Saturday, April 30, 2011

Africa's Rainbow Nation

Nobility of spirit is a rare commodity so that when it modestly exhibits its presence it takes people aback, they sit up, they take notice, they applaud. The team of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu transformed the spirit of South Africa. Of course they had a little help from their friends, countries like Canada which undertook to exert diplomatic and trade embargo pressure on the Apartheid government.

And South Africa was also indebted to its neighbours, like Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Angolans who kindly gave shelter to black South Africans fleeing the violence of their country during the paroxysms that finally led to the surrender of the country by the ruling white Afrikaans back to the rightful owners, black South Africans. At which juncture Mr. Mandela was finally freed from prison and governed his country offering equal rights to all.

And Bishop Tutu presided at the spectacle that became a healing circle called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where victims gave witness to the unspeakable and the suffering, and violators confessed their sins and all was forgiven. And the country settled in to become other than what it had been, with an honoured place for all and promises of housing and jobs.

A noble dream to be sure. What happened next was a slow, agonized climb in the resolute determination to become a fair and free society, but it was fairer and freer for some, not all, and endemic poverty was scarcely relieved, and decent living conditions still eluded in the slums. And tribal antipathies proved as resistant to enlightened thought as the moneyed-class system.

Where wealth could be achieved, but it had to be lived behind barbed wire and stone walls, sheltered from the crass thievery of the mobs who would take advantage if they could, of the riches known to reside there, protected by armed marksmen. So it is not they who are targeted, but the easier prey, the poor, murdered, their scant belongings looted, children violated.

One of the most crime-ridden, violent societies on Earth now; most unfortunate. And what is particularly notable is the resurrection of ancient primitive tribal and clan hunts. Where South Africans armed with chains, spears, whips, axes, cudgels, shovels, metal sticks; just about anything serviceable to the purpose, set out to hunt down defenceless refugees.

People who have fled the dangers in their own countries, from Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, Somalia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. There are said to be over three million Zimbabweans seeking haven in South Africa. Robert Mugabe's people amidst their home-grown tribal 'misunderstandings', prefer to flee to where they might stand a chance of survival.

Even though they are hunted mercilessly by South Africans for whom an evening of blood games, of looting, beating, killing, raping, provides entertainment and a purpose in life.

From the time of Apartheid's Soweto killings and Winnie Mandela's sporty bodyguards under her direction abducting Stompie Moeketsi, a 13-year-old boy to torture and "necklace" him to the present where the very nationals who had once offered protection to South African asylum seekers are now set on fire for the entertainment of the mobs.

Even the retired Desmund Tutu who entreats South Africans to "Please, please stop! These are our sisters and brothers. We can't repay them (for their past support of desperate South Africans fleeing violence before the end of apartheid) by killing their children", exercises his conscience in vain, for no one hears, and none are interested.

"They set you alight ... and laugh at you while you are burning. It's so shameful right now to be a South African, seeing all these things happening here, while claiming to be a rainbow nation, after all the struggles that our parents have gone through."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blazing Cat Fur: Intelligent Muslim Cites Holocaust Denial Site In NDP Endorsement

Blazing Cat Fur: Intelligent Muslim Cites Holocaust Denial Site In NDP Endorsement

Religious Violator Countries

US Panel Singles Out Top Religious Persecutors

By Andrea Hayley
Epoch Times Staff
Created: Apr 29, 2011 Last Updated: Apr 29, 2011

Related articles: United States > National News
CALLING OUT: The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair Leonard A. Leo speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2011. Vice Chair Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou looks on. USCIRF released its annual report on religious freedom where it singled out fourteen Countries of Particular Concern. (Andrea Hayley/The Epoch Times)

WASHINGTON—The United States is the only country with an independent, permanent panel monitoring the state of religious freedom in the world, and making policy recommendations based on their findings.

The commission’s annual report, released this week, details abuses, and calls out the rhetoric used by repressive regimes to carry out atrocities against religious believers. The panel’s independence from the government allows it to raise concerns freely, where politics prevents most lawmakers and administration officials from treading.

“We have lots of perseverance,” said Commissioner Nina Shea.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), created by an act of Congress in 1998, carefully documents violations of religious freedom around the world.

It then makes recommendations to the State Department about countries that should be designated Countries of Particular Concern, or CPCs. USCIRF also maintains its own watch lists.

CPCs are designated as those governments that have engaged in, or tolerated, “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom, such as acts of torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, and so on.

The discrepancy between the commission’s list and the State Department’s willingness to include countries on its list represents a major area of concern for commission members.

The State Department’s current list of CPCs includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The designations have not changed during Obama’s tenure as president.

The commission’s list includes, and recommends the additional CPC designation of Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

This year’s commission report is dedicated to the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani federal minister for Minority Affairs, who was assassinated on March 2 by the Pakistani Taliban for his efforts to promote religious tolerance.

“Federal Minister Bhatti was a longtime friend of the commission and a personal friend of mine,” said Commissioner Shea.

Pakistan has been on USCIRF’s list of recommendations since 2002.

“Pakistan is arguably the most glaring omission to the State Department’s CPC list, as the government is both responsible for and tolerates egregious violations of religious freedom,” said Commissioner Shea.

Chair of the commission, Leonard Leo, said he remained “hopeful” that the State Department would act this year. They have yet to announce any actions, either for or against designations.

“Only 8 of our 14 countries that we designated as CPCs (have been accepted). We don’t designate CPC countries for sport,” he said.

“There needs to be more of these countries designated as CPCs and actions have to be taken against these countries,” said Leo.

The report notes that the Obama administration has yet to act substantively on the issue of religious freedom, preferring to keep it on the margins of U.S. foreign policy.

“It should be part of our national security strategy efforts to take into account the religious freedom condition of countries ... and integrate the promotion of international religious freedom into our efforts to improve security and stability worldwide,” said Commissioner Leo.

In completing their work, the nine commissioners and their staff travel to trouble spots throughout the year to investigate allegations of abuse. They also hold public hearings, release timely statements, provide testimony to Congress, and engage in meetings of the United Nations.

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Sadistic Cynicism

Britain has formally withdrawn the wedding invitation extended to the Embassy of Syria, in London. And the Syrian Ambassador, surprised and somewhat crestfallen at the dis-invitation, does not in fact think it advisable that he attend. Will they courteously usher him out of Westminster Abbey should he defy them, waving his invitation as proof that he was invited - or put him in the stocks on public display for further humiliation?

Not that there is any really good reason to feel compassion for the man. He does, after all, represent the government and the leader of his country while abroad. And the government and President Bashar al-Assad deserve little respect from the international community, much less Britain and the Royal Family. Both of which, truth be told, saw nothing amiss in sending out the original invitation until the embarrassment of public criticism had them take a second look.

After all, if Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Sara Ferguson are persona non grata, it does look rather peculiar if Syria's representative appears as an honoured guest. But that's Britain, after all, the country that personifies eccentricity and the class-culture structure, and entitlements. If we think that Britain's sordid and dilatory attention to class-corrective actions and cultural niceties leave something to be desired, look to the United Nations.

Ah, the United Nations, where there are no class distinctions and where all countries are considered to be equally endowed and equally entitled. Belying reality, but making for political correctness, which is the standard-bearer of conduct within that august body. The UN's Human Rights Council presents as one of those creatures of the UN that stands above and apart; perhaps that should be descends below standards.

Canada, among another 36 co-sponsors requesting the scheduling of an emergency session on exploring what can be done about Syria's brutal crackdown on its own citizens clamouring for freedom from classic repression, would like some accountability. It was largely responsible for introducing into the UN the "responsibility to protect" doctrine, which the UN is now grappling with, pleading with Bashar al-Assad to stop killing Syrian protesters.

But the Human Rights Council, having received from Syria a key membership prerequisite in the form of a written pledge to respect the human rights of its own population, and to promote human rights internationally - a standard document required of all potential members elected to the HRC - is prepared to proceed to induct Syria into its 47-member council for a 3-year term.

Like Britain's invitation, away back in January the UN Asian group submitted the names of Syria and three other countries to fill four vacant "Asian" seats. With that submission, the admission of the four are rubber-stamped for acceptance, requiring only a simple majority of the 192-member UN General Assembly in a month's time. The international community, let alone the Arab League, is making no fuss about the Syrian situation, unlike the attention given to Libya.

