Islamist credentials.

The Center for Social Cohesion, based in London, has released the results of a study, titled "Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinion". There are some religious and social values that appear universal among young Muslims, leading to the possibility that those values transcend borders, social conditions, level of education and maturity of years and insight.

The report revealed that roughly a third of campus Muslims in the survey gave support to the idea that it is permissible to kill in the name of religion. Conflictingly, a slightly larger portion of Muslim students felt Islam was fully compatible with secularism. Yet they give great support to the vision of Islamic Sharia law, along with the forward-looking ideal of a global Islamic rule, the concept of a global Caliphate re-visited.

These conclusions don't appear to sit very comfortably with the views of university heads who feel academic institutions should be supporting communalism, where people of all faiths and backgrounds should live in open harmony; the atmosphere of mutual tolerance most conducive to a learning environment.

Yet the facts drawn from the survey revealed that 32% of those surveyed felt killing for religion is justifiable, and that number almost doubled, to 60%, in the opinion of those students who were active in Islamic student organizations on campus. Whereas, strikingly, a mere 2% of non-Muslim students considered killing in the name of any religion to be justified.

And the vast majority of students polled, some 79%, claim to have respect for Jews, with 7% saying they felt "very little or no respect at all". The results of the survey were said to be "...deeply alarming", by one of the report's authors, researcher Hanna Stuart. "Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities."

So what is it exactly within Islam that confers upon impressionable, yet educated young people the impression that to kill in the name of Islam is acceptable? Islam, the religion of peace and goodly tolerant relations with others? Clearly, the sacred writings as interpreted by modern-day scholars and clerics leaves much to be desired.

The original prescriptive behaviours directed at tribal enmities appear never to have been re-addressed to reflect an enlightened response to modern global society.

The report's authors drew the alarmed but under the circumstances, understandable conclusion that empowering groups like the Federation of Student Islamic Societies with their fanatical and conservative interpretation of Islam is proving to be inimical to society at large.

Giving them free rein on campus lends them a "stamp of approval", rendering complicit value to their extremism. University authorities, it was pointed out, must take steps to reduce such influences.

The results of the study, reflect the reality that a significant number of students "appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal, democratic values", the results of which are deeply embarrassing for those claiming that extremism does not exist in British universities.

Well, they can be embarrassed alongside all the irate Muslim letter-writers to the editors of various newspapers around the world, blaming Islamist extremism on Western insults to Islam.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trump Cards

See a need to have your nation's perspective well understood and very well represented by a world body? Simple. Elect to the ultimate position of influence one of your nation's presumably most eminent authorities in a most particular and of-the-moment question, who will slavishly pursue the national interests while portending to portray the image of a dedicated and completely neutral advocate for the good of the world at large.

The developed nations of the world are stridently divided on the issue of whether or not to involve the developing nations in the plans to ramp down emissions of carbon dioxide that the United Nations Climate Change Plan places sole responsibility on developed nations toward, for implementing arrests on global warming. The world's greatest creators of environmental degradation through carbon emissions are China, the U.S.A. and India.

China and India are seen as emerging economies, the U.S.A. as a successfully developed, technologically advanced power. It is the United States, along with all the developed countries of the world who are expected to batten down the development hatches, leaving the field open to developing economies to pursue their agendas unhampered by an eye on the environmental mess they're spewing into the atmosphere.

India's Rajendra Pachauri is the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the world's senior climate change official. He, along with his colleagues, have been adamant that the world must act to prevent a climate change catastrophe. And it must act now, and act determinedly, and responsibly. The world, in effect, being restricted to those countries which have traditionally besmirched the atmosphere by anthropogenic-caused change.

Countries like Canada, feeling the pinch of remedial action which its political elite is divided on, are loathe to act and in the process potentially rein in their economies without an assurance that action will be global, not exempting developing countries' participation. Canada's carbon-dioxide footprint, for example, represents something like 2% of the world's output, and the economic cost to the country of ameliorating legislation will be immense.

Canada's prime minister insists that China and India, those emerging economic giants with their huge populations, also be counted into the global effort to stall global warming. On the other hand, the European Union, is in support of relieving China and India of an obligation they feel should rest solely on the economic-development shoulders of developed countries. The EU's own carbon footprint is modest; it imports most of its power.

Understandably, China and India are content to be left out of the healing equation on the basis that they haven't had the opportunity to gain a leg up on development yet, and that their national economies should not be made to suffer in that up until now it has been the developed countries which have spewed out environmental waste seen to be responsible for the current crisis.

India has placidly proceeded with plans to continue building hundreds of new coal-fired power plants. More or less echoing exactly what China has been doing, and will continue to do. The cheapest, most currently-reliable energy source for both countries continues to be coal-fired furnaces. Which use results in gross particulate matter circulating in the atmosphere, and which carbon dioxide output has gifted both countries with a truly soiled environment.

Adding to the world's burden of environmental degradation. And the world isn't that large a place, after all. Prevailing winds bring foul pollution far from their source in India and China. The coastline of North America has been known to become the unwilling recipient of pollution from as far afield as China, depositing nasty tidbits where it's least wanted, in countries far from their origin.

In any event, both India and China are more than pleased with the current position of the UN. The government of India has enacted a "National Action Plan on Climate Change", and their pre-eminent authority who also happens to be head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, kindly helped to craft it. India's National Action Plan acknowledges that it has been forgiven from implementing any action to ameliorate its own carbon dioxide footprint.

Developing countries are not required to side-line their economic interests by diverting resources from their priorities in development, through the implementation of climate-related projects which would involve additional, hurtful costs to their economy. India, therefore, feels fully justified in forging full steam ahead with its economic development plans. Greenhouse gas emissions clean-ups are clearly an imperative to be solved by others.

To validate their position, India's National Action Plan, commissioned by its prime minister and chaired by him, has issued a report affirming that "no firm link between the changes they describe with respect to changes seen in the country itself, and warming due to anthropogenic climate change has yet to be established" internally. Much as, in other words, that while some portions of the environmental scientific community feels catastrophe is imminent, another does not.

And India places itself firmly in the "does not" camp. While climate change may eventually prove itself the dreaded threat many assume it to be, it has not yet done so in the case of human-caused degradation, to the satisfaction of many climate scientists. So take a deep breath, and just settle down to make the most of the opportunities available for continued development. And no need to fund unneeded remedies, for the time being.

