PESHAWAR MOSQUE ATTACKED
At least 22 worshipers were killed and 60 injured after gunmen attacked a Shia mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, during Friday prayers. Three gunmen reportedly opened fire on worshipers after three explosions were heard inside the building. The BBC quotes officials as saying that one militant blew himself up, one was arrested and another was killed in the gunfight. But eyewitnesses quoted by Dawn said there were three more attackers who managed to flee the scene. The Taliban is believed responsible. Two weeks ago, the terror group attacked another Shia mosque in the Shikarpur district, killing at least 60 people.
- This comes after Pakistani authorities announced that 12 Taliban suspects in the December attack on a Peshawar school that killed 150 were arrested. Read more from Al Jazeera.
Photo above: El Rio Mas Sucio del Mundo
Researchers have found that people living within 30 miles of coastlines in 192 countries were responsible for some 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the oceans in 2010. Without improvements in waste management, the figure could rise tenfold by 2025.
BOKO HARAM ATTACKS CHAD
Fighters with the Islamist terror group Boko Haram have launched their first attack on Chadian soil, targeting a village where they killed at least five people, early reports said. Chadian forces recently joined the fight against the group, attacking its positions in neighboring Cameroon and Niger, where the group’s local head is said to have been arrested, according to Reuters.
For more on the ongoing conflict, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch article, Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Tell Of Horrors.
“If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in harsh remarks criticizing President Barack Obama’s silence after the murders of three Muslim students in North Carolina. The FBI opened an investigation yesterday and said the murders could represent a hate crime.
MORE FIGHTING AHEAD OF UKRAINE TRUCE
The Ukraine ceasefire leaders negotiated yesterday is supposed to begin Saturday at midnight, and fighting seems likely to continue until the deadline. The BBC reports shelling from government forces in the rebel-controlled cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. Rebel leaders said three civilians were killed, while Kiev reported that eight troops had been killed in fights in the last 24 hours. The deal is fragile, and the EU has already threatened to apply more sanctions against Russia if the agreement is not respected.
Local planners in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are clearing out homes and businesses that have encroached on the city's main avenues over the years, Syfia’s Dieudonné Malekera reports. “Walking amid the rubble and battered bits of corrugated iron is Kalenga Riziki, the provincial planning minister. ‘People who have built along the path of the road should take it up upon themselves to start destroying those structures,’ he says. ‘If they don't, the State will do the job for them. We’re determined to return the city to how it used to be.’”
Read the full article, How One African City Is Taking Back The Streets, Literally.
VENEZUELA SAYS U.S. ATTEMPTED COUP
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of being behind an alleged plot to topple the government, El Universal reports. He said it included plans to bomb the presidential palace with Brazilian-made fighter jets. Officials inside the Venezuelan army, including a general, were detained for their alleged role in the plot, with Maduro saying that hard-line opposition members had also helped U.S. forces to execute the coup. It’s not the first time that Maduro, whose approval ratings are at an all-time low amid extensive economic troubles due in part to falling oil prices, has accused the U.S. of conspiring to topple the Venezuelan government. Asked about the accusations, the U.S. State Department declined to comment, CNN reports.
ON THIS DAY
AL-JAZEERA JOURNALISTS FREED
Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy were freed this morning from the Egyptian prison where they were held for 411 days. Fahmy, a Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship to be extradited, and Mohamed are both facing retrial on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The next hearing is planned for Feb. 23.
It’s been a tough week for U.S. journalism. After yesterday’s news of Bob Simon’s death, New York Times media writer David Carr died last night after collapsing at his office, hours after moderating a panel discussion with Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who worked together on the NSA leaks. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Times publisher and chairman, described the 58-year-old Carr as “an irreplaceable talent” that will be missed.
PATRIOTISM, NORTH KOREAN STYLE
North Korea has published a list of 310 new propaganda slogans aimed at encouraging patriotism, among other things, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence. “Serve the country and people!” is a predictable one. Others include, “Let the wives of officers become dependable assistants to their husbands” and this head-scratcher, “Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms.” The BBC has the full list.
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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