Neither Russia nor China are prepared to issue a condemnation of the Syrian government, unlike Europe and the U.S. and Canada. Russian Deputy Ambassador Alexander Pankin claims that the situation in Syria "does not present a threat to international peace and security", therefore it is clearly not needful that the Security Council get involved in anything distastefully interfering like sanctions against Syria.

Syria, a clear threat in the Middle East and beyond, with its support for and links to terrorist Islamists militias, Hezbollah and Hamas; with its active encouragement and support of Islamist jihadists entering Iraq to confront and attack both Iraqis and U.S. and British troops there; with its closely supportive friendship with Iran; with its own attempts to build nuclear installations; with its Lebanese occupation; with its involvement in political assassinations; with its violation of its citizens' human rights, was still seen as deserving of an invitation to the royal wedding.

And it stands now, as of May 20, to join the UN's Human Rights Council. This blatant parody of concern for human rights represents the ultimate in paradoxically sadistic cynicism.

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Disgraceful Conduct

Hard to believe, especially for naive people who value intelligence and reason that someone so self-absorbed and arrogantly sanctimonious could conceivably be taken seriously as a potential contender for the presidency of the United States. People worship him as a celebrity because of his wealth and his street-smarts as a high-octane entrepreneur. They tend to overlook his abrasive assertiveness and his pretentiousness in awe of his money-making skills.

And this man is now set to proclaim himself available to contest the Republican nomination for the presidency. His penchant for portraying himself as a insufficiently-appreciated man of good taste and impeccable lineage in the corporate world, as an entrepreneur par excellence, deserving of the worship of the masses only makes his decision to offer himself up as a potential president more outrageously absurd.

When he reveals himself as a small-minded, mean-spirited, somewhat racist bungler, he gets away with it. The clue to the man's intelligence quotient is his comfort in asserting his "birther" doubts about the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's American birthright. The red-neck mentality that his suits and his wealth cannot hide out in full view when he demands that the president offer for the scrutiny of all doubters his full long-form birth certificate.

The document, posted and presented, copies handed out to reporters, to prove that he was born at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, now, according to Trump, has to be certified as genuine. And after that, proof must be sought that Barack Obama really did study at Harvard Law School. Because blacks, after all, especially those with a Kenyan background in their heritage, could not conceivably graduate magna cum laude.

Much less aspire to sit in the Senate, and from there springboard amazingly to the Oval Office. Born in the U.S. of A. and possessed of the academic qualifications he claims to have achieved, but the legitimacy of which is questioned by a man of merely tolerable academic qualifications, born with a leg-up in the world of corporate America with all the wealth required to make him an even richer man. This is his entitlement to question the veracity of an honourable man.

Many may question, with full justification, Barack Obama's decision-making and choices in surrounding himself with advisers of questionable merit and talent, along with the direction in which he has chosen to take his country, but his commitment to and love for his country are not in question. In their drive to bring doubt to the truth of Obama's background those Republicans and particularly the Tea Party types are themselves guilty of a gross violation of the facts.

And they shame their country, while painting themselves in the black pointed hoods of the KKK.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Palestinian Authority One-State Solution

PA Carries out Ahmadinejad’s Threat and Wipes Israel Off Map
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu PA Wipes Israel off the Map

The Palestinian Authority has carried out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map” and literally has done so by displaying maps of “Palestine” covering all of Israel at the same time its leaders talk about “two states for two people.”

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Fatah movement that controls the PA in Judea and Samaria, has in effect established a “one-state” solution in Fatah offices and in Palestinian Authority schools and offices.

The Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has documented that professional unions and private PA groups display maps showing a rifle and a quill over “Palestine,” from the Lebanese border in the north to Eilat in the south and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

The maps have been circulated at the same time Abbas campaigns for international recognition of the Palestinian Authority based on the borders of Israel as they existed between 1949 and 1967, during which time Jordan, which had been mandated by the United Nations to rule part of Judea and Samaria, took over and occupied the entire region, including large swaths of Jerusalem, after the War of Independence in 1948.

Jordan surrendered the areas in the Six-Day War in 1967, later relinquishing all claim to it, and Egypt and Syria did the same in Gaza and the Golan Heights respectively.

The maps declare Abbas’ intentions of making what is often termed the “1967 borders” (actually armistice lines that were never recognized) the temporary outline of a would-be Palestinian Authority country, even though – as PMW noted – U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized such maps as a security threat to Israel, in the same category as the threat from terrorist groups who want to destroy Israel.

"I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 2008. “Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence."

Nevertheless, the PA’s version “Palestine,” as illustrated on the map with a rifle and quill, was displayed last week at a meeting of the General Union of Palestinian Writers, PMW reported.

The Palestinian Authority has embedded in its school system the ”one-state” idea of a Palestine – without Israel – for years. As far back as 2003, school posters have displayed the Palestinian flag over a map erasing Israel.

The policy has continued unchanged despite statements by Abbas to President Obama that the PA has ceased anti-Israel incitement. Earlier this year, a map was hung in the principal’s office in a PA school which erased Israel and replaced it with "Palestine", with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) flag flying over Israel.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 27 April 2011

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Natural Disasters

If the bodies are not found and identified and their families given the peace of knowing, the festering lack of closure will take its toll. The government will forever face the quiet condemnation of the masses, that it made too little effort to act decisively when action was required.

As it is, over a month after the crippling earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan and left its population in a state of collective shock, and its industry enfeebled, it is too late.

Bodies of the drowned have been washed too far out for recovery. The dead, lying under deep layers upon layers of quake-destroyed buildings are steadily decaying and too few have been recovered, despite the tasking of 25,000 Japanese troops dispatched in recovery efforts at the worst scenes of disaster. There are 74 schoolchildren missing at an elementary school.

The official tally is 14,340 people killed in the triple disaster. With 11,889 officially missing. Not yet accounted for, but missing. It is those 11,889 whose bodies are being sought for recovery, accounting and burial. It is the government's responsibility to attempt to see that this is done. It is a government being accountable past a disaster it could not cope with.

Poking about in the twisted wreckage of what were once municipal buildings, shopping emporiums, schools, apartments and devastated homes is proving to be a monumental and dangerous task. Aircraft and ships, police, coast guard officers, all engaged in a large sweep for the possible location and discovery of bodies offshore. Fewer than 500 found, thus far.

And there's another dimension of tragedy as well, as once-productive farmland, now abandoned as a result of a government-ordered nuclear-evacuation zone. Farm animals deserted, left to slowly perish, unable to fend for themselves as domesticated and incapable of looking to their own needs. The evacuation zone encompasses 370 farms.

On those farms were four thousand cattle, thirty-thousand pigs, and six-hundred-thirty-thousand poultry. The Japanese who once proudly practised animal husbandry and farmed their acreage, are no longer there, but elsewhere, fearing for their health and mourning their lost livelihoods. Veterinarians have been dispatched to evaluate the situation, the dead animals.

The surrounding air, soil and ocean have been contaminated by radiation from the nuclear plant at Fukushima. Regional farm production has been banned. Automobile manufacturers have been unable to start up and regularize their production lines resulting in a shortage of parts and overall production shortfalls.

People are desperately concerned about the continued spread of radiation, of an increased evacuation zone. Farmers who have lost their livelihoods and sometimes family members are in utter despair. Some have committed suicide. And Japanese health authorities anticipate a rising wave of grief and anguish contributing to greater numbers of suicides.

This is a country in which pride and honour contribute to viewing suicide as a solution, the ultimate act of humble contrition. For those whose livelihoods have disappeared and who can see no future for themselves, the benefits of an insurance policy paid may assist their families if their suicides can be attributed to natural causes.

Which, in effect, they most certainly can be.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Degenerate Apple

Syria's leader is most certainly his father's son. His credentials have been fully realized; the old adage of the apple never falling far from the tree recognized, the son emulating the father to condemn a resurrection of the masses to blighted and bloody failure. And everything will return to the normalcy of repression and human rights abuses.

And who cares, actually? Because, in the Middle East, the dictators you know, however bloodied their hands, may be less brutally troublesome than the ones waiting in the shadows.

Restraint is hoped for, so that there might be some bit of moral cover for the international community.

But blandishments don't work when the tyrant is arrogantly entitled and culturally endowed with the assurance that he alone has the right to control every aspect of peoples' lives, and should he wish to withdraw the privilege of life from those among his subjects who are clearly undeserving of continued life, he may do so.