That's a truly ta-dum! rationale, a solution for all seasons and a sole reason. And more power to them. From whatever source.

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Re-Imaging and Re-Imagining Obama

That's what happens, one supposes, when a country is that fractionated, that conflicted within itself. Historically, socially and politically, currently. They're looking for solutions to problems inherent in a society that continues to suffer from itself. Its reluctance to live how it urges other countries to live. That great democratic, social experiment in justice and egalitarianism has been anything but, for far too long, for far too great a number of its population.

The nation's simplistic view of itself as a great nation - which it most certainly is - and the keeper of their brother-countries' well-being, as a benevolent but heavy-handed super-power hasn't brought it much satisfaction of late. America believes itself to be an exemplar of decency, and for the most part it is. Americans are given to a solid belief in religion, they're superbly attuned to corporatism, they're alertlyentrepreneurial, fairly well educated.

But completely devoid of any real human interest in other countries of the world, as irrelevant to their needs. Unless somehow they perceive themselves to have been insulted or their values assaulted or their mass culture derided, at which time they take stiff note and erect a wall of indifferent hostility. Individually, they're like anyone else, same human emotional needs. They're sublimely racist, but would rather not be, pulling toward idealism, regardless.

America the country, America the people, really represent decency, an overweening will to good behaviour. It helps that they're overwhelmingly given to a fervent belief in an afterlife and good deeds guarantee an invitation to proceed past the pearly gates. Americans want to believe that they have discovered among themselves a candidate for the highest political office in the land who embodies everything they would like themselves to be.

Law-abiding, patient, thoughtful, intelligent, enterprising, understanding, intrepid, courageous and determined. Barak Obama has arisen out of obscurity to present as their conscience, to promise a better time for them, and by extension for the world at large. For as America goes, so too goes the better part of the world. When it's in fine fettle, its friends enjoy the fall-out, when it's angry, other countries try to make themselves inconspicuous.

Americans are taciturnly optimistic. When they're not being obliviously pushy. Unlike their neighbour, Canada, which is more inclined toward phlegmatic pessimism, tinged on occasion with a sour lack of appreciation for their obstreperous neighbour. Canadians are lugubriously cautious, Americans more inclined toward wholesome, enthusiasticincaution, carried away by the momentum of their self-satisfied conceits.

Senator Obama tells them that they - with him guiding them - are capable of turning the current chaos in the world into sweetly disciplined order. His ephemeral language engages the poetic imagination, his hearers leaping into the grace of belief as though he represents a divine mission that only he, and they, are capable of bringing to fruition. Deliverance from all the nasty problems that beset Americans, and by extension the world at large. Through the auspices - oh divine grace - of a black American.

Believe in peace and harmony and it shall result. Be thoughtful and kind and no one will ever presume to question your motivation. When he lectures his belief that it is possible to "ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy", his audience is enraptured. It is, he informs his listeners, America's destiny to promote dignity everywhere in the world - along with democracy. Elevating them to the status of deliverers through his projection.

America's mission is to "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good". The unity of humankind. As though that might become reality. As though he has the power - the power of positive thinking - to invoke within humankind an understanding that we are one, and together we can confront any manner of adversity that threatens us. Global warming? we'll tackle it together. Religious andsocio-political misadventures? no problem, together.

The growing presence of world-wide terrorism? The good and the righteous will form an indissoluble bond and together will bring evil to ground, disrupt it and break its hold on the imaginations of weak, easily-led malefactors and bring them to heel. The world will be re-made, re-structured, realized in the image of America the Good. First, of course, America must become Good.

And through Barak Obama that opportunity is laid before that yet-imperfect society. Belief triumphing over reality resulting in a religion of peace and global brotherhood. Colour-blind, blissfully accepting. It might be possible if humankind were structured otherwise psychically, emotionally, less flawed by its impervious, completely neutral maker. But his words have a soothing, healing effect, however distractingly brief.

His belief in self is astonishing. His own declarations seem like a personal aphrodisiac. Empowering him. The reception he was given abroad, particularly in Germany ramped up his self-regard to even greater heights. Is it, after all, he who should be criticized for amorphous statements which can conceivably be construed any which way? Enabling him, with great verbal agility and mental acuity, to claim himself to have been misunderstood?

Not recanting, but re-phrasing. Making intelligible that which was so obviously misunderstood. Is he a master of sleight-of-verbiage, an impostor, a charlatan, a sham, or is he who he believes himself to be? Is it conceivable that this wisp 'o the wind is really a more complex persona than his detractors hold him out to be? His presidential showmanship a mere lapse in judgement?

Take, for example, this description: "He's much more thoughtful, much more interested in discussion, debate and dialogue than the typical politician. And that gives me some confidence about him, even though from my perspective he's much too liberal." Is that damning with faint praise? From a die-hard republican, a former colleague, a very conservative Chicago law professor?

Can we get beyond the adoring public cheering on this new iconic figure in U.S. politics who aspires on their behalf to be elected to the Oval Office? You tell me. Time will deliver the ultimate truth.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Terror Embattled

Quite dreadful, really, to read one's quotidian news-fill of suicide bombings against civilians and countries' militaries alike, along with attacks against any vestiges of religious, political, social and civil institutions and structures that are held to be offensive to the mind-sets of the attackers. It seems as though the vicious need to obliterate, to terrorize, to instill fear in the hearts of those whom a society's rulers or their theocratic masters designate as targets knows no bounds.

And then there is poor Iran. It too has been suffering the effects of dastardly attacks against its sovereign right to exert its national and divinely-inspired interests - by mysterious forces beyond its current knowledge. Simply untenable, that a country cannot be permitted by those whose envy of its stature as a leading spiritual inspiration and inheritor of vast natural resources leads them to denounce its nuclear program, threatening sanctions and even - heaven forfend - invasion.

But then, what else can be expected from agents of the devil, those Crusaders and Jews whose aeons-long mission in history, let alone current life is to have succeeded in making life miserable for unassuming Muslims. Here they were, the fearfully respected Revolutionary Guards, conveying military equipment - their own latest and brilliant improvements on already-successful munitions, along with recently-acquired munitions from their supporters - from their warehouse, to be delivered to Hezbollah.

And then, what happens? They're exploded, blown up, the military convoy wrecked en route to Lebanon. What a dastardly deed. It will not go unpunished. The impact was so immense it resounded in Tehran. Although the people there have no knowledge of what it might conceivably have been, that huge concussion, for a news blackout was imposed. They might hazard a few guesses; celebratory fireworks at yet another breakthrough in speeding up uranium enrichment comes readily to mind....

