SPOTLIGHT: GREECE REDUX
Itâ€™s that time of year again: Greek anger and economic strife are making headlines: general strikes, bailout reviews, anti-austerity reforms. But a recent study looking to the recent past, published in Handelsblatt, a business newspaper from Germany (of all places), shows the Greeks have every right to be angry. Berlin-based economists found out what many had been saying long ago â€" namely that the successive bailouts to â€œrescueâ€ a collapsing economy were in fact aimed at rescuing not the people of Greece but its banks and private creditors. To put it in crude numbers, less than 5% of the staggering 215.9 billion euros agreed upon in the first two (out of three) bailouts actually ended up in the coffers of the Greek state. How such a reality affects future decisions remains to be seen, as the stakes once again are rising:
- A general strike that paralyzed large parts of the country entered its third and last day yesterday. The leftist government of Alexis Tsipras, which was first elected for its hardline anti-austerity stance, won a parliamentary vote to bring about what The Guardian says are the â€œtoughest austerity measures yet.â€
- Here is todayâ€™s front page of Athens-based Ta Nea daily.
- Outside the Parliament in Athens yesterday, protesters were throwing firebombs at police officers, who replied with tear gas, in the first signs of what could be another long, hot summer in Greece.
- The controversial reform package narrowly approved by the Parliament, with 153 votes out of 300, plans to cut up to 40% of pensions and another increase in income, fuel and VAT taxes. This is part of a 5.4 billion-euro package of austerity measures demanded by Greeceâ€™s creditors.
- The vote was held ahead of an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers and IMF officials today in Brussels. Athensâ€™ creditors will complete the first review of Greeceâ€™s third bailout of 86 billion euros, agreed to last summer. But the IMF is threatening to pull out of the rescue if the other lenders donâ€™t agree to cut part of Greeceâ€™s debt.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Mercury transits the Sun. Next time will be on November 11, 2019.
- Foreign ministers of France, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Saudi Arabia meet in Paris to discuss Syrian peace talks.
- Lost Sock Memorial Day
Voters in the Philippines are choosing their next president, and the winner could well be a more extreme version of Donald Trump. Rodrigo Duterte vowed, among other things to â€œforget the laws on human rightsâ€ andâ€œbutcherâ€ criminals, something right groups say has been part of his anti-crime policy during his decades as mayor of Davao, allegedly leading tothe deaths of 1,000 suspected criminals. But for the editorial board of newspaper The Inquirer, Duterte â€œmight prove to be the shock to the system the Philippines needsâ€ to end rampant crime and corruption. The voting process was marked by several attacks on polling stations killing at least 10 people.
â€" ON THIS DAY
From Nelson Mandela to Vertigo, hereâ€™s your 57-second shot of history.
CANADA WILDFIRE BURNING DOWN HOMES
The fire that started burning around Fort McMurray on the first day of May has already burned one-fifth of the cities homes, the local MP David Yurdiga told the BBC. More than 100,000 residents have been evacuated. Lower temperatures yesterday have already brought much needed help to the firefighters, and the weather is expected to continue to cool today.
A day after he was targeted by a would-be killer and sentenced to prison for an article in his newspaper, Turkish editor Can Dundar recounts what happened â€" and what it means. An exclusive Cumhuriyet piece, brought to you in English by Worldcrunch: â€œAt the moment that the photographers and camera operators started to approach me, I heard someone behind them shouting: â€˜You are a traitor!â€™
I saw a hateful face from a few meters away, a face of the new generation.
Then there were gunshots. The smell of gunpowder in the air. As a reflex action, I dashed towards Yagiz, where the metal barriers were. â€˜You are the target,â€™ Yagiz was shouting. "Get away.â€
When I stared back from a few meters away, I saw more men with guns. In the heat of the moment, I couIdn't tell whether they were policemen or more attackers. It was then that I noticed Dilek: She was holding the attacker, pulling on him from his jacket.â€
Read the full article, No Assassin, Nor Erdogan, Will Silence Us â€" Can Dundar Recounts Shooting.
As the debate over Brexit rages on, a new poll suggests that 45% of Europeans from Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden also want to have their own referendum on EU membership. According to the same survey, France and Italy are the countries where an â€œoutâ€ vote would be the strongest.
NORTH KOREA OPEN TO RECONCILIATION
Just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country wouldnâ€™t use its nukes unless threatened by â€œinvasive hostile forces with nuclear weapons,â€ AP reports that the ruling Workersâ€™ Party pledged to push for a peaceful reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula and to modernize the economy. Does this mean Pyongyang is on the road to â€œnormalityâ€? If thatâ€™s the case, the arrest and expulsion of a BBC reporter for referring to Kim Jong-un as â€œcorpulentâ€ suggests that road would be long.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Greek Break â€" Heraklion, 1984
SAUDI ARABIA DECREES
Saudi Arabiaâ€™s King Salman issued more than 50 royal decrees on Saturday, bringing a sweeping change in the organization of the government, in a move partly aimed at reducing the countryâ€™s dependence on oil. The reorganization also consolidates the position of deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, described as the worldâ€™s most dangerous man. Read more from The New York Times.
â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
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TRIUMPHANT DEBUT FOR AXL/DC
Many AC/DC fans were worried when they first learned that Guns Nâ€™ Roses frontman Axl Rose would replace Brian Johnson as the bandâ€™s live singer. But critics (and video footage) of the new line-upâ€™s first concert in Lisbon show that even with a chair-bound Axl, AC/DC are rapturous musical T.N.T.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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