"They entered the city from each of its four corners and just started shooting. They are breaking into peoples' homes and opening fire into their houses." Five thousand troops with armoured personnel carriers and tanks advanced on Daraa in the early morning hours as people slept, unaware, until imams broadcast warnings to take cover, but by then it was too late and the firing was initiated.

Bashar al-Assad knows his rights and they are divine; he may do as he wishes with his people. His brother is head of the national military and upon him he can rely, for the military shares his sectarian Alawite values and the bulk of the population does not.

Damascus and Aleppo are quietly his, and he has little to fear of a popular, mass uprising. Hamas and Hezbollah would prefer to hang their futures on this assurance. And Iran watches the proceedings warily. But the international community, prepared to overlook much, busy with involvement in Libya, is becoming troubled by the clear evidence of massive violations of humanity.

Where civilian activists simply gathering on a street are confronted by soldiers busy erecting mounted machine guns and firing. To demonstrate that they are unarmed and passive, the activists lie down on the street where they are assembled, vulnerable.

But nothing stops the live firing of the military with their machine guns.

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Doing Jihad

That was some street party. It made a lot of people very happy. Almost five hundred, in fact. Who were most dissatisfied with the lodgings they were placed in that kept them too tied up to attend to the kind of dedicated and comprehensive activities they far preferred to be involved with. Little did they know that a little conspiracy was afoot, courtesy of government auspices and their happy-club, to free them from the inconvenience of bars and release them back to the activities they love best.

"The most astonishing thing" ,trumpeted the Taliban was that their carefully planned and executed route to the outside world for the politically-motivated inhabitants of Sarpoza prison in Kandahar City went serenely undetected for the many hours it took to void the cells of their prisoners. Astonishing too that the prison break-out might not have concluded so successfully had its planners-and-executors not been in possession of keys to the prison cells.

"They were just sleeping. They are always intoxicated, smoking heroin, smoking hashish, or sleeping", one of the escapees said dismissively of the prison guards who had no inkling, not the merest suspicion over the course of the night that anything amiss was occurring. The soundless and hushed exercise where Taliban members went about the political wing of the prison to awaken and hustle prisoners down into the escape tunnel escaped their notice.

These are the very guards who received careful and detailed training by experienced Canadian correctional services agents, to teach them the fine points of prisoners' rights, and the lawful and effective manner in which their profession should be practised. Correctional Services Canada had a number of officials regularly travel to Afghanistan to monitor the process.

Canada invested several millions in physical upgrades to the building.

And additional funding to the overhauling of the insecure and previously incompetent professionalism of Sarpoza's staff guards. This was seen as a huge improvement over the situation that prevailed a few years earlier when an earlier prison break-out occurred. Like everything else in Afghanistan, considering the corruption of the government, the national police and the armed forces, outside sources cannot compensate for a cultural lack of commitment.

The Taliban, determined to recover what they consider rightfully theirs by conquest, have not been idle in the face of NATO's recent successes. They planned well, but could not possibly have conducted the operation as successfully as they did without inside help. And despite the declarations of the Afghan government spokesman after the fact, there were obviously those in high places who were complicit.

How is it possible that over a period of five months' excavation work, the resulting tons of soil carted off in trucks and even on donkeys went unnoticed? A tunnel 320 metres long - a full kilometer - that went under a major highway and the outer prison wall, directly into the prison itself would result in an awful lot of excavated soil to be disposed of. And considering that the tunnel was 2 meters wide by 2.5 tall, even more so.

The start of the tunnel was inside a metal-making shop that came in handy to produce metal bars to bulwark the tunnel under the highway. That's a lot of heavy labour for a team of 18 men; and no one noticed...? The tunnel was ventilated with fans, electrified for light, and nothing irregular was noted? The tumult of almost five hundred men being suddenly notified that freedom was at hand, just fellow me - not heard, not seen, not spoken of.

And the deputy intelligence chief in Kandahar, who obviously has the title, but no inkling of what intelligence might actually consist of in its gathering potential and vital importance, moans that "this will have a negative effect on Kandahar's security situation." Yes, it most definitely will, given that some one hundred and more of the escapees represented high-value Taliban chiefs.

Abdul Wahab Salihi, the deputy intelligence chief in Kandahar may claim to be upset about the misfortune that has befallen the prison, but the escapees clearly are elated: "I have been doing jihad for 10 years. I will fight again, I will fight again."

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The Patient? Surviving

Updates on Afghanistan from NATO and from the U.S. military paint a glowing picture of societal and military success. The country is brimming with opportunities for its people. Children are finally being educated. Women are free to be themselves, to stroll outside their homes, to acquire jobs, free from persecution.

The country is being ably administered by a democratic government. NATO is training the national police and the military and conscripts are growing in numbers and doing very well.

Corruption is endemic, seen in every walk of life, a reflection of the situation is in the government itself. But this is traditional, and Afghanistan is on its way to recovering its pride and its dignity and will deal with such irrelevancies in due time.

Except that the political opposition in the country feels that the corrupt voting that confirmed Hamid Karzai firmly back as president with former war lords back in parliament represents a signal failure. Abdullah Abdullah knows what democracy should look like, and it should not be a corrupt organ of a corrupt government.

All is not exactly how it seems, evidently. Families in Afghanistan are in fact less well off economically than they were years ago; they are struggling to access elemental needs. 42% of the Afghan population live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is near 40%, but indigent foreign workers are brought in by international organizations to work (for them) as food servers, guards and cleaners.

Billions in foreign aid were spent in the country yet accountability is somehow not there. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found poor construction methods used on building sites due to corruption, or incomplete structures. For all the children who are being educated, far more will never see the interior of a classroom. Child mortality rates remain high.

Young girls of twelve are still arranged into marriages with old men. And those who manage to survive childbirth will soon take on the mantles of old women, worn down by bearing children, caring for them, burying them, and working tirelessly in the home. Their young male counterparts will continue to answer the appeal of the Taliban for there are no other jobs available.

Government infrastructure, authority and security does not extend beyond the large provincial cities. Threats and violence, intimidation and obedience to the Taliban are imposed without intervention. Fear ensures that villagers remain complicit with the Taliban for fear of vicious reprisals. Violence is rising and there seems no end in sight.

When NATO departs the scene the niggling question of how a country as poverty-stricken as Afghanistan will ever be enabled to pay for its own security needs will present itself as a problem. The cost to the U.S. government alone yearly for its security presence in Afghanistan stands at $113-billion. According to World Bank estimates Afghanistan's GDP is $12-billion.

The much-vaunted value of provincial reconstruction teams that makes NATO members feel so proud of themselves for establishing model villages has ensured that the teams have a feeling of accomplishment, but the impact on institution building reflecting Afghan government involvement is absolutely nil.

These are all some of the conclusions sadly reached by Nipa Banerjee, one-time head of Canada's Kabul aid program from 2003 to 2006, who frequently returns to Afghanistan, and writes in Policy Options magazine, while teaching international development at the University of Ottawa.

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Middle East Human Rights

Syrians are furious that their calls for human rights within their own country are being defied by their dictatorial government. More furious yet that government troops are opening fire on protesters. Funeral processions to mourn the death of civilians, of a child, fired upon with live bullets. More deaths, more funerals, more attacks.

President Bashar al-Assad is being informed by the international community that his handling of the situation defies human rights, that he is trampling on the aspirations of his people, that he is violating their rights. He has gone to great lengths to impress upon onlookers that what is occurring is the result of a foreign conspiracy, that it is 'gangs' and 'criminals' and jihadists who are defying his order.

Moammar Gadhafi has infuriated the West and his own Arab neighbours by dispatching his military to destroy the demonstrators and protesters who have assembled themselves into a righteous army determined to unseat him. They also represent 'gangs', 'criminals' and al-Qaeda in origin. And foreign interlopers; the Western crusaders are in league with them.

But for President al-Assad no such labelling as a human-rights violator, no threats of being hauled before the International Criminal Court, no concerted effort to assist the Syrians who scream their defiance of their dictator, shrieking that he should be turning his armed forces against the Golan-Heights-holding Zionists, not Syrians.

Syria, protector and patron of Hamas, whose leader lives in safety in Damascus, and the generously-supporting patron of Hezbollah, both of which terrorist groups are labelled as such by the West, appears to present as the known devil and conceivably tolerable. From the Arab League no condemnations, no intervention, no discussions similar to those taking place with Yemen.