Sabotage, that's what was indignantly identified as the likely cause of the explosion. Nasty work, that. And just when Iran has been feverishly engaged in ensuring that Hezbollah is sufficiently armed in preparation for a - possibly imminent - armed conflict. Should all that Western posturing and tin-pot belligerence lead to urgent plans to bomb Iran's nuclear infrastructures, it requires its proxy militias to be prepared to respond. Just doing their homework. (Failing that, all that hardware will come in handy in yet another Hezbollah attack on Israel.)

But that hasn't been the only explosion; there have been a number of others, all of which occurrences have been unnervingly vexing to the brilliant minds of the senior Revolutionary Guard commanders. A mosque in Shiraz which had proudly hosted a military exhibition - Allah and the prosecution of war twinned as a reasonable response to world hostility - had also been bombed. As well as an explosion at a missile site, which sent dozens of Iranian technicians to Allah's bosom.

It's more than likely that Iran's surrounding neighbours, Arab Sunni states, made excessively nervous by the Shi'ite kingdom's nuclear blathering have taken it upon themselves finally to signal their displeasure. Covert activities funded by a consortium of Defenders of the True Faith. Titter-titter. And it's not only Iran that has been suffering these unfortunately miserable incidents of sabotage, but others of its neighbours who support a like opinion of infidels and Jews.

Hamas, it would appear, is also blaming unidentified "terrorists" for launching explosives at their high-ranking political figures. Unidentified only to the extent that they're going on informed conjecture. It seems that the Hamas-Fatah terror militia war hasn't quite been resolved. Temporarily tamped down, but the embers somehow once again caught fire. It has, somehow, mysteriously, appeared to escalate in the wake of the Israel-Gaza ceasefire.

While Hamas and its interests are being consolidated and strengthened for a future assault upon that devil's spawn's refuge, Israel, Fatah terrorists have been terrorizing Hamas terrorists. Um, yes, yes indeed. Hamas should know; they're accusing Fatah of undermining the temporary cease-fire - hudna? - by urging their militias to sink the agreement by deciding to extend the proceedings to the West Bank, declaring the agreement void when the IDF responds to their planned mortar attacks.

Clever, but Hamas saw them coming. They no doubt also suspect the Fatah-aligned PA police - nicely trained and armed by the U.S. in support of the ongoing peace efforts between Israel and the PA, where Israel consistently undermines the proceedings by encouraging increased West Bank settlements, and the PA enthusiastically sinks the proceedings by urging their devoted supporters to turn on their "oppressors and occupiers" to find their way as celebrated martyrs - of complicity with Israel, though they've assiduously attended to traffic and petty-crime violations.

Given sufficient time, might it be too much to anticipate that all the belligerents, the Persians, the Sunni Muslims, their proxy militias, might exhaust themselves with their sectarian and internecine hatreds? It could only be a good thing for moderate and war-weary Muslims, after all. Can the rest of the world wait that long, exert sufficient disciplinary patience upon themselves?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

PIFWC/piffwik/ n. Person Indicted for War Crimes

The international community is increasingly seeing itself responsible to identify, to indict, to arrest, to try, and to convict those whom they see, in their great good wisdom, and their need to address the critical issues of human rights betrayals by governments and their lawmakers and legislators, in a supra-territorial or extra-territorial manner. The initiative undertaken in good faith, as though to state that we are indeed, all of us, our brothers' keepers.

Who is to deny that the sentiment is not a noble one? Perhaps long overdue, in light of the great injustices, the heinous atrocities that governments and their representatives are capable of resorting to in their efforts to control, their need to apprehend insurrections, or merely to ensure that their tyrannical rule cannot be interrupted by others with more humanistic goals.

Although countries cannot, under international rules of conduct, undertake to march into an affected country to remove the offending leader, they can issue an injunction within their own territory, to recognize the instances of perceived crimes against humanity and seek to arrest the offender should he or she ever be sufficiently incautious as to make their presence available where they can be arrested.

Radovan Karadzic has been the subject of just such a procedure; called to account for his part in fomenting and encouraging horrible crimes, as the Bosnian Serb leader during the 1990 conflicts in the former Yugoslavian territories. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and attempted genocide - yet ongoing - in Darfur.

And then there is another, similar situation, where the National Court in Spain has seen fit to accede to a court suit brought for its consideration by the Palestinian Authority to indict key members of the Israeli government, past and present. For their part in accomplishing the removal - by government approved assassination - of a supreme terrorist, Palestinian Salah Shehada.

The man was killed in an Israel Air Force hit in 2002, undercutting his plan to dispatch a 600 kilogram explosives-loaded truck to a target in Gush Katif. He was also responsible for countless successful attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, resulting in dozens of Israeli deaths.

Arrest warrants have been issued for former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon, along with other officials, including the current Minister of Infrastructures, Ben-Eliezer. Arrests to be implemented instantly the named set foot on Spanish soil. The gist of the claim is that the one-ton bomb was overkill, in a residential neighbourhood.

Despite the need to foil the planned attack, the IDF took due precautions, attempting to ascertain that no civilians would be in the building at the time. With the full knowledge that it was common practise for Shehada, along with other terrorist leaders to deliberately take refuge among civilians, including children.

Attempts were made to ensure that there would be no additional bloodshed, as a result of which the mission had been postponed on a number of occasions. And despite which precautions having taken place, 14 civilians were killed by the explosion, earning Israel widespread condemnation.

It's hard to find excuses when innocent lives are needlessly lost in situations of war. On the other hand, far more innocent lives would have been taken had the planned attack by the terrorists succeeded. As so many others had before. All countries take necessary steps to protect their populations. Not all countries are continually beset by terror attacks from within and without their borders.

Spain has itself been riven with terror attacks from diverse sources. The government has had a long campaign against its Basque separatists (ETA), which target the country's security and military, attributing 800 deaths to ETA terrorism. The country grapples with an urban left-wing terror group, GRAPO, whose purpose is to establish a Marxist state.

Additionally, there are known al-Qaeda cells operating there, held to have been responsible for detonating ten bombs on packed commuter trains in 2004, killing 191 Spaniards.