Arab human rights groups, however, have an argument with the Arab League for their support of Syria's candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, set for a May vote. Egyptian, Bahraini, Algerian, Saudi, Yemeni, Syrian, Sudanese and Iraqi NGO groups claim the support of the Arab League "shows flagrant disregard for the feelings and rights of the Syrian people, who have broken the barrier of fear and risen up in revolt".

And so, what else is new? Libya too was on the UN's Human Rights Council. Iran has been lauded for its record on human rights through the Human Rights Council. Simply put, it's business as usual in the Middle East. And at the United Nations. That business represents utter failure in the areas of human rights and entitlements.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

How Corrupt?

Is anyone naive enough to think that there was no government hand in the prison tunnel break-out in Kabul?

President Hamid Karzai is intent on eventually driving an existential, government-sharing bargain with the Taliban. He really does believe that he is capable of surviving any such agreement. It would represent an indication of his 'good-will' toward the Taliban were he to be known as having permitted political prisoners, Taliban, to negotiate their freedom.

That no one might have been alerted to the presence of the scheme, none of the details revealed and shared, the reconnaissance, the physical effort of burrowing under a major highway, with the escape of almost 500 prisoners, a time-consuming, all-night occurrence of amazing success. Initiated five months earlier, the lengthy passage was 360 meters in length.

No hint of activity ever noticed by prison guards, as construction of the tunnel was ongoing, even though it was dug beneath various police checkpoints. And right into a prison cell. With the knowledge, so the exultant Taliban claim, of only three inmates. The exfiltration of prisoners began at 11:00 p.m. and took all night.

The following morning, at 7:30 a.m. a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council, Haji Agha Lali Dastagiri, was fielding telephone calls about the prison break. When he sought further information, contacting high-placed government officials, they were completely unaware of what was occurring. They said.
I would call this a shameful incident for the Afghan government,” says Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, a former member of parliament in Kandahar. “It is impossible for the Taliban to get 500 men out of prison without anyone’s help. I believe there are some people from the prison or the government who gave the Taliban support.… It’s now clear to everyone how corrupt the government is.”
The government of Canada spent $5-million a few years back, fortifying the prison. After another, earlier prison break-out of Taliban prisoners.

NATO plans to leave Afghanistan after having trained the national police and the Afghan military in the finer points of applying military expertise to defending the country against the Taliban, purportedly. Claiming that they will leave the situation of the country's security in good hands.

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Reason, Logic, Humanity Denied

How do you make peace with a people whose instincts, culture and continual incitements lead to ongoing attacks against your existence? Those who see you not as like themselves and worthy of consideration as other human beings, but as impediments to their own aspirations and existence. The primeval gut instinct inbred in humans to distrust to the point of violent hatred those unlike themselves alive and well in the Middle East.

Where tribalism and sectarian religious strife among Arabs have always contributed to violence and unrest; from bellicose warning to vicious slaughter as clan and tribe and versions of religious adherence traditionally led disparate groups to war one upon the other. What brings the various Muslim states together is the presence of a non-Muslim state.

The single unifying principle that brings all the factions together in agreement is the presence of an historical group quite unlike their own with another religion entirely in the geography. Land held to be consecrated to Islam is not to be tolerated for use of others who worship another religion. Even if that other religion pre-dated Islam and the presence of the Palestinians.

And then the cries of Allahu Akbar! ring out. As occurred when a group of settlers set out to worship at Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank without first contacting the IDF to accompany them, pre-arranging with the PA military to allow Jews to access their holy site. The settlers, in a convoy of vehicles, sought to spontaneously, without notifying the IDF, pray at the tomb.
"When we got back to the vehicles the police shot at the vehicles, they were screaming 'Allahu Akbar'. It was crazy, they were shooting to kill. I screamed at the driver to drive out of there quickly. When we got to Har Bracha we attended to the wounded."
But there was one death, a 24-year-old settler, father of four young children. In the Middle East, one does not take precautions lightly, spontaneity can result in death. Enraged Palestinians then attacked the funeral procession of the young father, with rocks. And then Palestinians desecrated Joseph's Tomb, as they have done also in the past.

In an interview following the killing of the settler and the wounding of his companions, Palestinian Authority security forces' spokesman General Adnan Damiri, stated that Jewish settlers "are not normal people", and as a result there was no need to issue any kind of statement that might be taken as an apology for the attack.

How does one reason with such people?

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Malicious Credibility

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress have led a sanctimonious protest in public, airing their grievance that the Holdomor is not receiving equal, if not superior place of pride front-and-centre at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. They claim that the Holocaust, a historical and precisely-documented event representing the atrocity of institutionalized genocide should be treated as just one of many such events.

They take great umbrage that the museum was originally planned, and continues to be planned, to primarily showcase the Holocaust as representative of the unspeakable tragedy that can befall a specifically-focused-upon ethnic/religious group through systematically de-humanizing them with an organized agenda of slander to justify all human rights denied them, isolating them from the rest of humanity and embarking on a mission of total annihilation.

It does not assuage their grievance to be informed that the Holdomor, and indeed all events of man's inhumanity to man will be present, documented and clearly mourned in the museum. Their resentment and anger is directed at the plans to 'elevate' one nation's tragedy over that of another. Reasoning with them that the Holocaust represents a singular event in the scope and detail of its prosecution makes no inroads with them.

They have taken to inflating the dreadful and deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians (1932-33) by the Soviet Union in an effort to 'prove' that it represented a horror whose effect far transcended that of the Holocaust. Their loss was greater than that of European Jewry. Their numbers of dead far outstripped that of the Jews. The assault and trauma left them was more awful and must be acknowledged.

Academics and scholars representing studies in history, sociology, social anthropology, languages, literature, linguistics, communications, education, remembrance and research, history and classics, legal and political philosophy, holocaust studies, comparative politics, contemporary theory, humanities, sociology and social research, study of contemporary antisemitism, European studies, culture studies and academies of sciences, Slavic languages and literatures, from the United States, Britain, Spain, Canada, Israel, France, Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Poland, and Russia have become involved to admonish this movement to de-legitimize the purpose of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

They correct the figures related to the Ukrainian famine to represent the true numbers, not the inflated numbers put forward by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. They point out that some of the hallowed nationalist groups that these two associations defend were Fascists, allied with the Nazis and were themselves responsible for many civilian deaths.

And they conclude their statement of support for the function, purpose and focus of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights by this summation:
"We therefore assert that since the UCCLA and UCC have not understood that confronting the historical record openly and honestly is preferable to manipulative falsehood, have engaged in a competition of suffering, and have failed to acknowledge both the vices and the virtues of the nationalist movement, they ought to stay out of a debate about the Canadian Museum of Human Rights."

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Disposing Of Settlers

PA Spokesman: Settlers Are not Normal People
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu PA: Settlers Not Normal People

Jewish settlers in Israel “are not normal people” and therefore there is no need to apologize for the murder of a Jew who prayed at Kever Yosef (Joseph’s Tomb) Sunday morning, according to Palestinian Authority security forces’ spokesman General Adnan Damiri.

He also claimed the victims of Kever Yosef attack may have been armed.

In an unusually provocative interview with Voice of Israel government radio, he said he could not confirm or deny eyewitness reports that Palestinian Authority policemen shot at five Jews who were on their way home from praying at Kever Yosef (Joseph’s Tomb) early Sunday morning.

“We have not said they were or were not” PA policemen, Damiri said, contradicting all reports in both Arab and Israeli media, where the attackers were identified as PA policemen.

Asked if the PA will apologize for the murder of Ben Yosef Livnat, he answered, “You know that settlers are not normal people. Every day, they shoot at innocent Arabs.” This, of course, is a blatant untruth, as the news anchor realized.

News anchor Estie Peres, who may agree with the usual Voice of Israel’s criticism of Jewish presence in most of Judea and Samaria, responded that she could not agree with his statement that “settlers are not normal” and asked Damiri if there was justification in shooting at people who had been praying and were on their way home.

“Maybe they were armed,” Damiri responded.

Further questioned if the PA will "make peace with settlers,” he declared, “There is no room in the Palestinian Authority for settlers.”

The Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency turned the story around and told its readers that “dozens of armed ultra-Orthodox settlers entered the Joseph’s Tomb site…, pulled out their own guns and pointed them toward Palestinian officers. “ This is the same agency that claimed that the Fogel family of Itamar were killed by a Thai worker, well knowing that the town of Itamar allows employment of Jewish workers only.