It's puzzling, to say the least, that Spain has undertaken such a dramatic and drastic step to differentiate itself in its struggle to contain the terrorist groups within the country, with those that a Middle Eastern Israel feels itself forced to take, to contend with the terror groups, many of which are in fact proxy militias for neighbouring states, some of which make no secret of their agenda to expunge the country from the landscape.

If England, which has also issued a similar indictment against an Israeli general, and Spain, which has most recently signed on to the Palestinian Authority's request, see fit to isolate and condemn Israel's system of emergency defence measures, perhaps they might wish to look elsewhere in the civilized world and beyond, to condemn instances of nations undertaking grave ventures that establish internal defence needs, as recognized by Britain and Spain.

Take China's president Hu Jintao, for example, to be held to account for his and his government's actions toward the people of Tibet; surely to be accounted as grave human rights offences. And while we're at it, how about former Russian president, now its prime minister-cum president, Vladimir Putin, for his Chechnya adventures and subsequent suspected obliteration of reporters intent on revealing the entire truth of the matter.

Then there's America's redoubtable president, George W. Bush, whose administration insisted on the necessity to invade Iraq and whose venture has been responsible for the deaths of countless civilians in that country, let alone the fall-out from increased terrorist attacks world-wide, as a result of that singular occupation. Let us not neglect the reality of Robert Mugabe whose megalomaniac rule has burdened his countrymen beyond redemption.

We could go on; there's Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, whose patience for the presence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the country's tribal regions has contributed to the ongoing trials and misfortunes in Afghanistan - all impacting deleteriously on NATO-affiliated and UN troops stationed there for the purpose of rescuing Afghanistan from Islamist fundamentalist backwardness.

If Israel is to be held accountable for targeting Palestinian terrorists who revel in murdering its citizens, those of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, why not hold the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas responsible also for encouraging a culture of martyrdom among his people? Officially-sanctioned and -prepared textbooks teaching children the acceptability of hatred and murder?

Encouraging young men and women to continue their "struggle" against the "occupier", becoming exalted martyrs, and exhibiting maps that do not portray the State of Israel as a real presence, but rather an entire state of Palestine, more than adequately delivering the message of intent. Broaden the search, widen the landscape, to encompass all those deserving of having abandoned their humanity in the search for dominance.

And then recognize the difference between the agenda to dominate and institute a larger geographic Muslim autocracy to replace a Democratic and free country and disperse its people in a reflection of ancient history.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Twisted Impulses

Suffer the aggrieved, the haters, the anger-mongers, the Jew haters, the impotent impostors of righteousness to enter the city holy to Jews and wreak havoc there in the name of the Palestinian "struggle" against legitimate statehood. For that's what it amounts to; their original denial of the potential for statehood in 1948 has bloomed into the deadly ambition to continue denying themselves a state of their own.

Continued and continual attacks on the legitimate State of Israel merely sets back the potential to achieve a Palestinian state. And perhaps that's the real agenda, recognized by some, but by no means all Palestinians. It's clear enough from the insider comments by the Palestinian Authority spokespeople, including Mahmoud Abbas, that a greater agenda for a greater Palestinian state is what's aspired to.

The first-offered division of the geographic area was rejected, and continues to be rejected, even in its modern form, as a legitimate state alongside that of a neighbour's. Israel managed to solve the problem of suicide bombings planned and undertaken by Palestinian "freedom fighters" entering the country from the West Bank and Gaza by constructing a protective wall. Opening the opportunity for recruitment among Israeli Arabs to offer themselves as martyrs.

With this second bulldozer attack by an Israeli Palestinian construction worker, other Palestinians who work in the country in the construction industry can now understandably anticipate that their jobs may be forfeit, if not at the very least, considerably constrained in latitude. The question is will their ire be directed against the government, anxious to protect its people, or toward the perpetrators of this social injustice?

It would be heartening and comforting to be able to take at face value the comments of Mahmoud Abbas: "I condemn terrorist attacks with the greatest firmness, and I hope for the quick recovery of those who were hurt", if it were not for the unfortunate fact that this was a statement made for the purpose of Western consumption. Internal comments speak otherwise, as evidenced by his recent fervid support for the murderers who were returned to Hezbollah.

The larger question being how can a country yearning for a cessation of hostilities, and willing to apply itself to living peacefully and trustingly with a neighbour which has proven time and again to be untrustworthily given to conflict in its ongoing territorial ambitions surrender to the belief that an avowed terror-supporter is their sole partner in the search for a peaceful solution to their mutual conflict?

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Wherever The Votes Are

Right from the word go, from the very moment he's sworn into office as the next president of the great United States of America, Barak Obama will set his visionary sights upon solving the problem that has vexed a stream of American presidents from Jimmy Carter onward. This is a problem that eludes salvation. It's like a one-hand clap. It requires two genuine partners in an effort to reach consensus; one that requires equal effort on each side.

So good luck Senator Obama. We've heard the determined promises before, but we're ready to hold our breath and hope along with you. Except that you're promising to do more than hope. You're offering a solemn pledge that it will be your first and foremost objective to play a leading role in finally settling one of the world's most intransigent dilemmas. You'll be a busy man, Senator.

Thinking of taking up residence there, to be right on the scene at signal moments to guide the process along? To know at first hand what it's like to peer uncomfortably around you wherever you go, hoping there won't be any potential terrorist out there devoted to the "struggle" to achieve martyrdom? To look on as Palestinians attempt to manoeuvre around interminable road blocks?

You'll see both perspectives and learn to appreciate how priceless security of personal safety is, living in a country where you don't continually anticipate disaster. Where freedom of movement is assured, without being stopped by military personnel who may identify you as a possible malcontent and much, much worse. Rent a deserted house in Sderot for a week, get to know the terrain.

Perhaps you'll wonder why the Palestinians don't recognize that it's not quite in their best interests to support those terror-inspiring and hell-bent-for-Paradise militias as the most cogent and certain way to achieve a state of their own? You may find it puzzling that they're not quite up to connecting the dots, to perceive why it is that Israel posts sentries and guards to protect its citizens, while denying Palestinians entry to well-paid jobs in Israel.

Perhaps you'll feel ashamed of your demonstrated disingenuousness, promising one thing, backtracking speedily to explain an "undivided Jerusalem" for the Jewish state as an historical and religious prerogative when you really meant to express your abhorrence of a barbed wire fence separating the two-solitudes residents of that fabled and ancient city of the Jews.