There was no indication from Israeli authorities that the worshippers were armed.

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 24 April 2011

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Neighbourly Regards

PA Arabs Celebrate Murder by Desecrating Joseph’s Tomb
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Murder Celebrated by Desecration

Palestinian Authority Arabs set fire to Kever Yosef near Shechem Sunday morning several hours after PA policemen gunned down Jewish worshippers, killing one of them. Eyewitnesses saw smoke billowing over the tomb, which Arabs have frequently desecrated in the past.

The murder victim, 24-year-old Ben Yosef Chai, a nephew of Likud Minister Limor Livnat, was buried Sunday afternoon, several hours before the beginning of the last day of the seven-day Passover holiday Sunday evening.

PA police killed Livnat and wounded four others by opening fire on their cars after they prayed at Kever Yosef and were returning home.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemned the murder and said that the lack of coordination did not justify the Palestinian Authority police attack. He demanded that the PA investigate the shooting. Pictured is a bullethole in one of the vehicles targeted by the PA.

Many coalition Knesset Members are up in arms over the PA police attack. Cabinet Science minister, MK Prof. Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz, chairman of the Jewish Home party that is part of the coalition, said the attack "unmasked the PA’s true face” and called for the return of the IDF to the holy site, where previous agreements guaranteed Israel control and the freedom of worship to Jews.

Israel since has surrendered Kever Yosef to the PA.

National Union chairman MK Yaakov Katz called on Israelis to remember that it was Israel that first armed the PA with rifles as part of the ill-fated Oslo Accords, signed in 1993. Livnat’s name is added to “the long list of 1,500 Jews who have been slaughtered by PA weapons,” MK Katz added.

The Shomron (Samaria) Residents Committee stated, “The murder this morning at Joseph's Tomb illustrates the danger of relying on the Palestinian police. Every Palestinian policeman is a potential terrorist whose hatred of Jews” is always present.

Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin and National Union MK Aryeh Eldad said, “There can be no room for any concession on the need for total control and freedom of action for the IDF in all regions of Judea and Samaria.”

The Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria declared that the murder provides further proof that contradicts a recent report that the Palestinian Authority is ready to become an independent country.

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 24 April 2011

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Friendly Sharing of Holy Places

Palestinian Authority Police Kill Israeli near Joseph's Tomb
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu PA Police Kill Israeli

Palestinian Authority police Sunday morning shot and killed one Israeli and wounded four others after they prayed at Joseph's Tomb (Kever Yosef) around 6 a.m. Sunday (11 p.m. Saturday night EDT). The murder victim (pictured below) was identified as 24-year-old Ben Yosef Livnat, a nephew of Likud Minister Limor Livnat and father of four children.

Arabs attacked the funeral procession with rocks as it proceeded from his childhood home of Elon Moreh to Jerusalem, where he lived with his wife and four children. At least one car windshield was broken in the rock attacks, but no one was injured. People from Elon Moreh stood by the highway in dozens of cars as the funeral procession passed.

One of the three who were wounded in the shooting attack is in serious condition, and Army helicopters evacuated the injured to a hospital for emergency care. A group of 15 worshippers from the Breslov Chassidic sect had driven to the site and were returning when they were gunned down by Palestinian Authority police in a jeep.

The PA security forces continued to fire at the cars as they fled.

The IDF hurriedly issued a statement that the trip to Kever Yosef was not coordinated with Israeli security forces, and military spokesmen referred to the murder as an "incident" and not an attack.

Kever Yosef is a Jewish holy site that was supposed to be under Israeli control and open to worshippers as stated in previous agreements. However, the government has surrendered the area to Palestinian Authority control, and local Arabs have desecrated it several times.

The Breslov group was known to Palestinian Authority authorities as people who frequently prayed at Kever Yosef without any other intentions, according to Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council. He called the shooting attack a “massacre at close range."

National Union Knesset Member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari indirectly blamed the American government for having “trained and armed the enemy army that is called the ‘Palestinian Authority police’ and is directly responsible for the murder at Kever Yosef.”

He called on the Israeli government to restore the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva to Kever Yosef and to confiscate weapons from the Palestinian Authority

The attack on the morning before the last day of the Passover holiday comes less than a month after the savage stabbings of Rabbi Udi Fogel, his wife Ruthie and three of their six young children, including a three-month-old baby, in community of Itamar, also located in Samaria.

Residents of Judea and Samaria frequently have warned that the removal of roadblocks and checkpoints in the area would make it easier for Arab terrorists to stage attacks and would encourage PA police to attack Jews. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has argued that the easing of security measures are “goodwill” measures that strengthen PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s popularity and help him fight terror.

As published online at Arutz Sheva, 24 April 2011

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Influence, Respect, Humility

There is something endearing about even a programmed, obviously staged event where the most prestigious, respected religious authority figure in the world appears to be humbly presenting himself in a modest setting, to respond to the confusion in the hearts of his adoring public.

As the single most impressive and important representative of God on Earth Pope Benedict XVI made his august presence available for enquiry. At the televised question-and-answer session that took place on Good Friday, Pope Benedict responded to a question by a Japanese child by his admission that he does not have "the answers" to human suffering.

No one is too grand or too important to hold themselves above and apart from ordinary people. Particularly those people whose lives have been touched by God and who acknowledge their need to worship their Saviour during this time of his resurrection celebrated in a yearly ritual of mourning and joyfulness.

And Pope Benedict holds himself responsible for his vast flock, as must a pope do.

It is to his great credit that he has not shied away from the need to speak forcibly and without diplomatic guile to the modern-day forces of brutal violence expressed through the resentment of another, competing religion, against the followers of the Roman Catholic Church. He has pleaded repeatedly for Muslim countries to respect the human rights of Christians.

He has responded to the outrage of his own parishioners - for all those who worship at the altar of the Roman Catholic Church are his parishioners - against the depredations of parish priests and their superiors in violating the trust and the faith of children by sexually abusing them for decades. His response has been one of anguish - and of guilt.

"I am saddened", he said "that I can do so little". Referring without doubt, to the proclivities of human beings whose spirit and courage has not been equal to the demands placed upon them in the service of God. He is saddened, that though he reproves and protests against humankind's continual surrender to tribal, clan and religious destruction, passions are unabated.

He often enough - because, as the major representative as he would have it, of God upon this planet, he is infallible, and his decision is to be respected - infuriates both the faithful and those for whom his faith is not theirs. He seeks to be a unifying force for goodness yet he is often seen as a divisive force through his decisions.

Given his due, his is an impossible task. And even when tasks are possible there is the reality that no one can possibly ever satisfy all people all the time. He likely comes as close to that impossible goal as anyone may.

But then ... on the other hand ...

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Burning Books

They're not burning books, but they are shredding them, along with DVDs that have been illegally produced, defying copyright laws. China's National Office of Eliminating Pornography and Illegal Publications is out to prove that it is prepared to comply with international laws protecting intellectual property. All contraband is to be destroyed.

To that end, the agency claims over 26 million illegal items are set to be destroyed at specially set-up depots across the country. In Beijing and an additional thirty other locations across China, ceremonies to destroy illegally-produced books, music, software and DVDs are to commence. Tons upon tons of dictionaries, cookbooks, Chinese translations of the classics, pulp fiction and textbooks to be shredded and recycled.

Destroying in the process creative, industrialized artistic and intellectual content. Because copyright triumphs over access. Cheap, unauthorized access, that is. This is a departure for a free-wheeling, free enterprise society that has suffered criticism for its knock-offs underselling far more expensive 'licit' produced products respecting copyright.

But China has wholeheartedly embraced capitalism, and capitalism celebrates the art of making money, inclusive of creative intelligence earning a living for itself. Just as, for example, the pharmaceutical industry defends its high-priced products as providing the wherewithal for future research, a creative artist is enabled to continue creating by the living earned through individual endeavours.

It does go against the grain in a very significant way to destroy books that could be useful in imparting knowledge and entertainment. Burning books was always the damning privilege of totalitarian governments concerned with repressing knowledge and destroying all vestiges of thought that did not accord with their agendas.

Of course, China is not incinerating the confiscated publications that have been damned to destruction. It is shredding them; no less destructive, but enabling the materials to be re-used in the interests of "helping the environment", a shabby but useful cloak of deceptive social awareness.

It is, alas, one of those damned whichever-direction-you-choose situations.

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Strong Stands Against Terrorism

Why would Canada's relationship with Colonel Moammar Gadhafi have been any different than that of Canada's allies? The Western world reacted in lock-step horror after the monumental disbelief that overtook everyone, witnessing by remote the unspeakable carnage and convulsive destruction that fanatical ideological religious hatred was capable of producing.

And when the Western world recognized through the conclusive evidence that soon followed that the incendiary hatred of jihadists through the efforts of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda was directed without equivocation at all vestiges of "Western imperialism" traditionally feasting off the natural resources of the Arabian Peninsula as violent jihad stated, they joined in a self-protective phalanx of security.

Muslim countries took notice, and some, like Libya, decided that it would volunteer to give up its nuclear program initiated courtesy of Pakistan's Q.Khan and offer to co-operate with the West since it too was struggling with the fanatical extremists in Libya motivated by political Islam, not matching the violent ideological "socialism" that Moammar Gadhafi espoused linked to his own resentment of the colonialist West.

So there we were, in the wake of full knowledge of Libya's former investment in funding, inciting and spreading violence against the West exemplified by the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 with the Canadian military, under the influence of Britain, France, Italy and the U.S., viewing Libya as a willing and helpful bulwark against al-Qaeda, a mutual enemy of Libya.

Much was forgiven Libya when Gadhafi agreed to pay restitution to the families of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing. France and England sold advanced weaponry to their new ally against Islamist extremism, and British special forces trained Libya's government troops. The irony cannot be lost on many that Gadhafi blamed al-Qaeda for the popular uprising in his country.

This time around, however, as a result of his tyrannical and brutal repression of a popular peoples' revolt, the tide has turned and the former allies have been busying themselves urging the the UN, NATO, the African Union and the Arab League join forces in the just support of the peoples' rebellion in Libya to enable human rights to prevail.

The jaunty self-assurance of the rebels insisted initially there was no need for foreign intervention on the ground though they would appreciate the courtesy of some assistance in detaining Libyan warplanes and helicopter gunships from decimating their numbers as they steadily advanced on Tripoli.

Canada's Department of National Defence, echoing the attitudes of other NATO member-countries, no longer views Gadhafi as a front-line defence against radical Islam. Canadian warplanes are flying missions over Libya along with a few other NATO member-nations, and Qatar. And the U.S. has added more accurate, low-flying unmanned drones to the armoury.

And, confoundingly to NATO and its members, al-Qaeda in eastern Libya, long viewed by Gadhafi as an Islamist stronghold, continues to provide the rebels with recruitment, training and other assistance in the battle against the government. While al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is taking the opportunity to take possession of surface-to-air missiles and other looted military equipment from government munition stores in rebel-controlled areas.

Which weaponry will most certainly continue to be trafficked out of Libya, taken to safe sites like Yemen and stockpiled for future use against the infidel crusaders who are even now occupying yet another Muslim country for their own nefarious needs.

This is an old story, seen countless times before, where merging, supporting then fractured alliances come back to haunt the West in its attempts to make common cause with the East.

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Blazing Cat Fur: Panic in Egypt over Muslim Brotherhood's call for Islamic rule

Blazing Cat Fur: Panic in Egypt over Muslim Brotherhood's call for Islamic rule

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Vulnerability of Pakistani Women

A Pakistani woman whom village elders in southern Punjab ordered gang-raped as punishment has, since that event 9 years ago, become a passionate and assertive spokesperson on the plight of women in Pakistan. She wrote her autobiography, and European readers made it a bestseller. She took it upon herself to open schools for Pakistani boys and girls in her home village of Meerwala, and initiated a shelter for battered women in her village.

From the desolation of personal suffering inflicted upon a young woman was born the desire for courage to enable her to do what few other Pakistani women might, after having been horribly assaulted. The village council, on the orders of their wise and elderly studying the precepts of the Koran, determined that Mukhtar Mai, who was 30 years old at the time, be punished because of her young brother's alleged liaison with a woman from a wealthy family.

The social infliction of a grievously ruinous retaliatory sexual assault in that society is tantamount to social death. Many such victims who have been subjected to the scorn and derision and isolation that results from such an occurrence prefer to take their lives rather than live them out in their villages thereafter. They are viewed as 'unclean' and unfit for civil company.

The stigma is such that it never leaves them. They are considered ineligible for marriage, for no self-respecting Muslim man would love, let alone take under his wing and into his home to be the mother of his children, any woman who had been raped. She is persona non grata anywhere she goes.

But Mukhtar Mai decided this would not be her fate. And when she publicly revealed what had occurred to her the world's attention was turned on Pakistan for its atrocious treatment of women. Notoriously, in Pakistan few men accused of rape or domestic violence are ever convicted of their crimes.

There were no fewer than fourteen men involved in Ms. Mai's rape, six of whom were charged and convicted and sentenced to death, while the remaining eight were acquitted. In 2005, the high court in Lahore acquitted five of the convicted men, then commuted the death sentence of the remaining man to life imprisonment, citing lack of evidence.

Now, Pakistan's Supreme Court has freed the five men, and a shocked Ms. Mai calls the ruling "a sad day for Pakistani women". "I wasn't expecting this. I've been struggling for nine years for women's rights and was expecting the Supreme Court to give me justice. And it hasn't." She has new concerns, now. Fearing her safety and that of her family.

The freed accused, she feels may yet exact vengeance against her for daring to make public the gang rape she suffered, and inflicting a prison term on her rapists, while looking for justice for herself and by extension other women in Pakistan. "Absolutely, I feel threatened, and my family feels threatened. The government of Pakistan and the Supreme Court will be responsible for any kind of violence that occurs against me or my family."

One has the impression that they couldn't care less. One can only wonder why the village elders were not also held responsible. And why the death penalty is seen as a just sentence for rape. And whether the country ever considers the potential good to society of educating its males against institutionalized violence.

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What State of Emergency?

Anti-government protesters march during a demonstration following Friday prayers near Damascus on April 22.

It is as though the government of Syria has played a malicious little joke on the people of Syria. Promising reforms, promising to heed the complaints of the protesters, and taking a book out of the page of its mentor-state, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Make soothing sounds, and then - clamp down, hard. Live bullets! What else? This is not a game.

But rest at ease, the 50-year-old state of emergency has been lifted. Other legislation has taken its place. In fact, mirroring the original. Haven't people been warned? Haven't the rebellious protesters taken it upon themselves to defy authority? This cannot and will not be countenanced.

The Interior Ministry gave sound counsel to the people; their "armed insurrection" will not be tolerated. They have been ordered "to refrain from any mass rallies or demonstrations or sit-ins"; if they persist police will do their duty and "apply the laws in force."

And the scenes the world has witnessed elsewhere in the Muslim world are here again repeated. Funeral mourners attacked by government forces, adding substantially to the need for additional funerals. Devout Muslims streaming out of their mosques after Friday sermons, met by live ammunition. All of which has fed the determination of Syrians to shed their tyrannical government. Tens of thousands now committing themselves to overturning the government.

Ignoring Bashar al-Assad's claims that fanatical Islamists belonging to al-Qaeda are determined to ruin the country. The Islamists, the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood have been infiltrated by an foreign enemy source, the sinister Zionist entity, intent on destroying Syria....

And it is not, despite popular opinion, Syria's military and police who have been responsible for those deaths, the latest 72 in number, but the "armed gangs". "Those groups aim to create chaos and terrify the Syrian people, exploiting the reform and freedom process launched within a comprehensive program according to specific timetables announced by President Bashar al-Assad"; so claimed a SANA statement.

Why are not the people listening to the calm and sane voice of reason emanating from their responsive and freedom-supporting government?

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Italian MP fiamma Nirenstein, on Vittorio Arrigoni

Pacifist? He Hated Israel
by MP Fiamma Nirenstein Pacifist? He Hated Israel

published in Il Giornale, translation sent by writer)

The cruelty of the public execution of a young man who had family and friends, as it was the case with Vittorio Arrigoni's killing, is always awful. And this is clear.

What isn’t clear to the European public is that it is patently evident that the killers are his old Islamic Jihadists friends from Gaza. But they could have been Afghanis, or Iraqis.