Barbed wire fence; barbed tongue explaining an inconvenient lapse of judgement in foreseeing the consequences. You're either for, or you're not; you simply cannot be all things to all people. Take your position and guard it. Mean what you say, and say exactly what it is that you mean by what it is you say.

And for heaven's sake, don't you have anything better to do during a heated political campaign to achieve the highest office of the land, than to desert the geo-political scene for a transitory and unfortunately egotistical effort to persuade Americans you're their man through the auspices of a European and Middle East background stage?

Merely on the basis that you can provoke excitement outside your country by the extraordinariness of representing the first African-American who appears at this juncture to have achieved a real inside chance of success?

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beware The Urgings Of Ardent Friends

When it is politic or socially agreeable to state so, out they come, professing their undying support and admiration. Your friends are their friends. Your enemies are their enemies. Mostly because they truly are, but that's another story. A rather awkward one, in a politically correct atmosphere of neutrality until dire necessity proves otherwise.

Israel is like the canary in the mine. She's out there, vulnerable, forever susceptible to the ongoing provocations of violence. Violence in the typical overblown rhetoric that passes for reasoned debate in the Middle East. And violence as practised by hate-mongers for whom Israel's presence in that sacred Islamic territory remains anathema.

As the sole outsider-nation within the larger community of Muslim states most of whom remain defiantly, bitterly, resistant to her presence, Israel's is a rather lonely albeit courageous existence. As the only truly representative liberal democracy in a region ruled by tyrants, dictators, oil sheikdoms, monarchies and fundamentalist-crazed theocracies she remains an insult on the collective body politic.

Semitic, yes indeed, but definitely not of the tribe. In celebration of her 60th anniversary, however, a succession of tentative well-wishers have come and gone and will continue to land temporarily, to observe the landscape and the passing scene, lend their undying support, condemn signal elements of the country's basic survival needs, and move on.

Britain's Gordon Brown, for example, urging Israel to "make key concessions" to the Palestinians; to "grasp the chance" for peace. Speaking before the Knesset Britain's prime minister leaves no one guessing at the depth of his commitment to Israel, nonetheless offering up his "honest analysis". Being that Israel must do more to assist the Palestinians in the occupied territories and withdraw its settlements there.

Consolidating his concern and his friendship with the assurance that "For the whole of my life, I have counted myself a friend of Israel. Britain is your true friend." Nice, if it were so. Nice to think it to be so. So sad to be persuaded otherwise so very often by proceedings erupting from that fair isle. Interesting too, how blind Israel's supporters deliberately make themselves to her reality of existence.

No mention made of the sincerity in suing for peace of the Palestinian Authority, but great support given equally to its Fatah President, Mahmoud Abbas. On whose behalf an official Fatah spokesperson said on PA TV "the Fatah movement sends warm blessings to Hezbollah, to all the resistance and to the Lebanese nation, and the Palestinians for their historic victory over the Israeli arrogance in their victorious July war..."

And just in case the message wasn't sufficiently clear: "And on the return of the heroes of freedom, the heroes and the Martyrs, headed by the great Samir Kuntar and the martyr fighter Dalal Mughrabi, who led the most glorified sacrifice action in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli struggle.

"The Fatah party vows to the Palestinian people that Fatah will continue to struggle in the way of the pure Martyrs, until the state is liberated and the Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as the capital. The Fatah movement turns on this day that abounds with sincere blessings to Hezbollah. The battle against the theft of Palestine is the battle of all the fighters and all the Arab nations.

"Blessings to the free heroes and their head, the heroic fighter Samir Kuntar, and blessings to the spirit of the heroic Dalal Mughrabi and to the friends of the heroes. President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated yesterday's exchange of prisoners and bodies of Martyrs. The president sent blessings to Samir Kuntar's family."

Another unfortunate, inconvenient truth, that Israel must bargain in good faith with the Palestinian Authority, for a peaceful resolution of the situation that resulted when the Palestinians refused the UN's offer of partition to result in an immediate state of their very own. The terrorists that prey on Israel and her people are recognized as heroes and martyrs by the Palestinian Authority, yet Israel is urged to be more compassionate.

Why isn't the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas being urged to reconcile themselves with the reality of their own failure? To re-structure and re-arrange their violent demands, to authentically commit themselves to peace, to responsibly act in the best interests of the people they claim to represent? To disavow terrorism, and the plague they continue to encourage on their neighbour.

Britain's Gordon Brown might do well to lend an attentively sincere ear to Benjamin Netanyahu when he stated at their meeting the truth on the ground: "Further Israeli concessions in Judea and Samaria will strengthen Hamas and will enable the construction of another Iranian base in the heart of Israel."

Fact is, the situation is a puzzle inside a conundrum inside an intractably irreducible maze of incongruent impossibilities.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

All The News That's Fit To Print

So print the news, people have a right to be informed. News should be neutral, simple reportage, set in context, giving details of the situation and allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. Unless it's editorial content, or an opinion piece, and then it should be clearly stated that's what it is. But then newspapers have their clear ideological bent all too often, and those who write for them and edit the news items and caption them buy into the specific ideological agenda.

It's unfortunate that so many of the news outlets in so many countries of the world display a definite slant when they interpret news. News items are deliberately manipulated, photographs selected and stories reported in a manner that nudges the reader, sometimes subtly, occasionally overtly, to draw inescapable conclusions. When nations are at war with one another, it's called propaganda; an effort to harden people against the humanity of those they battle.

And then there's the case of the universal scapegoat, the one country of the world that seems to have detractors everywhere - certainly now among the left-leaning, where traditionally it seemed to emanate from the right. In critical distaste of just about everything Israel does, the left and the right appear now to have joined in a common purpose. The result of which the bias becomes slanderous and can appear just about anywhere - and it does.

Often respected news sources will allow themselves to be taken in by elements that stand to gain when Israel is shown to have been engaged in questionable moral conduct. They will fail to observe due diligence in checking facts, happy to print them because it's affirmation of how they ascertain the situation to have evolved, in any event. They will use doctored photographs, then express chagrin when the truth is revealed - or more often simply ignore the truth, relying on peoples' forgetfulness.

In any event, the original claims of injustice, or moral lapses, or anti-humane events and situations attributed to an individual, or a country or a government will be recalled by the reading public, and not a discreet retraction. In the most recent example of bias against Israel, we see a video being viewed in television and the Internet which purports to record a blindfolded and cuffed Palestinian being shot by an Israeli soldier.