In 2002, Daniel Pearl was killed in Karachi with similar methods because he was a Jew; in 2004 the decapitation of the American Nick Berg in Iraq was filmed, the Jihadists said, «to give a clear message to the West»; the Italian Fabrizio Quattrocchi was executed because he was «an enemy of God, an enemy of Allah» and Vittorio Arrigoni, as his butchers say it in the video, in the words that scroll across the screen, because «he was spreading western immorality in Gaza» and because «Italy fights against Islamic countries».

It has been repeated again and again that Hamas, with whom Arrigoni was on friendly terms, has condemned the crime. But in actual fact it doesn’t matter if the assassins are members of Hamas or not. They have been, they will be, they are all controlled by Hamas. Even Al Qaida, which has a presence in Gaza, is seen by Hamas in a better or worse light, depending on the moment. But Hamas is always top dog in Gaza.

Hamas is responsible for the captivity of Gilad Shalit; it was responsible for the armed destruction of the UN recreational camp for children, which did not abide by Islamic dictates; it was responsible for arresting 150 women under the accusation of witchcraft and the execution of several of them; it is Hamas that has introduced by law death penalty, whipping, cutting off hands and crucifixion, according to Sharia. Hamas killed the 32-year old Christian book salesman Rami Khader Ayyad, guilty of selling Bibles. Not all those who carry out these operations, or those to whom Hamas gives orders to fire Qassam missiles against Israel, are members of the terrorist organization that rules Gaza; indeed at times theyt pretend to fight them.

Hamas is a movement, a party, a fundamentalist State. Its statute stipulates that it wants to destroy the Jewish State, to exterminate Jews and impose an Islamic caliphate on the entire world. Salafite fringes and those linked more to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, those influenced to a greater or lesser extent by Iran or Al Qaeda and based in the Gaza Strip, join up and leave Hamas by turns. The fact that Hamas has now disowned the killers of Arrigoni is not of the slightest importance. In any case, they were still employed by Hamas as members of the Al Qassam Brigades.

To understand the death of this Italian activist, one important fact must be grasped: his death was triggered by the spurious way he mixed his humanitarian ideals with the cause of fundamentalist Gaza, by the fact that he mixed his life with that of his potential enemies, that he thought about as his best friends. But fundamentalists do not have stable affinities. Only their interpretation of Quran counts. Hamas Gaza, where Arrigoni has been killed, is for us a land ruled by awful and distant laws.

Arrigoni loved the Palestinians, but he remained a total foreigner for them. It is for us unconceivable, even if you are a militant like Arrigoni, to live alongside those who fire missiles on civilians, wear belts packed with explosives and hand out sweets when an Israeli family is killed in Itamar, including a three months baby, a four years old child and another of nine.

This is a crucial issue: when you go to Gaza, or Afghanistan, you have to realise that our conception of life, is completely different from any Islamic political conception of life. You can die because you are Jewish, because you are Italian, or Christian, because you are an apostate, or a corrupt Westerner... the extremist mentality, make no bones about it, cancels out friends and allies. No matter how much you have worked against the «Zionist power» or that you have called Zionists «rats» (and Arrigoni did this), nothing is of any worth if you break their rule, a rule which will remain unclear until the knife blade comes.

Arrigoni was fan of political Islamism because he was an enemy of the Jews, but this did not save him from a cruel execution in front of the camera, just as the one of many others friends or enemies of Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, never mind.

So it is intellectually sad and even dangerous that a demonstration in front of the Italian Parliament blamed Israel and Italy for Arrigoni’s death; or that the ISM, the pro-Palestinian NGO Arrigoni belonged to, attributed «moral responsibility to the State of Israel». These reactions seem to be triggered only by ideological hatred.

But what is more striking still, with sincerest respect for the figure of the President of Republic, was the statement of condolences which Giorgio Napolitano rightly delivered; instead of laying the blame on Islamic fundamentalism, he asked that «a negotiated solution be found to the conflict which sees bloodshed in the region».

With the same coherence, he could have invoked any good cause: the fight against world hunger, or child prostitution. Yet instead, Israel is being summoned to face some mysterious responsibility. But the fault is only of Islamic fundamentalism; what is the point of dragging the pained witness and victim of Hamas terrorism into the question?

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Conflict Kills

We had driven to a hilltop command post to watch the attack. The position had a code name, Darya, which means "river" in Dari, the Persian dialect that's Afghanistan's lingua franca, and on the radio we could hear field commanders yelling, "Darya! Darya! Darya!" as they called in reports or shouted for artillery. The commander of the position, a gentle-looking man in his thirties named Harun, was dressed for war in corduroy pants and a cardigan. He was responsible for all the artillery on the front line; we found him in a bunker, studying maps by the light of a kerosene lantern. He was using a schoolboy's plastic protractor to figure out trajectory angles for his tanks. Sebastian Junger: The Lion In Winter
Tim Hetherington, photojournalist and co-director of Oscar-nominated war documentary Restrepo, co-directed with Sebastien Junger, died yesterday doing what determinedly-intrepid reporters and photojournalists seem irresistibly drawn to: documenting theatres of irregular warfare, and bringing the inevitable scenes of slaughter and destruction to the public.

His was not the only death; a colleague, another award-winning photographer, Chris Hondros also died, albeit not instantly when their group of photographers closely following rebels in Misurata attacking government troops on Tripoli Street, were hit by mortar fire. Chris Hondros suffered a mortal head wound; the attending doctor felt he would not survive his brain injuries. And he did not.

They were with a group intent on capturing for the record what was occurring in the beleaguered city where cluster bombs were being used against the civilian population, and sniper fire targeted civilians, women and children. They were witness to history. With a long and varied background of having witnessed other incendiary and non-traditional wars in vicious hot-spots around the world.

"I told them not to gather", a rebel was reported as having said. "They hit groups. I told them not to." They had meant to disperse, were in the process of doing so as things heated up, as rebel forces were routing government troops from buildings, by setting them afire. Which led to some incredibly spectacular photographs of this tribal, civil war situation in Libya.
Final frames . . . this photo of a <span class=

Final frames . . . this photo of a Lybian rebel fighter was taken by Chris Hondros, who was killed during an attack by Gaddafi's forces. Photo: Chris Hondros

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West Bank? Judea and Samaria

Jewish, Not Arab, Roots in Judea and Samaria
by Hillel Fendel Jewish, Not Arab, Roots in Yesha

U.S. Pres. Barack Obama’s demand that Israel not settle Jews in the Biblical areas of Judea and Samaria ignores thoroughly-documented Jewish roots in the Land of Israel, and in Judea/Samaria in particular.

Yoram Ettinger, a former liaison for Congressional affairs in Israel's Washington embassy, lists in the latest of his periodic position papers some of the evidence showing that Judea and Samaria has Jewish, not Arab, roots.

Area Always Known as "Judea and Samaria"

Ettinger negates Obama's claim – enunciated during his June 4, 2009 speech at Cairo University – that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in" the Holocaust. For one thing, Ettinger notes, many world-renowned travelers, historians and archeologists of earlier centuries refer to "Judea and Samaria," while the term "West Bank" was coined only 60 years ago.

Jordan gave the region this name when it occupied it after Israel’s War of Independence. No nation on earth other than Britain and Pakistan recognized Jordan’s claim to Judea and Samaria.

Among the travelers, historians and archeologists who referred to Judea and Samaria are H. B. Tristram (The Land of Israel, 1865); Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad, 1867); R.A. MacAlister and Masterman ("Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly"); A.P. Stanley (Sinai and Palestine, 1887); E. Robinson and E. Smith (Biblical Researches in Palestine, 1841); C.W. Van de Velde (Peise durch Syrien und Paletsinea, 1861); and Felix Bovet (Voyage en Taire Sainte, 1864). Even the Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as official British and Ottoman records until 1950, used the term Judea and Samaria, and not the West Bank.

Land Was Named "Palestine" in Order to Erase Jewish Presence

Ettinger goes even further back, and says that the name "Palestine", which had nothing to do with a people as non by that name existed, was given to the Holy Land for the sole purpose of erasing the previous name of the country – Judea – from human memory. The Romans, whose plan this was, similarly sought to extinguish Jewish presence in Jerusalem by renaming it Aelia Capitolina.

Arabs Came in the Last 150 Years

When speaking of “Palestinian national rights,” it must be similarly kept in mind, Ettinger notes, that most Arabs residing today in Israel – anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean - have their origin in a massive 19th-20th century migration from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and other Moslem countries. They adopted the title "Palestinian", which gives the impression of ancient ties to the land.