Over the damning photograph printed in newspapers, the headline reads: "Video shows Israeli soldier shooting captive". Atrocious and unforgivable, that a soldier will deliberately shoot a helpless prisoner. Military juntas, vicious dictators do that kind of thing, not democratic, peace-defensive countries. Yet there is the prisoner - a Palestinian demonstrator - standing beside an officer, and on the other side of the prisoner is a soldier, aiming a rifle. The incendiary headline leads the reader to believe a prisoner has been shot, perhaps fatally.

The classic example of bias is demonstrated. News media with headlines written in the active style when describing Israeli aggression, but passively reporting events with respect to Arab terrorists - and the readers or the viewers can then draw their conclusions, persuasively led on by the manner of the reportage. The
New York Times is one highly respected newspaper that leads off with a headline such as "Israeli Force Kills 9 in Gaza" - or, alternately "Rocket Fired from Gaza Kills Woman in Southern Israel".

Neutral language is utilized to soft-pedal terrorist operations, while more specific, quietly condemnatory language is used to describe Israel's counter-terrorist operations. An objective study demonstrated that 75% of published photographs were selected to draw sympathy for the Palestinian side, emphasizing casualties of Israeli military operations and acute civilian shortages in Gaza, without drawing attention to, or mentioning the ongoing attacks against Israel that have caused the defensive operations and road blocks.

It's common enough to describe the targeted killing of a Palestinian without, however, mentioning the inconvenient fact that the unfortunate man was also a "fighter" with Islamic Jihad, who had just successfully launched a rocket into Israel. And so too it was with the latest demonstration of 'unbiased reportage', with the video in question and related photographs and news text seen all over the world.

Condemnation of Israel finds a ready market. The video shows a rubber bullet being shot by an IDF soldier at the feet of Ashraf Abu-Rahman who was detained for violence during a riot in the Arab town of Naalin where riots have become a common occurrence of late, although the town is well known for the violence of its demonstrations against the occupying forces. It's the continuation of the security fence that has raised the ire of Naalin Arabs.

A separating defence that would not be required were it not for the continual infiltration into Israel of martyrdom-obsessed terrorists. The rioting protesters from the town along with supporters from nearby towns were arrested and the individual identified as Abu-Rahman claimed to have been shot on his large left toe. He was given medical treatment at the scene of the event, and then released. The soldier fired rubber bullets at a distance of one and a half meters.

Some questions have been raised within Israel, which has launched an enquiry into the incident. An expert on Arab affairs who is also an IDF reserves Lieutenant-Colonel expresses his reservations: "For one thing, the film shows the soldier firing to the left of the detained man and certainly not at his feet. Why don't they show the boot that would certainly have been damaged had he been shot in the foot?

"In addition, the military doctor said he had a small injury on the bottom of his right foot - while the injured man said he was hurt in the toe of his left foot. Finally, even though he was surprised by the shooting as can be expected from one who is blindfolded, the Arab did not fall down right away from the supposed injuries to his foot, but rather remained standing on two feet, and actually leaning on his supposedly-injured left foot. The film is then cut, apparently on purpose, and we don't see how he ended up lying down on the ground."

The IDF soldier was arrested and questioned after the incident, and a criminal investigation launched. The IDF is looking into the authenticity of the tape and the veracity of the injured man's allegations. It's interesting to note that originally, when the event took place, on July 7, the man did not lodge an official complaint. No doubt the entire truth will be revealed. Israel has a habit of taking accusations that it or its representatives may have acted in an immoral or questionably unethical manner seriously.

People often act and react perversely when violence is present, when lives are endangered, when the outcome of situations cannot be guaranteed. When people act of their own volition in concert with others who are similarly enraged at their understanding that their human rights are being violated, they are answerable to themselves for their actions - and to the system of justice that prevails when they're in a situation such as the Palestinians.

In the case of members of the IDF, it's the national defence forces who must respond as being responsible for anything untoward, for exercising options not recognized as reasonable or permissible in reflecting the values of the society they represent. For Israel there is much at stake, and there always has been, there always will be. The country, although beset at every turn by hostile neighbours, will do what it must to protect itself and its citizens.

But the censure and lack of concern and empathy by the world at large toward its existential dilemma causes pain and self-searching. That much is evident by the presence within the country of groups of citizens who form their own human-rights watch groups and who bear witness and exert pressure on their country and their countrymen to carefully observe human rights across the board, inclusive of their enemies.

We don't see their counterparts elsewhere in the geographic region.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Looting the Treasury

The continent of Africa is the world's second largest. Within that continent lies 53 separate countries, comprising the whole. The population of the continent is over a billion people. Most of whom live in varying degrees of poverty, despite the developed countries of the world pouring massive amounts of aid dollars into the continent, country by country. The 19th and early- to mid-20th century of African colonization by European countries has long been blamed for the social and political retardation of the continent.

Countries as diverse as France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Portugal have had a long and rather inglorious history of occupation, all concerned with procuring for themselves and their treasuries the vast natural resources that reside on the Continent. From Morroco, Libya, Swaziland, Burundi, Benin, Rwanda, Egypt, Zanzibar, Algeria, and more, Europe drained the continent of as much of its internal riches as they could. It was quite simply there for the taking. In the process, enslaving the people of Africa to their will.

Not to mention centuries-earlier raids on the continent that gained Europe - with the considerable assistance of Arab traders who themselves enjoyed centuries of black slave labour - millions of African slaves, taken over the oceans to Europe and North America and their geographic holdings to work out their unfortunate lives in misery, on cotton and sugar plantations. Thousands of black Africans died en route to their countries of destination, and on their arrival were considered beasts of burden, and treated in much the same way.

That historical fact is simply another milestone in the inexhaustible history of the cruel and inhumane treatment humans are capable of meting out to one another; another black sinkhole of shame. But is it really the reason that independent African countries have been incapable of governing themselves well and assuring their populations of a decent measure of life's opportunities? White liberal guilt would have it so, but perhaps the facts point elsewhere.

Not to trivialize the unsupportably cruel maltreatment of Africans by Europeans, for it remains what it will always be regarded as, an atrocity of immense proportions. But African leaders have had ample opportunity to demonstrate their measured and considered concern for their countries and their peoples, and they continue to fail, miserably. Religious, sectarian, tribal and political strife continues to prey on the helpless majority.

And one African leader after another has demonstrated the meanest incapacity of governing in the interests of the populations they lead. Tyrants, dictators, monarchies, tribal leaders, they all somehow tend to lose their way once they've ascended to the heady opportunities of ultimate power. They manipulate, and take unto themselves the treasures of their countries - including development and sales of natural resources, and humanitarian funds gifted from abroad.

Gabon's president Omar Bongo Ondimba is merely one of a long list of corrupt leaders who have enriched themselves and their supporters and their families, leaving their vast populations to pick up their own pieces of despair and need. Mr. Bongo and his familial entourage own hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of mansions abroad, and countless fleets of expensive limousines. Payment for which emanates directly from the country's oil-rich treasury.

He and his wife simply write cheques drawn on the Gabon treasury for their luxurious purchases. This conscienceless, entitled plundering of a country's resources is a common enough occurrence in African countries. It's well-known internationally. International humanitarian aid groups that raise millions in the never-ending battle to feed famished African populations know it, and so do countries like France which welcome these kleptocrats.

While African has no monopoly on misgovernance and corruption, of the 53 separate countries on the African continents, fully 50 are states where poverty remains ingrained and is on the rise. This, despite that the developed world has Africa on its mind and has earmarked funds to attempt to ameliorate the desperate living - and dying - conditions for Africans. At one time Asia and India were also countries whose vast populations lived on the desolate knife-edge between life and death.

In the present era, we've seen world poverty on the decline, and both India and China, each country boasting populations equal to the entire continent of Africa, have slowly, over a surprising four decades, lifted their population from certain death to modest prosperity. Yes, there is still massive poverty in the vast countrysides of both countries, but the advances each have made is nothing short of amazing, despite inherent social and political problems in both.

Whereas in Africa the situation continues to fester, year by year; "By the turn of the millennium they were poorer than they had been in 1970", according to Paul Collier, in his recently published "
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest countries Are Failing and What Can Be done About It". The analysis and statistical synthesis Mr. Collier brings to his scholarly treatise slams the prevailing finger-pointing at the causative of colonialism.

Instead the conclusion he has reached points directly to internal factors which include rampant corruption, political- and military-coups, ongoing civil wars, the happenstance of geography, and malevolently unconscionable governance. According to Mr. Collier: "We cannot rescue them. The societies of the bottom billion can only be rescued from within. In every society of the bottom billion there are people working for change but usually they are defeated by the powerful internal forces stacked against them. We should be helping the heroes."

The African Union itself, the coalition of African countries insisting on their capability to govern well, collectively and singly, has been signally incapable of putting a stop to the ongoing wars in Somalia, in Congo, in Sierra Leone; they've been fairly useless in Sudan, and their continued fractious support of Robert Mugabe's murderous regime has brought them no honour. Their witless lack of courage in directly addressing the countless problems assailing African countries, most of which can be laid at the clay feet of misgovernance is pathetic.

Yet special advocacy groups located within Europe and North America, which have created neat little dynastic corporate entitlements for themselves as African-charity-specific charity businesses, claim African poverty as their bailiwick, and their prescription evolves around catastrophic solutions, solving nothing at all. Doling out aid - food and medicines - here and there in the most desperate areas. They're little band-aids, sops to the conscience of the West. While the work they do does help some of the desperately needy, it's temporary in nature.

Ongoing commitments to Africa in the form of financial aid simply evades the ongoing problems there. The food aid and pharmaceuticals meant to assist, ends up conscripted for sale on the black market, to fill the pockets of local government authorities. Cash assistance goes the same unsavoury trajectory, higher up on the entitlement chain, with bits and pieces of assistance reaching random desperate groups, as the government decrees. Without doing anything to solve the long-term, endemic problems.

Mr. Collier recommends a different, new initiative. To open up regional and international trade that would, he feels, over a length of time, assist local governments with job development to gradually diminish poverty levels. Seems a logical enough, and simple enough initiative. There would still be graft and corruption, but the level would also be dependent on success in encouraging agricultural and technological advances on the ground.

Peculiarly enough, while Western colonialism is a shameful event of history, emerging economic giants like China are looking to Africa - along with some of that continent's Middle East neighbours - for agricultural land-lease. Deals which fatten the bottom line of the countries' leaders, but do nothing to provide either employment or the fruits of labour for indigent, indigenous Africans, since China looks to use their own Chinese labourers as part of the deal.

Can one visualize the vast poverty-stricken and disease-assailed underclass of Africa rising as one in righteous anger over the deliberate neglect they suffer from their sanguine and very wealthy leaders?

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Horror Breeds Horror

The world reeled in disbelief at the bloody carnage in Rwanda when the dominant Hutu population turned against their Tutsi neighbours and slaughtered them relentlessly, despite the presence of a UN peacekeeping force that proved incapable of sheltering the helpless Tutsi population. General Romeo Dallaire has recounted the horror of that time in history in his "Shake Hands With the Devil" account of the massacre of Rwandan Tutsis.

General Dallaire was tasked by the United Nations to enforce a peace agreement between the government of Rwanda and the rebel forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The government was largely represented by Hutus, the rebels by Tutsis. A reversal of fortunes for the Tutsis, who under the former Belgian colonial rule were the dominant tribe, with the Hutus subservient; the Tutsis were given the plum government jobs, the Hutus languished.

A reversal of fortune between the two tribes took place before Belgium left Rwanda as imperialism died a needed death, but the antagonism between the tribes merely flourished, becoming deadlier with time as aggrievement and resentment bred hatred. A not-unusual situation anywhere in Africa where tribal affiliation generally led to aggression against tribes competing for status and recognition resulting in greater economic opportunities for the successful tribe.

General Dallaire soon understood that despite the facade of peace negotiations the governing Hutu had no intention of reaching a detente, but planned to eliminate their Tutsi rivals, making use of propaganda to turn the Hutu - who had largely lived in peace with their Tutsi neighbours - against them. As is usual in such tribal societies young men were being successfully inculcated with an unstoppable ideology of entitlement and were prepared to attain their end by engaging in mass murder.

The Rwandan genocide followed in the footsteps of another failed UN peacekeeping mission, in Somalia.
The ferocity of the atrocities there remain unabated with an Islamist insurgency leaving over a million people internal refugees. When Rwanda's Hutu president's airplane was shot down by ground-to-air missiles in 1994, the ruling Hutu launched their deadly rampage against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu population, wiping out almost a million people in three months of battle.