Town Names Betray Their True History

Finally, Ettinger says that almost all Arab localities in Judea and Samaria have retained Biblical Jewish names, thus reaffirming their Jewish roots. Examples include the following: Anata is Biblical (and contemporary) Anatot, the dwelling of the Prophet Jeremiah. Batir is Biblical (and contemporary) Beitar, the headquarters of Bar Kochba, the leader of the Great Rebellion against the Roman Empire, which was suppressed in 135CE. Beit-Hur is the biblical (and contemporary) Beit Horon, site of Judah the Maccabee's victory over the Assyrians. Beitin is biblical (and contemporary) Beit El, a site of the Holy Ark and Prophet Samuel's court. Bethlehem is mentioned 44 times in the Bible and is the birth place of King David. Beit Jalla is biblical (and contemporary) Gilo, in southern Jerusalem, where Sennacherib set his camp, while besieging Jerusalem. El-Jib is biblical (and contemporary) Gibeon, Joshua's battleground known for his command to stop the sun and moon (Joshua 10:12). Jaba' is the biblical (and contemporary) Geva, site of King Saul’s son Jonathan’s victory over the Philistines. Jenin is the biblical (and contemporary) Ein Ganim, a Levite town within the tribe of Issachar. Mukhmas is biblical (and contemporary) Mikhmash, residence of Jonathan the Maccabee and site of King Saul's fortress. Seilun is biblical (and contemporary) Shilo, a site of Joshua's tabernacle and the Holy Ark and Samuel's youth. Tequa is biblical (and contemporary) Tekoa, hometown of the Prophet Amos.

Arabs Never Wanted Palestinian State

In another of his posts, Ettinger has negated the US government position that a Palestinian state is the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that its formation would resolve the situation. He cites proofs from recent history showing that Arab antipathy to Israel not only predates Palestinian concerns, but often sidesteps such interests.

Israel's war for its independence in 1948-9, for instance, was conducted by the Arab countries at the expense of local aspirations. Though Egypt conquered Gaza, and Jordan took Judea and Samaria, and Syria claimed the Golan, in none of these areas was a government of local Arabs allowed.

When Egypt conquered the Gaza Strip, it proceeded to prohibit "Palestinian" national activities and expel its leadership. Not only did Jordan not grant locals independence to Judea and Samaria, it actually annexed these areas to its own country. When Syria occupied and annexed the Hama area in the Golan Heights, the Arab League outlawed a provisional "Palestinian" government there.

In short, it can be concluded that Arab "rights" to a state in Judea and Samaria are historically weak and were long ignored by other Arab countries.

As published online at ArutzSheva, 21 April 2011

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Red Cross on Gaza

Red Cross: No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
by Hillel Fendel Red Cross: No Crisis in Gaza

"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza." So states categorically Mathilde Redmatn, the deputy director of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip.

"If you go to the supermarket, there are products,” she said, as reported on the IDF website. “There are restaurants and a nice beach. The problem is mainly in maintenance of infrastructure and in access to certain goods such as concrete. Israel has the legitimate right to protect [its] civilian population, this right should be balanced with the right of 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip.”

She acknowledged that Israel has eased its closure on Gaza and has partially lifted export bans.

"Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip is against international law because it is directed at civilians," the Red Cross official said. "We conduct confidential or bilateral dialogue with Hamas on the matter. As time passes, the dialogue also develops."

She said that the Red Cross has also asked to meet with captive soldier Gilad Shalit: "When a person's freedom is taken away, he deserves at least contact with his family. We will continue to ask but we do not have the capability to force anything on Hamas. Hamas' refusal is based on security reasons. Hamas is afraid of the IDF's advanced technological capabilities and believes that allowing contact will lead to the location of Gilad."

As published online at ArutzSheva, 21 April 2011

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Terror Honeypot

To the world of the West it is a romantic love story, a marriage of royalty, starring a successor to the British throne. Everyone is enthralled by the forthcoming marriage of Britain's Prince William as a charming knight, and Kate Middleton, as his future consort. Two handsome young people representing tradition and royal heritage.

The event of this century and the century is yet so young...

Westminster Abbey is prepared to host the grand event, celebratory bunting has been hung along the processional route, and excitement is in the air. Foreign heads of state, kings and queens, aristocrats and celebrities have been invited and all are a-twitter with the good feelings and excitement of the event.

Well, there are of course, some anti-monarchist republican-types who are less than thrilled and stating their objections to the celebration of nonentities tying the knot and making legal what they've long dipped into, no longer scandalous but representing the order of the day. Let's bypass them, for their time may yet come.

It is this other Britain, this Britain of immigrants from another world entirely, who live in ardent resentment of everything that Britain represents, yet take graspingly of social benefits they become entitled to like free council flats and generous financial state hand-outs rather than tediously scout out work opportunities.

But because they become citizens and are thus entitled to voice themselves and express their disgust with the country they have planned their own celebrations. To that end, Muslims Against Crusades plan a demonstration on that very day:
"We find that one of the biggest advocates of British imperialism, Flight Lieutenant Prince William, wishes to enjoy an extravagant wedding ceremony, ironically at the expense of the taxpayer", their website advises.

"In light of this, sincere Muslims have decided to organize a forceful demonstration, to once again highlight that as long as Britain continues in its quest to occupy Muslim land and wage war against the religion of God (Allah) that we too shall continue in our efforts to undermine their regime and condemn all of their representatives, military or otherwise.

"We strongly advise Prince William and his Nazi sympathizer, to withdraw from the crusader British military and give up all affiliation to the tyrannical British Empire. We promise that should they refuse, then the day which the nation has been dreaming of for so long will become a nightmare."
A corresponding demonstration has been planned by the English Defence League, an anti-Islamist group. Who dedicate themselves to upholding and supporting British tradition, and strenuously oppose the Islamists who during Armistice Day burned poppies and shouted "British soldiers burn in hell".

This is all rather complicated, made even more so by the fact that British security informs police that there is a high threat level of "severe", represented by the potential of terrorist attacks during this most auspicious celebratory time for Britain's royal watchers. And demonstrations by anarchists are also in the picture.

This event portends an exciting time indeed, to be had by all.

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In For a Penny, In For a Pound

Britain is weighing the potential of sending British military officers to aid Libyan rebels. No, this is not quite what the UN's no-fly resolution outlined, this is an additional initiative. Because, as it happens, the 'no-fly' mission has not succeeded as it was meant to do, in dislodging Moammar Gadhafi from power, though the UN resolution did not envision that, either.

"There is going to be no ground invasion of Libya", however, British Foreign Secretary William Hague assured his critics. Like Russia, most heartrily disgruntled over this new turn of events. This unauthorized extension and flagrantly illegal enlargement of the UN-mandated, NATO mission. Not to be concerned, Britain says, a mere ten senior officers to be sent to Benghazi to help form a useful fighting force.

For there has been no discernible progress whatever by the rebels. And government forces are battering Misurata, shelling the population, using cluster bombs, so the hospitals there already facing shortages of medicines and supplies are desperately digging shrapnel out of the bodies of children and women; those who have survived those attacks and the sharp eyes of snipers' fire.

And how can civilized countries look on and not be moved by the plight of the Libyan rebels? They are, after all, only claiming what is rightfully theirs, the human right to live as free and proud peoples, not subjugated to the vagaries of a despot's intentions for their wherewithal? They want liberty, they want to be able to live in freedom.

"Before we were asking for no foreign interference, but that was before Gadhafi used Grad rockets and planes. Now it's a life or death situation", explained one rebel leader. Harking back to that time not so very long ago when the rebels were joyously celebrating their quick advances, contemplating marching on to Tripoli and unseating Gadhafi. When they insisted they wanted no foreign troops among them for this was their home-made rebellion.

"We did not accept any foreign soldiers in our country, but now, as we face these crimes of Gadhafi, we are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing", explained the senior member of Misurata's governing council.

The West has its ears cocked, it is listening. Amazing that the Islamic principles of which he speaks causes no helpful, compassionate, useful response from Arab and Muslim neighbours.

"What the no-fly zone has effectively become is the air force of the rebels", an unhappy Conservative Party British parliamentarian observed, as his country prepares to invest more deeply in the humanitarian and Islamic principles mission.

Where the Islamic principles enter the situation is the presence of al-Qaeda and fundamentalist Islamists fighting with the insurgents and awaiting the rebellion's conclusion.

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