When the bleeding finally stopped and intervention came rather late in the day, Hutu militias made their way elsewhere to avoid arrest and incarceration. Like South Africa, Rwanda set up a "truth and reconciliation" commission for the purpose of having survivors face their tormentors, apportioning blame and equable sentencing, and allowing forgiveness so everyone could go back to living together in peace and harmony.

The process, while flawed, has since resulted in normalcy assuming its position in the life of the country. As though the wildly lunatic mass murders had never taken place. And now life has become so "normal", so devoid of fear, that sorrow has been drowned in attempts to trivialize and minimize the horror of 25 years ago. Now beauty pageants take their place in the life of Rwandans, post-genocide. How sublimely human.

For comfort we unerringly turn to frivolity. The Miss Nyampinga contest has taken a place of honour, a search for the ultimate in Rwandan female beauty. The beauty pageant is being hailed as a device to perform two national services; advancing equality of the sexes and assisting national unity. "The contest encourages women to assert their intelligence and personality, through intelligence and personality", according to the founder of the Miss Nyampinga competition which takes place at the National University of Rwanda.

"She must be pretty, in her face and body...she must have small eyes but we don't look at the nose. Here in Rwanda, we have a problem with the nose". Most certainly, since the shape of the nose was signal in identifying Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. From the inchoate murderous history of neighbour turning against neighbour, religious clerics fomenting against the "others" and encouraging their flock to murder, comes beauty pageants to heal the wounds.

So where has all that murderous dementia evaporated to? Congo. Where a collection of militias resulted from the exodus of Hutus from Rwanda assembling to become the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo. Who busied themselves, among other things, roaming the countryside of the Democratic Republic of Congo, murdering and raping as they proceeded. The Congolese government army has links with the militias.

Efforts to disarm and repatriate the former Rwandans have been beset by obstacles. Upon apprehension, Congolese government authorities attempt to hold them accountable for the murders and rapes of Congolese civilians, rather than send them back to Rwanda. Meanwhile the chaos that has resulted in Congo has infected the civilian population to a great degree. Atrocities are common and seemingly unstoppable.

Attacks on the civilian population by the Hutu militias fleeing Rwanda drove hundreds of thousands of villagers into squalid disease-ridden internal refugee camps. Malnutrition is rampant, and children become mortally ill through exposure to filth. And around the camps and the villages thousands of women and girls are continually raped by government soldiers, rebels and militia fighters alike, according to international aid groups.

And the ongoing sexual violence that began with the fighters appears to have infected the local population, making neighbour turn against neighbour, that all-too-familiar pattern. "Now there are more and more civilians that are the perpetrators. It appears that it's almost infiltrating within the culture", according to Jennifer Melton, a program manager for the International Rescue Committee.

The United Nations speaks of its diminishing ability to provide adequate food rations to the internal refugee camps, because it is unable to deal with the increasing flood of displaced Congolese. "Thousands more people have run for their lives in recent months and are now in urgent need of help", according to Charles Vincent, director of WFP's Congo section, pleading for assistance from the developed world.

The families who had formerly relied on subsistence farming to feed themselves have been forced to miss critical planting seasons due to the war. Militias continue to loot food supplies and farming equipment. Villagers are increasingly being pushed off their land and into refugee camps by a Tutsi general's forces, along with those of the Hutu militias. What, exactly, has been solved?

Africa, one country after the other, becomes an abysmal failure.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Vilest of "Friends"

Islam had and likely still has the potential to be a force for good in the world, a religion of peace and understanding between peoples. Its original intent may very well have hinged largely on that goal, but readings and interpretations of its precepts and instructions to the faithful have been undermined since its inception, by rampant sectarianism, breeding suspicion and tribal-derived blood feuds among various clans.

One can only hope that there are as many imams, ayatollahs, mullahs and other Islamic clerics teaching their impressionable and believing flock the humanitarian, "peaceful" elements of Islam as there are those fundamentalists whose interpretations of Islamic exegesis extends no further than the alienness of others, the corrupt influence of infidels, the hated presence of Jews and Christians, demanding a Muslim response in jihad.

Yet most Islamic countries appear to have stultified into a national inheritance of distance from the commonality of humanity. Too many of those theocratically-informed nations are wedded to the perception that Islam is the one, the true, the only religion, and all others are unworthy impostors despite Islam's derivation in part from Judaic and Christian precepts of spiritual belief and the imperative of moral behaviours.

The school textbooks commonly used to educate the young and inform them of their place in the world and their obligations to their society and their religion form the basis of their understanding of others. In the Palestinian Territories, in Egypt and Syria, school children are taught to fear and to hate the infidels and the Jews. People brought into such an apprehension of others are unlikely to be open to inclusive social relationships, however at a remove.

They do, however, form a likely cadre of future fundamentalist jihadists. Saudi Arabia's school textbooks continue to speak of Jews and Christians as apes and swine, and to teach the young of a global Jewish conspiracy to inherit the world. And to anticipate that on "Judgement Day" the "rocks or the trees" will call out to Muslims to kill Jews. An estimated five million students in Saudi Arabia are taught this hateful eschatology.

Muslims are taught that homosexuality is cured by a death sentence. That Jews, wherever they live, are bent on sedition and undermining established authority to prosecute their own hateful agendas. That Zionism controls western secular clubs like the Rotary and Lions and Masonic clubs through secret agents established throughout the world, whose aim is to undermine civilization and control the world economy.

The result is radicalization of youth, wherever they live, who attend Saudi-Arabian-funded mosques and madrases not only established within the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan, but in North America as well; in cities like New York and Toronto, Montreal and Atlanta. Let alone European cities. Already thus prepared for personal sacrifice against the enemies of Islam, these youth are ripe for further indoctrination into jihad.

Because this hateful ideology to separate and create suspicion and hatred for the other teaches that the killing of Islam's enemies - real or imagined - is sanctioned by Allah, and by his worldly representatives, it is accepted on authority. This is not done covertly, this subversion of the humanity of young people, but openly, and by state authority. Moreover, a state authority that purports to be a friend of the West.

The Saudi royal family remains on close personal terms with the American hierarchy of oil interests, including most notably, the family of the current president of the United States. The single most influential, wealthiest country in the Middle East, the ally of the United States, assiduously preaches hatred against that country.

So much for the power of oil wealth, and the subversion of humanistic religious dictates.

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